AFGHANISTAN

Leaders to meet

on peace issues

Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed Sunday to meet with U.S. and Chinese officials in the first weeks of the new year to discuss "peace-related issues," a move that could reinvigorate a stalled peace process with the Taliban, the Afghan president's office said.

The development came as Pakistan's powerful army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, met with senior officials in the Afghan capital, including the president, Ashraf Ghani, and chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah.

The visit focused on a possible revival of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, which stalled this summer. - AP

ISRAEL

Funds-disclosure bill advances

Israeli cabinet ministers on Sunday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would impose new disclosure requirements on nonprofit groups that receive foreign funding - drawing accusations it is cracking down on pro-peace groups, rattling relations with Europe and deepening an increasingly toxic divide between liberal and hawkish Israelis.

Critics said the regulations are meant to stifle dovish organizations critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government policies toward the Palestinians, since such nonprofits tend to rely heavily on donations from European countries.

In contrast, pro-government and nationalistic nonprofit groups tend to rely on wealthy private donors, who are exempt from the measures under the bill. The legislature is expected to approve the bill as early as this week. - AP
GERMANY

Drug testing

of pilots urged

Germany's transport minister is advocating the introduction of unannounced alcohol, drug, and medicine tests for pilots in the country.

Alexander Dobrindt's proposal follows the crash in March of a Germanwings jet that killed all 150 people aboard. Prosecutors believe the copilot intentionally crashed the plane and say they found torn-up sick notes from doctors at his home.

Dobrindt was quoted Sunday as telling the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that it makes sense for pilots to be tested at random. He said experts see positive effects for air transport safety. - AP
SWEDEN

Tradition goes up

in flames - again

In what's become a Christmas tradition to some, a giant decorative goat made of straw was set ablaze early Sunday and police arrested a 25-year-old man suspected of arson.

The straw goat is a beloved Christmas symbol in Gavle, a city in central Sweden. However, it's also become a tradition of sorts to burn it down.

This year's edition lasted nearly a month on a downtown square before burning. The suspect was wearing a balaclava and clothes reeking of lighter fluid. Police said he would be questioned once he sobered up.

The goat is a Scandinavian Yuletide tradition that preceded Santa Claus as the bringer of gifts. - AP