Dharamsala (India) (AFP) - The Dalai Lama has called for democracy in China and offered prayers for victims of the Tiananmen crackdown ahead of the launch Thursday of a new campaign for autonomy in his Tibetan homeland. Rattled by a wave of self-immolations that have highlighted the sense of desperation among Tibetans, the Nobel prize-winner and other exiled leaders are renewing their push for a "Middle Way" of peaceful autonomy within China after a four-year hiatus. The premier of Tibet's government in exile, Lobsang Sangay, is to host a press conference in the Indian hill station of Dharamsala after taking over the job of pushing for autonomy from the revered spiritual leader. But the Dalai Lama, who officially stepped down from political duties in 2011, stole the spotlight on the eve of the launch by urging China to embrace democracy, in comments marking the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Washington for his first meeting with President Barack Obama in September, media reports said Thursday, as the two leaders look to re-build strained ties. Modi, who assumed office last month after a landslide election victory, has accepted the invitation from Obama for discussions and the dates for the meeting were being finalised, the Times of India newspaper said.
Australians lose more than $100 million worth of coins down the back of sofas and car seats each year, the Royal Australian Mint said. Mint chief executive Ross MacDiarmid told a government hearing that 255 million coins disappear annually and are replaced. "Most of the coins that we provide are against coins that disappear down the back of chairs, down the back of car seats, into rubbish dumps and, in some cases, are taken overseas," he told a Senate committee Tuesday night. MacDiarmid said some of the coins the Mint replaced each year were those "sitting in people's drawers for long periods of time or in jars".
Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel has invited bids for 1,500 new homes in Jewish settlements in retaliation for a new Palestinian government backed by Hamas, reports said on Thursday. "Israel has the right and duty to build throughout the entire country," said the minister, who is a member of the far-right Jewish Home party which is fierce champion of the settlements and opposes a Palestinian state.
Burundi is ready to send hundreds more troops to Central African Republic, where international forces are trying to put an end to sectarian violence, President Pierre Nkurunziza told AFP. "We have been asked by the African Union and the United Nations to raise the number of our troops in the CAR," Nkurunziza said during a visit to Paris. Burundi is looking for necessary equipment and support from its partners to see the mission through, he added.
President Barack Obama's decision to swap five detained Taliban operatives for an American soldier captured in Afghanistan has baffled lawmakers, with many questioning the military and political merits of the controversial exchange. Some warned that the president, already burdened by a series of crises, has sunk deeper into political quicksand by negotiating with terrorists, keeping Congress in the dark or manufacturing a military success story in order to mask other scandals. Obama stands accused by a senior member of his own Democratic Party, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein, of breaking US law by failing to provide lawmakers 30 days' notice before transferring prisoners out of Guantanamo. In addition to its legality, Republicans and Democrats alike questioned the timing, political optics and price of the operation that saw US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl released by his Taliban captors after five years of captivity in Afghanistan.
China has detained 29 people described as "terrorist suspects" in its ethnically divided western region of Xinjiang, state media said Thursday, as authorities crack down following several deadly attacks. Suspects detained in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi face charges including "inciting separatism" and "disturbing order in a public place", the state-run Xinjiang Net said. In the past year Xinjiang -- home to the mostly Muslim Uighur minority -- has seen an increase in violent clashes, which Beijing blames on organised terrorist groups seeking independence for the region. Critics say the terror threat in Xinjiang is exaggerated by Beijing to justify hard-line measures, and point to economic inequality and cultural and religious repression of Uighurs as causes of unrest.