World Briefs: U.N. faults U.S. maternity rules

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GENEVA -- The United States is the only Western country -- and one of only three in the world -- that does not provide some kind of monetary payment to new mothers who have taken maternity leave from their jobs, a new U.N. study reports.

Two other countries share the U.S. position of providing "no cash benefits during maternity leave," according to the report, which was released Tuesday by the International Labor Organization: Oman, an absolute monarchy in the Persian Gulf; and Papua New Guinea, a South Pacific nation where the U.S. State Department says violence against women is so common that 60 percent of men in a U.N. study acknowledged having committed a rape.

The United States also provides for fewer weeks of maternity leave than what other Western countries mandate, the report said.

Ukraine's 'undeclared war'

KIEV, Ukraine -- Insurgents killed seven Ukrainian soldiers and wounded eight others in an ambush near an eastern rebel-held stronghold Tuesday as the Defense Ministry said the country was fighting an "undeclared war" with Russia.

As fighting flared, Europe tried to rev up diplomatic efforts, with Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visiting Kiev and Odessa in a bid to broker talks between the central government and pro-Russian separatists.

Russia would face new sanctions if the scheduled presidential election May 25 is disrupted, French President Francois Hollande said in Tbilisi, the capital of the former Soviet republic of Georgia, which fought a war with Russia over a breakaway region in 2008.

The self-styled Donetsk People's Republic and neighboring Luhansk agreed to unite Tuesday, a day after declaring themselves sovereign states. Donetsk said 90 percent of voters backed splitting from Ukraine in a May 11 referendum that was rejected by the United States and European Union as illegitimate.

Saudi Arabia-Iran thaw

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA -- Saudi Arabia said Tuesday that it had invited Iran's foreign minister to visit Riyadh, breaking the ice on one of the most hostile relationships in the Middle East ahead of key talks on Iran's nuclear program in Vienna this week.

The invitation came after months of indications that the two rival powers are moving to ease the tensions that have helped fuel the war raging in Syria and the hostilities in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

Olmert to serve 6 years

JERUSALEM -- Ehud Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister, was sentenced Tuesday to six years in prison by a judge who likened him to a "traitor" for taking bribes while mayor of Jerusalem in connection with the construction of a luxury housing development.

Olmert, who on Tuesday vowed to appeal his March conviction, would be the highest-ranking official in Israel's history to serve prison time.

Also in the world ...

Militants unleashed a wave of car bombings in Iraq on Tuesday, killing at least 34 people and sending thick, black smoke into the Baghdad skies in a show of force meant to intimidate the majority Shiites as they marked what is meant to be a joyous holiday for their sect. ... U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday ordered sanctions over the conflict in the Central African Republic, targeting five political figures for financial penalties including two of the country's former presidents.

-- Compiled from news services



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