Rouhani says he will attend Davos forum

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will attend the World Economic Forum in Switzerland later this month, Iranian news media reported Saturday, in an apparent attempt to boost diplomatic efforts that have stalled in recent weeks.

Rouhani will be the first Iranian president to attend the annual gathering of world leaders, business executives, journalists and academics in a decade. Other Iranian officials have taken part in the event, however, including former president Mohammad Khatami, who attended in 2007.

Rouhani’s decision comes as Iranian and world powers struggle to reach an agreement over Iran’s contested nuclear ambitions, and as Iran continues its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in that country’s conflict. The two issues have contributed heavily to Iran’s international isolation.

The World Economic Forum, held in the Swiss resort town of Davos, coincides with a conference on Syria in Geneva to which Iran is unlikely to be invited.

“Attending Davos has become even more important amid hard-line posturing,” said Mohammad Ali Shabani, a political analyst based in Tehran. “It sends a signal of steadfastness in Rouhani’s commitment to constructive engagement with the world.”

— Jason Rezaian

Envoys travel to meet rebel chief over deal

Three African envoys headed to South Sudan on Saturday to try to persuade rebel leader Riek Machar to accept a cease-fire deal to end fighting that threatens to pitch the country into civil war.

President Salva Kiir’s information minister said he believed the deal, which the two sides have been haggling over at talks in neighboring Ethiopia since Tuesday, could be signed once the envoys return to Addis Ababa.

Rebel leader Riek Machar’s whereabouts have not been disclosed by members of his delegation at the Addis Ababa talks. But people at the talks said he is in a town in South Sudan’s strife-torn Jonglei region, close to the border with Ethiopia.

— Reuters

5 militants arrested with bomb in south

Five members of a banned militant group were arrested in southern Russia on Saturday, and a homemade bomb packed with shrapnel was defused, in another security scare weeks before the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Islamist militants have threatened to attack the Games, and suicide bombers killed at least 34 people last month in Volgograd, also in southern Russia.

President Vladimir Putin, who has staked his political and personal prestige on a successful Olympics, has ordered safety measures beefed up nationwide.

Counterterrorism authorities said the latest arrests were in Nalchik, a town about 190 miles from Sochi in the Caucasus region, where insurgents are seeking to carve out an Islamic state.


Thai capital braces for planned shutdown by protesters: Thailand’s government was preparing to deploy 20,000 security personnel to counter a plan by protesters to create traffic chaos in central Bangkok on Monday in a push to force Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office. The protesters, who have vowed to disrupt elections scheduled for Feb. 2, plan to blockade major intersections but are not expected to target the subway, elevated railway, ferries or either of the city’s two airports.

India plays down tensions with U.S. over diplomat: India’s government said there was no standoff with the United States over the arrest and strip-search of an Indian diplomat in New York, as both countries appeared eager to defuse the month-long dispute. After meeting with the diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, following her return to New Delhi, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid played down tensions with the United States, saying the two countries would sort out their issues “in due course.”

Ukrainian opposition leader injured in clashes: Yuri Lutsenko, Ukraine’s former interior minister turned opposition leader, was hurt in a scuffle between police and antigovernment activists, reflecting the high level of tensions after weeks of protests in the capital, Kiev. The clashes erupted outside a court after it set six-year prison terms for three ultranationalist activists convicted of planning to blow up a statue in 2011.

15 killed in tribal fighting in ­Libya: A health official in Libya said 15 people have been killed in clashes between two tribes in the country’s south. The fighting, which was pitting the al-Tabw tribe against the Awlad Soliman tribe in the city of Sabha, was reportedly sparked by the killing of a guard of the city’s military leader, a member of the Awlad Soliman tribe.

— From news services