NEWS IN BRIEF

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - INTERNATIONAL -

Ex­iled Chi­nese au­thor in Hong Kong urges 'courage' to de­fend free speech

Hong Kong, Nov 10 (AFP) - Dis­si­dent Chi­nese au­thor Ma Jian hit out at threats to free­dom of speech Satur­day say­ing it was the “ba­sis of civil­i­sa­tion” af­ter a struggle to find a venue to host his talks at Hong Kong's lit­er­ary fes­ti­val.

The venue bat­tle fu­elled grow­ing con­cerns that semi-au­ton­o­mous Hong Kong's free­doms are fast dis­ap­pear­ing un­der an as­sertive Bei­jing.

Ma, whose books are banned in main­land China, is due to pro­mote his lat­est novel “China Dream” at two speak­ing events Satur­day.

The ti­tle plays on Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping's rhetoric of na­tional re­ju­ve­na­tion and is de­scribed by pub­lisher Pen­guin as “a bit­ing satire of to­tal­i­tar­i­an­ism”.

Mel­bourne knife at­tacker named as known ex­trem­ist

Mel­bourne, Nov 10 (AFP) - A So­ma­l­i­born Aus­tralian who car­ried out a deadly knife ram­page in Mel­bourne held ex­trem­ist views and was known to in­tel­li­gence ser­vices, au­thor­i­ties said Satur­day, as they car­ried out raids and in­ter­viewed dozens of wit­nesses.

Aus­tralian Fed­eral Po­lice said 30-yearold Has­san Khalif Shire Ali -- who was shot dead af­ter driv­ing a 4x4 laden with gas cylin­ders into the city cen­tre and stab­bing three peo­ple -- fled to Aus­tralia as a child with his fam­ily in the 1980s.

He stabbed three peo­ple be­fore be­ing con­fronted by mem­bers of the pub­lic and armed of­fi­cers who even­tu­ally shot him in the chest. One of his vic­tims died at the scene while two oth­ers were wounded.

Trump, Macron may clash on Euro­pean de­fence in Paris talks

Paris, Nov 10 ( REUTERS) - U. S. Pres­i­dent Donald Trump and French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron headed to­wards a po­ten­tial clash in talks on Satur­day af­ter Trump took of­fence to what he called a “very in­sult­ing” comment from Macron about the need to cre­ate a Euro­pean army.

Fresh off U.S. con­gres­sional elec­tions that saw his Repub­li­can Party's power erode, Trump is spend­ing the week­end in Paris to bol­ster the U.S.-Euro­pean al­liance at World War One re­mem­brance cer­e­monies.

Trump's talks with Macron at El­y­see Palace are likely to cover Euro­pean con­cerns about Trump's plans to with­draw the United States from the 1980s In­ter­me­di­ate- Range Nu­clear Forces Agree­ment and U.S. re­newal of sanc­tions against Iran.

Con­joined twins: Bhutanese girls separated in six-hour surgery

Oct,09 (BBC) - The 15-month-old girls, Nima and Dawa Pelden, had been joined at the torso and shared a liver.

Lead sur­geon Dr Joe Crameri told re­porters the girls had coped "very well" with the six-hour op­er­a­tion. Dr Crameri said it was a "joy" to in­form their mother, Bhum­chu Zangmo, that the surgery had been a suc­cess.

The Bhutanese fam­ily was brought to Aus­tralia by Chil­dren First Foun­da­tion, an Aus­tralian-based char­ity.

The girls, Tr­ishna and Kr­ishna, who were joined at the head, un­der­went a life-sav­ing 32-hour op­er­a­tion.

Afghanistan war: Tal­iban at­tend land­mark peace talks in Rus­sia

Oct, 09 (BBC) - Rus­sia has hosted a land­mark in­ter­na­tional meet­ing on Afghanistan in Moscow aimed at kick-start­ing peace talks af­ter decades of war.

It is the first time Tal­iban mil­i­tants have at­tended such an event.

Mem­bers of Afghanistan's High Peace Coun­cil, which over­sees peace ef­forts but does not rep­re­sent the Afghan govern­ment, were also present.

But the Tal­iban again stressed the group would only hold direct talks with the US - not the Kabul govern­ment.

Syria regime at­tack kills 23 rebels in truce zone

Syr­ian govern­ment forces killed 23 rebels near Idlib province on Fri­day, the dead­li­est clash to rock a buf­fer zone where a Rus­sian-Turkish truce is to be en­forced.

The at­tack on a po­si­tion held by the Jaish al-Izza rebel group took place on the edge of the north­west­ern province of Idlib, in an area due to be de-mil­i­tarised.

"This is the high­est death toll in the de- mil­i­tarised zone since it was an­nounced," Rami Ab­del Rah­man, head of the Bri­tain-based mon­i­tor­ing group, told AFP.

He said at least 35 rebel fight­ers were also wounded in the clash but could not pro­vide a ca­su­alty toll for govern­ment forces.

Face­book re­fuses Sin­ga­pore re­quest to re­move post af­ter crit­i­cal web­site blocked

Face­book has re­jected a Sin­ga­pore govern­ment re­quest to re­move a post of an on­line ar­ti­cle that the govern­ment said was “false and ma­li­cious”, prompt­ing its Law Min­istry to say the case il­lus­trated the need to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion to stop fake news.

Sin­ga­pore's cen­tral bank said on Fri­day it had filed a po­lice re­port against an on­line ar­ti­cle by an Aus­tralia-based in­de­pen­dent blog­ger about Sin­ga­pore banks and Malaysia's scan­dal-linked 1MDB state fund.

STR ar­ti­cles on its Face­book page re­mained avail­able.

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