Following is a summary of current world news briefs.
‘No limit’ for WHO delegation in month-long Wuhan mission, team member says
A global team of scientists led by the World Health Organisation to investigate the origins of the novel coronavirus will spend around a month in the Chinese city of Wuhan, including two weeks in quarantine, a team member said on Wednesday. Hung Nguyen, a Vietnamese biologist, told Reuters that he did not expect any restrictions to the 10-member team’s work in China as they prepared to fly on Thursday from Singapore to Wuhan, where the first human cases were detected in late 2019.
U.S. cancels its observation of Uganda’s presidential election
The United States has cancelled its observation of Uganda’s presidential election because most of its accreditation requests were denied and said Thursday’s vote would lack accountability and transparency. The announcement adds to a growing chorus of concern over the credibility of the election pitting Yoweri Museveni, one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, against 10 candidates including opposition frontrunner Bobi Wine, a popular singer.
North Korea’s Kim urges stronger military capabilities as party congress ends
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for increased military power and greater nuclear war deterrence, state news agency KCNA reported on Wednesday, as a rare ruling party congress came to a close after eight days of policy discussions. The Eighth Party Congress occurred less than two weeks before U.S. President-elect Joe Biden takes office and amid a prolonged gridlock in talks aimed at ending the North’s nuclear and missile programmes in return for U.S. sanctions relief.
Italy targets violent clan in biggest mafia trial in decades One of Italy’s largest-ever mafia trials kicked off on Wednesday, with more than 320 suspected mobsters and their associates facing an array of charges, including extortion, drug trafficking and theft. The case targets the ‘Ndrangheta clan, which is based in Calabria, the toe of Italy’s boot, and is considered by prosecutors to be the most powerful mafia group in the country, easily eclipsing the more famous Cosa Nostra gang in Sicily.
Indonesia suspends dive search for crashed jet’s cockpit recorder Indonesia on Wednesday temporarily suspended a search by divers for the cockpit voice recorder of a Sriwijaya Air that crashed with 62 people on board shortly after takeoff. The search in the Java Sea had to be halted due to bad weather that whipped up waves of up to 2.5 metres (8.2 feet) in height, officials said.
South Korea church leader acquitted on charge of blocking virus effort: Yonhap A South Korean court acquitted on Wednesday the leader of a Christian sect charged with obstructing efforts to stamp out one of the world’s first big surges of novel coronavirus infections, the Yonhap news agency said. Lee Man-hee, a self-proclaimed messiah who founded and heads the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, had been accused of violating the Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act by providing incomplete lists of church members requested by health authorities to trace suspected coronavirus infections.
Italy to extend COVID state of emergency to end of April Italy will extend a state of emergency imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus until the end of April as infections currently show no sign of abating, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Wednesday. The state of emergency, first introduced in January 2020, had been set to expire at the end of this month. It gives greater powers to central government, making it easier for officials to bypass the bureaucracy that smothers much decision-making in Italy.
Syrian army says Israeli jets struck Iran-backed militias in eastern Syria Syria said Israel bombed Iranian-backed militia bases near the Iraqi border in the early hours of Wednesday, in a raid which military defectors and Western intelligence sources said was one of Israel’s most extensive in recent months. Syrian news agency SANA and state media said Israel had struck sites in Al Bukamal, a border town on the Euphrates river which lies on an important supply route, as well as areas in the province and city of Deir al Zor, where the militias have a heavy presence.
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny to fly to Russia on Sunday despite risks Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said on Wednesday he would fly back to Russia on Jan. 17 from Germany where he has been recovering after being poisoned, shrugging off potential legal risks that could see him jailed. Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin’s leading critics, was airlifted to Germany for treatment in August after collapsing on a plane in what Germany and other Western nations say was an attempt to murder him with a Novichok nerve agent.
Interpol red notices issued for ship captain, owner over Beirut blast – Lebanese state media Interpol has issued red notices for the captain and owner of the ship that carried the chemicals which devastated Beirut in an explosion in August, killing 200 people, Lebanon’s state media said. Five months since one of the biggest non-nuclear blasts on record, big questions remain about the ammonium nitrate that detonated after being stored at the port for years.
(With inputs from agencies.)