World Briefs: Kerry offers aid to Congo

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KINSHASA, Congo -- The United States is prepared to give Congo $30 million in aid for stability and democracy-building -- but wants President Joseph Kabila to agree to step down at the end of his current term in office, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday.

Mr. Kerry said Congo's government also needs to schedule elections soon. The vote is tentatively set for 2016, although a firm date has not yet been set.

It was not clear if Mr. Kabila agreed. Mr. Kerry also said he urged Mr. Kabila to lift a freeze on international adoptions of Congolese orphans.

The $30 million U.S. pledge would more than double the $12 million in assistance given to Congo last year linked to elections and stability assistance. Some of the money could go to nongovernmental organizations. Last year, total U.S. aid to Congo totaled about $210 million.

The funding would help further stability efforts in Congo, which has been wracked by violence for two decades.

Libya PM sworn in

CAIRO -- Libya's new prime minister, Ahmed Matiq, an Islamist-leaning businessman from the economically important western city of Misrata, took the oath of office Sunday in a televised ceremony. But the balloting by lawmakers that preceded his inauguration was murky.

Secularists walked out of the proceedings, and a vote televised by the state broadcaster initially indicated that Mr. Matiq had not received sufficient support. But a reconvened session and a new tally with one vote more than the 120 votes he needed was announced by the state news agency LANA.

Even carrying out a vote was something of a triumph for Libya's beleaguered government. Last week, the balloting was put off after armed men tried to overrun the parliament, triggering a firefight. Security has generally deteriorated in the capital, Tripoli, in recent months, with armed factions often overrunning government installations.

Blasts rock Kenya capital

NAIROBI, Kenya -- At least two people died and more than 50 people were injured in explosions Sunday in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, a day after two other blasts killed four in the port city of Mombasa.

Kenya has faced a growing number of attacks since sending troops to fight Islamist militants in neighboring Somalia three years ago. In September, an attack on Nairobi's upscale Westgate mall killed at least 67 people. Al-Shabaab, a Somali militia affiliated with al-Qaeda, took responsibility for that attack, saying it was in retaliation for Kenya's troop deployment.

S. Sudan takes stronghold

BENTIU, South Sudan -- Government troops in South Sudan launched a counteroffensive against rebel forces Sunday and retook two important northern towns, the stronghold Nasir and Bentiu, just days after South Sudan's president told the United States that he would hold talks with his rebel opponent.

Hundreds of civilians were killed when rebels took control of Bentiu last month, the United Nations said.

Also in the world ...

A passenger train traveling through the Western Ghats mountain range on a route connecting Mumbai and Goa in western India derailed Sunday, killing at least 18 people and injuring more than 125 others. ... Panama Vice President Juan Carlos Varela, who publicly feuded with the ruling party over allegations of corruption, was declared the winner of the presidential election by the national electoral tribunal, which said his lead in the vote count Sunday was insurmountable.


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