North Korea proposes talks with Washington
PYONGYANG, North Korea — North Korea’s top government body is proposing high-level nuclear and security talks with the United States days after a planned meeting with rival South Korea collapsed.
The National Defense Commission said today that the talks should ease tensions and achieve peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea has issued a series of angry statements since U.N. sanctions were imposed after a December rocket launch and a February nuclear test. There have been threats of nuclear war by the North, followed by South Korean vows of counterstrikes.
Turkish police end occupation of park
ISTANBUL — Turkish riot police firing tear gas and water cannons took less than half an hour on Saturday to bring to an end an 18-day occupation of an Istanbul park at the center of the strongest challenge to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s 10-year rule.
The sweep by white-helmeted riot police emptied the Gezi park of protesters, leaving a series of colorful, abandoned tents behind. Bulldozers moved in afterward, scooping up debris as crews of workmen in hard hats and fluorescent yellow vests tore down the tents. Protesters put up little physical resistance, even as plain-clothes police shoved many of them to drive them from the park.
For over two weeks, protesters had defied Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s warnings to vacate the area.
Syrian troops push forward with offensive
BEIRUT — Syrian troops pushed forward with their offensive against rebels Saturday, capturing a suburb near the Damascus international airport as the U.S. warned that the alleged use of chemical weapons by President Bashar Assad’s forces and the involvement of the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah in the civil war threaten to put a proposed political settlement out of reach.
The U.S. and Russia have been pressing for a peace conference to end Syria’s civil war in Geneva, but prospects for that have been dampened after a series of regime battlefield victories and hardened positions by both sides as the death toll from the more than 2-year-old conflict has surged to nearly 93,000.
President Barack Obama’s decision this week to send lethal aid to Syrian rebels and the deepening involvement of trained Shiite fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah group also has raised the stakes, setting up a proxy fight between Iran and the West that threatens to engulf more of the Middle East.
The U.S. reversal after months of saying it would not intervene in the conflict militarily came after Washington said it had conclusive evidence the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons, something Obama had said would be a “red line.”
Syria has denied the accusations, saying Obama was lying about the evidence to justify his decision to arm the rebels. Syria’s ally Russia also suggested Saturday the evidence put forth by the U.S. of the use of chemical weapons doesn’t meet stringent criteria for reliability.
U.S.-bound flight from Cairo makes emergency landing in Britain
LONDON — A plane from Cairo bound for New York was diverted by fighter jets to an emergency landing in the U.K. after a passenger discovered a letter threatening the aircraft, officials said Saturday.
Police said there had been no arrests, and that authorities are working to ascertain who wrote the note in a lavatory which forced Flight 985 — carrying around 300 passengers en route to John F. Kennedy Airport — to make an emergency landing at Glasgow’s Prestwick Airport.
British Typoon fighter jets escorted the plane to Glasgow’s Prestwick Airport, where the flight was met by a heavy police presence. It stayed there for several hours before passengers were able to disembark.
By wire sources