World Briefs: U.S. adoptions deal valid until 2014, Kremlin says

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MOSCOW — The Kremlin says an adoption deal with the U.S. will remain valid until 2014, despite a new Russian law banning the practice.

Last month, President Vladimir Putin signed a law banning Americans from adopting Russian children, part of a harsh response to a U.S. law targeting Russians deemed to be violating human rights.

Although some top Russian officials, including the foreign minister, openly opposed the bill, the parliament overwhelmingly passed it.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the adoptions agreement will remain in force until Jan. 1.

SYRIA

Rebels seize parts of strategic air base

BEIRUT — Hundreds of Islamic militants fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad seized parts of a strategic northwestern air base Thursday after weeks of battling government troops for control of the sprawling facility.

At stake is the biggest field for helicopters used to bomb rebel-held areas in the north and deliver supplies for regime forces.

Opposition fighters and activists said rebels broke into Taftanaz air base in the northern Idlib province Wednesday night and by Thursday had seized control of more than half of it. Intense battles were still raging, and one activist said rebels had suffered losses.

FRANCE

3 Kurds killed in Paris a ‘political assassination’?

PARIS — Three Kurdish women, including one of the founders of a militant group battling Turkish troops since 1984, were slain in Paris, French officials said Thursday.

Angry Kurds immediately flooded the area, with some claiming the killings were a “political assassination.”

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who visited the pro-Kurdish center in Paris, where the bodies were found, said the deaths were “without doubt an execution.” He called it a “totally intolerable act.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the killings.

A Turkish lawmaker with the ruling party claimed the women were slain in a dispute between factions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The group, known as the PKK, is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and its allies, including the U.S. and the European Union.

IRELAND

Poll: Most Irish favor wider abortion access

DUBLIN — Most people in Ireland want lawmakers to give women wider access to abortion, a poll revealed Thursday as senior clerics testified before a parliamentary committee investigating Ireland’s ban on the practice.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s government has pledged to legalize abortion for women whose lives are deemed in danger from a pregnancy, including those who threaten to commit suicide if denied an abortion.

Opponents of abortion argue that the suicide-threat rule would be open to deceit and permit increasingly broad access to abortion in this predominantly Catholic country.

The move has been delayed in Ireland for two decades despite a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that the policy should be Irish law.

The poll found that 35 percent of those interviewed support the government plan to propose a law to legalize abortions for life-threatening cases, including suicidal women. About 29 percent said they want the government to go farther and legalize abortion on demand, the law in neighboring Britain since 1967.

The survey of 1,002 adults across Ireland, conducted this week by pollsters RedC for the Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, had an error margin of 3 percentage points.

MALI

President asks France to help fight Islamists

UNITED NATIONS — Mali’s president has asked France for military help to fight off an offensive by Islamists tied to al Qaeda, and Paris will announce Friday what action it will take, diplomats said Thursday.

Alarm over an advance by Islamist forces was raised after a U.N. Security Council meeting that called for the “rapid” deployment of an African-led intervention force to help Mali authorities.

France could take military action even sooner as the Islamists move out of their stronghold in northern Mali and seize new towns on the road to the capital, Bamako, diplomats said.

Mali’s interim president, Dioncounda Traore, has requested “military assistance” from French President Francois Hollande, a U.N. diplomat told Agence France-Presse on the condition of anonymity.

“It basically said: ‘Help — France,’” Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., told reporters in describing Mr. Traore’s letter.

France’s U.N. ambassador, Gerard Araud, declined to say how his country would respond, telling reporters: “The nature of the answer I can’t tell you. It will be announced in Paris tomorrow.”

Mr. Hollande himself is expected to disclose the measures he plans to take.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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