Following is a summary of current world news briefs.
Iranians vote in parliamentary election, hardliners set to cement grip
Hardliners loyal to Iran's supreme leader are likely to sweep a parliamentary election on Friday that will cement their grip on power as the country faces mounting U.S. pressure over its nuclear program and growing discontent at home. The vote will have no major influence on foreign affairs or Iran's nuclear policy, which is determined by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But it might bolster hardliners in the 2021 contest for president and toughen Tehran's foreign policy.
Assange's fate hangs in balance as UK court considers U.S. extradition bid
Almost a decade after his WikiLeaks website enraged Washington by leaking secret U.S. documents, a London court will begin hearings on Monday to decide whether Julian Assange should be extradited to the United States. A hero to admirers who say he has exposed abuses of power, Assange is cast by critics as a dangerous enemy of the state who has undermined Western security. He says the extradition is politically motivated by those embarrassed by his revelations.
China prisons, Korean church spread coronavirus woes as fears weigh on global markets, U.S. business
The coronavirus has infected hundreds of people in Chinese prisons, authorities said on Friday, as cases jumped beyond the epicentre in Hubei province, including 100 more in South Korea and a worsening outbreak in Italy. U.S. stocks fell, and the NASDAQ was hit with its biggest percentage decline in about three weeks, after data showed U.S. business activity stalled in February. The rise in new coronavirus cases sent investors scrambling for safe havens such as gold and government bonds.
U.N. says it fears 'bloodbath' in northwest Syria fighting
The United Nations warned on Friday that fighting in northwest Syria could "end in a bloodbath" and called again for a ceasefire, while Moscow denied reports of a mass flight of civilians from a Russian-led Syrian government offensive. Syrian troops backed by Russian air power have been battling since December to eliminate the last rebel strongholds in the region in a war that has killed an estimated 400,000 Syrians, displaced millions more and left much of the country in ruins.
'Enemies of the people': Coronavirus evacuees endure hostile return to Ukraine
Julia Volok says some of her fellow passengers expected a warm welcome on their arrival in Ukraine after finally being evacuated from the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic in China's Hubei province this week. Instead Volok, a 26-year-old Chinese-language student, and her fellow evacuees found their buses being pelted with projectiles by protesters on Thursday as they approached the sanatorium where they have started a mandatory two-week quarantine.
Tell Prince Andrew to call FBI says message on U.S-style bus near palace
A yellow, U.S.-style school bus displaying Prince Andrew's face and asking him to call the FBI drove past Buckingham Palace on Friday, in a move designed to press him to help authorities investigating U.S. sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Queen Elizabeth’s second son stopped carrying out royal duties last year after giving rambling and contradictory answers in an interview about his friendship with the financier Epstein, who was found dead in prison while awaiting charges of trafficking minors.
Support for women's strike in Mexico gains ground
A women's event in Mexico planned for next month, fueled by growing disgust with a spate of high-profile femicides, gained ground on Friday as Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said public servants could participate. During his regular morning news conference, Lopez Obrador said government workers could join the event but suggested some activists were simply seeking to use the protest to undermine his government.
Slovaks remember murdered journalist before election that may oust ruling party
Thousands of people across Slovakia held gatherings on Friday to mark the second anniversary of the murder of an investigative journalist that shook the country's political scene and may redraw the political map in next week's election. Jan Kuciak and his fiancée were shot dead on Feb. 21, 2018 in a case that prosecutors traced to an influential businessman, who is now standing trial for procuring the murder. Three others are charged with helping organize and carry out the murder.
Bolivia's Morales slams block on Senate run, eyes legal challenge
Bolivian ex-president Evo Morales slammed a ban on his running for a Senate role in May elections, while his lawyers signaled that the exiled leftist leader would fight back. Bolivia's electoral body said on Thursday that Morales was ineligible to run for a Senate position in the May 3 election re-run of a voided vote late last year that sparked a political crisis and led to his resignation.
Deaf Argentine victims of clergy sexual abuse protest at Vatican
Victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests at a school for the deaf in Argentina staged a protest at the Vatican on Friday to bring attention to an upcoming trial of more alleged abusers. Last November a court in the province of Mendoza convicted two priests and the former gardener at a Catholic Church-run school on 28 counts of sexual abuse and corruption of minors.