TOP STORIES FROM EUROPE AT 1205 GMT
BERLIN — French President Francois Hollande says all parties pushing for a new peace plan for eastern Ukraine see a cease-fire as the first step but must go further to find a lasting accord. Hollande is heading to Moscow on Friday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss a new European peace plan with Russian President Vladimir Putin. By Frank Jordans. SENT: 120 words, photos. UPCOMING: 300 words by 1300 GMT.
DEBALTSEVE, Ukraine — Pro-Russia rebels and the Ukrainian authorities agreed Friday on a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians from the epicenter of fighting in eastern Ukraine as German and French leaders prepared to bring their peace plan to Moscow. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande are set to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin a day after discussing their proposals with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. By Peter Leonard. SENT: 720 words, photos.
With: UKRAINE-EU SANCTIONS — EU targets 19 more individuals linked to the fighting in eastern Ukraine, including five Russians.
MUNICH — Top world leaders, diplomats and defense officials are converging on Munich for a security conference that comes amid a frantic diplomatic push to end the violence in eastern Ukraine. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was already in Munich on Friday following talks in Kiev the day before, and was planning on meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif ahead of the opening of the three-day conference. SENT: 130 words.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — A big billboard of Pope Francis hangs over the center of Slovakia’s capital, urging citizens to vote “Yes” in a referendum on restricting gay rights. The vote this weekend in this predominantly Roman Catholic nation — which follows a similar one that succeeded in Croatia in 2013 — points to a cultural divide within the European Union in which more established western members are rapidly granting new rights to gays, while eastern newcomers entrench conservative attitudes toward LGBT people. By Karel Janicek. SENT: 670 words, photos.
FRANCE-POLICE CHIEF CHARGED
PARIS — The Paris prosecutor says authorities have filed preliminary legal charges against the head of the city’s investigative police over an internal probe of leaks. The interior minister said Friday that Bernard Petit was immediately suspended as head of the Paris judicial police, and recommended a replacement to President Francois Hollande. SENT: 130 words.
LONDON — A court says British spies acted illegally when they scooped up data about Britons’ electronic communications gathered by the U.S. National Security Agency. Britain’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which deals with complaints against the intelligence services, ruled in a case brought by civil liberties groups against the electronic intelligence agency, GCHQ. SENT: 130 words.
Floods have forced hundreds of people from their homes in Albania, while heavy snow and strong winds caused traffic havoc Friday in Croatia and Slovenia. A 38-year old woman drowned in Albania after she was swept away from the yard of her home by floodwaters near Pogradec, 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of the capital Tirana, police spokeswoman Esmerina Gurishta said Friday. By The Associated Press. SENT: 130 words.
BRUSSELS — The finance ministers of the 19-country eurozone are to meet at a special meeting Wednesday to discuss Greece’s debts, on the eve of a summit of European Union leaders. Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the head of the so-called eurogroup, said Friday that the meeting will center on Greece, which is back in the spotlight after the anti-bailout Syriza swept to power less than two weeks ago. SENT: 130 words, photos.