High street giant Gap is to become the first American retailer to source garments made in Myanmar, the US embassy in Yangon said, over a decade after sanctions against the former junta slashed the country's textile industry. The US embassy said products made at two Yangon factories would be in Gap stores by this summer, in the latest sign of growing interest from multinationals in the fast-changing former pariah state. Most Western embargoes on Myanmar -- which previously blocked exports from the Southeast Asian nation -- have been lifted in response to wide-ranging democratic reforms introduced in 2011. "The garment industry stands poised to become a significant source of jobs, exports and opportunity for the people of this country," the US embassy said in a statement.
The world's largest platinum producers and striking South African miners were holding last-ditch talks under government mediation Monday in a bid to end a crippling five-month strike. Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, who in recent days injected fresh impetus into the stalled talks, said that Monday's negotiations were the last his meditators would be involved in. Ministry spokesman Mahlodi Muofhe would not be drawn on the state of the talks Monday apart from telling AFP "we believe that they are talking to each other in good terms". After months of standing on the sidelines, the government stepped in at the end of May to try break the deadlock between the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and the platinum mining firms.
Ngakobo (Central African Republic) (AFP) - A sugar refinery -- the wartorn Central African Republic's biggest factory -- is back in business after soldiers recaptured it from former rebels who occupied it for more than a year. They had fled to the capital Bangui amid sectarian violence sparked by a March 2013 coup by the mainly Muslim Seleka movement. We were bored, so we are happy to be back," said 30-year-old Solange Ngortene, a secretary at the factory. Under a blazing sun, workers are busy cutting sugar cane on four hectares (10 acres) of rolling green fields.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel chief Riek Machar are set to meet Tuesday in a fresh push to end nearly six months of civil war, sources said Monday. A face-to-face meeting between the foes "would be very good" for the peace process, the source told AFP. Information Minister Michael Makuei said in a statement the government was "optimistic that this round of discussions will sow the seeds of peace". Meanwhile Human Rights Watch urged mediators to not allow any amnesty to be included in a peace deal, and to punish those guilty of war crimes.
Fresh fighting between the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and a coalition of rebels and an Al-Qaeda affiliate in eastern Syria has left at least 45 fighters dead, a monitoring group said Monday. ISIL, which grew from a former affiliate of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, has faced a backlash in opposition Syria since early this year and is battling a coalition including Al-Qaeda's Al-Nusra Front and Islamist and moderate rebels. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the clashes in the town of Khosham in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor left 17 Al-Nusra and Islamist fighters dead, along with 28 ISIL members. The fighting began on Sunday and raged through the night, the Observatory said.
Kirkuk (Iraq) (AFP) - A roadside bomb followed by a suicide bomber detonating an explosives-rigged truck at a police checkpoint in northern Iraq killed 15 people on Monday, a local official said. The official, Shallal Abdul Baban, told AFP the blasts in Tuz Khurmatu also wounded 115 people and caused "great destruction". The police checkpoint that was targeted was near an office of President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party. Powerful jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed the Jalawla attack in a statement posted on Twitter, and said it was carried out by two suicide bombers, one Egyptian and an Iraqi Kurd.
The Hong Kong government has refused to allow same-sex couples to marry at the British consulate in the city, UK officials said Monday, prompting heavy criticism from gay and lesbian rights groups. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced last week that it would allow its overseas missions to perform same-sex marriages for Britons and their partners in countries where it is illegal under local laws. However the service, which coincides with legislation to permit same-sex marriages taking effect in the UK, was contingent on local authorities granting their approval. Hong Kong's refusal to allow the marriages came despite countries often criticised for their gay rights records including China, Russia and Azerbaijian, as well as the deeply Catholic Philippines, giving their consent.