World briefs: African leaders, WHO intensify efforts to combat Ebola virus

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ABUJA, Nigeria — The leaders of West African nations ravaged by the worst known outbreak of the Ebola virus were set to meet Friday with the head of the World Health Organization to introduce a $100 million plan to deploy hundreds more medical professionals in support of overstretched regional and international health workers.

The outbreak, identified in March, has claimed 729 lives, according to WHO, and shows no sign of abating. This has prompted two of the three most affected countries — Sierra Leone and Liberia — to announce emergency measures including the closure of schools, house-to-house searches for infected people and the deployment of the army and the police.

The meeting was to be held in Conakry, the capital of Guinea — the third of the most affected countries.

Obama, Putin phone call

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama voiced deep concerns to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday about Russia's increased support for separatists in eastern Ukraine during a telephone conversation, the White House said.

It was the first conversation between the two leaders since July 17, the day when a Malaysian passenger jet was shot down over eastern Ukraine by what U.S. officials believe was a missile launched by pro-Russian separatists.

Mr. Obama also raised his concerns about what Washington says was a violation by Russia of the 1988 Intermediate-Nuclear Treaty designed to eliminate ground-launched cruise missiles.

New U.S. envoy to Russia

WASHINGTON — Before leaving on its recess, the Senate confirmed John F. Tefft as the United States’ ambassador to Russia, filling a post that had been vacant since February, when a frayed relationship between the two countries began to sink even further over the separatist uprising in Ukraine.

Mr. Tefft, a career diplomat, had been the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Georgia and Lithuania.

26 die in gas explosions

TAIPEI, Taiwan — At least 26 people were killed and some 270 injured in several explosions caused by gas leaks in the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung, local authorities said Friday.

Four firefighters were among the dead. They had been called to the scene late on Thursday after the underground explosions cratered large boulevards and rendered streets impassable for ambulances.

Island naming rights

TOKYO — Japan gave names to five islands that are part of a group claimed by China, in a move that risks raising tensions with its neighbor as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks a summit with President Xi Jinping.

China responded to the announcement by telling the Japanese government that the disputed islands are part of Chinese territory, Kyodo news agency reported.

Anti-semitism in London

LONDON — The number of anti-semitic hate crimes in London jumped in the first six months of the year, as a Jewish defense group urged rigorous protection at synagogues.

There were 144 cases of abusive behavior between January and June, a 53 percent increase from the year-earlier period, according to a report by the Jewish Community Security Trust published Wednesday.

Greece’s credit rating

NEW YORK — Greece’s credit rating was raised two levels by Moody’s Investors Service, which cited a better fiscal and economic outlook for the country that was at the center of Europe’s debt crisis.

The country’s long-term local currency debt was upgraded to Caa1 from Caa3, New York-based Moody’s said in a statement today. The nation’s short-term debt rating is unaffected and remains not prime, or NP.

Compiled from wire reports.

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