Russia-led security bloc suspends cooperation with NATO

Moscow : The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) has decided to suspend its contacts with NATO over the confrontation between the two blocs over Ukraine, the CSTO's secretary general said Thursday.

"We are stopping common efforts to jointly cooperate with NATO, taking into account the position NATO has taken during the Ukrainian crisis," Nikolai Bordyuzha told reporters.

The official explained that the decision has been made as a result of NATO's "blackmailing" of Moscow and its allies, Xinhua reported.


Five killed as Ukrainian forces launch 'anti-terror' operation

Kiev, April 24 (IANS) At least five pro-Russian protestors were killed Thursday afternoon during an "anti-terror" operation in Ukraine's eastern city of Slavyansk, the country's interior ministry said.

During "counter-terror" actions at three checkpoints set up by a pro-Russia militia outside the city, five protestors were killed, Xinhua reported citing the ministry's press service.

One Ukrainian officer was also injured, it said.


Sri Lankan opposition protests casino bill

Colombo : Sri Lanka's main opposition staged a protest Thursday outside the proposed site for three casinos as parliament prepared to pass a controversial bill to legalise gambling.

The three projects are a $350-million casino by Australian casino mogul James Packer, a $300-million gaming facility by local tycoon Dhammika Perera called Queensbury and the largest venture of $650 million by local conglomerate John Keells Holdings (JKH) that will also have a casino.

The government has twice attempted to push through the legislation in parliament to legalise casinos.


Sri Lankan president ready for snap poll

Colombo : Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said Thursday he is ready for a snap poll next year if the opposition formally requests this.

Speaking to local newspaper editors, Rajapaksa said he has no plans for a snap poll next year as his term ends in 2016, adding that if the opposition made such a request, he was prepared to consider it, Xinhua reported.

The main opposition United National Party (UNP) has been saying it would push for an early presidential election and was preparing to gather public support to oust the current regime.


US 'disappointed' by Palestinian reconciliation deal

Washington:The US said Wednesday that it is "disappointed" by the reconciliation agreement between two main Palestinian factions, which could "seriously" complicate peace efforts.

Under the Palestinian agreement that would end a seven-year internal rift, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party and the Hamas movement would start discussions to form a unity government within five weeks, Xinhua reported.

The timing of the deal was "troubling" and the US is "disappointed" in the announcement, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told a press conference.

Israeli air force strikes in northern Gaza

Jerusalem: The Israel Air Force struck an Islamic fighters cell in the Gaza Strip Wednesday afternoon that was poised to fire rockets into southern Israel, the media reported.

Four people were reportedly wounded in the attack in the city of Beit Lahia in northern Gaza, Palestinian media quoted medical officials in the Hamas-ruled territory as saying, according to Xinhua.

The Israeli military confirmed in a brief text message that it carried out a counter-terrorism operation with the assistance of Shin Bet, the internal security service, in northern Gaza.

60 killed in DR Congo train accident

Kinshasa:At least 60 people were killed and some 60 others wounded when a train derailed in the southeast region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), authorities said Wednesday.

The accident occurred Tuesday when the train was turning around a bend close to the Katongola bridge, which is near the station at Katongola, a town in the southern Katanga province, Xinhua quoted national train service officials as saying.


Decide between peace with Hamas or Israel: Israeli PM to Abbas

Jerusalem/Gaza: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed Wednesday reports of growing communication between the rival Palestinian Hamas and Fatah movements, demanding that the Palestinian president choose between peace with Hamas or with Israel.

"Instead of moving into peace with Israel, (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) is moving into peace with Hamas," Netanyahu said following a meeting with Austrian Foreign Affairs Minister Sebastian Kurz in Jerusalem.

10 international universities to open campuses in Sri Lanka

Colombo: Sri Lanka is opening up its public university system attracting significant investment with plans to allow 10 private universities to operate locally by 2020, an official said Wednesday.

Sunil Jayantha Navaratne, secretary in the country's higher education ministry, outlined ambitious plans to reporters that aim to attract 50,000 foreign students to study at these private universities in addition to local youth, Xinhua reported.

"The plan is to allow these universities to establish themselves in different parts of the country," he said.


Bhutan has made progress in universal health coverage: WHO

Paro (Bhutan): Bhutan is one of the countries in South Asia which has made significant progress in all dimensions of universal health coverage, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said here Wednesday.

A recent assessment by the health ministry shows that the health system in the country provides over 75 percent coverage, with the majority of the population having access to good-quality services, health workers, medicines and technologies, without causing them financial hardship, the WHO said in a release.