Protests over elections span Russia, challenge Putin

Russians angered by allegedly fraudulent parliamentary elections and actions of the country’s ruling party took part in protests Saturday in cities from the freezing Pacific Coast to the southwest, eight time zones away. It was a striking show of indignation that challenges Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s hold on power.

Protests took place in at least 15 cities, most them attracting crowds of several hundred to a thousand. And the day’s centerpiece was yet to take place — a massive rally in Moscow that was expected to gather more than 30,000 people.

The protesters are both angered by reports of flagrant vote fraud in the Dec. 4 election and energized by the sense that the elections showed Putin and his United Russia party to be newly vulnerable. The party held an overwhelming two-thirds of the seats in the previous parliament, but its share plunged by about 20 percent in the recent vote.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan

Taliban commander: We’re talking with government

The Pakistani Taliban is in peace talks with the Pakistani government, a senior commander in the militant group said Saturday. He said negotiations were “progressing well” and could end in a formal agreement.

The statement by Maulvi Faqir Mohammad is the first time a named Taliban commander has confirmed that the group is negotiating with the Pakistani government. But it is unclear whether he speaks for entirety of the network, which is believed to have splintered into different factions over the last year.

Mohammad, said to be the deputy chief of the Pakistani Taliban, said his men had held “peace talks with relevant government officials.”

“They are progressing well, and we may soon sign a formal peace agreement with the government,” he said in a telephone conversation.

Government officials were not available for comment. They have denied earlier reports of talks.

DURBAN, South Africa

Negotiators stick out talks to broaden emissions limits

Negotiators from 194 nations worked straight through a second night, parsing drafts and seeking compromises to map out the future pathway to fight global warming.

It was expected to become clear late Saturday whether the diverse and long-bickering parties can come together on a plan to extend and broaden the global campaign to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner on climate issues, was concerned that the process was taking so long that ministers would leave before decisions could be adopted, costing hard-won momentum. “It would really really be a pity if we lose that now,” she told The Associated Press.

— From news service reports