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By Natalia Zinets and Richard Balmforth KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said on Tuesday he would attend an EU summit this week, but, criticizing the bloc for a 'humiliating' financial aid offer, declared he would sign a free trade pact only when it suited Ukraine's interests. Shifting Ukraine's economy onto European standards would require not less than $20 billion per year, he said in a television interview. Yanukovich's government announced last week it had shelved plans to sign a landmark pact with the European Union at the summit in Lithuania's capital, stunning EU leaders and igniting pro-Europe rallies in the former Soviet republic. Ukraine's decision to renew instead closer economic cooperation with Moscow revived Western fears of a swing back into Russia's sphere of influence.
By Stephanie Nebehay GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations says its aid convoys cannot reach around 250,000 people in areas besieged by Syrian government forces or rebels, despite "growing needs and intensifying conflict". The detailed assessment was included in a confidential paper that Valerie Amos, U.N. emergency relief coordinator, presented to a private, unannounced U.N. meeting in Geneva on Tuesday. "Besieged communities continue to be cut off." International mediator Lakhdar Brahimi announced on Monday that peace talks would be held on January 22, the first direct talks between the government of President Bashar al-Assad and opposition forces seeking to topple him. The U.N. document entitled "Humanitarian Situation and Response in Syria" painted a grim picture, saying there were 900 armed clashes in Syria in October compared with 500 in May. It describes a "dangerous and difficult environment for humanitarian workers" and says 12 U.N. staff and 32 volunteers or staff of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have been killed since the conflict began in March 2011.
CAIRO (AP) — Black-clad Egyptian police descended on two small anti-government rallies in Cairo on Tuesday and fired water cannons to disperse them, enforcing a controversial new law restricting protests. The heavy hand fueled a backlash among secular activists and liberals who accuse the military-backed government of accelerating down a path even more authoritarian than the Hosni Mubarak era.
A huge error from Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois allowed Zenit St Petersburg to snatch a vital Champions League point against the high-flying Spaniards as they drew 1-1 in Russia on Tuesday. An under-strength Atletico, already assured of a pass to the knockout stages as Group G leaders, had taken the lead eight minutes into the second-half when Adrian Lopez broke clear of the Zenit defence and finished confidently low past Juri Lodigin. However, the Russians were saved 17 minutes from time when Courtois allowed teammate Toby Alderweireld's looping header to drop into his own net to end Atletico's 100 percent record in the Champions League so far this season.
More than 20 percent of children in New York City live in homes with not enough to eat, up 10 percent over the last four years, a report said Tuesday. The coalition blamed the rise on last year's devastating Hurricane Sandy, from which many people are still homeless, crippling budget cuts and the still weak US economy. Overall one in six New Yorkers or 1.3 to 1.4 million people lived in homes without enough food between 2010 and 2012, and nearly half a million children -- up 10 percent from 2006-2008. "While the wealthy have better gourmet food than ever, one in six of our neighbors is struggling against hunger," he said.
BEIRUT (AP) — Syria's main Western-backed opposition group pushed Tuesday for President Bashar Assad's government to establish humanitarian corridors to besieged opposition areas and release political prisoners, saying it wants to see progress on those confidence-building measures before it will decide whether to attend an international peace conference.
FIFA boss Sepp Blatter condemned European media for "attacking" 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar Tuesday, days after slamming European countries and companies over the controversial tournament. The veteran Swiss said media had been unfair to Qatar as he made an impassioned defence of the event to delegates at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) awards in Kuala Lumpur. "It is not fair when the international media and especially European media are taking up the focus of an Arab country here in Asia, and attacking, criticising this country," Blatter said. We have taken the decision to play a World Cup in the Arab world and we have taken the decision to play in Qatar and we will go and play this... in 2022 in Qatar," he added, to loud applause at the gala dinner.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Even before Iran's envoys could pack their bags in Geneva after wrapping up a first-step nuclear deal with world powers, President Hassan Rouhani was opening a potentially tougher diplomatic front: selling the give-and-take to his country's powerful insider interests led by the Revolutionary Guard.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — There is a lot riding on Afghanistan's 2014 presidential elections, which will determine who steers the country through the persistent insurgency as international troops leave. But potential voters lining up to register have other concerns as well: They deeply distrust the candidates and worried their next president could be a warlord.