By Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will seek to counter unrelenting criticism of his foreign policy on Wednesday in a speech that may open the door to a slightly deeper U.S. involvement in Syria. In the commencement address to graduates at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., Obama will lay out a broad vision for America's role, one that is reliant on international diplomacy and avoids over-reaching or unilateral action. He will set out a counter-terrorism strategy to reflect a threat that is less focused on Afghanistan as the war there winds down, and redirect resources to places like North Africa. He is expected to express a willingness to expand assistance to Syrian opposition groups who are trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad, but officials do not expect him to announce a plan for training Syrian rebels.
Authorities in China's mainly Muslim Xinjiang mounted a mass sentencing in a stadium for 55 people on offences including terrorism, state media said Wednesday, as they press a crackdown on escalating violence. About 7,000 people and Communist Party officials in Ili prefecture attended the "mass gathering for public sentencing, public arrests and public criminal detention, punishing a group of violent terrorist criminals in accordance with the law", said an online report by the official news agency Xinhua.
Labour lost control of London's Tower Hamlets in an election marred by allegations of voter intimidation. Labour still won most votes and claimed 20 seats, two more that the "Tower Hamlets First" party of re-elected mayor Lutfur Rahman, but lost overall control of the council. The Electoral Commission announced it will investigate why the borough took so long to count the results, with voters going to the polls on Thursday. A spokesperson for the commission earlier said: "Clearly there have been issues at the Tower Hamlets count and we need to make sure we understand what happened, and the reasons for it, before reaching any conclusions.
President Barack Obama has postponed a review of US deportation policy for undocumented workers, hoping to give legislative reform a better chance, a White House official said. Obama called on Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to "hold on the release" of the results and recommendations of a review of procedures for deporting undocumented workers, the official said. In doing so, the White House hopes to keep Republican push-back in Congress at bay, postponing a review that could drive those on the opposite side of the isle from legislative compromise. Obama has previously warned that a narrow window remains to pass legislative immigration reform before mid-term elections, seeking to keep alive perhaps his last hope for a major second-term domestic achievement.
By Marice Richter DALLAS (Reuters) - Texas Republicans aligned with Tea Party darling Ted Cruz were projected to win primary runoffs on Tuesday for two of the state's most powerful posts, while U.S. Representative Ralph Hall, 91, was ousted by a challenger about half his age. The Tea Party win over established politicians boosts the stature of U.S. Senator Cruz, a possible 2016 Republican presidential contender, and returns some luster to the Tea Party movement after several candidates were defeated by mainstream Republicans in primaries in other states last week. Hall, the oldest serving member of the House of Representatives, lost in a Republican primary runoff election to Tea Party-backed challenger, John Ratcliffe, a former U.S. attorney.
The leader of France's embattled centre-right opposition quit following claims that invoices for former president Nicolas Sarkozy's 2012 election campaign were fraudulently billed as party expenses. Jean-Francois Cope agreed to step down at the request of fellow heavyweights in the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) following the latest twist in an scandal engulfing him and a PR firm owned by two close friends. The 50-year-old leader's position became untenable after Sarkozy's former deputy campaign director gave an explosive television interview on Monday evening. Jerome Lavrilleux tearfully claimed that bills for Sarkozy's failed 2012 re-election campaign were passed off as invoices for party meetings in order to skirt round France's strict limits on campaign financing.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama may soon sign off on a project to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels, in an open move that would significantly boost U.S. support to forces who have been asking for three years for military help in their quest to oust President Bashar Assad, administration officials said Tuesday.
Nigeria's former president Olusegun Obasanjo has met with people close to Boko Haram in an attempt to broker the release of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the militants, a source close to the talks told AFP. Reports of the talks emerged Tuesday as Boko Haram was blamed for fresh attacks targeting the security forces, public buildings and a school in its northeastern stronghold. Cameroon also said it had begun deploying 3,000 extra troops to buttress its border with Nigeria against the threat posed by marauding militants. On Monday evening, Nigeria's chief of defence staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, said the 223 girls still missing had been located but cast doubt on the prospect of any rescue by force.
US fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden "trained as a spy" and worked "undercover overseas" for intelligence agencies, he told NBC News in aired excerpts from an interview. In his first interview in US media, Snowden hit back at claims that he was merely a low-level contractor, saying he worked "at all levels from -- from the bottom on the ground, all the way to the top." Snowden, who has been charged in the United States with espionage, was granted asylum by Russia in August 2013 after shaking the American intelligence establishment to its core with a series of leaks on mass surveillance in the United States and around the world. He said he had worked covertly as "a technical expert" for the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, as well as as a trainer for the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The United States lifted all remaining restrictions on direct assistance to Madagascar in light of successful elections and installation of a new government five years after a 2009 coup. Madagascar's new President Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who was sworn into office in January, launched a charm offensive against the world's biggest aid institutions earlier this year hoping to revive the support to his impoverished country. Major donors like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the United States and the European Union cut off the flow of aid to the Indian Ocean island after the coup. "We have lifted all remaining restrictions on direct assistance to Madagascar," State Department spokeswoman Jan Psaki said in a statement.
Brasilia (Brazil) (AFP) - Brazilian police fired tear gas to break up a protest by bow-and-arrow wielding indigenous chiefs who joined forces with anti-World Cup demonstrators to condemn the money spent on the tournament. Wearing traditional clothing including feather headdresses and face paint, about 500 chiefs mainly from the Amazon basin on Tuesday joined another 500 protesters rallying for various social causes in Brasilia's government square and began marching toward the capital's World Cup stadium. The protest, which brought together 100 ethnic groups from across Brazil, included Kayapo chief Raoni, an 84-year-old leader famous for fighting to protect the Amazon rainforest alongside pop music star Sting. They soon came down from the roof and rejoined the rest of the protesters along the main avenue where Brazil's government ministries are located.