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Cuba’s president meets U.S. Senator Corker amid tense bilateral relations

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Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel met U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, who is on a trip to Havana to discuss tense bilateral relations and other “matters of common interest”, state-run media reported on Thursday.

Corker, a Republican but also a frequent critic of U.S. President Donald Trump, is the highest-ranking U.S. official that Diaz-Canel has met since succeeding Raul Castro as president in April. He is due to retire from the Senate later this year.

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Relations between the old Cold War foes have deteriorated over the past year due to Trump’s hostile stance on the Communist-run island and what the United States has called a spate of “health attacks” on its diplomats in Havana.

Cuba denies any involvement and government officials have said they believe there were never any attacks, which they described as a pretext to justify conflict.

Diaz-Canel was expected to travel to the United States for the United Nations General Assembly next week but said in an interview broadcast on Sunday he could not talk with Trump as long as his administration kept its “abnormal” attitude toward the island.

The Trump administration has tightened the trade and travel embargo on Cuba and sharply reduced embassy staffing in Havana from more than 50 to a maximum 18.

Cuba’s ruling Communist Party newspaper Granma said the top U.S. top diplomat in Cuba, Mara Tekach, Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, and the ministry’s director of U.S. affairs Carlos Fernandez de Cossio also participated in Thursday’s meeting.

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Reporting by Sarah Marsh and Nelson Acosta; Editing by Paul Tait


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New Zealand eruption death toll rises to 18

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The death toll from New Zealand's White Island volcano eruption rose to 18 Sunday, including two people whose bodies have not been recovered, police said.

A land search early Sunday failed to find any sign of the missing pair and divers returned to the sea in the afternoon amid increasing speculation both could be in the water.

Deputy police commissioner Mike Clement said there was "every chance" the bodies had been washed into the sea from the stream where they were last seen Monday.

He added that searchers were "satisfied that the area we searched near the jetty is clear of the bodies".

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Anger, relief but no joy as UN climate talks limp to an end

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A marathon UN summit wrapped up Sunday with little to show, squeezing hard-earned compromises from countries over a global warming battle plan that fell well short of what science says is needed to tackle the climate crisis.

The COP25 deal "expresses the urgent need" for new carbon cutting commitments to close the gap between current emissions and the Paris treaty goal of capping temperature at below two degrees, host country Spain said in a statement.

"Today the citizens of the world are asking for us to move ahead faster and better, in financing, adaptation, mitigation," Carolina Schmidt, Chilean environment minister and President of COP25, told the closing plenary.

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UK opposition chief Corbyn ‘sorry’ for election wipeout

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Britain's main opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn apologised Sunday for waging a disastrous campaign that handed Prime Minister Boris Johnson a mandate to take the UK out of the EU next month.

But the veteran socialist defended his far-left platform and blamed the media for helping relegate his century-old party to its worst performance since before World War II.

"I will make no bones about it. The election result on Thursday was a body blow for everyone who so desperately needs real change in our country," Corbyn wrote in the Sunday Mirror newspaper.

"I wanted to unite the country that I love but I'm sorry that we came up short and I take my responsibility for it."

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