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An armed man stands guard in SlavianskBy Stephanie Nebehay and Christian Lowe GENEVA/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Foreign ministers from East and West will try to defuse the Ukraine crisis on Thursday in Geneva, once frequently the scene of Cold War negotiations, but will risk being upstaged by Russian President Vladimir Putin. With Russian troops massed on the border with Ukraine, prospects of significant progress at the four-way talks appear slim. By contrast, what Putin says during his annual "hotline" session with the Russian people may have far greater influence on events in Ukraine's rebellious east. Thursday's talks will bring the ministers of Russia, Ukraine and the United States together with the European Union's foreign policy chief to discuss a crisis in which Kiev is struggling to reassert its authority in eastern towns largely controlled by armed pro-Russian separatists.


Rescue boats sail around the South Korean passenger ship "Sewol" which sank, during their rescue operation in the sea off JindoBy Narae Kim JINDO, South Korea (Reuters) - Rescuers fought rising winds and waves on Thursday as they searched for hundreds of people, mostly teenage schoolchildren, still missing after a South Korean ferry capsized more than 24 hours ago. Nine people were found dead and 179 had been rescued, according to the South Korean government, leaving 287 unaccounted for and possibly still trapped in the vessel. The government said three cranes were being moved to the site of the accident and would arrive on Friday, although efforts were continuing to establish whether there were any survivors on the stricken vessel.


The Bluefin-21 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle is craned over the side of the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield in the southern Indian Ocean during the continuing search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370By Byron Kaye and Swati Pandey SYDNEY/PERTH, Australia (Reuters) - A deep-sea drone had completed its much-anticipated first full scan of the seabed in the remote Indian Ocean, the team looking for a missing Malaysian jetliner said on Thursday, as an air and surface search became less likely to yield results. Footage from a U.S. Navy deep-sea drone is fast becoming the most important tool for a multinational team still searching for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared from radar screens on March 8 with 239 people aboard. Authorities believe that is the most likely area where the missing jet hit the ocean after disappearing. However, with no pings received in more than a week and the black box's battery now 10 days past its approximate expiry date, authorities are relying on the drone.


China's President Xi Jinping walks next to a honour guard during the welcoming ceremony for Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic outside the Great Hall of the People in BeijingBy Benjamin Kang Lim and Megha Rajagopalan BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to use a purge of senior officials suspected of corruption to put his own men and reform-minded bureaucrats into key positions across the Communist Party, the government and the military, sources said. Xi hopes that removing corrupt officials and those resisting change will allow him to consolidate his grip on power and implement difficult economic, judicial and military reforms that he believes are vital to perpetuate one-party rule, said the sources, who have ties to the leadership. In the most far-reaching example of his intentions, Xi plans to promote about 200 progressive officials from the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang, where he served as party boss from 2002 to 2007, to senior positions across the spectrum in the years ahead, two of them said. The biggest investigation Xi has ordered so far revolves around retired domestic security tsar Zhou Yongkang, who is under virtual house arrest.


A woman casts her vote at a polling station in Ajmer district in the desert Indian state of RajasthanBy Ashutosh Pandey and Swetha Gopinath BANGALORE (Reuters) - India kicked off the biggest day of its mammoth general election on Thursday, with a quarter of its 815 million voters set to head to the polls during a week of fresh blows for the ruling Congress party and gains for the Hindu nationalist opposition. Narendra Modi, the prime-ministerial candidate of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has been wooing voters with promises to rescue India from its slowest economic growth in a decade and create jobs for its booming young population. In the latest large opinion poll, the BJP and its allies were forecast to win a narrow majority in the 543-seat lower house of parliament, compared to previous surveys predicting that they would fall short. Voting on Thursday is taking place in 120 constituencies across 12 states, from the fractious Himalayan region of Jammu and Kashmir - where election materials had to be airlifted to some remote polling stations - to the lush southern state of Karnataka whose capital is the IT and outsourcing hub Bangalore.


A rebel fighter carries his weapon as he walks along a damaged street in the Mleha suburb of DamascusOpposition activists accused President Bashar al-Assad's forces of a new poison gas attack in the Syrian capital on Wednesday, posting footage of four men being treated by medics. They said the chemical attack, the fourth the opposition has reported this month, was in the Harasta neighborhood. A voice off-screen gave the date and said Assad's forces used "poison gas in Harasta." It did not say if there were fatalities. The voice off-screen said chemical weapons were also used in Harasta on Friday.


HONG KONG (AP) — Asian stock markets were subdued on Thursday, with Japan's Nikkei faltering as investors locked in profits after a strong rally.
MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — Strong currents, rain and bad visibility hampered an increasingly anxious search Thursday for 287 passengers, many thought to be high school students, still missing more than a day after their ferry flipped onto its side and sank in cold waters off the southern coast of South Korea. Nine people, including five students and two teachers, were confirmed dead, but many expect a sharp jump in that number because of the long period of time the missing have now spent either trapped in the ferry or in the cold seawater.
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's interior minister says three pro-Russian militants have been killed and 13 wounded after Ukrainian troops repelled an attack on a National Guard base in the Black Sea port of Mariupol in the south-east part of the country.

In this photo taken Wednesday April 16, 2014, vehicles are parked outside a factory of SGMW, a joint venture between Chinese carmakers and General Motors in Qingdao in east China's Shandong province. China’s automakers are the underdogs heading into next week’s Beijing auto show, where foreign and domestic brands will jostle for attention in a crowded market. Facing intense competition from General Motors, Volkswagen and other global rivals, local brands such as Chery, Geely and SUV maker Great Wall have seen sales and market share shrink this year while China’s overall market grew. (AP Photo) CHINA OUTBEIJING (AP) — China's automakers are the underdogs heading into next week's Beijing auto show, where foreign and domestic brands will jostle for attention in a market that is increasingly difficult for homegrown models.


Labourers work at a site of a rare earth metals mine at Nancheng county, Jiangxi provinceChina said on Thursday it would appeal against a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that found it violated global trade rules with its export limits on rare earth minerals used in defense and technology products. China lost a WTO dispute in March, handing Europe and the United States a victory over what they see as China's unfair trade practices. "China will make the utmost efforts in the appeals process," Ministry of Commerce spokesman Shen Danyang told reporters at a monthly briefing. China produces more than 90 percent of the world's rare earths, key elements in defense industry components and modern technology from iPhones and disk drives to wind turbines.


South Korean Coast Guard officers search for missing passengers aboard a sunken ferry in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, South Korea, Thursday, April 17, 2014. Strong currents, rain and bad visibility hampered an increasingly anxious search Thursday for more than 280 passengers still missing a day after their ferry flipped onto its side and sank in cold waters off the southern coast of South Korea. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — Strong currents, rain and bad visibility hampered an increasingly anxious search Thursday for 287 passengers, many thought to be high school students, still missing more than a day after their ferry flipped onto its side and sank in cold waters off the southern coast of South Korea.


A miniature South Korean flag is seen during the 64th annual International Whaling Commission in Panama CityBy Elaine Lies TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan is considering scrapping a Northwest Pacific whale hunt just days before the fleet's planned departure, media said on Thursday, as the government grapples with its response to an international court ruling against its main whale hunt. In a blow to Tokyo's decades-old and disputed "scientific whaling" programme, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) last month ordered a halt to its annual hunts in the Southern Ocean, prompting Japan to cancel its 2014-2015 Antarctic hunt, the program's mainstay, as it pledged to abide by the ruling. The judgment did not specifically mention Japan's other whaling hunts, one small-scale one off its coastline and the other across a wide swath of the Northwest Pacific during the spring and summer, with a quota of nearly 300 whales. "The government is currently racking its brains about whether or not to allow the Northwest Pacific whaling, set to start on April 22, to take place," the paper said, adding that the timing - with U.S. President Barack Obama scheduled to arrive in Japan on April 23 - was unfortunate.


In this photo taken July 24, 2013 Michelle Faul, the veteran foreign correspondent named by The Associated Press to head its bureau in Lagos, Nigeria, with the newborn baby of Naimot Alabi , right, at Island Maternity Hospital while reporting on progress in child birth and maternal health care in the country. Faul, 57, joined the AP in her native Zimbabwe in 1983 and has reported for the news cooperative from bases in South Africa, Puerto Rico, Kenya and Ivory Coast. (AP Photo.Sunday Alamba)JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The Associated Press has named Michelle Faul, who has covered the major stories of Africa over the past three decades, as its bureau chief in Nigeria.


Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge pose for a photo at Echo Point Lookout in Katoomba, Australia, Thursday, April 17, 2014. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Thursday stopped in the Blue Mountains town of Winmalee to meet with firefighters and locals affected by last year's wildfires that destroyed more than 200 homes. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)SYDNEY (AP) — Britain's Prince William and his wife, Kate, visited a town ravaged by wildfires in the mountains west of Sydney on Thursday, as they continue their Down Under tour.


Indian supporters of the Congress Party President and Chairperson of India's United Progressive Alliance, Sonia Gandhi, hold banners during an election rally in Karimnagar on April 16, 2014India hosts its biggest day of voting Thursday in its marathon election, with the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty battling to save the ruling Congress party from defeat to opposition Hindu nationalist leader Narendra Modi. The key day comes after India's most famous family cranked up the rhetoric in a bid to claw back support from Modi, saying the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate was a threat to the nation's secular foundations. Surveys have suggested Congress, under Rahul's leadership, is heading for a crushing defeat at the hands of the right-wing BJP. Sonia, 67, the left-leaning Congress party matriarch, told voters Modi would rip India's secular fabric, accusing him of representing a "dangerous combination of religious fanaticism, power and money".


TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's state TV says a magnitude 5.3 earthquake has jolted a sparsely populated district in the south of the country. The quake was moderate and no injuries were reported.
KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine's interior minister said on Thursday that three pro-Russian separatists were killed in shooting that broke out overnight in the town of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. "According to preliminary data, three attackers were killed, 13 wounded and 63 detained," Arsen Avakov said in a post on Facebook. (Reporting by Steve Gutterman; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Ron Popeski)
MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — Strong currents, rain and bad visibility hampered an increasingly anxious search Thursday for 287 passengers still missing a day after their ferry flipped onto its side and sank in cold waters off the southern coast of South Korea. Nine people, including five students and two teachers, were confirmed dead, but many expect a sharp jump in that number because of the long period of time the missing have now spent either trapped in the ferry or in the cold seawater. There was also fury among families waiting for word of passengers who were mostly high school students.

An Indian supporter of main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) holds a mask of their prime ministerial candidate their prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi at an election campaign road show rally by party senior leader Lal Krishna Advani in Ahmadabad, India, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. The multiphase voting across the country runs until May 12, with results for the 543-seat lower house of Parliament announced May 16. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)RAJNANDGAON, India (AP) — Voters are casting ballots in India's general election despite threats of violence in some areas by extreme leftist insurgents, who say the country's democracy has failed its marginalized and its poor.


Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Geneva, Wednesday, April 16, 2014, where he is scheduled to participate in talks on the ongoing situation in Ukraine with representatives from Ukraine, Russia and the European Union. (AP Photo/Jim Bourg, Pool)GENEVA (AP) — Ukraine is hoping to placate Russia and calm hostilities with its neighbor even as the U.S. prepares a new round of sanctions to punish Moscow for what it regards as fomenting unrest.


From left to right: Rankarpal Singh, Gobind Sing Deo and Jagdeep Singh, sons of veteran Malaysian opposition lawmaker Karpal Singh, right, arrive at a hospital in Ipoh, Malaysia, Thursday, April 17, 2014. Singh, an eminent lawyer who had been detained without trial under security laws and battled numerous sedition charges, died early Thursday in a road accident. He was 73. (AP Photo) MALAYSIA OUT, NO SALES, NO ARCHIVEKUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Veteran Malaysian opposition lawmaker and lawyer Karpal Singh, a tireless defender of human rights activists and death row prisoners who was himself detained without trial for more than a year under a security law, died early Thursday in a road accident. He was 73.


MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — Strong currents, rain and bad visibility hampered an increasingly anxious search Thursday for 287 passengers still missing a day after their ferry flipped onto its side and sank in cold waters off the southern coast of South Korea. Nine people, including five students and two teachers, were confirmed dead, but many expect a sharp jump in that number because of the long period of time the missing have now spent either trapped in the ferry or in the cold seawater. There was also fury among families waiting for word of passengers who were mostly high school students.
SYDNEY (AP) — Hesterine de Reus has left her position as head coach of the Australian women's football team after 15 months, following reports of player complaints over her strict style.
Shooting broke out overnight near a base of the Ukrainian national guard which came under attack by pro-Russian separatists, Interfax news agency said on Thursday. It quoted a local online website as saying four people had been killed at Mariupol on the Azov Sea but this could not be independently confirmed, nor were the circumstances of the shooting clear. It said the shooting broke out after the separatists tried to storm the base. Pro-Russian separatists have taken over buildings in at least 10 cities in Eastern Ukraine, attacks the Ukrainian government has said are orchestrated by Russian agents.
MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — Strong currents, rain and bad visibility hampered rescuers Thursday in the search for 287 passengers still missing more than 24 hours after their ferry flipped onto its side and filled with water off the southern coast of South Korea. Nine people, including three students and two teachers, were confirmed dead, but many expect a sharp jump in that number because the missing have now spent more than a day either trapped in the ferry or in the cold seawater. There was also fury among families waiting for word of passengers who were mostly high school students.

Neon signs on electronics shops are tuned off to save energy in Tokyo's Akihabara districtJapan's power supply will be tight this summer if all its nuclear reactors remain shut, although blackouts are not expected as long as there are no problems at the thermal fuel plants now providing the bulk of the country's electricity. Overall, the nine local power monopolies will have a supply surplus of 4.6 percent in August, barely above the 3 percent minimum required, if their nuclear reactors remain shut due to the prolonged safety checks by the nuclear regulator, the trade ministry panel on power projected on Thursday. Japan's power companies have been struggling to provide stable supplies despite efforts to maximize output from costly fossil fuel plants and build new coal- and gas-fired units. Utilities in western Japan that relied on nuclear energy for as much as half of their power supply in the past are the worst off.


A Chinese court has jailed a blogger for three years, state media reports, the first person to be sentenced in a government-led crackdown on so-called Internet rumoursA Chinese court jailed a blogger for three years on Thursday, state media reported, the first person to be sentenced in a government-led crackdown on so-called Internet rumours. Qin Zhihui -- among hundreds of bloggers reportedly detained in an official campaign to assert greater control over China's popular social media -- was found guilty of "slander" and "picking quarrels and provoking troubles", state broadcaster CCTV said. China has said the rumour crackdown launched last year is aimed at maintaining social order, but rights groups have accused Beijing of limiting freedom of speech online to protect the ruling Communist Party.


In this April 11, 2014 photo, people walk past graffiti reading in Spanish "We grow like steak," part of a theater project in the Tepito neighborhood of Mexico City. Neighborhood resident Lourdes Ruiz is one of four residents performing scenes about life in the neighborhood alongside four professional actors. "We grow like steak," says Ruiz in the play, explaining that with each strike of the mallet, a person expands. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)MEXICO CITY (AP) — Few outsiders dare venture after dark into Tepito, a neighborhood known as Mexico City's main clearinghouse for contraband ranging from guns and drugs to counterfeit sneakers.


MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — Strong currents and bad visibility hampered rescuers Thursday in the search for 287 passengers still missing more than 24 hours after their ferry flipped onto its side and filled with cold water off the southern coast of South Korea, causing fury among families waiting for word of passengers who were mostly high school students. Nine were confirmed dead, but many expect that number will rise sharply because the missing have now spent more than a day either trapped in the ferry or in the cold seawater.

Presidential candidate Jose Mario Vaz shows his inked finger after voting in BissauBy Bate Felix and Alberto Dabo BISSAU (Reuters) - Jose Mario Vaz, Guinea-Bissau's former finance minister, will face Nuno Gomes Nabiam, a candidate seen closest to the army, in a May 18 presidential run-off due to complete the country's return to civilian rule. The presidential and parliamentary vote is meant to offer the nation a fresh start after decades of instability since independence from Portugal. Its last vote in 2012 was abandoned after the military seized power between rounds of voting. ...


HONG KONG (AP) — Asian stock markets were mostly lower Thursday, with Japan's Nikkei leading the retreat as investors locked in profits after a strong rally.

A general view taken on April 14, 2014 shows damage inside the Mar Sarkis Greek Catholic monastery in the ancient Christian town of Maalula, northeast of Damascus, after government forces took control of the townIn the Bab Tuma district of Syria's capital Damascus, Fadi Mayal dreams of returning home to the ancient Christian town of Maalula which was retaken by government forces this week. The Syrian army recaptured Maalula on Monday, saying it had restored "security and stability" to the picturesque hamlet where 5,000 people lived before the war began in March 2011. "I would love to go back and celebrate Easter there, but it's still a bit early," said Mayalm in the capital's Christian district of Bab Tuma.


MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — Strong currents and bad visibility hampered rescuers Thursday in the search for 287 passengers still missing more than 24 hours after their ferry flipped onto its side and filled with cold water off the southern coast of South Korea, causing fury among families waiting for word of passengers who were mostly high school students. Nine were confirmed dead, but many expect that number will rise sharply because the missing have now spent more than a day either trapped in the ferry or in the cold seawater.

South Korea ferry accidentJindo (South Korea) (AFP) - The frantic search for nearly 300 people, most of them schoolchildren, missing after a South Korean ferry capsized extended into a second day Thursday, as distraught relatives maintained an agonising vigil on shore. A total of 375 high school students were on board, travelling with their teachers to the popular island resort of Jeju.


MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — Strong currents and bad visibility hampered rescuers Thursday in the search for 287 passengers still missing more than 24 hours after their ferry flipped onto its side and filled with cold water off the southern coast of South Korea, causing fury among families waiting for word of passengers who were mostly high school students. Nine were confirmed dead, but many expect that number will rise sharply because the missing have now spent more than a day either trapped in the ferry or in the cold seawater.

Manchester City's Stevan Jovetic attempts a scissor kick during their 2-2 English Premier League draw against Sunderland at the Etihad Stadium on April 16, 2014Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) - Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini blamed the hangover from defeat by Liverpool for his side's damaging 2-2 draw at home to the Premier League's bottom club Sunderland. City needed to win the first of their two games in hand on Liverpool to keep the pressure on the league leaders and second-placed Chelsea. But Wednesday's draw with Sunderland, in which they needed a late equaliser from Samir Nasri just to avoid defeat, means that they are still six points behind Liverpool with just one extra game to play. Pellegrini hopes that wins in City's five remaining fixtures will still give them a chance, but he admitted that his team had been unable to recover from the mental strain of losing 3-2 at Anfield last weekend.


South Korean relatives of passengers on board a capsized ferry gather for news at a gym in Jindo on April 17, 2014Jindo (South Korea) (AFP) - The pin-drop silence as the student's name was read out was broken by a piercing scream of anguished recognition as her shattered parents clutched each other in the cold, harbour gymnasium. The announcement of the sixth confirmed victim from the sinking of a South Korean ferry carrying hundreds of high school students came after a night-long vigil for relatives who had travelled to the southern island of Jindo to be near the rescue effort.


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