World briefs: Afghans hold runoff today

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KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghans choose a new president today in a runoff election between two candidates who both promise to improve ties with the West, combat corruption and guide the nation with a steadier hand than outgoing leader Hamid Karzai.

The Taliban, who have intensified attacks ahead of the vote, issued a new warning to stay away from the polls. Afghan troops stepped up security sharply, erecting more checkpoints, searching cars and banning trucks from the streets of the capital, Kabul.

With the insurgency showing no signs of weakening as foreign combat troops prepare to withdraw at the end of the year, the winner will have the task of bolstering Afghanistan’s security forces while weighing the possibility of a negotiated peace with the militants.

Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, whose differences lie more in personality than in policy, each say they would sign a long-delayed security pact with the United States. That would allow nearly 10,000 American troops to remain in the country for two more years to conduct counterterrorism operations and continue training and advising the ill-prepared Afghan army and police.

3 Israelis kidnapped

JERUSALEM — Three Israeli teenagers were missing in the West Bank and were presumed to have been kidnapped, Israeli military officials said Friday.

The Israeli military was conducting intensive searches in the West Bank, focused on the Hebron area. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was consulting with the defense minister and other top security officials, according to a statement from his office.

It added that Israel considers the Palestinian Authority responsible for the safety of the missing youths.

Korean Cabinet shakeup

SEOUL — South Korean President Park Geun Hye carried out her first Cabinet shakeup since taking office as she strives to regain public support and sustain economic growth after the deadly Sewol ferry sinking.

Ms. Park shuffled more than a third of her ministers, naming Choi Kyung Hwan, a ruling party lawmaker and the former chief economist for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as both finance minister and deputy premier for the economy.

She also named six other new Cabinet members, her spokesman Min Kyung Wook said Friday at a televised briefing.

Bangkok curfew lifted

BANGKOK — Thailand’s junta lifted a night-time curfew nationwide Friday and said it expects an interim government to be set up by September.

The midnight to 4 a.m. curfew was lifted in Bangkok and all provinces shortly after the junta chief, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, announced his intention to do so in a Friday night address on public TV, the Bangkok Post said.

Finns to pick leader

HELSINKI — Finns are about to find out who will head their government this weekend as the biggest party in the ruling coalition prepares to vote on a new leader.

Economy Minister Jan Vapaavuori, Europe Minister Alexander Stubb and Health Minister Paula Risikko are neck-and-neck in vying to replace Jyrki Katainen as National Coalition Party head and prime minister. About 850 party members will vote at a conference today in the southern town of Lahti. Mr. Katainen announced in April he would resign to look for a key international position.


-- Compiled rom news services


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