Kerry arrives in Basel for OSCE talks on Ukraine

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Basel on Wednesday evening for a meeting of top diplomats from some 50 OSCE countries which will focus on the spiralling Ukraine crisis.

Basel: US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Basel on Wednesday evening for a meeting of top diplomats from some 50 OSCE countries which will focus on the spiralling Ukraine crisis.

Kerry is set to meet Thursday with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov as a long-awaited truce around an airport in rebel-held Donetsk in eastern Ukraine appeared under threat, just hours after it was agreed.

The US and Russian top diplomats, who most recently spoke in late November during talks in Vienna on Iran`s nuclear programme, are set to "discuss a range of topics of mutual interest including issues related to the Middle East", according to a US official.

The 57-member Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe is in charge of monitoring a shaky overall ceasefire between the Ukrainian army and separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine reached in September.

Kerry`s flight defied heavy fog over the northern Swiss city and landed shortly before 1800 GMT, and he was whisked to the conference centre where the OSCE will kick off the two-day ministerial meeting on Thursday.

Kerry, who flew in from Brussels, where he took part in a meeting of the US-led coalition against the jihadist Islamic State group, was set to meet Swiss President and acting OSCE chairman Didier Burkhalter Wednesday evening, as organisers were still rolling out the red carpets. AFP

Opposition leader charged with plot to kill Venezuela leader

Caracas: The Venezuelan government charged a prominent opposition leader with conspiracy Wednesday in relation to an alleged plot to assassinate President Nicolas Maduro.

Maria Corina Machado, a vocal supporter of anti-government protests that rocked the country earlier this year, vehemently rejected the charges as she left the attorney general`s office after questioning.

"Today they have charged me with the crime of conspiracy," she said. "All the accusations and supposed evidence are false, and I reject them."

The attorney general`s office said in a statement she had been charged with "conspiracy" for "allegedly having links to the assassination plan against the president."

Under Venezuelan law, she faces eight to 16 years in prison if convicted, it said.

Maduro, who succeeded the late Hugo Chavez last year and has come under mounting political pressure as the country`s oil-based economy sours, has made frequent claims of plots against him.

Machado, who was ousted from her seat in the National Assembly in March, has been one of the most visible figures in a protest movement against the government.

Along with Leopoldo Lopez, an opposition leader jailed since February on charges of inciting violent protests, Machado is identified with a strategy called "La Salida" or "The Exit," that seeks to use street protests to press for Maduro`s resignation.

In May, ruling party leaders made public emails that they claimed showed Machado was plotting against Maduro with others, including the US ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker.

The opposition and human rights groups have accused the government of using the judicial system to persecute dissidents.

Machado said Wednesday the evidence against her amounted to slander.

She arrived at the attorney general`s office accompanied by the leader of the main opposition coalition, Jesus Torrealba, Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma and about 100 supporters.

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