World Briefs

Syria’s Assad returns to the public eye

BEIRUT – Syrian President Bashar Assad made his first appearance on state TV in nearly three weeks Tuesday in a show of solidarity with a senior Iranian envoy, even as the U.S. urged stepped up international planning for the regime’s collapse.

The visit to Damascus by the highest-ranking Iranian official since the uprising began coincided with a warning by an increasingly agitated Tehran that it holds the U.S. responsible for the fate of 48 Iranians seized by Syrian rebels.

Appearing together on state TV, Assad and Iran’s Saeed Jalili vowed to defeat the rebels and their backers, while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton predicted Assad’s regime was quickly unraveling, with high-level defections such as his prime minister’s switch to the rebel side.

Russians seek 3 years for anti-Putin rockers

MOSCOW – Prosecutors on Tuesday called for three-year prison sentences for feminist punk rockers who gave an impromptu performance in Moscow’s main cathedral to call for an end to Vladimir Putin’s rule, in a case that has caused international outrage and split Russian society.

Some Russians say the three women – who have already been in jail for five months – deserve to be punished for desecrating the Russian Orthodox Church and offending believers. Others insist that they are being punished for their political beliefs. The women, all in their 20s, said their goal was to express their resentment about the church’s open support for Putin’ rule.

Clinton lauds AIDS work in South Africa

PRETORIA, South Africa – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, visiting the country with the world’s highest rate of HIV infection, said Tuesday that American-sponsored efforts to stop the virus “have saved hundreds of thousands of lives” in South Africa.

In South Africa, 5.7 million people – 17.8 percent of the population – have tested positive for HIV. PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, has spent $3.2 billion on anti-retroviral drugs and HIV prevention programs in South Africa since 2004. The program was initiated by President George W. Bush and has been continued by President Barack Obama’s administration.

Associated Press