Premier-elect urges talks with Taliban

Pakistan’s presumptive prime minister called Monday for peace talks with Taliban militants at war with the government, potentially charting a course that could put him at odds with the country’s powerful army.

Nawaz Sharif said that “terrorism” was one of the most serious problems plaguing the country and that any offer by the Pakistani Taliban to talk “should be taken seriously.”

“All options should be tried, and guns are not a solution to all problems,” Sharif said in a speech to newly elected members of his party in the eastern city of Lahore. “Why shouldn’t we sit and talk, engage in dialogue?”

The Pakistani Taliban has been waging a bloody insurgency for years that has killed thousands of people. The militants say they are fighting to enforce Islamic law in the country and end the government’s alliance with the United States.

The Pakistani army has launched multiple operations against the Taliban in its strongholds along the border with Afghanistan, but the militants have proven resilient and continue to carry out near-daily attacks.

Also Monday, a judge granted bail to Pakistan’s former military ruler in a case related to the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, said one of his lawyers, Salman Safdar.

Despite the bail, retired Gen. Pervez Musharraf will remain under house arrest on the outskirts of the capital, Islamabad, in connection with two other cases against him, including one related to his decision to fire senior judges while in power.

— Associated Press

Security forces move into troubled Sinai

Dozens of Egyptian troops and armored vehicles moved into Sinai on Monday as the government beefed up security in the volatile peninsula after the abduction of six policemen and a border guard by suspected Islamist militants.

The security deployment came a day after the release of a video of the captives, blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their backs, pleading for President Mohamed Morsi and his defense minister to free them by granting the demands of the men who seized them last week.

Sinai has been a major challenge for Morsi since shortly after he took office last June. He has been consulting with his security team, government officials, and political and religious leaders on how to resolve the current hostage crisis, which has highlighted the increasingly complex security situation there.

Bedouins have long complained of discrimination and heavy-handed security crackdowns during the previous regime and unfulfilled vows to redress such detentions, leading to a spate of abductions. The growing lawlessness in Sinai also has drawn extremist groups, including supporters of Morsi’s Islamist government, complicating the efforts to free the captives.

— Associated Press

Independent Russian pollster faces government pressure: Russia’s only independent polling agency said Monday it may have to close after prosecutors targeted it for “political activity” under a law spearheading President Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on civil society. The Levada Center published a letter, dated last week, from prosecutors who said its polls and publications are “aimed at shaping public opinion on government policy” and demanded it cease publication until it registers as a “foreign agent” under a law passed last year. The measure is seen as an attempt to restrict Kremlin critics.

Youths, police clash in Stockholm: Gangs of youth angered by the police shooting death of an elderly man in a mainly immigrant neighborhood hurled rocks at police and set cars and buildings on fire in a Stockholm suburb early Monday, forcing the evacuation of an apartment block. About 50 youths were involved in the riots in the suburb of Husby, police said. The youths set fire to a parking garage, compelling police to evacuate residents from an adjacent apartment block.

Fighting flares again in Congo: Clashes erupted Monday in eastern Congo between government troops and a rebel group believed to be backed by neighboring Rwanda, the first fighting between the groups since the M23 rebels seized and later retreated from the provincial capital Goma last year. The M23 movement is made up of soldiers from the Tutsi ethnic group who defected from the Congolese army. In November, the M23 invaded Goma, advancing past hundreds of U.N. peacekeepers there. It took intense international pressure to halt the advance.

— From news services