World Briefs: Peacekeepers held in Syria

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UNITED NATIONS — An armed group detained 43 U.N. peacekeepers during fighting in Syria early Thursday and another 81 peacekeepers are trapped, the United Nations said.

The peacekeepers were detained on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights during a “period of increased fighting between armed elements and the Syrian Arab Armed Forces,” the office of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement. It said another 81 peacekeepers are “currently being restricted to their positions in the vicinity of Ar Ruwayhinah and Burayqah.”

The statement did not specify which armed group is holding the peacekeepers. Various Syrian rebel groups, including the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, have been fighting the Syrian military near the Golan Heights.

European role in Gaza?

JERUSALEM — European nations are offering to help enforce the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, a scenario that could provide key international backing for maintaining the peace and step up the pressure on Hamas militants to relinquish power.

A European presence in Gaza could go a long way toward meeting two key demands: the Palestinians’ insistence on freer movement in and out of the territory, and the Israeli requirement that Hamas be kept in check.

Missing U.S. student

JERUSALEM — A man’s body was found Thursday near the area where a young American yeshiva student had disappeared while hiking six days earlier. An Israeli police spokesman said initial indications suggested it was that of the missing man, but declined to say whether there was any sign of foul play.

Searchers had scoured the area for days after Aharon Sofer, 23, of Lakewood, N.J., failed to rendezvous with a friend after a hike in the woods outside Jerusalem.

Turkey’s new president

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s former prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was sworn in Thursday as the country’s first directly elected president, a position from which he is expected to continue to exercise power for at least another five years.

Speaking at his inauguration in Ankara, the capital, Mr. Erdogan said, “The era of the old Turkey is over,” a reference to previous secular governments over which the military exercised near-total influence.

Vote audit extended

KABUL, Afghanistan — The United Nations said Thursday that a recount of ballots in Afghanistan’s disputed presidential election will take about two more weeks, again delaying the inauguration and adding to the political uncertainty gripping the country.

A dispute between candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah over the outcome of the June runoff remains unresolved and threatens to create further instability.

Tory lawmaker defects

LONDON — British Prime Minister David Cameron suffered a blow from within his own ranks as a lawmaker from his Conservative Party, Douglas Carswell, announced that he’s defected to the Independence Party, forcing a special election.

Mr. Carswell’s move, just over eight months before the next general election, will reignite concerns in the Conservative Party that Mr. Cameron is losing core supporters to Independence Party. The party, which placed first in European Parliament elections in May, has lured traditional Conservatives by campaigning for higher curbs on immigration and for Britain to leave the European Union.

—Compiled from wire reports


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