World briefs: Group to talk on Syria woes

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LONDON -- When they meet Thursday to review events in Syria, the London 11, representatives of the leading countries backing the Syrian opposition, will have little, if any, good news to consider.

Two weeks ago, the top United Nations humanitarian official reported that "far from getting better, the situation is getting worse" for the more than 9 million Syrians displaced by the conflict. Last week, rebel fighters were forced to abandon the city of Homs to government forces after defending it, with countless deaths, for two years.

U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is widely expected to announce his resignation today and, on June 3, Syrian President Bashar Assad plans to run for re-election in a vote that the United States and its allies have denounced as a "parody" of democracy.

The question of arms shipments to the rebels has vexed the group from the start. While Persian Gulf backers have pushed to supply surface-to-air missiles to down Assad's air force, the Obama administration and Europe remain worried that the weapons could fall into the hands of Islamist extremists who have grown ever stronger on the rebel side.

Taliban attack kills 13

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Taliban assailants stormed a government complex in eastern Afghanistan and raided police checkpoints Monday in a series of attacks that killed at least 13 people and marked the start of what the insurgent group dubbed a new spring offensive.

Militants fired two rockets at Kabul International Airport, underscoring the country's fragile security even as it awaits results of last month's presidential election and the U.S. continues to withdraw its forces. Fighting between the Taliban and government forces and their NATO allies typically increases in the spring as the weather improves.

Iran sanctions on table

VIENNA, Austria -- Diplomats will start drafting a final accord this week to resolve a decade-long standoff with Iran that would rescind oil and banking sanctions in return for limits on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

The five days of scheduled talks in Vienna will be the longest round of haggling since November, when diplomats agreed to a temporary accord. U.S., Russian and Iranian officials have said drafting should begin this week to meet a July 20 target.

Polio vaccine for travelers

KARACHI, Pakistan -- Pakistan is preparing to inoculate all travelers to meet new World Health Organization requirements aimed at curbing a global resurgence of the crippling polio virus.

A ban on vaccinations by a Taliban leader in retaliation for U.S. drone strikes, and attacks on health-care workers after a fake vaccination campaign was used to hunt down Osama bin Laden, have hampered eradication efforts and enabled polio to spread inside Pakistan and to Egypt, Israel, Syria and Iraq.

Pistorius 'anxiety disorder'

PRETORIA, South Africa -- A forensic psychiatrist testifying for the defense told the Oscar Pistorius murder trial Monday that the double amputee track star suffered from an "anxiety disorder" after growing up with a mostly absent father and a mother so afraid of intruders that she slept with a firearm under her pillow.

The testimony by Merryll Vorster offered an uneasy echo of Mr. Pistorius' account of events in his bedroom in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2013, when he has admitted taking a handgun and firing four shots through a locked bathroom door, killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and law graduate.


-- Compiled from news services


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