Brazil: Picasso prints stolen

SAO PAULO — Three armed robbers stole two Pablo Picasso prints from an art museum in downtown Sao Paulo on Thursday, the city's second high-profile art theft in less than a year.

The bandits also took two oil paintings by well-known Brazilian artists Emiliano Di Cavalcanti and Lasar Segall, said Carla Regina, a spokeswoman for the Pinacoteca do Estado museum.

The Picasso prints stolen were "The Painter and the Model" from 1963 and "Minotaur, Drinker and Women" from 1933, according to a statement from the Sao Paulo secretary of state for culture, which oversees the museum.

The prints and paintings have a combined value of $612,000, the statement and a museum official said.

China: Accord with Taiwan

BEIJING — Taiwan and China formally agreed to expand charter flights and tourism today, a day after announcing plans to set up permanent offices in each other's territory for the first time in decades of hostility.

There were few details, and no time frame was given for establishing the offices, which could perform consular functions such as issuing travel documents.

Ecuador: Assassination plot

QUITO — Ecuadorean police on Thursday arrested four men, including at least three Colombians, in what officials said may have been plot to attack leftist President Rafael Correa.

Chief Prosecutor Washington Pesantez said a preliminary police investigation uncovered a plot to kill Correa and the four suspects were arrested in Ecuador's capital, Quito.

"We don't know the particular details (of the plot), we only know that there were foreigners with contracts to attack the president," Pesantez told reporters.

Gaza Strip: House blast kills 7

BEIT LAHIYA — An Israeli envoy engaging in Gaza cease-fire talks returned without a deal late Thursday after another day of bloodshed in the coastal territory that included seven Palestinians being killed in a house explosion that Hamas blamed on an accident.

When an explosion flattened a house in the Gaza Strip and killed seven, Hamas blamed Israel and unleashed rockets and mortar shells at southern Israel. But the militant group, which has controlled Gaza the past year, later suggested the blast was accidental.

By then Israel had carried out an airstrike aimed at a Gaza rocket squad, killing a Palestinian. Two other Israeli military operations in Gaza killed five more militants.

Clashes in and around Gaza are putting a strain on Egypt's effort to arrange a truce by acting as a go-between because Israel has no contacts with Hamas.

Mexico: Migrant bus hijacked

MEXICO CITY — Armed men hijacked a bus carrying 34 detained Cuban migrants in southern Mexico after forcing immigration agents away at gunpoint, officials said on Thursday.

Eight assailants blocked a road in southern Chiapas state late Wednesday, stopping the bus carrying the Cubans and forcing the unarmed immigration agents to get off, said an official of Mexico's National Immigration Institute. None of the agents were harmed.

The bus was later found empty near the jungle city of Ocosingo.