Reuters World News Summary

Following is a summary of current world news briefs.

Australia's drought expected to persist in spring: weather bureau

Australia's spring is expected to be warmer and drier than average, following one of the driest winters on record, the country's Bureau of Meteorology said on Thursday. The forecast provided little relief to Australia's farmers, hit by a prolonged drought that has parched grain growing areas, as well as cattle and sheep farming regions. It also means the country faces a long, tough bushfire season, fire authorities warned earlier this week.

UAE loosens Saudi alliance to push peacemaker image

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have looked inseparable on the world stage, working together to project power in the Middle East and beyond, and courting U.S. President Donald Trump to counter common foe Iran. From Egypt to Sudan and the Horn of Africa, the two Gulf monarchies have coordinated their use of financial clout and - in Yemen - military force to redraw the region's political landscape to their advantage.

EU's softer tone a ploy to sidestep blame in case of a no-deal Brexit

The European Union has softened its tone on Brexit in recent days, but officials and diplomats say this is more likely an attempt to sidestep blame in a worst-case outcome than a shift to accommodate Boris Johnson's demands. With little hope left that London will come up with an acceptable alternative to the Withdrawal Agreement hammered out by Johnson's predecessor as prime minister, Theresa May, Brussels officials are trying not to appear resigned to failure.

Brazil looks to neighbors for Amazon support, defends record

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Wednesday he would meet with other South American countries to set common policy for defending the Amazon rain forest, while his foreign minister told Reuters the nation should be seen as an environmental hero. In an indication that Bolsonaro, a far-right conservative, is forging closer ties with neighboring countries than with European nations, he accepted Chile's offer of four aircraft to help fight the fires sweeping through the world's largest rain forest.

British PM to suspend parliament before Brexit, opposition denounces 'coup'

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will suspend Britain's parliament for more than a month before Brexit, enraging opponents and raising the stakes in the country's most serious political crisis in decades. Cheered on by U.S President Donald Trump, Johnson launched his boldest move yet to take the country out of the European Union by Oct. 31 with or without a divorce deal, by setting a new date for a state opening of parliament.

U.S. says 'premature' to discuss future Afghan counterterrorism mission

The top U.S. military officer said on Wednesday it was too early to talk about the future of U.S. counterterrorism forces in Afghanistan, as U.S and Taliban forces appear close to an agreement to end the 18-year war. Negotiations over how to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan have been held in Doha, capital of Qatar, since late last year. The ninth round of talks began last week.

Hong Kong protesters denounce Cathay Pacific for firing cabin crew

Hundreds of people protested in Hong Kong on Wednesday to denounce Cathay Pacific Airways for dismissing crew taking part in or supporting anti-government rallies that have swept the Chinese-ruled city for weeks. The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) switched the protest venue, originally planned to be outside the airline's airport headquarters, Cathay City, to the central financial district after police refused permission.

U.S. will not release Middle East peace plan before Israeli election

The United States will not release the long-delayed political portion of its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan before Israel's elections next month, White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt said on Wednesday. The move, announced in a tweet by Greenblatt, keeps the plan's details from becoming an issue in the election, in which the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close ally of U.S. President Donald Trump, is at stake.

Italian opposition PD, 5-Star say they want to form coalition led by Conte

Italy's 5-Star Movement and the opposition Democratic Party (PD) said on Wednesday they would try to form a coalition, setting aside years of hostility to avert a snap election and ease economic uncertainty. Following days of often tense and difficult talks, the leaders of 5-Star and the PD told Italy's president that the new government should once again be led by the outgoing prime minister Giuseppe Conte.

U.S. opens Venezuelan diplomatic office in Colombian capital

The U.S. State Department on Wednesday opened a representative office for Venezuela in Bogota, Colombia, and said it will continue its opposition to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and support for opposition leader Juan Guaido from there. The Venezuela Affairs Unit (VAU) will be headed by James Story, the U.S. charge d'affaires to Venezuela, who was among the last American diplomats withdrawn from the U.S. embassy in Caracas in March as conditions deteriorated in the country.