U.S. wants Assad’s ouster, Kerry says

The Obama administration remains committed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Monday, even as the United States is seeking his cooperation in dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.

“President Assad has lost the legitimacy necessary to be able to be a cohesive force that could bring people together,” Kerry said as he renewed a call for a U.N. peace conference on Syria.

Kerry met in London with Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria, who insisted that the proposed conference in Geneva be held next month.

The sole purpose of the session, Kerry said, would be to establish a transition government to replace Assad.

Assad’s regime has repeatedly pledged to attend the conference, but the U.S.-backed opposition coalition has qualms about participating in direct talks.

— Anne Gearan

Quake kills at least 10, downs buildings

A 7.2-magnitude earthquake collapsed buildings and roofs and cracked roads Tuesday morning in the central Philippines, killing at least 10 people.

The quake was felt across the central region, and people rushed out of buildings and homes, including hospitals, as aftershocks continued. Offices and schools were closed for a national holiday, which may lower casualties.

The temblor struck about 35 miles deep below the town of Carmen on Bohol Island and did not cause a tsunami in the seas around the archipelago.

— Associated Press

Netanyahu pledges hard line in talks

Israel’s prime minister said Monday that he is making a “real effort” to reach peace with the Palestinians, but he vowed to maintain a hard-line stance in recently relaunched negotiations.

The tough positions laid out by Benjamin Netanyahu drew jeers from opposition lawmakers, and the Palestinians, already wary of the Israeli prime minister’s intentions, questioned his commitment to peace.

Under heavy U.S. pressure, Israel and the Palestinians relaunched in July the first substantive peace talks in nearly five years. The talks have taken place in secrecy, and the sides have mostly remained quiet about their content.

In a speech to parliament, Netanyahu reiterated that he would never back down from many tough positions, including that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland, that no international troops should be allowed to safeguard a final peace deal and that he would hold a national referendum on any agreement.

The Palestinians seek the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, for their future state.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, accused Netanyahu of trying to torpedo the talks by “insisting that the Palestinians renounce their rights.”

— Associated Press

American injured in Burma hotel blast: An explosion struck one of the most prestigious hotels in Rangoon, the main city in Burma, also known as Myanmar, just before midnight Monday, ripping apart a guest’s room and wounding one American — one in a series of unexplained blasts to hit the Southeast Asian country in recent days. Police said a homemade time bomb was used in the blast, which blew out a window in the ninth floor room. Three suspects have been detained.

Russian court refuses bail for Greenpeace captain: A court in Murmansk refused to grant bail Monday to the captain of a Greenpeace ship whose crew has been detained in the north Russian city since it sailed to an oil platform to protest drilling. The court sided with prosecutors, who argued that Peter Willcox, a U.S. citizen, should remain behind bars because he could hinder the course of justice or go into hiding, Russian news agencies reported. Greenpeace has appealed the detentions of all 30 crew members.

Senegalese peacekeepers killed in Darfur: Three peacekeepers from Senegal were killed and one was wounded in Sudan’s Darfur region Sunday when armed men attacked their convoy, the United Nations said. A joint African Union-U.N. operation known as UNAMID, has been deployed in the region since 2007. Violence has surged since January as security forces, rebels and Arab tribes armed by the government fight over resources and land.

Kurdish rebel chief wants talks with Turkey to be ‘meaningful’: The imprisoned leader of Kurdish rebels called Monday for “meaningful and deep” talks with Turkey to end a nearly three-decade-old conflict. Abdullah Ocalan’s message was relayed by Kurdish lawmakers days after his rebel group, which is engaged in peace talks with Turkey, accused Turkish leaders of not taking enough steps toward granting greater rights to the Kurdish minority. The rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, also warned that it could end a unilateral cease-fire that began six months ago.

— From news services