Abe pledges to rebuild economy, U.S. relations
TOKYO — Japan's newly elected prime minister, Shinzo Abe, pledged to rebuild the economy and mend Japan's alliance with the United States in the face of an assertive China at his first news conference on Wednesday.
Mr. Abe was elected premier by the lower house of parliament earlier in the day after sweeping to power on a hawkish platform of getting tough on diplomatic issues while fixing the economy.
He vowed to defend Japanese territorial waters against Chinese aggression but stressed that his government will carry out a diplomacy drive to "win back" national interests.
"There are many issues concerning Japan-China relations, Japan-South Korea relations and Japan-U.S. relations -- which is the foundation of Japan's diplomacy," he said.
Chavez delegates fiscal duties to vice president
CARACAS — Hugo Chavez has delegated some administrative responsibilities to Venezuela's vice president, allowing his close confidant to make decisions related to the budget, expropriations and government debt.
Mr. Chavez passed on the duties to Vice President Nicolas Maduro on Dec. 8, three days before the socialist leader underwent cancer-related surgery in Cuba. The measure took effect Wednesday upon its publication in the Official Gazette.
Mr. Chavez traveled to Cuba after tests had found a return of malignant cells in the same area where tumors were removed. Since his Dec. 11 surgery, he has remained in Cuba.
The president has been silent since the operation, raising doubts among Venezuelans regarding his health.
Mr. Maduro announced on Christmas Eve that Mr. Chavez was walking and talking, but the news did not ease uncertainty surrounding his condition.
Taliban claims credit for suicide bombing
KHOST — A Taliban suicide car-bombing killed at least three Afghans and wounded seven others at a U.S.-run base in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, officials said.
Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the car bomb exploded near the entrance of Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, a Taliban flash point that borders Pakistan.
The blast was so powerful that it rattled the windows of buildings in the city, about two miles away.
The Taliban -- which has waged a bloody insurgency against foreign and Afghan government forces for the past 11 years since being ousted from power in an invasion led by the United States -- claimed credit for the attack.
Safety issues delay opening of airport
BERLIN — Germany's transport minister says he cannot rule out a further delay in opening Berlin's new airport given continuing technical problems with the fire-safety system.
The capital airport is one of the nation's major infrastructure projects but has turned into a big embarrassment for city officials because costs have more than doubled to $5.8 billion and the project is years behind schedule.
Peter Ramsauer told daily Die Welt in comments released Wednesday that there are "signs that the opening date on Oct. 27, 2013, maybe can not be held to."
The Willy Brandt airport will replace the small and aging Tegel and Schoenefeld airports, which served West and East Berlin, respectively, during Germany's Cold War division.
The opening had first been delayed from late 2011 to June 2012, then to October 2013.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports