Pentagon authorises 1,300 additional troops for Iraq

Washington: Up to 1,300 additional troops, including nearly 1,000 soldiers will start to be deployed in Iraq, in late January, to help in the fight against the Islamic State (IS), the Pentagon said Friday.

"Their mission will be to train, advise and assist the Iraqi security forces," Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby said, acoording to a Xinhua report.

This deployment will be part of the additional 1,500 troops that US President Barack Obama authorised in November, he said.

“What makes this (deployment) different is simply the geography,” Kirby explained.

Ebola toll nears 7,000 in West Africa

Washington : The number of Ebola-related deaths has reached around 6,900 in the three most affected countries in West Africa --Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, a media report said citing the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and US senator Chris Coons kicked off their tours of the Ebola-hit region late Thursday evening.

Cambodia amends rules to see minority leader equals PM

Phnom Penh : Cambodia's National Assembly Friday approved an amendment to henceforth recognise a parliamentary minority leader "with a rank equal to the prime minister".

The amendment was approved by a total of 102 lawmakers in parliament, Xinhua reported.

Ruling Cambodian People's Party's (CPP) lawmaker Pen Panha said the head of an opposition party, holding at least 25 percent of the parliamentary seats, will be formally recognised as a "minority leader" in parliament.


Anti-Muslim protest at Sydney siege site

Sydney : A group of people in Australia, who went to pay their respects to the Sydney cafe siege victims Friday shouted anti-Islam slogans here, media reported.

Four men waving Australian and Southern Cross flags shouted slogans including "Islam is evil" and "not all cultures are equal -- Islam is inferior", the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

They also accused Muslims of being "murderers" and supporting female genital mutilation.


Myanmar peace talks to resume

Yangon : Peace talks between the Myanmar government and ethnic leaders will resume this week despite escalating clashes in the country's Shan state, officials said Friday.

The Union Peace-making Work Committee (UPWC) and the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), negotiating on behalf of 16 armed ethnic groups, will meet at the Myanmar Peace Centre here Dec 22-23, the Myanmar Times reported.


Kenya passes anti-terror law

Nairobi : Kenyan lawmakers have passed the amendments proposed in the Security Laws (Amendment) Bill by two parliamentary committees amid a shouting match, name calling, blows and drama pitting the country's two coalitions against each other.

The passage of the Bill also means that the president will now be free to appoint the new Inspector General of Police and forward the name to the National Assembly for approval.


Multiple IS leaders killed in Iraq: Pentagon

Washington: US air strikes have killed several senior Islamic State (IS) leaders in recent weeks, blunting the Sunni radical group's ability to fight Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the Pentagon said Thursday.

"I can confirm that since mid-November, targeted coalition air strikes successfully killed multiple senior and mid-level leaders within the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)," Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a statement, using the group's alternative name.

Israeli PM slams Abbas over Palestinian UN draft resolution

Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Thursday over the Palestinian-proposed UN draft resolution which calls for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories by the end of 2017.

"Abu Mazen (Abbas) thinks he can threaten us with unilateral moves," Netanyahu said during a Chanukah holiday event for his office's employees.

Putin reiterates tough stance against western pressure

Moscow : President Vladimir Putin reiterated Thursday that Russia will not bow to external political pressure and will stay firm to protect the national interests.

"The Berlin wall never really came down," Xinhua quoted Putin as saying at his 10th annual year-end press conference, adding the West has been erecting new barriers in the way of equitable ties with Russia.

"They think they have won, they consider themselves to be an empire and that others are vassals who must be oppressed," said the president.


Rajapaksa seeks Tamil support in polls

Colombo : Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa Thursday held election rallies in a former Tamil Tiger stronghold and urged Tamils to vote for him in next month's presidential election.

Addressing a rally in the northern town of Mullaitivu, once the hub of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Rajapaksa said people of the north faced 30 years of hardship with no hope for a future.

Xinhua quoted him as saying that his government changed everything five years ago by defeating the LTTE and giving the public a good future.