ISLAMABAD, Pakistan

Pakistan sends top envoy to talk with Afghan officials

Pakistan is sending a top official to the Afghan capital this weekend to try to mend fences with its uneasy neighbor, and hanging in the balance are U.S. efforts to arrange peace talks with the Taliban.

The trip comes roughly two weeks after the Taliban closed their newly opened political office in the Gulf state of Qatar following angry complaints from Afghanistan that the Islamic militant movement had set it up as a virtual rival embassy.

The political office was part of a U.S. plan to launch peace talks with the Taliban to end the protracted war, with American and other NATO combat troops scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of next year. But the talks ended before they could even begin.

Pakistan, which had helped persuade Taliban to agree to sit down with the Americans — and possibly with the Afghans after that — now contends that intransigence, suspicion and Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s reluctance to invite his political opponents at home to the negotiating table in Qatar is hobbling efforts to start the talks.

KIROV, Russia

Opposition leader sentenced to five years for embezzling

Alexei Navalny, a charismatic and creative Russian opposition leader who exposed high-level corruption and mocked the Kremlin, was sentenced to five years in prison for embezzlement on Thursday, in a verdict that set off street protests and drew condemnation from the West.

The Moscow mayoral candidate was led from the court in handcuffs and bused to a jail. Soon afterward, in an unexpected development, prosecutors asked that he be kept free pending appeal. Several thousand opposition supporters gathered just outside the Kremlin to protest Navalny’s conviction and sentence.

The request to have him released during his appeal could be an attempt by officials to soothe public anger and to lend legitimacy to September’s mayoral race, which a Kremlin-backed incumbent is expected to win.

Navalny, a popular blogger and corruption-fighting lawyer, rose to rock star status among the opposition during a series of massive protests in Moscow against President Vladimir Putin’s re-election to a third presidential term in March 2012.

LONDON

Air safety officials advise disabling transmitters

British air safety officials said emergency transmitters on Boeing 787s should be disabled after finding that one of the squat orange boxes was the only thing with enough power to start a fire in the scorched tail section of a 787 parked at Heathrow airport last week.

— From news service reports