Premier promises regional powers
Ukraine’s prime minister went on a charm offensive Friday as he visited the country’s southeast, pledging to give regions more powers and to defend the rights of Russian speakers. Arseniy Yatsenyuk met with regional officials who once opposed his new government in Kiev, but not with protesters occupying government buildings in the cities of Donetsk or Luhansk. Still, he left it unclear how his ideas differed from the demands of the protesters or from Russia’s advocacy of federalization for Ukraine. “There are no separatists among us,” said Gennady Kernes, mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, where the government recaptured a building taken over by protesters earlier in the week. Kernes and other officials asked Yatsenyuk to allow votes on autonomy for their regions but not on secession.
Rebel infighting claims 68 lives
The death toll from infighting between rival Islamic rebel groups in an eastern Syrian town has risen 68 killed, with some shot after being captured alive, activists said Friday. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said battles raged Friday for a second day in the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province near the Iraqi border. It said the fighting concentrated in the village of Haseen after members of the al-Qaida breakaway group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant were forced out of the nearby town of Bukamal.
Palestinians rail against cash cutoff
The Palestinian negotiator in Mideast peace talks is calling Israel’s decision to stop tax money transfers “piracy.” Saeb Erekat said Friday that “the Israeli decision to withhold these funds is piracy. ... It cannot be maintained.” He also said talks persist, though “gaps remain big.” Erekat spoke a day after an Israeli official said Israel would stop the tax money transfers in retaliation for the Palestinians pushing to sign up for more recognition from international agencies and treaties. That comes after Israel failed to release Palestinian prisoners as promised and moved forward with more settlements in land Palestinians want for their future capital.
Magnitude-6.6 earthquake hits
A magnitude-6.6 earthquake shook Nicaragua on Friday afternoon, sending people running frightened into the streets less than 24 hours after a magnitude-6.1 quake rattled the Central American country. There were no immediate reports of new casualties or serious damage, but the U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was felt in El Salvador and neighboring Costa Rica. Earlier, the government raised the number of people injured in the Thursday evening quake from 23 to 200. It also said that a 23-year-old woman had died of an apparent heart attack after the quake.
Compiled from wire reports.