moscow steps up diplomacy in syria war
Russia has shown a burst of diplomatic energy before talks in Moscow today with the U.N. envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, on the Syrian conflict. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday made his first overtures toward the largest exile Syrian opposition coalition, saying that he had requested a meeting with its leader. The United States, Britain and several Persian Gulf nations have recognized the coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people. Though Moscow opposes any international effort to force out Syrian President Bashar Assad, in recent days it has expressed increasing support for beginning a political process that would draw in both sides in the conflict.
Woman charged in 2 firemen deaths
The neighbor of a convicted felon who ambushed firefighters on Christmas Eve, killing two, bought the guns for him and lied to the seller, authorities said Friday. William Spengler of Webster, N.Y., had picked out the semiautomatic rifle and shotgun used in the ambush and went to the sporting goods store with the neighbor when she bought them for him, U.S. Attorney William Hochul said. The neighbor, Dawn Nguyen of Rochester, was arrested Friday. She faces a federal charge of knowingly making a false statement for signing a form indicating she would be the legal owner of the guns, Hochul said. She also was charged with a state count of filing a falsified business record, state police said. Spengler, 62, killed himself.
Bush doing better, spokesman says
Former President George H.W. Bush remained in intensive care at a Houston hospital on Friday but his condition continues to improve, a spokesman said. "The President is alert and, as always, in good spirits — and his exchanges with doctors and nurses now include singing," family spokesman Jim McGrath said in a statement. Bush, 88, was admitted at Methodist Hospital on Nov. 23 because of a bronchitis-related cough. He later developed a fever.
Central African Republic
Neighbors pledge help against rebels
Central African Republic's neighbors agreed on Friday to dispatch a contingent of soldiers to intervene in the country, where a coalition of rebel groups is seeking to overthrow the president of nearly a decade. Representatives from the 10-nation Economic Community of Central African States meeting in Gabon, though, did not specify how many troops they could contribute, nor did they outline how quickly the military assistance would arrive. President Francois Bozize had pleaded for international help Thursday as fears grew that the rebels would attack the capital, Bangui.
Little Rock, Ark.: About 100,000 customers of Entergy Arkansas remained without power on Friday, down from 194,000 on Tuesday after a winter storm, the utility said.
Mexico: Mexican authorities have discovered a sophisticated smuggling tunnel equipped with electricity and ventilation not far from the Nogales port of entry into Arizona, U.S. and Mexican officials said Friday.
Iraq: Tens of thousands of Sunnis angry over perceived second-class treatment by the Shiite-led government massed along a major western highway and elsewhere in the country Friday for the largest protests yet in a week of demonstrations.