Following is a summary of current world news briefs.
India's Gandhi vows to reform sales tax, seek investment as poll nears
India's main opposition Congress party will simplify the goods and services tax (GST) and take "rational economic decisions" to attract foreign investment if voted back to power in a general election due by May, its leader Rahul Gandhi said on Saturday. Launched in 2017, the GST was initially hailed as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's biggest economic reform as it replaced more than a dozen federal and state levies and unified Asia's third largest economy.
U.S. says aware of reports of Iran's detention of U.S. citizen
The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday it was aware of reports of the detention of a U.S. citizen held in Iran for more than six months, amid heightened tensions between the countries following the reimposition of U.S. sanctions. The New York Times reported on Monday that Michael R. White, a 46-year-old U.S. Navy veteran, was seized while visiting Iran and has been held in jail since July on unspecified charges.
Pompeo says good outcome possible for both Turkey and Syrian Kurds
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Saturday he was optimistic that a "good outcome" could be reached between Turkey and Syrian Kurdish groups, after speaking to the Turkish foreign minister. "We recognize the Turkish people's right to defend their country from terrorists, but we also know that those ... who are not terrorists and fighting alongside us for all this time deserve to be protected," Pompeo told reporters.
Protests against Serbia's President Vucic enter sixth week
Thousands of Serbians protested in Belgrade on Saturday against President Aleksandar Vucic and his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), making demands including media freedom, an end to attacks on journalists and opposition figures, and no secret treaty with Kosovo. Protesters brought together by the Alliance for Serbia, a loose grouping of 30 opposition parties and organizations, chanted "Vucic, thief!" in the sixth such protest in as many weeks.
Venezuela claims win in LatAm diplomatic dispute, ignores criticism of Maduro
Venezuela's government claimed victory on Saturday in a diplomatic quarrel with Latin American countries over a border dispute with Guyana, while ignoring an avalanche of criticism over President Nicolas Maduro's second term in office. Maduro had warned members of the so-called Lima Group of "diplomatic measures" after they said on Jan. 4 that they would not recognize his second term because Venezuela's 2018 election was not free or fair.
Saudi teen who fled family welcomed as 'brave new Canadian' in Toronto
An 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled her family this week saying she feared for her life arrived in Toronto's international airport on Saturday after being granted asylum in Canada, where Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland welcomed her as a brave new Canadian. Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun grabbed international attention this week after she barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room to resist being sent home to her family, which denies any abuse. Qunun refused to meet her father and brother, who arrived in Bangkok to try to take her back to Saudi Arabia.
Yellow vest protests hit with police water cannon, tear gas in Paris
Paris police fired water cannon and tear gas to push back "yellow vest" demonstrators from around the Arc de Triomphe monument on Saturday, in the ninth straight weekend of protests against French President Emmanuel Macron's economic reforms. Thousands of protesters in Paris marched noisily but mostly peacefully through the Grands Boulevards shopping area in northern Paris, close to where a massive gas explosion in a bakery killed two firefighters and a Spanish tourist and injured nearly 50 people early on Saturday.
Gas blast kills three in Paris amid lockdown for yellow vest protests
Two French firefighters and a Spanish woman died and nearly 50 people were injured in a massive gas explosion that gutted the ground floor of a building in a central Paris shopping district on Saturday, authorities said. The accident occurred with the center of the capital under security lockdown for a ninth consecutive Saturday of "yellow vest" protests. Large parts of the city were blocked off by riot police, although the protests have reduced in scale compared with November.
Huawei sacks employee arrested in Poland on spying charges
Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawei said on Saturday it had sacked an employee arrested in Poland on spying charges in a case that could intensify Western security concerns about the company. Poland's internal affairs minister, Joachim Brudzinski, called for the European Union and NATO to work on a joint position over whether to exclude Huawei from their markets following the arrest of the Chinese employee and a former Polish security official on Friday.
Myanmar court rejects appeal by jailed Reuters reporters
A Myanmar court on Friday rejected the appeal of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of breaking the Official Secrets Act, saying the defense had not provided sufficient evidence to show they were innocent. Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were convicted by a lower court in September in a landmark case that has raised questions about Myanmar's progress toward democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates.
(With inputs from agencies.)