Our editors will be looking ahead today to these developing stories ... Beijing sends envoy to Damascus for talks Vice-Foreign Minister Zhai Jun (left) is in Syria to push for a peaceful end to a conflict that is rapidly escalating into civil war. Earlier in his career, Zhai was based in West Asia and North Africa, and should be familiar with the region's issues. In recent weeks, Russia and China have attracted criticism in the diplomatic community for vetoing a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Syria's President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Tang leaves media up in the air over forum Henry Tang Ying-yen, who is embroiled in a furore over illegal structures at his home in Kowloon Tong, has been invited by the Hong Kong Journalists Association to attend a forum on the chief executive election. Last night Tang had yet to accept the invitation. Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, whose term expires in June, can expect questions from the media for his views on the scandal involving his former right-hand man when he attends a function this evening at the Foreign Correspondents' Club. Japan-China friendship groups visit Beijing A delegation representing seven Japan-China friendship organisations is expected to meet President Hu Jintao to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the normalisation of bilateral ties. Beijing earlier denied reports that the meeting had been cancelled after Japan had laid claim to some uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, near the disputed Diaoyu Islands, which in Japan are known as the Senkaku Islands. Sarkozy to highlight defence pact with Britain French President Nicolas Sarkozy (left) hosts British Prime Minister David Cameron for a summit on defence co-operation and to clear the air after recent bitter clashes over Europe. Sarkozy, who has launched his re-election campaign, will be keen to highlight his foreign policy successes, including an unprecedented defence pact with Britain and the two countries' successful military campaign in Libya. American science conference opens in Vancouver The American Association for the Advancement of Science starts its annual conference in Vancouver. The five-day event, which is being held in Canada for the first time in three decades, will focus on an issue that the association's website says 'frames 21st-century scientific enterprise': in a world whose population is reaching nine billion people, 'will it be possible to provide food, water and energy for everyone without dangerously depleting natural resources and damaging the environment?' Samba time in Brazil as carnival season starts The pre-Lent festival of samba, floats and near-nakedness brings Brazilians on to the streets, with all eyes on the 'Marvellous City', Rio de Janeiro, whose Sambadrome sets the standard for exhibitionism. City officials breathed a sigh of relief this week when police and firemen ended a pay strike that threatened the event. Billed as the 'greatest show on earth', Rio's carnival generates 250,000 jobs and US$640 million for hotels, bars and restaurants.