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World News Roundup: U.S., Taliban reach violence reduction pact; Haiti orphanage fire kills 15 and more


World News Roundup: U.S., Taliban reach violence reduction pact; Haiti orphanage fire kills 15 and more

Following is a summary of current world news briefs.

U.S., Taliban reach violence reduction pact that could lead to U.S. withdrawal

The United States has reached agreement with the Taliban on a weeklong reduction of violence that could lead to a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, a senior administration official said on Friday, while cautioning that the insurgents must honor commitments for the accord to stick. The deal was struck in protracted negotiations in the Qatari capital Doha and was announced after a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

Haiti orphanage fire kills 15, renews debate over unlicensed orphanages

Fifteen children died in a fire that swept overnight through an orphanage in Haiti run by a U.S. religious group, authorities said on Friday, triggering renewed controversy over the hundreds of unlicensed orphanages in the poorest nation in the Americas. Two children were burned to death and 13 died due to smoke inhalation in the blaze that ravaged the Pennsylvania-based Church of Bible Understanding's orphanage in Kenscoff, just south of the capital.

Canada's Trudeau demands from Iran independent probe into downed airliner

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he had "impressed upon" Iran's foreign minister on Friday that a complete and independent investigation into the shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January had to be carried out. "The promise I made to Canadians was to find answers for them and ensure that Iran leads a full investigation with the international community ... and holds to account the people responsible for this and that is my focus," Trudeau told reporters after meeting Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier on Friday.

White House memo says strike on Iranian commander responded to past attacks

President Donald Trump ordered a drone strike that killed a top Iranian military commander last month in response to past attacks, the White House said in a memo released on Friday, despite previous administration assertions that it was due to an imminent threat. As required by law, the administration sent Congress an unclassified justification for the strike on Jan. 2 that killed Qassem Soleimani at the airport in Baghdad. The strike, and Iran's retaliation, raised fears of wider war and frustrated some lawmakers who said Trump had given them shifting justifications for the attack.

No investigations of ousted White House aide Vindman: U.S. Army secretary

U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said on Friday there were no investigations into Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the former National Security Council aide who testified in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial and was fired by the White House along with his twin brother. On Tuesday, Trump said the military may consider disciplining Vindman, who provided some of the most damaging testimony during an investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives of Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

Mexican activists splash presidential palace red, protesting murder of women

Dozens of activists flocked to Mexico's presidential palace on Friday to protest violence against women, chanting "not one murder more" and splashing one of its large, ornate doors with blood-red paint and the words "femicide state." The heated Valentine's Day demonstration, led by women, stemmed from outrage in recent days over the killing of 25-year-old Ingrid Escamilla in Mexico City and the publication of graphic photos of her mutilated corpse in newspapers.

Beijing quarantines returning residents as China struggles to pick up economy

People returning to the Chinese capital Beijing from extended holidays on Friday were ordered to undergo a 14-day self-quarantine to help prevent spread of the new coronavirus, as hard-hit Hubei province reported more than 2,400 new cases. The official Beijing Daily newspaper said people failing to obey would be punished but it was not immediately clear how that would be enforced, or whether the restrictions would apply to non-residents of Beijing or foreigners arriving from abroad.

Exclusive: Senior China diplomat concedes challenge of coronavirus, slams 'overreaction'

A top Chinese official acknowledged on Friday that the new coronavirus is a deep challenge to the country, but defended Beijing's management of the epidemic while lashing out at the "overreaction" of other countries. In a wide-ranging interview with Reuters in the German capital, State Councillor Wang Yi, who also serves as China's foreign minister, urged the United States not to take unnecessary virus-response measures that could hamper trade, travel, and tourism.

U.S. renews pressure on China to join nuclear talks

The United States on Friday renewed pressure on China to join nuclear arms control talks with Washington and Moscow, seeking to overcome Beijing's long-standing opposition to entering such a dialogue. "China has long said it will never enter into an arms race and does not seek numeric parity with the U.S and Russia. Now is the time for China to put its money where its mouth is, and prove that it is a responsible international actor," said a senior Trump administration official.

Vatican, China, holds extremely rare high-level diplomatic meeting

The foreign ministers of the Vatican and China met on Friday, the Vatican said, in what is believed to be the highest-level official encounter between the two sides in decades. The meeting between Archbishop Paul Gallagher and Wang Yi, something unthinkable in the past, took place on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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