DAMASCUS, Syria -- Inspectors charged with the enormous task of overseeing the destruction of Syria's deadly chemical weapons stockpiles kicked off their mission Monday, racing to meet tight deadlines against the backdrop of civil war.
The Syrian regime lashed out at the rebels, claiming government forces are fighting mostly al-Qaida-linked militants and refusing to talk with the main Western-backed opposition group -- a blow to U.S.-Russian efforts to hold a peace conference by November.
On Monday, 20 inspectors from the Netherlands-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons landed in Beirut on a private jet on their way to Syria.
The group is to travel to Damascus today to begin its ambitious task -- a complex and potentially explosive mission fraught with security challenges. They are expected to meet with Syrian Foreign Ministry officials on arrival.
Popes to be saints April 27
VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis said Monday he would canonize two of his most influential predecessors, John Paul II and John XXIII, on the same day next spring, a highly unusual move that was taken as a gesture designed to promote unity within the Roman Catholic Church.
The two popes will be declared saints April 27, pope Francis said during a meeting with cardinals at the Vatican.
Each achieved considerable international stature: John Paul for encouraging the fall of communism in his native Poland and across Eastern Europe, and John for assembling the liberalizing Second Vatican Council, which ran from 1962 to 1965.
Meetings on Kashmir strife
UNITED NATIONS -- India and Pakistan took a step forward on enforcing the cease-fire in Kashmir, which India and Pakistan have fought over for six decades, as prime ministers Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif met in New York, where they are attending the United Nations General Assembly.
The leaders agreed that their military chiefs should meet and investigate any attacks in disputed border regions in order to prevent a recurrence, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Jalil Jilani told reporters after their one-hour breakfast meeting, held three days after the latest deadly raid in Kashmir. Mr. Jilani didn't specify when the military officials will meet.
Greek party targeted
ATHENS, Greece -- Greece's prime minister said Monday his government will do "whatever it takes" to completely eradicate the extreme-right Golden Dawn party, whose neo-Nazi leaders have just been arrested.
Antonis Samaras said the Greek people "are very smart" and are now seeing the party for what it really is.
"I believe that they will realize that they should not follow the party that has such extreme ideological positions and ideas," he told a meeting in New York of AJC, the American Jewish Committee, which advocates globally on Jewish issues.
Golden Dawn, a formerly fringe nationalist group with neo-Nazi roots that started in the late 1980s, enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity during Greece's financial crisis that began about six years ago. They won 18 seats in the 300-member Parliament in the 2012 election.
Since the election, Golden Dawn has been blamed for numerous violent attacks, mostly against dark-skinned immigrants but also against gays and left-wing activists.
World not ready for aging
The world is aging so fast that most countries are not prepared to support their swelling numbers of elderly people, according to a global study going out today by the United Nations and the elder rights group HelpAge International.
The report ranks the social and economic well-being of elders in 91 countries, with Sweden coming out on top and Afghanistan at the bottom. It reflects what advocates for the old have been warning, with increasing urgency, for years: Nations are simply not working quickly enough to cope with a population graying faster than ever before. By the year 2050, for the first time in history, seniors over the age of 60 will outnumber children under the age of 15.
Also in the world ...
A suspected U.S. drone strike Monday killed four people and injured several others in an attack on a compound in North Waziristan, a volatile tribal region bordering Afghanistan, according to a Pakistani intelligence official and local journalists. The missile strike, which occurred in Datta Khel District, a known sanctuary of local and foreign Islamist militants, was the second in the area in two days. ... Suspected al-Qaida militants stormed a military headquarters in Yemen's southeast Monday, killing at least five soldiers and army officers and taking about 70 hostage, security officials said. The Yemeni government sent in special forces to seal off the area, and reportedly opened talks with the hostage-holders.
-- Compiled from news services