Fort Meade (United States) (AFP) - The FBI subjected a member of the defense team for five alleged September 11 conspirators to a "chilling" interrogation in an effort to glean information, a military court heard Monday. Defense attorneys told the hearing at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base that it hurt their efforts to represent their clients in the high-profile terrorism case. The claim came on the first day of a week-long hearing to determine whether one of the alleged plotters, Ramzi Binalshibh, is competent to stand trial. Jim Harrington, an attorney for the Yemeni defendant, said that a "member of my team, visited by two members of the FBI, had to sign and answer" questions by the agents.
A Russian fighter jet made several passes at low altitude near a US destroyer cruising in international waters in the Black Sea at the weekend, the Pentagon said Monday, branding it "provocative and unprofessional." The incident close to the Romanian coast further heightens tensions already inflamed by Russia's actions in Ukraine, where Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula and stands accused of stoking unrest. The US vessel was sent to the Black Sea on April 10 in a show of Washington's solidarity with its Eastern European NATO allies concerned about Russia's actions. Colonel Steven Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said: "On April 12, a Russian Su-24 made numerous close-range, low-altitude passes in the vicinity of the USS Donald Cook, while the Cook was conducting operations in international waters in the western Black Sea.
Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are to meet again Wednesday with US mediator Martin Indyk in a bid to try and save the peace process from crumbling, a Palestinian official said. There was no immediate confirmation from officials in Israel, which observes the seven-day Jewish holidays of Passover from sunset on Monday. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat met on Sunday his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's special envoy Yitzhak Molcho on Sunday. That meeting was "difficult" and there are still "big gaps" between the sides, the Palestinian official said.
The White House on Monday warned that Russia would face more "costs" for its interventions in Ukraine and confirmed that the director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, was in Kiev over the weekend. "We don't normally comment on the CIA director's travel but given the extraordinary circumstances in this case and the false claims being leveled by the Russians at the CIA we can confirm that the director was in Kiev as part of a trip to Europe," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, John Boehner, is leading a delegation of Republican lawmakers on a trip to Afghanistan to underscore their call for U.S. forces to remain there and also to review the country's presidential election, Boehner's office said on Monday. Boehner and seven other House Republicans met with U.S. troops, the U.S. ambassador and the commander of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan during the two-day visit that began on Sunday. The April 5 vote is meant to usher in Afghanistan's first democratic transfer of power as President Hamid Karzai steps down after 12 years and Western forces prepare to depart after more than a decade of war. Democratic President Barack Obama plans to withdraw most, or possibly all, U.S. forces from Afghanistan this year, winding down a conflict that began following the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Presidents Francois Hollande of France and Barack Obama of the US share the same "concern" over the violence witnessed in east Ukraine over the past few days, the French presidency said in a statement Monday. The two leaders voiced their worry in a telephone conversation in which Hollande expressed hope that a Geneva meeting on Thursday between representatives from Ukraine, Russia, the United States and Europe "will start a dialogue" to defuse the situation. Hollande called for restraint in the largely Russian-speaking east, a tinderbox of separatist sentiment since pro-Western protests ousted Ukraine's Kremlin-backed government in February.
Iran on Monday urged United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to intervene directly in a row sparked by America's refusal to give Tehran's chosen UN envoy a visa. The spat over Hamid Aboutalebi has undermined a cautious thaw in relations after decades of enmity following the storming of the US embassy in 1979 and the subsequent hostage crisis. "We ask Mr Ban Ki-moon to step in and take the necessary action for resolving this issue," deputy foreign minister Majid Takht-Ravanchi told the official IRNA news agency. "The foreign ministry fully supports its pick and considers him an efficient, experienced and qualified person for this post and does not intend to nominate a new person," he said of Aboutalebi, who is a former ambassador to Australia, Italy and Belgium.
The United States on Monday signed a $1 billion loan guarantee for Ukraine, part of an aid package to support the country's economic recovery after weeks of political upheaval and the loss of Crimea to Russia. "The Ukrainian people have demonstrated tremendous courage as they have charted an independent course for their country and demanded a government that truly reflects the will of the people," US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a statement. "The United States has been at the forefront of building international support for Ukraine, and holding Russia accountable for its violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and destabilizing action." Lew announced the signing after meeting Ukrainian Finance Minister Oleksandr Shlapak in Washington.