Reuters World News Summary

Following is a summary of current world news briefs.

Afghan president says Pompeo reports progress in U.S.-Taliban talks

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Tuesday he was told by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that "notable progress" had been made in talks between the United States and the Taliban on an agreement for a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. In a post on Twitter, Ghani wrote that Pompeo had informed him in a telephone call that the Taliban had made a proposal "with regards to bringing a significant and enduring reduction in violence."

Merkel allies press for swift resolution of succession question

Senior members of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives called on Tuesday for a swift decision on who should lead the party and be its next chancellor candidate after her protegee Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer threw in the towel. Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Monday she would give up the party chair as well as her ambitions of running for chancellor, as she believed one person should do both. She would organize a process to fill both roles in the summer.

China reports record daily virus death toll, but new cases fall

China reported 108 new coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, a daily record, bringing the total number of people killed in the country to 1,016, but the number of new cases fell. There were 2,478 new confirmed cases on the mainland on Feb. 10, down from 3,062 on the previous day, bringing the total to 42,638, the National Health Commission said.

Artillery shells rain on center of Libyan capital

Artillery shells on Tuesday hit the center of the Libyan capital, which eastern forces have been trying to take in a near year-long war, residents said. The Libyan National army (LNA) faction of Khalifa Haftar moved on Tripoli held by the internationally recognized government in April, failing to breach defense in southern suburbs but increasingly dragging civilians into the conflict.

Philippines Duterte terminates troop pact in blow to U.S.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday announced the termination of a two-decade-old Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States (VFA), delivering on threats to downgrade an alliance important to U.S. interests. The mercurial Duterte, who has clashed with the former colonial ruler over several issues, decided to pull the plug on the two-decade troop rotation pact to enable the Philippines to be more independent in its relations with other countries, spokesman Salvador Panelo said.

Turkey says 51 Syrian soldiers killed as rebels hit back in Idlib

Turkey said on Tuesday 51 Syrian soldiers were killed in northwest Syria as Turkish-backed rebels struck back against Russian-supported government forces who had made gains in their campaign to eliminate the last insurgent bastion in the country. The Turkish Defense Ministry cited sources on the ground for the information, adding that two Syrian tanks and one ammunition store were destroyed as well.

Palestinians' Abbas, at U.N., says U.S. offers Palestinians 'Swiss cheese' state

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, appearing before the United Nations Security Council, on Tuesday rejected U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East peace proposal as a gift to Israel and unacceptable to Palestinians. Waving a copy of a map that the U.S. plan envisions for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, Abbas said the state carved out for Palestinians looked like a fragmented "Swiss cheese."

Tehran-backed Hezbollah steps in to guide Iraqi militias in Soleimani's wake

Shortly after Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq, the Tehran-backed Lebanese organization Hezbollah urgently met with Iraqi militia leaders, seeking to unite them in the face of a huge void left by their powerful mentor’s death, two sources with knowledge of the meetings told Reuters. The meetings were meant to coordinate the political efforts of Iraq’s often-fractious militias, which lost not only Soleimani but also Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a unifying Iraqi paramilitary commander, in the Jan. 3 attack at Baghdad airport, the sources said.

U.S. charges five with conspiring to violate oil sanctions on Iran

The U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday it had charged five people in Texas and New York with conspiring to violate a law on international commerce by arranging to purchase sanctioned Iranian oil and sell it to a refinery in China. The defendants include Daniel Ray Lane, president of privately held STACK Royalties, LLC a Texas-based company that sells oil and gas mineral rights to investment funds and private equity groups.

Cyprus 'golden passports' scheme a laundering risk, says watchdog

A European money laundering watchdog has cautioned that a secretive investment-for-passports program run by Cyprus was vulnerable to money laundering and fraught with risk. The Mediterranean island launched the scheme offering passports for an investment in 2013, with more than 3,000 people gaining citizenship through the program.