World briefs (11/20/12)
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HAVANA -- Colombia's main rebel group announced a unilateral cease-fire Monday as it began much-anticipated peace talks, but the Bogota government responded that it would continue military operations.
Top negotiator Ivan Marquez said the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia would halt all acts of sabotage and attacks against government and private property starting at midnight Monday and running through Jan. 20.
He made the announcement as negotiators for both sides entered the talks in Havana without other comment.
The FARC has been at war with successive Colombian government for half a century, and the drug trade-fueled conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives, mostly civilians, and included killings of suspected rebel sympathizers by right-wing death squads allied with the military.
KABUL -- President Hamid Karzai has ordered his aides to institute the "full Afghanization" of the U.S.-run prison at Bagram air base, charging that American forces are continuing to detain Afghans despite a bilateral agreement in March to transfer all prisoners to Afghan authorities.
After meeting with his top security officials late Sunday, Mr. Karzai complained in a statement that some prisoners ordered released by Afghan courts are still being held by U.S. forces.
The statement did not specify a date or time frame for the takeover, but Afghan officials said a two-month grace period had ended for the Obama administration to find an alternative to detaining prisoners without trial.
BEIJING -- In his first speech to the Chinese Communist Party's elite Politburo, Xi Jinping, the new party chief, denounced the prevalence of corruption and said officials needed to guard against its spread or it would "doom the party and the state."
The blunt remarks by Mr. Xi were made Saturday at a meeting of the 25-person Politburo, which announced a turnover of 15 members last week during the change in leadership at the close of the 18th Party Congress, the state news media reported Monday.
Mr. Xi appears to want to take a populist tack in shaping his image and to push an anti-corruption drive as one of the first visible acts in his new post. Corruption is one of the issues of greatest concern to ordinary Chinese.
KAMPALA, Uganda -- Heavy shelling and gunfire Monday broke a tense standoff between Congolese rebels on the outskirts of the eastern Congolese city of Goma and government soldiers backed by U.N. troops who were hunkered down inside, as fears also rose of a direct military confrontation between the Democratic Republic of Congo and its neighbor Rwanda.
The Congolese government rejected an ultimatum made by rebels Sunday night to withdraw from Goma and accused Rwanda, which a U.N. panel has said has links to the March 23 rebels, of sending two battalions over the border into Congo to fight on their behalf and firing a rocket that injured five civilians in Goma.
UNITED NATIONS -- Centuries after piracy was recognized as the first international crime against humanity, the U.N. Security Council held its first debate Monday on piracy's rise as a threat to world peace and security.
It's a big business, with pirates raking in an average of $5 million in ransom for each seized ship, costing the maritime industry at least $6.6 billion a year in extra security costs.
-- Compiled from news services
First Published November 20, 2012 12:00 am