The UN Security Council on Thursday threw its support behind a ceasefire deal reached by warring factions in the Central African Republic and said the agreement should be fully implemented. In a statement, the Council said it welcomed the deal and "called on all parties to immediately and fully implement this agreement." "This agreement is a first step in a wider political process in the Central African Republic," said the Council, citing the need for political dialogue, disarmament of rebels including of child soldiers, and elections.
Egypt said Thursday that foreign intelligence services were prime suspects in an attack last week that killed 22 soldiers near its border with restive Libya. Unidentified militants firing rocket-propelled grenades and machine-guns attacked a checkpoint in Egypt's western desert last Saturday. "Foreign intelligence services are likely to be behind the terrorist elements which carried out" the attack, interior ministry spokesman Hani Abdel Latif said, quoted by state news agency MENA, without naming any countries. "The terrorist operations (in Egypt) are carried out by terrorist elements, mercenaries, trained in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, and recruited by foreign intelligence services," Abdel Latif said.
Four hundred and eighty academics, lawyers, community activists and others criticized Canada's government for taking a decisively pro-Israel position amid the current conflict in the Gaza Strip, saying it "discredits Canada." In an open letter published in the daily Globe and Mail, they said they "are profoundly perturbed by the unbalanced and partisan position adopted by the Canadian government and federal political parties regarding the current violence in Gaza." They noted that official statements have "focused exclusively on denouncing Hamas's rocket strikes and uncritically proclaiming Israel's right to self-defence." The group acknowledged that "Hamas's indiscriminate rocket firings are illegal under international law" but added that "Israel is still bound by basic international humanitarian law principles protecting civilians during times of war and prohibiting collective punishment."
The International Monetary Fund warned Thursday that geopolitical risks in Ukraine and the Middle East are looming over a global economy already hit by slowdowns in the US and China. After "negative surprises" from the United States and China, the global economy is now expected to grow only 3.4 percent this year, the IMF said, lowering its April estimate of 3.7 percent. In 2013, the world economy grew 3.2 percent. The downgraded 2014 growth outlook reflects a "weak first quarter, particularly in the United States, and a less optimistic outlook for several emerging markets," the IMF said in an update of its semiannual World Economic Outlook (WEO).
The Malian government and six rebel groups signed an accord on an end to hostilities as part of ongoing peace talks that opened in Algiers last week. A ceasefire has been in force with the mainly Tuareg and Arab rebel groups since a last eruption of fighting in May. The two sides also signed a roadmap aimed at "putting in place a framework for the peace talks to allow the emergency of comprehensive negotiated settlement."
The Washington Post said Thursday its Tehran correspondent Jason Rezaian appeared to have been detained in Iran with his wife and two freelance photojournalists. "We are deeply troubled by this news and are concerned for the welfare of Jason, (his wife) Yeganeh (Salehi) and two others said to have been detained with them," Post foreign editor Douglas Jehl was quoted in the daily as saying. Iran and the United States broke off diplomatic relations in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution but have held increasingly frequent talks as they work on an agreement to address international concerns over the clerical regime's nuclear program. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said it was "alarmed" by the news about the Post reporter, saying it was the latest in a series of journalist detentions in Iran.
Fifteen Palestinians were killed Thursday when an Israeli shell slammed into a UN shelter where hundreds of civilians had taken refuge, sending the death toll in Gaza close to 800 despite world efforts to broker a ceasefire. The strike hit a UN school sheltering some of the 100,000 Palestinians driven from their homes in search of a safe haven after weeks of deadly fighting between Israeli troops and Hamas militants. Gaza's emergency services said at least 15 people had been killed and more than 200 wounded, sending the Palestinian death toll from 17 days of fighting to 798. UN chief Ban Ki-Moon said: "Many have been killed -- including women and children, as well as UN staff."
US Secretary of State John Kerry worked the phones, including with Hamas allies, on Thursday, as he pressed efforts to end the bloodshed in Gaza, but aides warned gaps remained. A day after he flew into Israel and cited signs of progress, Kerry was hunkered down in Egypt -- which drafted a proposal to halt the Israel-Hamas conflict -- and spoke to regional leaders by telephone. Kerry, who has been in the region since Monday, spoke repeatedly Thursday to the foreign ministers of Qatar and Turkey in the hope that the two countries would use their influence to encourage Hamas to accept a ceasefire plan which the Islamist group has so far rejected, the official said. Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal is based in Qatar, while Turkey's Islamist-oriented Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has strongly criticised Israel's assault on Hamas-ruled Gaza as well as Egypt's role in trying to clinch a ceasefire.
A first convoy of humanitarian aid crossed into Syria from Turkey on Thursday under a new UN-authorized plan to send relief without Damascus' approval. "Nine trucks crossed at Bab Al-Salam into Syria this morning," said Amanda Pitt of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The UN Security Council last week adopted a resolution authorizing the cross-border aid deliveries without the consent of the Damascus regime, to help more than one million civilians.
Quiet and bookish, Iraq's president-elect Fuad Masum is different from jocular incumbent Jalal Talabani, but sharp political skills forged in the long battle for Kurdish self-determination are common to both. Masum, an ethnic Kurd, fought a rebel war alongside childhood friend Talabani for a separate Kurdish homeland, and in 1992 became the first prime minister of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region. Something of a political pioneer, Masum was also the speaker of the first Iraqi parliament to be formed after the US-led invasion of 2003. Yet diminutive and bespectacled Masum is not an obvious fighter or risk-taker.
US nuclear plants must better prepare for the risk of natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis and floods, said a report Thursday on lessons learned from Japan's Fukushima crisis in 2011. As of now, US safety regulations are based on making sure nuclear plants can withstand equipment failures, loss of power and other malfunctions related to the design of the plant, otherwise known as design-basis events. Things like natural disasters, human errors and power outages "have the potential to affect large geographical regions and multiple nuclear plants," said John Garrick, a nuclear engineer and co-author of the report.
By Annika McGinnis WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday took another step toward authorizing a lawsuit against President Barack Obama, claiming he has overstepped his executive powers. In a partisan vote of 7-4, the House Rules Committee approved the legislation, likely setting it up for consideration by the full House next week. The Republican initiative already has spawned a bitter debate with Democrats less than four months before elections that will determine the political control of Congress next year. House Speaker John Boehner wrote in June that Obama's use of executive orders, including raising the minimum wage for federal contractors and stopping deportations of undocumented youths brought to the United States by their parents, risked giving him a "king-like authority." But Boehner has tamped down calls from some fellow Republicans who have called for impeachment proceedings against Obama, which would be a first step toward removing him from office.
Diplomatic talks to end the fighting in Gaza as civilian casualties mount are "very complicated," a US official admitted Thursday, refusing to predict how long they could take. US Secretary of State John Kerry has been in Cairo since Monday trying to persuade Israel and Hamas to lay down their arms in the 17-day war in which some 788 Palestinians have been killed along with 35 Israelis, most of them soldiers. The top US diplomat visited both Israel and West Bank on Wednesday to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, but his efforts have so far failed to produce any concrete results. Asked if it might be possible to agree a ceasefire before the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan due early next week, deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said it was "a tough issue."
The UN Human Rights Committee asked Chile Thursday to make exceptions to its ban on abortion in cases of rape, incest and the health of the mother. Chile is one of the few countries in the world that prohibits abortions for any reason. In a periodic report on Chile, the committee said it "should establish exceptions to the general prohibition of abortion, contemplating therapeutic abortion and in those cases in which the pregnancy is a consequence of a rape or incest." Alvaro Elizalde, a government spokesman, said the UN committee's suggestion "must be analyzed on its merit and if a decision is adopted it will be announced in a timely manner."
The United States has evidence that Russian troops are firing artillery from inside Russia on Ukrainian military positions, a US official alleged Thursday. Moscow is also planning to "deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers" to the pro-Russian separatist forces in Ukraine, US deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. The evidence was based on "intelligence information" that since the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner with 298 on board, arms were "continuing to flow across the border" into Ukraine, Harf said, but she refused to reveal US sources or give further information. "They're firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military," Harf told reporters.
With his arm in a sling and a deep gash on the bridge of his nose, a Sudanese newspaper editor has left hospital five days after an unusual physical attack. Several men stormed the offices of the Al-Tayar daily on Saturday evening, seized reporters' equipment and severed computer connections before turning on chief editor Osman Mirghani. "I can recognise them," because only one attacker had covered his face during the beating, Mirghani said at his home on Thursday. It was a rare assault on a journalist in Sudan, although reporters regularly complain of censorship by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).
American, Russian and some European carriers resumed flights to Israel Thursday after a two-day freeze amid fears that rocket fire from Gaza was endangering commercial air traffic into Tel Aviv. Officials in Washington lifted a formal ban on American flights to Israel late Wednesday, and flights by carriers Delta, United and US Airways, as well as Air Canada, were scheduled on Thursday. "We have consulted extensively with the US government, as well as our own people on the ground in Tel Aviv... and we believe it's safe to fly and that's why we're recommencing our flights," a United Airlines spokesperson said.