The U.S. Senate confirmed former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan on Thursday to take over as President Barack Obama's budget director. Donovan takes the helm of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) from Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who is now serving as secretary of health and human services. Donovan was confirmed on a vote of 75-22. The OMB is in charge of formulating the president's annual budget.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius will travel to Vienna on Sunday to assess the state of talks between world powers and Iran over curbs on the Islamic republic's nuclear programme, a diplomatic source in Paris said. Fabius and officials in the P5+1 group comprising the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and China will "evaluate the situation" in the talks, which aim to reach a definitive accord with Iran by July 20, according to the source. The source did not say which other foreign ministers would attend. Final negotiations to secure a historic accord to guarantee the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of sanctions against Tehran began on July 3 in Vienna.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced Thursday the appointment of Italian-Swedish diplomat Staffan de Mistura as the new special envoy tasked with resolving the war in Syria. De Mistura replaces Lakhdar Brahimi, who resigned in May after two rounds of peace talks yielded no concrete results and as the conflict escalated into a fourth year, killing more than 162,000 people. Ban said he had consulted "broadly" before making the appointment, including with Syrian authorities, and then consulted with the Arab League also on the appointment of Egypt's Ramzy Ezzedine Ramzy as deputy envoy.
The United States on Thursday refused to break its silence about a spying row which led a furious Germany to expel the CIA station chief in Berlin, but concern deepened among lawmakers about damage to relations with Europe's dominant power. Germany's decision was a stunning show of discord between two such close allies and a signal that Washington has failed to quell anger over revelations about its espionage tactics in Germany, which has been building for more than a year.
Israeli strikes on Gaza killed at least 32 people Thursday as an air war entered its third day, with most of the bloodshed in the southern city of Khan Yunis, medics said. The latest bloodshed raised to 83 the overall number of Gazans killed since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge early on Tuesday to halt cross-border rocket fire by militant groups. Most of the deaths occurred in Khan Yunis, with a strike at about 1:00 am (2200 GMT on Wednesday night) hitting a cafe where football fans were watching the World Cup semi-final between Argentina and Holland. An hour later, Israeli warplanes struck two houses elsewhere in the city, killing four women and four children.
The IMF on Thursday said that Portugal's financial system still had trouble spots after the international bailout, amid worries over a major Portuguese bank that roiled European stock markets. Fears over the health of Banco Espirito Santo boiled over amid allegations that its parent company was covering up a 1.3 billion euro ($1.8 billion) hole in its accounts. Portugal's financial market regulator suspended trading in shares of the bank, the country's largest by capitalization, after they plunged more than 11 percent to 0.54 euros. "Pockets of vulnerability remain, warranting corrective measures in some cases and intrusive supervision in others," the International Monetary Fund said in a brief statement.
Jolanka Horvat has watched her home region of Pomurje, in Slovenia's northeast, slide deeper into poverty and joblessness over the past few years. Once a model member of the European Union which it joined in 2004, Slovenia was hit hard by the 2008 financial crisis and narrowly escaped a bailout last year. Following the resignation in May of centre-left Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek -- whose EU-driven economic reforms were criticised for bringing little benefit to ordinary people -- a law professor with no political experience, Miro Cerar, looks likely to win the election. In Pomurje, foolhardy privatisation efforts -- as managers tried to acquire their companies thanks to massive bank loans -- coupled with the overall financial crisis led to the closure of the region's two largest companies.
By Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Legislation to allow President Barack Obama more easily to deport thousands of Central American children who have migrated illegally appeared to gain steam in the U.S. Congress on Thursday as pressure grew to resolve a humanitarian crisis on the border. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner expressed support for changes to immigration law that would let the United States deport children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador as quickly as it does those from Mexico. U.S. law allows Mexican minors to be sent back promptly, although there are some steps those children can take to try to remain in the United States. A 2008 victims trafficking law requires that children from countries not bordering the United States, including those in Central America, be given added legal protections before they are deported.
The International Labour Organization said Thursday it was investigating a new law in Bolivia that allows children as young as 10 to work, amid fears it breached global rules. "The ILO is still looking into the provisions of the new law," the UN labour agency's spokesman Hans von Rohland told AFP. "But there are already concerns that the law could amount to a reduction of the minimum age for work below the minima set in the ILO Conventions that Bolivia has ratified," he said. Bolivia's previous labour code permitted no exceptions to a minimum age of 14, which ILO rules allow developing countries to adopt instead of the global limit of 15.
Bolivia said Thursday it has requested the extradition of former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada from the United States to face charges of human rights abuses while in office. The United States has turned down previous attempts to extradite Sanchez de Lozada, who resigned his second stint as president in 2003 amid violent protests and spiralling social unrest. Bolivia's leftist government blame Sanchez de Lozada and two of his ministers for the deaths of more than 60 people in the violent repression of a protest against a government plan to export natural gas. Justice Minister Sandra Gutierrez said she has lodged a new extradition request against Sanchez de Lozada with the State Department.
Mozambique's opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama hinted on Thursday his party would take part in October elections without signing a full accord with the government if there is a halt to fighting. The Renamo leader spoke via satellite phone to journalists in Maputo from his hideout in the remote Gorongosa mountains, where he has been holed up since fighting broke out between his forces and government troops late last year. With just three months to go before the vote, talks aimed at easing tensions have stalled over Renamo's demand for equality in the armed forces and the government's insistence that the opposition give up its weapons. What worries me most is the shooting," Dhlakama said when asked whether Renamo would take part in the October 15 presidential election.
The United States moved Thursday to blacklist a group of companies it said covertly helped Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah militia acquire components for surveillance drones. The US Treasury placed sanctions on Beirut-based Stars Group Holding, which it said purchased electronics and other technology via offices in China and Dubai to support Hezbollah's military operations. The material bought by Stars Group included engines, communications, electronics, and navigation equipment acquired from suppliers in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. It named for sanctions the company, its subsidiaries, its owner, executives Kamel Mohamad Amhaz and Issam Mohamad Amhaz, and two Stars Group managers, Ayman Ibrahim and Ali Zeaiter.
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya said Thursday it was temporarily reducing its staffing by the dozens because of unspecified security concerns. In making the announcement, UNSMIL spokesman Samir Ghattas said the decision had been under study for months and not linked to any specific threat. He said UNSMIL's work would "definitely be affected" but that the agency "will do our best... to continue our mission." UNSMIL was created by the Security Council in 2011 to help Libya's transitional authorities following the uprising that ousted and killed long-time dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
Bahrain's chief prosecutor Thursday charged the head of the largest Shiite opposition and his number two with violating a law on foreign contacts after they met a senior US diplomat. The prosecution said it questioned cleric Ali Salman, the head of Al-Wefaq association, and his political assistant, ex-MP Khalil Marzooq, on their meeting with the US Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski. "The public prosecution has charged them with contacting a representative of a foreign government in violation of the law on political associations," the prosecution said. Bahrain has said the meeting at the US embassy violated the law stipulating that contacts between political associations and foreign parties "should be coordinated with the foreign ministry and in the presence" of its representative.
The European Union slapped a travel ban and asset freeze Thursday on two South Sudanese military leaders for committing atrocities and obstructing the peace. More than 1.5 million people have been displaced and at least 10,000 people killed in the world's newest country amid what the EU said were "appalling human rights violations and crimes against humanity". EU diplomats refused to divulge the identities of the two, but Africa director Nick Westcott said the sanctions were "on both sides" of the conflict. An existing arms embargo against South Sudan will remain in place, an official statement said.