Government rebuffs rebel cease-fire

Colombia’s government on Thursday rebuffed a unilateral truce declared by the country’s largest rebel group, saying the guerrillas’ conditions are unacceptable.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said Wednesday that it would lay down its weapons for an unlimited period to bolster peace talks, held in Cuba for the past two years.

But it also said it would call off the cease-fire if its units were attacked by Colombia’s U.S.-backed military, a condition that appears to doom the rebel gesture because of the government’s refusal to enter a bilateral truce out of fear that it would give the guerrillas an opportunity to rearm.

President Juan Manuel Santos said he could not accept the rebels’ demand that the truce be verified by several Latin American nations and by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Such verification would have to wait until a deal to end hostilities is reached, he said in a statement.

It’s unclear where the government’s response leaves the cease-fire, which is set to take effect at midnight Saturday.

— Associated Press

Kurdish troops open corridor to Sinjar

Iraqi Kurdish forces battling Islamic State militants opened up a key corridor Thursday so that thousands of people from the
Yazidi minority who have been trapped on a mountain can flee, a senior Kurdish official said.

The development was an incremental step in the battle to retake the town of Sinjar, at the foothills of a mountain of the same name, which fell to the Islamic State group in early August.

The Kurdish peshmerga troops, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, launched the Sinjar operation on Wednesday.

Masrur Barzani, the Kurdish official, said the peshmerga forces advanced in battle, establishing the passageway to the mountain on Thursday. He emphasized that Iraqi forces were not part of the operation.

Tens of thousands of Yazidis became trapped on the mountain in early August, after the extremists captured the towns of Sinjar and Zumar, prompting the exodus.

Many were eventually airlifted off the mountain or escorted via a passageway through Syria back into Iraq. But thousands remained stuck on the mountain.

— Associated Press

Leaders agree on fund to jump-start growth

European Union leaders agreed Thursday to create a strategic investment fund that could generate up to $386 billion in private- and public-sector money to upgrade infrastructure, jump-start the E.U.’s sluggish economies and ignite job growth.

“The economic situation has improved . . . but we are not safe yet,” E.U. President Donald Tusk said. “Today, we need more investment, more structural reforms and sound public finances across Europe.”

The plan approved by the 28-nation bloc at a meeting in Brussels calls for the European Fund for Strategic Investments to be in operation and approving new investment projects by mid-2015.

Over dinner, Tusk said, the leaders discussed another major challenge: long-term policy toward Russia.

To resolve the Ukraine crisis, he said, E.U. members must agree on a “tough and responsible” strategy for dealing with Russia.

— Associated Press

Yemeni lawmakers approve new cabinet: Yemen’s parliament approved a new government despite months of violence and political wrangling. The move could ease tensions but is unlikely to resolve the power struggle between President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the Shiite Houthi rebels who in September seized control of
the capital. The Houthi power grab was met with bombings and other violence, mainly by Sunni rivals.

Iraqi leader drops lawsuits against journalists: Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered the withdrawal of all government lawsuits against journalists and media outlets, marking a departure from predecessor Nouri al-Maliki. Under Maliki, journalists critical of the government faced arrest warrants and lawsuits.

— From news services