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UK rejects request for diplomatic immunity for Assange
AP, London
Britain's Foreign Office says it has rejected Ecuador's request to grant diplomatic status to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been living in the nation's embassy in London since 2012 to avoid arrest by U.K. authorities.
In a statement Thursday, the Foreign Office says "Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice."

China supports inter-Korean talks
Reuters, Seoul
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday welcomed recent progress in inter-Korean talks during a phone call with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Moon's office said.
At Tuesday's talks, North Korea said it would attend the Winter Olympics in the South next month, and both sides agreed to resolve problems through dialogue and revive military consultations to avoid accidental conflict.

Australia to build world's largest solar thermal plant
Xinhua, Canberra
The world's largest solar-thermal power plant has been given development approval by the South Australian government.
Construction on the 150-megawatt Aurora plant, to be built by utility- scale solar power company SolarReserve, will begin in 2018 at an estimated cost of 509 million U.S. dollars.
Chris Picton, South Australia's acting energy minister, said the plant would create 650 construction jobs and 50 ongoing positions when completed.

California mudslide toll hits 15
AFP, Montecito
 Rescuers used dogs and helicopters to search for victims on Wednesday of powerful mudslides which left at least 15 people dead in a southern California community that is also home to major celebrities including Oprah Winfrey.
Heavy rains on Tuesday sent rivers of waist-high mud and debris flowing from the hills into Montecito and other towns in Santa Barbara County northwest of Los Angeles, which are still recovering from last month's ferocious wildfires.

Three moderate earthquakes rattle Iran
AFP, Tehran
A series of moderate earthquakes shook Iran on Thursday but there were no immediate reports of victims or damage.
The strongest of the three quakes, measuring magnitude 5.6, hit the western province of Kermanshah near the border with Iraq at 10:29 am (0659 GMT), according to the Iranian seismology centre.

200 arrested, dozens hurt in Tunisia unrest
AFP, Tunis
More than 200 people have been arrested and dozens of police hurt during clashes in Tunisia, the interior ministry said Wednesday, as anger over austerity measures spilt over into unrest.
The North African country has been hailed for its relatively smooth democratic transition since a 2011 revolt that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings, but seven years after the revolution tensions over economic grievances are high.


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