SYRIA: Russia admits earlier repatriations

Russia acknowledged Wednesday for the first time that it pulled the families of its diplomats out of Syria long ago, and rejected suggestions that the recent evacuation of dozens of its citizens marks the start of a larger rescue effort. Inside Syria, fighting raged around Damascus and in the north, killing 60 people, activists said. Russia has continued to be the main protector of the Bashar Assad regime, shielding it from UN sanctions over a bloody crackdown. Despite escalating violence, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sought to play down the significance of the 77 Russians who fled Syria a day earlier and returned to Moscow. He said no large-scale evacuation of the tens of thousands of Russians still in the country was immediately planned.

MALI: Executions by gov't troops charged

Malian soldiers killed people accused of ties to radical Islamists at a bus stop as the French-led military intervention began, a witness told The Associated Press on Wednesday, saying the victims were shot and their bodies were thrown into wells. The witness' account came the same day a French human rights group accused Malian forces of dozens of "summary executions."

SWITZERLAND: Shipment of pistol parts blocked

The government blocked a shipment of pistol parts to the United States on Wednesday, saying they could be used to commit human rights abuses at their final destination in Saudi Arabia. Swiss-based gun manufacturer KRISS Group SA condemned the decision, saying it could put jobs at risk. The parts were for Sphinx pistols that the company intended to assemble in the United States, then sell to the Saudi royal guard.

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