Following is a summary of current world news briefs.
Syrian army makes new gains as Russia brings reinforcements: rebels, residents
Russia and its Syrian army ally stepped up aerial raids on northwest Syria as they sent reinforcements from elite army units and Iranian-backed militias to bolster a major offensive against the last big rebel stronghold, opposition sources, army defectors and residents said on Friday. The Russian-led alliance took the town of Khwain, Zarzoor and Tamanah farms in southern Idlib, pushing closer into densely populated parts of Idlib province where millions of people who fled fighting elsewhere in Syria have taken refuge.
Amazon fires scorch Bolsonaro's reputation abroad, but not in Brazil
President Jair Bolsonaro has drawn sharp criticism on the international stage from European leaders and environmental groups for his handling of wildfires raging in the Amazon, but at home few Brazilians are angered by his reluctant response. Many of his fellow citizens share his aversion to what they see as foreign meddling in how to strike a balance between protecting and developing the Amazon rainforest. The vast region is regarded at home as a key national asset but is seen globally as a crucial bulwark against climate change.
U.S. hopeful EU will impose sanctions on Venezuela in coming months: U.S. envoy
Washington's envoy for Venezuela said on Thursday he was hopeful that the European Union will impose sanctions against Caracas in the coming months and the United States was examining more measures to pressure President Nicolas Maduro to step down. U.S. envoy Elliott Abrams told reporters that Maduro's government was increasingly relying on Russian oil firm Rosneft for financial support. Rosneft's purchases and sales of Venezuelan oil did not violate U.S. sanctions at this time, he added.
Trump: U.S. will maintain presence in Afghanistan even if deal reached with Taliban
President Donald Trump said on Thursday that U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan were being reduced to 8,600 but that American forces would remain in the country even if Washington reaches an agreement with the Taliban to end the 18-year war. "Oh yeah, you have to keep a presence," Trump said in an interview with Fox News radio. "We're going to keep a presence there. We're reducing that presence very substantially and we're going to always have a presence. We're going to have high intelligence."
Colombian dissident rebel leader issues new call to arms three years after peace deal
A group of former rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said in a video posted overnight that they will embark on a new offensive, threatening to resume five decades of armed conflict against the government. Two former commanders from the group, known by their aliases Ivan Marquez and Jesus Santrich, appear in the 32-minute YouTube announcement, which Marquez said was filmed in Colombia's Amazon jungle.
China says troops will defend Hong Kong's prosperity ahead of planned pro-democracy march
China brought fresh troops into Hong Kong on Thursday in what it described as a routine rotation of the garrison, days before protesters planned to hold a march calling for full democracy for the Chinese-ruled city after three months of demonstrations. Chinese state media stressed the troop movement was routine and Asian and Western diplomats watching the People's Liberation Army (PLA) forces in the former British colony had been expecting it.
UK calls for broad support to tackle Gulf shipping threats
British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab will call for more international support to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz when he meets his French and German counterparts later on Friday for talks about Iran. Last month, Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the strait, the Gulf's outlet to the open seas, in apparent retaliation for Britain's seizure in Gibraltar of an Iranian ship accused of violating European sanctions by taking oil to Syria.
Britain's Labour plans to use parliament to thwart no-deal Brexit
The opposition Labour Party said on Thursday it would trigger an emergency debate in parliament next week to try to stop Prime Minister Boris Johnson taking Britain out of the European Union without a withdrawal deal. More than three years after the country voted in a referendum to leave the bloc, the United Kingdom is heading toward its gravest constitutional crisis in decades and a showdown with the EU over Brexit, which is due to take place in just over two months time.
Italy's president gives Conte green light to form new government
Italy's president asked Giuseppe Conte to head up a coalition of the 5-Star Movement and opposition Democratic Party (PD) on Thursday, a move could that could improve Italy's fractious relations with the European Union. Markets welcomed the prospect of a quick end to a three-week political crisis triggered by League leader Matteo Salvini, who pulled his hard-right party out of its governing alliance with 5-Star after weeks of public bickering.
UAE carries out air strikes against Yemen government forces to support separatists
The United Arab Emirates carried out air strikes against government forces in South Yemen on Thursday in support of southern separatists who have deployed reinforcements to take back control of the port of Aden from their supposed allies in the Saudi-led coalition. The UAE, the second foreign power in the coalition, said it carried out air strikes against "terrorist organizations" that attacked Saudi-led coalition forces at Aden airport.