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Syria strikes in Aleppo kill 400 so far in February

Geneva

Syria strikes kill 400 in Aleppo in Feb.

The United States and Russia promised to try to break the stalemate in Syria peace talks, a U.N. mediator said Thursday, as Syrian activists said government shelling and airstrikes with makeshift barrel bombs killed about 400 people in the country's largest city so far this month.

A second round of peace talks in Geneva has offered a rare opportunity for conversation, but yielded little more than acrimony. The violence has escalated on the ground and delegates in Geneva have failed to even agree on an agenda for the talks.

U.N.-Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said after meeting with senior U.S. and Russian officials that they pledged to try to help.

The bombings in Aleppo are part of a campaign by President Bashar Assad's forces to wrest control of neighborhoods seized by rebels in the northern city since mid 2012.

Brussels

Belgium to offer dying kids euthanasia choice

Belgian lawmakers have voted overwhelmingly to extend the country's euthanasia law to children under 18.

The 86-44 vote Thursday in the House of Representatives, with 12 abstentions, followed approval by the Senate last December.

The law empowers children with terminal ailments who are in great pain to request to be put to death if their parents agree and a psychiatrist or psychologist find they are conscious of what their choice signifies. The law was opposed by some Belgian pediatricians and the country's leading Roman Catholic cleric.

The law will go into effect when signed by Belgium's monarch, King Philippe. The king was not expected to oppose the measure.

Beijing

Kerry diplomatic visit to China a challenge

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting senior Chinese officials today to seek their help in bringing a belligerent North Korea back to nuclear disarmament talks.

At the same time, he's demanding that China roll back a series of increasingly aggressive steps it has taken to assert itself in territorial disputes with its smaller neighbors.

Kerry faces a tough sell on both counts.

The extent of China's influence with North Korea is unclear following a purge in the isolated country's leadership.

And, China has angrily dismissed U.S criticism over its moves in the East and South China seas that have alarmed U.S. allies like Japan and the Philippines.

Earlier in Seoul, South Korea, Kerry rebuffed the North's demand that the United States and South Korea briefly delay a joint military exercise this month so it doesn't coincide with the scheduled reunion of Korean families separated by the Korean War. If held, the reunions would signal a significant thaw, but the North has often used the prospect of better relations as political bait for concessions.

Kerry's comments came during the first stop of a several-nation trip to Asia meant in part to solidify efforts for dealing with North Korea and its nuclear weapons programs.

London

Tougher warning sent to Scot secessionists

Britain's three main political parties set aside routine disagreements on Thursday to issue an unusual collective warning to Scots that if they vote for independence, Scotland will lose the pound sterling as its currency.

Less than a week after Prime Minister David Cameron made an emotional appeal to Scots to reject independence, the cross-party initiative sent a more steely message, asserting that no future British government could accept currency union with an independent Scottish nation.

Scotland is to vote on Sept. 18 on whether to end its union with the rest of Britain.

Times wires

Syria strikes in Aleppo kill 400 so far in February 02/13/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 13, 2014 11:22pm]
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