BANGUI, Central African Republic

U.S. calls for end to violence that has killed 1,000 in 2013

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for an immediate end to violence in the Central African Republic, where clashes this week left “dozens” of people dead including six African Union peacekeepers.

A mass grave containing at least 20 bodies was discovered Thursday in the capital, Bangui, Kerry said in a statement e- mailed by the State Department Friday. The bodies of 44 people were found in the streets of the city Thursday after clashes on Dec. 24 and 25, Romaric Bekourou, a spokesman for the Red Cross, said by phone. Sixty people were injured, he said.

Central African Republic has descended into lawlessness since March, when an alliance of rebel groups known as Seleka overthrew former President Francois Bozize. At least 1,000 people have died in the conflict, according to Amnesty International. The violence has forced 710,000 to flee their homes and another 75,000 have gone into exile, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.


Plans for new Okinawa base have opponents up in arms

Threatening lawsuits and protests, opponents are gearing up to fight a decision by Okinawa’s governor that could pave the way for a new U.S. military base on the southern Japanese island.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel welcomed Friday’s decision, calling it “the most significant milestone” so far in a long-running battle to realign U.S. forces in Okinawa.

The new base is designed to reduce the impact of the heavy U.S. military presence in Okinawa by replacing another base in a more congested area, but opponents want the operations moved off Okinawa completely.


Top foreign adviser calls for separate talks with U.S.

The top foreign adviser to Iran’s supreme leader on Friday called for separate talks directly with the United States amid the multilateral negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

The remarks Friday by Ali Akbar Velayati signaled a high-level endorsement of the policies of President Hassan Rouhani, who has been sharply criticized by hardliners over the landmark nuclear deal that Iran reached with world powers last month and over other contacts with the U.S.

Velayati said Iran benefits by talking separately with each of the so-called “5+1” powers – the grouping of the U.S., Russia, France, Britain, China and Germany, with which it negotiated the interim nuclear deal and with which it is still to work out a permanent accord.


Protests leave three people dead, at least 265 arrested

At least three people were killed in clashes in Egypt between police and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood during a protest over the government’s designation of the Islamist group as a terrorist organization.

The Interior Ministry said at least 265 people were arrested in protests in eight cities.

– From news service reports

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