Opposition remains wary of peace talks

Syria’s main opposition group in exile said Tuesday it has not yet decided whether to participate in a peace conference to be held in Geneva, adding that the international community must “prove its seriousness” by forcing Damascus to agree on trust-building measures.

The comments illustrate the hurdles ahead, a day after world powers backing the conference announced a date of Jan. 22 for the talks.

“We did not make a final decision yet on our participation in the Geneva conference,” Syrian Opposition Coalition chief Ahmad al-Jarba said in Cairo.

Separately, the head of the coalition’s military wing, Gen. Salim Idriss, told Al Jazeera that “conditions are not suitable for holding Geneva 2 at the set date” and that the Free Syrian Army rebels “will not stop fighting, either before the conference or while it is taking place.”

Also Tuesday, the World Health Organization said it has discovered two additional cases of the polio virus in Syria, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 17. The agency said the new cases are in Aleppo and in rural Damascus, far from where the first outbreak was discovered in the northeastern province of Deir al-Zour in early November.

— Associated Press

3 more top Taliban prisoners are freed

The Pakistani government released three senior Taliban prisoners Tuesday in an attempt to jump-start stuttering peace talks between the group and the Afghan government, the latest in a wave of detainees freed to help negotiations, Pakistani and Taliban officials said.

They said the prisoners released included Abdul Ahad Jahangirwal, a former adviser to Taliban leader Mohammad Omar; Abdul Manan, a former Taliban governor in the Afghan province of Helmand; and a former military commander known as Mullah Younus.

Pakistan has released about four dozen Taliban prisoners over the past year. But there is no sign that the releases have helped peace negotiations, as intended, and some of the prisoners are believed to have returned to the fight against the Afghan government.

— Associated Press

Thai demonstrators call for nationwide uprising: Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra fought a two-front political war Tuesday, fending off criticism during a parliamentary no-confidence debate while protesters besieged and occupied several ministries in their attempt to topple her from power. Protest leaders threatened to extend the battlefield to provincial government offices, while police issued an arrest warrant for protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, who led the storming of the Finance Ministry a day earlier. In Bangkok, thousands of demonstrators fanned out to new targets, leading to the closure of the Transport, Agriculture and Tourism ministries.

Scottish government releases independence blueprint: An independent Scotland would continue to use the pound sterling as its currency, remain in the European Union and join the NATO military alliance, the government said in the first detailed outline of Scotland’s political future as an independent country. Scots will be asked in a referendum on Sept. 18, 2014, whether they want Scotland to leave the United Kingdom, starting in 2016. Polls have consistently put public support for independence at between 25 percent and 30 percent over the past three years, but many remain undecided.

Suicide attacks kill 13 Iraqi security personnel: Suicide bombings at a military base and a police station killed 13 members of the Iraqi security forces north of Baghdad, officials said. In the deadlier attack, which left nine soldiers dead, one bomber blew himself up at the gate of the army facility in the town of Tarmiyah, then a second set off his explosives belt among a crowd of soldiers who had gathered after the earlier blast. Half an hour later, another bomber blew himself up in a police station in the northern Baghdad suburb of Taji, killing four policemen.

China to explore moon with ‘Jade Rabbit’: China in early December will land its first moon probe, which will deploy a buggy nicknamed Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, to explore the surface, an official said, marking a major milestone in the country’s space ambitions. The official said China has already
photographed the surface of the moon to prepare for the landing.

30 Haitians die as their boat capsizes: A sailboat passing through the southern Bahamas islands with about 150 Haitian migrants on board capsized after running aground, killing as many as 30 people and leaving the rest clinging to the vessel for hours, authorities said Tuesday. Authorities believe the migrants had been at sea for eight to nine days with limited food and water and no life jackets, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Gabe Somma said.

— From news services