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Rival Somali forces face off over flashpoint Sool zone

Armed forces from Somalia's rival northern regions faced off on Wednesday over a contested region, with both the United Nations and United States calling for calm. Troops from self-declared Somaliland in the northwest and soldiers from autonomous Puntland in the northeast have deployed around the town of Taleh, a contested zone in the northern Sool region. The two regions claim several areas in border regions including potentially valuable oil blocks, with both sides in certain cases issuing overlapping exploration licences.

Nearly 300 missing in shipwreck off South Korea

Seoul, Apr 16 (EFE).- Three people were killed and nearly 300 others, the majority of them high school students, are missing following the sinking of a ferry Wednesday in the Yellow Sea off South Korea, officials said. A total of 292 people are listed as missing in the shipwreck, one of the worst disasters in the country's history, the government said. Rescue teams continue searching for survivors, officials said, adding that 164 people, including 78 students, were evacuated from the vessel.

Robotic submarine continues search for Malaysian plane wreckage

PERTH, Australia - As a robotic submarine dove into the ocean to look for lost Flight 370, angry Chinese relatives stormed out of a teleconference meeting Wednesday to protest the Malaysian government for not addressing them in person. The Bluefin 21 sub surfaced early for the second time in as many missions, this time after experiencing technical difficulties. It was sent back underwater after its data were downloaded but there's been no sign of the plane yet, according to the joint agency co-ordinating the search.

UNHCR faults Cyprus on refugee protection

The UN refugee agency on Wednesday accused EU member Cyprus of failing to provide effective protection for displaced foreigners seeking sanctuary on the island. A new law on refugees, published Tuesday, "curtailed essential rights of forcibly displaced people who have sought sanctuary," said the local office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "We are disappointed that Cyprus has lowered down its standards when it comes to the protection of persons fleeing war and generalised violence," said Damtew Dessalegne, the UNHCR representative in Cyprus.

S. Korea, Japan hold first talks on sex slavery

SEOUL, April 16 (Yonhap) -- High-level officials from South Korea and Japan sat down Wednesday for talks on resolving their decades-old differences over the Japanese imperial army's sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II. The director-level meeting marks the first of its kind on settling the issue of Japan's wartime sexual atrocities. Historians say up to 200,000 women, mainly from Korea and China, were coerced into working at front-line brothels for Japanese soldiers during the war.

Moldova breakaway region urges Russia to recognise independence

Lawmakers in Moldova's pro-Russian breakaway region of Transdniestr on Wednesday passed a resolution calling on Moscow and the United Nations to recognise its independence. Transdniestr, a strip of land bordering Ukraine, broke away from Romanian-speaking Moldova following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Some analysts suspect Russia is eyeing the territory, which consists mostly of Russian speakers, in the wake of last month's annexation of Crimea.

Moldova breakaway region urges Russia to recognise independence

Lawmakers in Moldova's pro-Russian breakaway region of Transdniestr on Wednesday passed a resolution calling on Moscow and the United Nations to recognise its independence. Transdniestr, a strip of land bordering Ukraine, broke away from Romanian-speaking Moldova following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Some analysts suspect Russia is eyeing the territory, which consists mostly of Russian speakers, in the wake of last month's annexation of Crimea.

Campaigning conservationist shot in DR Congo

Environmentalists around the world condemned on Wednesday the shooting of a Belgian conservationist who has struggled to protect Africa's mountain gorillas in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. Emmanuel de Merode, director of the Virunga National Park in the DR Congo's war scarred North Kivu province, was attacked on Tuesday as he travelled alone by jeep from the regional capital Goma to a nearby nature conservation centre.

Campaigning conservationist shot in DR Congo

Environmentalists around the world condemned on Wednesday the shooting of a Belgian conservationist who has struggled to protect Africa's mountain gorillas in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. Emmanuel de Merode, director of the Virunga National Park in the DR Congo's war scarred North Kivu province, was attacked on Tuesday as he travelled alone by jeep from the regional capital Goma to a nearby nature conservation centre.

S. Korea, Japan hold rare 'comfort women' talks

South Korea and Japan held rare high-level talks Wednesday on the extremely sensitive issue of wartime sex slavery, which has contributed to a virtual freeze in diplomatic ties. Kyodo News cited an unnamed government official as saying the Japanese side would indicate Tokyo is mulling an official apology and money for the so-called "comfort women" forced to work in military brothels. The meeting was between Junichi Ihara, head of the Japanese foreign ministry's Asia and Oceania affairs bureau, and Lee Sang-Deok, South Korea's director-general for Northeast Asian Affairs.
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