Opposition bloc calls for Syria cease-fire
DAMASCUS, Syria, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- About 20 opposition groups called for an immediate halt to Syria's violence as Syria's prime minister said the 18-month conflict was in its "final stages."
The National Coordination Board, a Syrian bloc consisting of 16 opposition groups and "independent political activists," said at a rare meeting in Damascus all sides must stop the bloodshed to create a political transition.
The conference -- attended by envoys from Iran, Russia and China, Syrian President Bashar Assad's chief international allies -- called for all sides to begin a cease-fire and for Syrian forces to withdraw from towns and cities.
It also called for all political captives to be released -- recommendations similar to those outlined by former U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan and rejected by the Assad regime.
A communique urged Annan replacement Lakhdar Brahimi to arrange an international conference on Syria that would discuss ways of starting a transition period in the war-torn country.
As the conference ended, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency quoted Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi as also calling for dialogue but at the same time praising Syrian troops and citizens in confronting "terrorist groups," the term the regime uses for opposition forces.
"The Syrian crisis is in its final stages, due to the Syrian people rallying behind its leadership and the Syrian army's sacrifices that have made strides in eradicating terrorism and armed terrorist groups," he said.
Romney, Obama part ways on foreign policy
WASHINGTON, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- Republican challenger Mitt Romney attacked Democratic President Barack Obama on his foreign policy, but Obama stood by his record.
Romney said Obama's been too soft on nations that don't march in step with the United States and hasn't been a strong enough friend to Israel. In an interview that aired on CBS' "60 Minutes" Sunday, Romney said he would tell nations like Egypt "what the rules are."
"That to remain an ally of the United States, to receive foreign aid from the United States, to receive foreign investment from ourselves and from our friends, I believe, around the world, that they must honor their peace agreement with Israel," Romney said. "That they must also show respect and provide civil rights for minorities in their country. And they also have to protect our embassies."
He said he would also stand by Israel and thinks it is "a mistake" that Obama isn't meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when he is in the United States for a United Nations session.
Obama, asked in a separate interview if he's getting pressure from Netanyahu to lean harder on Iran to back off its nuclear ambitions, said he talks with the prime minister "all the time."
"And I understand and share Prime Minister Netanyahu's insistence that Iran should not obtain a nuclear weapon because it would threaten us, it would threaten Israel and it would threaten the world and kick off a nuclear arms race," Obama said.
"When it comes to our national security decisions, any pressure that I feel is simply to do what's right for the American people. And I am going to block out any noise that's out there. Now I feel an obligation, not pressure but obligation, to make sure that we're in close consultation with the Israelis on these issues because it affects them deeply. They're one of our closest allies in the region. And we've got an Iranian regime that has said horrible things that directly threaten Israel's existence."
Death toll climbs to 11 in Nepal avalanche
KATHMANDU, Nepal, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- The death toll in an avalanche in Nepal climbed to 11 Monday and rescuers resumed searching for at least two missing climbers, officials said.
The massive snowslide occurred about 9 a.m. local time Sunday and covered up two climbing camps at an altitude of 20,000 feet on Manaslu Mountain in the district of Gorkha, Nepalnews.com reported.
Authorities rescued 18 people from the deluged camps.
Some of the climbers received hospital treatment.
Rescuers searched for at least two people still missing, Nepalnews.com reported.
Gorkha Police Chief Basanta Bahadur Kunwar said rescue operations had been suspended by 3 p.m. Sunday due to poor weather.
Police said nine of the dead were identified as French nationals Ludo Challeat, Fabrice Priez, Cathrine Ricard and Philippe Bos; Canadian citizen Domique Ouimet; Spanish citizens Marti Gasull and Cristine Mittermeyer; Italian citizen Alberto Magliano; and Nepali citizen Dawa Sherpa.
Kenyan troops blamed in 7 Somalia deaths
KISMAYO, Somalia, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- Kenyan troops allegedly shot and killed seven civilians while advancing on the al-Shabaab stronghold of Kismayo in Somalia, a military official said.
Somali army spokesman Adan Mohamed Hirsi told the BBC he believed the shootings to be deliberate.
"This incident is very hurtful," he said.
Kenyan troops joined the pro-government African Union mission in Somalia one year ago after cross-border attacks allegedly by the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab group, the BBC reported.
The African Union mission said it is investigating the incident.
Five journalists were killed recently in Somalia, the Shabelle Media Network reported.
Irina Bokova, director-general of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, condemned the spate of journalist killings.
"I am horrified by the sudden upsurge of violence targeting the media in Somalia," Bokova said. "They are also an extreme violation of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press -- both essential for the construction and functioning of healthy democracies, and especially important in a nation trying to rebuild after so many years of conflict."
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