By Elizabeth Pineau and Denis Pinchuk MOSCOW (Reuters) - France and Russia will exchange intelligence on Islamic State and other rebel groups to improve the effectiveness of their aerial bombing campaigns in Syria, French President Francois Hollande said on Thursday after talks with Vladimir Putin. Speaking after a working dinner in the Kremlin with Putin, Hollande said they had agreed to target only Islamic State and similar jihadi groups in Syria.
By Humeyra Pamuk and Vladimir Soldatkin ISTANBUL/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia threatened economic retaliation against Turkey on Thursday and said it was still awaiting a reasonable explanation for the shooting down of its warplane, but Turkey dismissed the threats as "emotional" and "unfitting". In an escalating war of words, President Tayyip Erdogan responded to Russian accusations that Turkey has been buying oil and gas from Islamic State in Syria by accusing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his backers, which include Moscow, of being the real source of the group's financial and military power. The shooting down of the jet by the Turkish air force on Tuesday was one of the most serious clashes between a NATO member and Russia, and further complicated international efforts to battle Islamic State militants.
By Dmitry Zhdannikov and Guy Faulconbridge LONDON (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin will survive Western sanctions and lower oil prices but the Kremlin chief has brought such stagnation that Russia could eventually collapse, former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky said on Thursday. Russia's richest man, who was arrested in 2003 after falling foul of Putin and released in 2013, told Reuters that Putin could survive oil prices of $45 per barrel but that the longer he stayed in power the greater the risks for Russia.
By Tiemoko Diallo and Adama Diarra BAMAKO (Reuters) - Mali authorities arrested two people on Thursday suspected of links to an attack on a luxury hotel in the capital that killed 20 people, the security ministry said. At least two armed men launched a dawn raid on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako on Friday last week, killing six Russians, three Chinese and an American among others, in the worst jihadist strike on the West African country in years. The siege ended hours later when Malian commandos stormed the hotel and freed 170 hostages.
By Tom Perry and Suleiman Al-Khalidi BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Syria war is escalating in tandem with intensified diplomacy, but neither growing foreign military intervention nor a revived political track look capable of bringing an end to the 4-1/2-year-old conflict. The risk is a more ferocious proxy war between President Bashar al-Assad's main allies - Russia and Iran - and Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States - which back rebels fighting to topple him. The downing of a Russian warplane over Syria by Turkey has raised tensions, complicating the U.N.-backed political process just launched in Vienna that already faced big challenges.
El Salvador's Roman Catholic Church said on Thursday it had fired a senior priest and former secretary of murdered Archbishop Oscar Romero after allegations that he had sex with a minor. The Archdiocese of San Salvador said its preliminary investigation showed Jesus Delgado, 77, the third-ranking priest in the country's Catholic church, had sex with a minor aged between 9 and 17. "We will not cover up cases of abuse of minors," said Monsignor Rafael Urrutia, chancellor of the Archdiocese of San Salvador.
Russia on Thursday vowed to carry out broad retaliatory measures against Turkey's economy to avenge the downing of one of its warplanes as Moscow and Ankara traded furious verbal volleys. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan angrily rebuffed the Kremlin's demands for an apology and said his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, had snubbed a phone call from him after Tuesday's incident. The downing of the plane on the Syrian border has raised fears it could fuel a wider geopolitical conflict, and highlighted the difficulty of forging consensus on Syria as French President Francois Hollande held talks with Putin in Moscow.
By Denis Pinchuk and Elizabeth Pineau MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will keep cooperating with the United States and its partners to fight Islamic State in Syria, but that cooperation will be in jeopardy if there are any repeats of Turkey's shooting down of a Russian jet, Russia's Vladimir Putin said. Speaking after talks in the Kremlin with French President Francois Hollande, Putin voiced lingering anger at Turkey's actions, saying he viewed the downing of the jet as an act of betrayal by a country Moscow had thought was its friend.
Turkey will work with Russia and its allies to calm tensions after a Russian jet was downed near the Syrian border, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in an opinion piece published by Britain's Times newspaper. Davutoglu also said that discussions were taking place in the wake of the incident, which has sent Ankara's relations with Moscow to their worst in recent memory.
MIAMI (AP) — Hurricane Sandra has weakened slightly but is still a powerful Category 3 storm in the eastern Pacific off Mexico's coast.
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — El Salvador's Roman Catholic Church announced Thursday it has suspended one of its bishops, saying he acknowledged sexually abusing a young girl.
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — One of two ex-Wesleyan University students charged with federal crimes in connection with a rash of on-campus drug overdoses is due in court next week.
Germany on Thursday offered France Tornado reconnaissance jets, a naval frigate, aerial refuelling and satellite images to back the fight against the Islamic State jihadist group. "France was struck to the bone by the horrific attacks by the IS but we know that this inhumane rage can hit us or other societies at any time too," said Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, announcing the support. The offer will have to be formally approved by Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet and supported by parliament, where Merkel's "grand coalition" has an overwhelming majority.
TORONTO (AP) — Canada's Liberal government announced on Thursday a US$750, 000 (CA$100 million) contribution to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to help fleeing Syrians, fulfilling a campaign promise from its recent federal election.
By Andrew Cawthorne and Vivian Sequera CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela opened an investigation on Thursday into the murder of a local opposition leader days before a legislative election, stirring fears of renewed political violence in the volatile South American OPEC nation. Luis Diaz, a leader of the opposition Democratic Action party in Guarico state in Venezuela's central plains, was shot toward the end of a public meeting Wednesday night, the latest of several violent incidents during the campaign. The Public Prosecutor's Office said two of its prosecutors, aided by police investigators, would lead the probe.
Heads or tails?
MOSCOW (AP) — The presidents of France and Russia agreed Thursday to tighten cooperation in the fight against the Islamic State group, although they remained at odds over their approach toward Syrian President Bashar Assad.
After a rocky year that saw Burkina's people rise up to oust a longtime leader and then repel a military coup, the west African nation on Sunday elects a new president in a vote hailed as a fresh start for the country. "We will ensure that true democracy is consolidated in Burkina Faso," interim leader Michel Kafando said last month as the nation of 20 million people geared up to elect a new leader for the first time in almost three decades. Little more than a year ago, in October 2014, then ruler Blaise Compaore fled the country after 27 years at the helm after being toppled by a popular uprising that lasted less than 48 hours.
A court in Istanbul on Thursday charged two journalists from the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper with spying after they alleged Turkey's secret services had sent arms to Islamist rebels in Syria, Turkish media reported. Editor-in-chief Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, the paper's Ankara bureau chief, are accused of spying and "divulging state secrets", the reports said. According to Cumhuriyet, Turkish security forces in January 2014 intercepted a convoy of trucks near the Syrian border and discovered boxes of what the daily described as weapons and ammunition to be sent to rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
By Noah Barkin and Sabine Siebold BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany will join the military campaign against Islamic State militants in Syria by deploying Tornado reconnaissance jets, refueling aircraft and a frigate to the region, after a direct appeal from close partner France for Berlin to do more. The decision to commit military personnel and hardware is a shift for Germany, which has resisted such direct involvement in the conflict. It still has no plans to join France, the United States and Russia in conducting air strikes in Syria.
FREEPORT, Bahamas (AP) — Baylor used its size advantage to overpower Cincinnati.
Ceasefire monitors in South Sudan urged warring forces Thursday to stop fighting amid growing international fears a key peace deal is close to collapse. Fighting in the nearly two-year long war rages despite an August agreement, said Festus Mogae, who heads the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), set up by the regional IGAD-bloc to ensure the peace deal is implemented. "The agreement offers the way forward for a peaceful South Sudan, I urge the parties to accelerate the implementation process," the former president of Botswana told reporters in Juba, adding he was deeply concerned at "continued fighting" in northern Unity state.
MONACO (AP) — American decathlete Ashton Eaton and Ethiopian running sensation Genzebe Dibaba are the IAAF's world athletes of 2015.
Algeria's former counterterrorism chief was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison for destroying documents and disobeying military orders, his lawyer said. Abdelkader Ait-Ouarabi, better known as General Hassan, was tried behind closed doors in a military court in second city Oran in the country's first ever prosecution of a high-ranking secret service officer. For two decades, General Hassan had embodied the army's fight against Islamist groups.
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A tug-of-war over a Russian warplane downed by a Turkish fighter jet at the border with Syria escalated Thursday, with Moscow drafting a slew of economic sanctions against Turkey and the Turkish president defiantly declaring that his military will shoot down any new intruder.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Thursday the fatal shooting of an opposition leader appeared to be a gangland score-settling, dismissing claims it was politically motivated ahead of elections. The event was also attended by Lilian Tintori, the wife of a jailed opposition leader and a high-profile critic of Maduro. Polls have indicated Maduro's socialist government could lose its majority in the National Assembly in next month's vote, potentially weakening his grip on power.
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — In new blow to media freedoms in Turkey, a court on Thursday ordered two prominent opposition journalists jailed pending trial over charges of willingly aiding an armed group and of espionage for revealing state secrets for their reports on alleged arms smuggling to Syria.
Two prominent Turkish journalists were arrested on Thursday on charges of assisting terrorists, CNN Turk said, after they published footage that purported to show the state intelligence agency helping send weapons to Syria. A Turkish court ordered the arrest of the editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet, Can Dundar, and the newspaper's Ankara correspondent, Erdem Gul, the television channel said. Turkish media reports said that the two faced a number of charges including membership of an armed terrorist organization and the publishing of material in violation of state security following the release of the footage in May. Reuters was not immediately able to verify the reports.
President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia had given prior information to the United States of the flight path of the plane downed by Turkey on the Syrian border. "The American side, which leads the coalition that Turkey belongs to, knew about the location and time of our planes' flights, and we were hit exactly there and at that time," Putin said at a joint press conference with French counterpart Francois Hollande in the Kremlin. Ahead of the Hollande talks, Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan traded barbs, with the Russian leader saying he was waiting for an apology and Erdogan ruling out any such move.
Britain's David Cameron and Argentina's president-elect Mauricio Macri agreed to "strengthen relations" between their countries after a phone call Thursday, Downing Street said. Britain and Argentina have long had tense ties due to their territorial dispute over the Falkland Islands, known in Spanish as Las Malvinas. Macri, who was elected Sunday promising economic reforms and seeking foreign investment, says he wants "good relations with all countries".
Hurricane Sandra weakened to a Category 3 storm on Thursday as it headed toward Mexico's coast, though it is the strongest recorded in the eastern Pacific Ocean this late in the year, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. Sandra, about 420 miles (675 km) south of the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula on Thursday afternoon, had maximum sustained winds of 120 mph (193 kph), the NHC said. A tropical storm watch was in effect for the southernmost portion of Baja California, from Todos Santos to Los Barriles, it said.
French President Francois Hollande said Thursday that Russia and France had agreed to coordinate strikes against Islamic State (IS) jihadists after talks with Vladimir Putin, who said Moscow could avoid bombing "healthy" opposition groups. "The strikes against Daesh (IS) will be intensified and be the object of coordination," Hollande said at a press conference with his Russian counterpart, adding that the strikes would focus on the transportation of oil. Hollande was in Moscow for the last leg of a diplomatic mission to rally support for a wider coalition against IS, with the two leaders finding common ground as recent victims of attacks that killed hundreds of people.
English cricket will feature a major change to the tradition of the pre-match coin toss to decide which team bats first in 2016, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced on Thursday. In both tiers of next season's County Championship, the visiting captain will be given the option of bowling first which, if he chooses to take, will see the toss rendered unnecessary. The proposal was passed, on the basis of a one-year trial, at an ECB board meeting at Lord's on Thursday and cricket committee head Peter Wright said the move came about partly as a result of concerns about the development of English spinners.
Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday argued his case to MPs for Britain to join air strikes on Islamic State (IS) targets in Syria, amid signs that opposition was weakening after the Paris attacks. Cameron told the House of Commons that Britain should not "wait until an attack takes place here" before acting, adding it was "morally" unacceptable to be "content with outsourcing our security to our allies". While the numbers are tight, MPs look set to approve the move, meaning the first British air strikes on Syria could come within days.
Russia's foreign ministry on Thursday slammed as "extraordinarily dangerous" Poland's call to annul a NATO act that prevents it from having permanent military bases on its soil. "We consider these statements to be extraordinarily dangerous and exceptionally provocative," Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. Poland's new right-wing Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski on Wednesday called for scrapping the 1997 act on NATO-Russia relations to let the alliance install the bases, saying the document causes "inequality" between new and old members of the alliance.
Colombia's FARC rebels called on the United Nations and other international bodies Thursday to monitor proposed safe zones aimed at ending half a century of conflict. In negotiations with the Colombian government hosted by Cuba, the leftist guerillas have suggested concentrating their troops in special "peace zones" where reparations would be made to victims. The rebels proposed in a statement Thursday that the forces be "permanently accompanied" by representatives of the United Nations, South American bloc UNASUR and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.
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