Philip Hammond, named Britain's new foreign secretary on Tuesday, is an arch-eurosceptic who wants to leave the European Union unless London retakes significant powers from Brussels. The former defence secretary, who replaces William Hague, is an unshowy performer dubbed the "grey man" who steered Britain through deep military cuts and a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan with little drama.
Early this year Sunni Arab worshippers in the Iraqi city of Fallujah were surprised to see an armed man in sunglasses instead of the regular sheikh ascend the mosque pulpit. The visibly agitated moderate cleric stood aside, silenced by an Islamist militant preaching violence against Iraq's security forces. The stifling of conciliatory voices among Iraq's Sunni Arab religious leaders bodes ill for prospects of quelling a Sunni Islamist insurgency that has taken hold of swathes of the country. The armed man preached that it was halal, or permitted by religious law, to rob or kill members of Iraq's security forces, in a sermon meant as a slap in the face to the regular sheikh's edict a week earlier forbidding such acts.
A delegation from the troika of international lenders Tuesday began its fifth assessment of Cyprus's economy and troubled banking system, focusing on the threat of bad loans. Some 45 percent of all loans at Cypriot banks are classified as non-performing -- 27.1 billion euros from total lending of 60 billion euros, according to Cyprus Central Bank figures. The International Monetary Fund said earlier this month that the level of NPLs in Cyprus is the highest in Europe at almost 140 percent of GDP, curbing credit to the economy and stunting growth. Cyprus has successfully completed four similar reviews from the troika -- the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.
FARNBOROUGH England (Reuters) - U.S. military officials have approved a limited flight clearance for the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets that mandates engine inspections and certain flight restrictions, while an investigation continues into a massive engine failure that grounded the entire fleet, the Pentagon said on Tuesday. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said U.S. officials remained hopeful that the F-35 could make its international debut at the Farnborough air show, but no decision had been made. ...
Hamas said Tuesday it has closed the Erez border crossing due to Israeli shelling, in a move that stranded a group of Palestinians planning to cross for medical treatment. A group of about 20 Palestinians, some of whom were scheduled to enter Israel for cancer treatment, had arrived at the crossing early on Tuesday, an AFP correspondent said. There was no immediate confirmation of the closure from COGAT, the Israeli defence ministry unit responsible for the crossing. A second official said the crossing would remain closed until they received international assurances that the terminal would be protected from Israeli air strikes.
A Gaza rocket struck the southern port city of Ashdod on Tuesday, police said, just hours after Israel agreed to abide by an Egyptian truce that was rejected by Hamas. "The rocket struck a yard outside a house in Ashdod, several people have been treated for shock," police spokeswoman Luba Samri said in a statement. The attack was claimed by the armed wing of Hamas, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, which said it had fired "eight Grad rockets" at Ashdod, which is home to some 212,000 people.
Malian government negotiators come to the table with rebel groups on Wednesday hoping to strike an elusive peace deal with the country mired in conflict a year after returning to democracy. Riven by ethnic rivalries, a separatist rebellion and an Islamist insurgency in its vast desert north, the west African nation has struggled for stability and peace since a military coup in 2012. The talks in the capital of neighbouring Algeria will be the first to bring together the various warring factions since an interim agreement last June paved the way for nationwide elections. The talks follow skirmishes in May between the Malian army and a coalition of rebels from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and the High Council for the Unity of Azawad (HCUA) which saw at least 50 soldiers lose their lives in the Tuareg region of Kidal.
Israel's security cabinet on Tuesday accepted an Egyptian ceasefire proposal, a government spokesman said, after a week of the deadliest violence in and around Gaza in years. "The cabinet has decided to accept the Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire starting 9am today," Ofir Gendelman, spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said on Twitter. Ministers in the security cabinet had begun meeting early on Tuesday to consider the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire to start immediately from 0600 GMT. Army radio noted that there had been no parallel acceptance of the initiative by Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip.
Leaders of the BRICS group of emerging powers meet Tuesday to launch a new development bank and a reserve fund seen as counterweights to Western-led financial institutions. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff hosts the leaders of Russia, India, China and South Africa in Fortaleza on Tuesday before talks with South American leaders the next day in Brasilia. The summit will mark the first face-to-face meeting between India's new Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Bulgaria announced on Monday that it would seek to join a new EU set of rules known as the 'banking union' after poor bank supervision led to the collapse of its fourth-biggest lender. "There is full consensus for an immediate start of procedures for Bulgaria's entry into the Single Supervisory System of the European Union as a first step to joining the EU's 'banking union'," President Rosen Plevneliev said on Monday. The new oversight system is expected to become operational in November under the European Central Bank to supervise the eurozone banks and prevent bank failures. Bulgaria, which joined the EU in 2007, still remains outside the eurozone but it operates an IMF-led currency board arrangement that pegs its lev currency to the euro at a fixed rate.
Port-au-Prince (AFP) - UN chief Ban Ki-moon visited Haiti on Monday, vowing to help the country end a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 8,500 people since 2010 and that some blame on UN peacekeepers. There had been no cholera in Haiti for at least 150 years until it was allegedly introduced by Nepalese UN peacekeepers sent there in the wake of the devastating January 2010 earthquake. The source of the cholera epidemic was traced to a river that runs next to a UN camp in the central town of Mirebalais, where Nepalese troops had been based, and the strain is the same as the one endemic in Nepal. The United Nations has up to now denied any responsibility over the outbreak and has so far not offered an apology or compensation for the outbreak, even as three different lawsuits have been filed in US courts.