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UN sees direct Syria talks soon but not pushing for it

Reuters, Geneva

Syria's government and opposition negotiators could soon hold face-to-face talks for the first time, U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura said on Thursday, the penultimate day of a round of peace talks in Geneva.
He did not expect the opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) to unite with two other dissident groupings, the "Moscow" and "Cairo" platforms, in time for direct talks with Syria's government during this round.
But asked if it could happen before the next round of Geneva negotiations, slated for late August, de Mistura told reporters: "Perhaps even earlier."

Taiwan lawmakers go for the jugular in parliament brawl

AFP, Taipei

 Taiwanese lawmakers tried to choke each other and threw water bombs during a chaotic session at the island's parliament Thursday as the government of President Tsai Ing-wen pressed ahead with controversial reforms.
Female legislators from opposing camps had their hands on each other's throats as a dozen colleagues pushed and shouted trying to separate them in the main chamber during a review of the budget for a major infrastructure project.

Turkey detains 44 in anti-terrorist operations

Reuters, Istanbul

Turkish police have detained 44 suspects in anti-terrorist operations, including the planners of two suicide bomb attacks in Istanbul last year, the city's governor said on Thursday.
Twin bombs-one planted in a car and the other strapped to a suicide bomber-exploded in an attack outside the stadium of Besiktas soccer club in central Istanbul on Dec. 10, killing 44 people and wounding 155.

China defends imports of North Korean iron ore

AP, Beijing

China's foreign ministry has defended its purchase of North Korean iron ore and says it is enforcing sanctions imposed in hopes of stopping the North's nuclear weapons development.
A ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said Thursday the imports are allowed under U.N. sanctions and generate no profit for North Korea's weapons program.
Geng said China will "strictly and earnestly implement the North Korea-related Security Council resolution in its entirety."

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