Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday that Germany had serious differences with the United States over privacy issues amid a bitter spying row but stressed the enduring strength of transatlantic ties. Merkel, who spoke by telephone with US President Barack Obama on the issue Tuesday, noted that there were fundamental "differences of opinion" between Berlin and Washington on "security and the protection of personal data". Particularly for the security of Germany, this cooperation is of crucial importance." She said that Britain also shared the US emphasis on security over privacy protections while Germany "has another view of the matter" but said she believed these differences could "in time" be bridged.
A group of Ethiopian bloggers and journalists detained for nearly three months have been charged with terrorism for having links to an outlawed group and for planning attacks, a judge said Friday. The seven members of the blogging collective Zone Nine and three journalists were arrested in April, prompting an outcry from rights groups who said the case was an assault on press freedom. The group is accused of planning attacks in Ethiopia and working in collusion with the US-based opposition group Ginbot 7, labelled by Ethiopian authorities as a terrorist organisation. "They took training in how to make explosives and planned to train others," Judge Tareke Alemayehu told the court.
French President Francois Hollande arrived Friday in Niger where he will oversee the deployment of French troops in a new operation to battle radical Islamist movements in the Sahel. Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou gave Hollande a red-carpet welcome at the airport, before hosting high-level talks covering security and development in one of the world's poorest countries. The largely desert nation is a key source of uranium for France's nuclear industry. Niamey police arrested 10 members of a protest movement known as "Sauvons le Niger" (Let's Save Niger), who had planned to demonstrate against uranium mining by French giant energy Areva along the route of the presidential cortege, two group members told AFP.
By Ellen Wulfhorst NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Mayor Bill de Blasio won his job in a landslide last November, but is finding out that staying so popular is not easy. On Thursday, he was labeled "an ass" on the cover of one city tabloid after being skewered in another as behaving like Marie Antoinette and accused on television of being a socialist. "It does seem to me that de Blasio has gotten a much shorter honeymoon than previous mayors," said Jerry Skurnik, a veteran political consultant. De Blasio, who won office with 73 percent of the vote in the city's biggest mayoral electoral win in decades, came under fire this week with his plans to take a vacation in Italy despite the threat of a Long Island Rail Road strike.
A US congressional aide was arrested Friday as he carried a handgun and magazine into an office building in the US Capitol complex, police said. Ryan Shucard, press secretary to Republican congressman Tom Marino of Pennsylvania, was arrested at 9:15 am at the Cannon House Office Building and charged with carrying a pistol without a license, which is a felony, said Capitol Police spokeswoman Lieutenant Kimberly Schneider. Visitors to the Capitol complex and staffers with identification badges, like Shucard, must walk through metal detectors at entrance points and put their bags and other belongings through an X-Ray machine.
Four children and a man were killed in Israeli tank shelling in the east of the Gaza Strip on Friday evening, medics said. The children, ranging in age from two to 13-years-old, were killed in three separate incidents of tank shell fire, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said. The man was killed by tank fire in Rafah, in southern Gaza. Another man, Yusef Astal, was also reported to have died of his wounds at the Nasser hospital in southern Khan Yunis.
World powers are strongly considering delaying a Sunday deadline to reach a deal on Iran's nuclear programme until November, Russian media reported, citing Moscow's negotiator at the Vienna talks. Iran and the six powers known as the 5+1 group -- the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany -- have been holding negotiations over Tehran's controversial nuclear programme. Washington and Iran earlier this week laid the groundwork for pushing back a July 20 deadline agreed at an interim deal in Geneva last November after days of intense talks failed to produce a breakthrough.
US President Barack Obama said Friday that a surface-to-air missile fired from separatist-held territory in eastern Ukraine was to blame for the "unspeakable" downing of a Malaysian airliner carrying nearly 300 people. Obama said the disaster was a "wake-up" call for European nations that have been wary of toughening sanctions against Russia over its role in Ukraine and revealed that one American was among the dead in the disaster. He also demanded that Russian President Vladimir Putin act to control pro-Moscow rebels in Ukraine, and said they would not have been able to hit an airliner flying at 30,000 feet without Russian equipment and training. "Their deaths are an outrage of unspeakable proportions," Obama said, bemoaning the fact that those killed had nothing to do with the battle in Ukraine between the Western-backed government in Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels.
The International Monetary Fund warned Friday that the pro-Russia uprising engulfing Ukraine's vital industrial east had dealt a "notable" blow that would shrink its economy faster than feared. The Fund said in its latest review of Kiev's compliance with terms of a $17.0-billion (12.6-billion-euro) rescue that Ukraine faced new headwinds that were not envisioned when the programme was unveiled in early May. The IMF added that success of the two-year programme now hinged not only on Kiev's ability to adopt urgent but unpopular belt-tightening measures but also "crucially on the assumption that the conflict will begin to subside in the coming months." The Fund's country mission chief complimented Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk's government for meeting commitments that could see the quick release of a second loan tranche of $1.4 billion.
A Russian-made surface-to-air missile has emerged as the most likely cause of the suspected downing of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine, analysts said on Friday, as claim and counter-claim swirl over who launched the weapon. The vehicle-mounted "Buk" missile system is capable of soaring to the height of a civilian airliner like Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, unlike more widely available shoulder-launched weapons, defence experts said. The Ukrainian and Russian militaries both use the device, but pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine had just hours before the disaster announced that they had seized a number of Buk systems themselves. There is lots of evidence which shows these were pro-Russian separatists who have done that," Russian defence expert Igor Sutyagin of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) told AFP.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas reached out for French help Friday to lobby Hamas's regional allies to influence it into accepting a truce with Israel, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said. Egypt-mediated talks to end the escalating Gaza Strip war have faltered, with Hamas insisting on a comprehensive ceasefire that would end the Israeli blockade of the coastal enclave, Palestinian officials said. Abbas asked France to lobby Hamas allies Qatar and Turkey to pressure the militants into accepting the truce, Fabius told reporters after meeting the Palestinian leader in Cairo. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood from power last year, has sought to isolate Hamas allies and initially demanded that the militants unconditionally accept a truce to end the 11-day war, as Israel already had.
The apparent downing of a Malaysian passenger jet and the loss of nearly 300 lives could be a game changer in the Ukraine crisis, piling pressure on key players, Russia foremost. The shock tragedy, which President Barack Obama described as a "wake-up call" for Europe on Russia, has brought painful proximity to a conflict which for many was until Thursday a faraway and localised standoff. "After the crash of the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight in the region of Donbass, the conflict will probably appear less distant to the people of Europe," said German analyst Holger Schmieding. The crash claimed the lives of 298 people, including nearly 100 Dutch nationals, renowned AIDS researchers en route to an international conference, and European and Asian holidaymakers and civilians with no relationship to Ukraine or Russia.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday he had ordered the military to prepare for a possible significant expansion of the ground operation against Gaza militants. In his first public remarks since the operation began late on Thursday, Netanyahu said air strikes alone could not deal a significant blow to the network of tunnels used by Hamas militants to stage cross-border attacks on southern Israel. "Last night our forces began a ground operation to hit the terror tunnels crossing from Gaza into Israel's territory," he said. "It is not possible to deal with the tunnels only from the air (so) our soldiers are doing that also on the ground."
IMF chief Christine Lagarde warned on Friday that low inflation could damage growth in Europe and urged the European Central Bank to maintain a flexible policy. The former French economy minister also urged caution over asset prices, which she said could be too high in relation to fundamentals. "Obstinately low inflation can seriously undermine growth," said Lagarde, who recently hinted that the 3.6 percent global growth forecast for 2014 may have to be trimmed. We are also seeing this in the very positive orientation of markets, perhaps a little too positive in respect to fundamentals," Lagarde said in a speech at the Robert Schuman Foundation in Paris.