Top news: Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad intensified their bombardment of Sunni Muslim districts in and around Damascus Wednesday in an attempt to reverse recent rebel gains. Syrian jets bombed the neighborhood of Jobar in the southeast of the capital, as well as the southern suburb of Daraya, which is located along a critical highway to Jordan. Meanwhile, rebels captured the eastern town of al-Shaddadeh after several days of heavy fighting that left roughly 100 Syrian troops and 30 members of the Nusra Front dead.
In Washington, newly confirmed Secretary of State John Kerry remained optimistic about the possibility of persuading Assad to agree to a political settlement. "We need to address the question of President Assad's calculation currently," he said after a meeting with the Jordanian foreign minister. "I believe there are additional things that can be done to change his current perception. I've got a good sense of what I think we might propose."
Iran: Iranian authorities recently attempted to purchase 100,000 ring-shaped magnets for use in nuclear centrifuges, the Washington Post reported. The sheer number of magnets, which would allow Iran to expand the number of centrifuges it operates by a factor of five, has led some analysts to conclude that the Islamic Republic is planning a major expansion of its nuclear program, though it is not clear if the order was filled.
- Kenyan presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta requested Thursday that his trial for crimes against humanity be delayed because of late disclosure of evidence.
- French troops uncovered roughly 1,700 pounds of explosives Wednesday in the northern Malian city of Gao.
- The date for Zimbabwe's constitutional referendum has been tentatively set for March 16, according a government minister.
- Egyptian forces flooded tunnels under the border with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in an effort to shut down smuggling operations.
- Iran indicated that progress had been made in nuclear negotiations with the IAEA, but that a framework agreement has yet to be finalized.
- Syrian rebels killed an Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander near the town of Zabadani, a few miles from the Lebanese border.
- Thai troops killed at least 16 Islamist militants early Wednesday as they attempted to storm a military base in Narathiwat province.
- A NATO airstrike in the Kunar province of Afghanistan killed at least 10 civilians, mostly women and children.
- Japan's economy contracted 0.1 percent in the final quarter of 2012.
- German authorities discovered horsemeat in frozen lasagna and have begun removing the product from supermarket shelves.
- Pope Benedict received a standing ovation after his final public mass at St Peter's Basilica in Rome.
- British police arrested six people in connection with the phone-hacking scandal at News of the World.
- Clashes Wednesday between Colombian soldier and FARC rebels left at least seven soldiers dead and five injured.
- Vice President Nicolas Maduro said Wednesday that Hugo Chavez is undergoing "delicate" and "complex" treatments following his cancer surgery in Cuba.
- Chilean authorities arrested 20 Mapuche Indians following clashes with police in the southern city of Collipulli.