World News in Brief: December 31

Australia is gearing up to celebrate its first restriction-free New Year's Eve after two years of COVID disruptions, with more than a million revellers expected to flock to Sydney's harbourfront and watch an elaborate fireworks display.
China will resume offline classes in schools with no reports of novel coronavirus infection, said a work plan recently released by the Ministry of Education. (Representative Image/Source: Xinhua)
China will resume offline classes in schools with no reports of novel coronavirus infection, said a work plan recently released by the Ministry of Education. (Representative Image/Source: Xinhua)

* Chinese President Xi Jinping had a virtual meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Beijing on Friday afternoon.

* Former Pope Benedict, who in 2013 became the first pontiff in 600 years to step down, died on Saturday aged 95 in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican where he had lived since his resignation, a spokesman for the Holy See said.

* The Palestinians on Saturday welcomed a vote by the United Nations General Assembly to ask the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for an opinion on the legal consequences of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories.

* Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said victory for Russia over Ukraine was "inevitable" as he hailed Russian soldiers' heroism in a New Year's video message.

* Kyrylo Budanov, chief of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, said that he sees no signs of any preparations for invading Ukraine from Belarus, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported Thursday.

* Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly on Friday dissolved the interim government led by the self-claimed interim-President Juan Guaido.

* Euro zone wages are growing quicker than earlier thought and the European Central Bank must prevent this from adding to already high inflation, ECB President Christine Lagarde told a Croatian newspaper.

* Russia will allow countries to pay debt settlements for gas supplies in a foreign currency, according to changes made by President Vladimir Putin on Friday to his earlier decree on rouble payments for gas.

* A survey released by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) on Friday said that poverty affects one-third of the Arab region's population, excluding the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and Libya.

* Authorities around the world are imposing or considering curbs on travellers from China as COVID-19 cases in the country surge following its relaxation of "zero-COVID" rules.

* India's exports of agricultural and processed food products rose by 16 percent in the first eight months (April-November) of the current financial year 2022-23, in comparison to the corresponding period of the last financial year, said the federal Ministry of Commerce and Industry on Friday.

* The General Assembly on Friday approved an annual regular budget for the United Nations of about 3.396 billion USD. The 2023 budget is higher than that of 2022, which stood at 3.122 billion dollars.

* Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) has on Friday projected the crude palm oil (CPO) prices to average at 5,100 ringgit (1,157 USD) per tonne this year.

* The foreign direct investment in Morocco increased by 45.7 percent to 2.3 billion USD in the first 11 months of 2022 compared to the same period last year, the country's Foreign Exchange Office said Friday.

* Germany recorded its hottest year in 2022 with an annual mean temperature of 10.5 degrees Celsius, the National Meteorological Service (DWD) said on Friday.

* Tunisia has foiled 11 attempts by illegal migrants to cross the Mediterranean toward the Italian coast, National Guard Spokesman Houcemeddine Jbabli said on Friday.