High hopes for US-Taleban talks
KABUL • The US and the Taleban will meet today in Qatar for fresh talks seeking an end to 17 years of grinding conflict in Afghanistan, with the stakes ratcheting higher as the spring fighting season approaches.
Marathon talks held in Doha last month stoked hopes of a breakthrough after both sides walked away with a "draft framework" that included a Taleban commitment to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for international terror groups.
But there is still no accord on a timetable for a US withdrawal or a ceasefire, both major issues on which previous efforts have foundered.
Toxic bootleg liquor kills 150 in India
GUWAHATI • At least 150 people have died from drinking toxic bootleg liquor in Assam, a north-eastern Indian state, in the country's second such tragedy this month.
The authorities had estimated the number of dead at 84 on Saturday.
Many more have been hospitalised as the Indian authorities try to pinpoint the source and round up the perpetrators.
The Assam liquor tragedy comes almost two weeks after more than 100 people died from drinking tainted alcohol in two northern Indian states, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, in the worst such case in the country since 2011.
Emperor urges Japan to open up
TOKYO • Japan's Emperor Akihito urged his country to be open to the outside world at a ceremony marking 30 years of his reign yesterday, ahead of his abdication later this year.
"Our country has cultivated its own culture as an island nation," he said at the ceremony in Tokyo. "As the world has been globalised, I think we are now required to be more open to the outside, establish our own position with wisdom and build relations with other countries sincerely."
Emperor Akihito will abdicate from the Chrysanthemum Throne on April 30, making way for Crown Prince Naruhito to replace him the following day.
The Emperor, who has embraced a more modern role as a symbol of the state, shocked the country in 2016 when he signalled his desire to step down, citing his age and health problems.