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France ends Mali offensive, redeploys troops to restive Sahel

France said Sunday its military offensive that freed northern Mali from the grip of Islamists would be replaced by an operation spanning the wider, largely lawless Sahel region to combat extremist violence. The so-called Serval offensive kicked off in January last year when French troops came to the help of Malian soldiers to stop Al-Qaeda-linked militants and Tuareg rebels from descending south of its former colony and advancing on the capital Bamako. President Francois Hollande, speaking on the eve of France's Bastille Day military parade in Paris, said the mission had been "perfectly accomplished".


Snowden attacks British emergency surveillance laws

Fugitive US intelligence expert Edward Snowden attacked British plans for emergency laws to allow police and security services greater access to Internet and phone data on Sunday. In an interview with The Guardian newspaper, to whom the former National Security Agency contractor revealed the existence of mass surveillance programmes a year ago, Snowden said the planned laws were "beyond belief". The British parliament is this week due to debate new legislation allowing Internet providers and mobile phone companies to keep details of communications between people in case they are needed in investigations. In April the European Court of Justice threw out an EU law that forced companies to retain data for at least six months, saying it breached the right to privacy.


US F-35 fighter jet to miss date at Britain's Farnborough

The new US-built F-35 stealth fighter jet will not appear as planned at Britain's Farnborough air show on Monday but may still take part at the end of the week, organisers said. The entire fleet of F-35s, set to become the backbone of much of the air defences of several Western countries, was grounded in the United States last week because of an engine fire. "Unfortunately the F-35B Lightning II will not be displaying at the Farnborough International Airshow tomorrow, Monday 14 July," the organisers said in a statement. "The aircraft is still awaiting US DoD (Department of Defense) clearance but we are hopeful that it will fly at the airshow by the end of the week."


Clashes in Paris as thousands march against Israel offensive

Clashes erupted in Paris on Sunday as thousands of people protested against Israel and in support of residents in the Gaza Strip, where a six-day conflict has left 166 Palestinians dead. The descent into violence in the Gaza Strip began on June 12 when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and later murdered, triggering a major military crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank and an escalation of rocket fire from Gaza. The brutal revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish extremists on July 2 added further fuel to the fire, turning into an all-out conflict on July 8 when Israel launched an air campaign against Gaza militants. The Palestinian death toll from Israel's punishing air campaign has hit 166.


Orbital launches cargo ship to space station

Orbital Sciences Corporation on Sunday launched its unmanned Cygnus cargo carrier on a journey to resupply the astronauts living aboard the International Space Station. The spacecraft lifted off from Wallops Island, Virginia at 12:52 pm (1652 GMT) aboard a gleaming white Antares rocket. A NASA commentator described the launch as a "flawless 10-minute ride to orbit." The spacecraft is packed with 3,653 pounds (1,657 kilograms) of food, equipment, science experiments and tools, Orbital Sciences Corp. said.


US Republicans skeptical of Obama border request

Senior US Republicans expressed skepticism Sunday about President Barack Obama's emergency funding request to stem the surge of children from Central America, saying it doesn't focus enough on border security. "Every nation has the requirement to secure its borders.


Key Republicans balk at White House border funds request

By Diane Bartz WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Leading Republican lawmakers balked on Sunday at supporting a White House spending request aimed at bolstering the U.S. border with Mexico, where thousands of children have crossed recently, while calling for changes in the law to allow faster deportations. The White House has asked for $3.7 billion in emergency funds to help pay for border security, temporary detention centers and additional immigration court judges to process asylum cases. The Obama administration warned lawmakers on Thursday that border security agencies would run out of money this summer if the request was not approved. Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, said when asked about the spending bill that the priority had to be stopping the flow of children and teenagers from Central America to the United States.


Kerry tells Netanyahu US still ready to broker Gaza truce

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday phoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to renew a US offer to help mediate a truce as Israel stepped up its military campaign against the Gaza Strip. Kerry had condemned the militant rocket attacks from Gaza into southern Israel, and "stressed Israel's right to defend itself". Despite increasing calls for a ceasefire, Netanyahu said the military was hitting Hamas "with growing force," warning there was no end in sight. Israel has warned that preparations are under way for a possible ground incursion, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman saying a decision was expected later Sunday, at a meeting of the security cabinet.


Jordan says Syrian rebel commander killed in family feud

A Syrian rebel commander was shot dead in Amman in an apparent revenge killing by family members, Jordanian police said Sunday as the opposition blamed the Damascus regime for his death. Maher Rahhal, who headed the Liwa al-Mujahideen Brigade, one of the groups fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, "was shot twice in Abu Nseir district" late Friday, a security official said. A police statement said that an initial probe and witness accounts indicate that Rahhal's murder was linked to a "family feud" while the security official said it was not politically motivated. Police is looking for two Syrian suspected of having killed Rahhal days after he arrived in Jordan.


An embrace and a handshake: how John Kerry brokered peace between Afghan rivals

By Lesley Wroughton and Maria Golovnina KABUL (Reuters) - It was late on Saturday evening in a fourth-floor room of the U.S. ambassador's residence in Kabul that the election crisis in Afghanistan that had threatened to divide the nation was staved off. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in the room with former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, one of the two warring presidential candidates. The door was opened to Abdullah's rival and bitter foe Ashraf Ghani. Ending months of bitter squabbling, Ghani walked arms wide open toward Abdullah, embracing him warmly and shaking his hand, according to a U.S. official who was present.


Qatar blames recruiters abroad for labour abuse

World Cup 2022 host Qatar, under international criticism over working conditions for migrant workers, said recruitment agencies in Asia were the main party to blame for any abuse. A report commissioned by the Qatar Foundation chaired by the ruling emir’s mother charged that the rights of migrants, mainly Asians, are flouted in their home countries from the moment they sign up for work. "Critics of human and labour rights violations most often shift the blame to Qatar in a rather generic manner," said the report focused on workers from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. "Far less attention has been given to the violations by the migrants’ own nationals in their countries of origin, in addition to those who are complicit in Qatar," it said.


Abbas to ask UN to put Palestine under international protection

Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is to ask the United Nations to put the state of Palestine under "international protection" in light of the worsening violence in the Gaza Strip, the PLO said Sunday.


Amid new spy scandal, Kerry calls U.S. and Germany 'great friends'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, standing alongside Germany's foreign minister, on Sunday stressed the strategic importance of relations between the two countries, which have been battered by new allegations of U.S. spying on Berlin. "Let me emphasize the relationship between the United States and Germany is a strategic one," Kerry said in Vienna on the sidelines of nuclear talks with Iran. "We have enormous political cooperation and we are great friends." Kerry, appearing alongside Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier, did not address the latest spy scandal, though his remarks appeared aimed at the subject. "We will continue to work together in the kind of spirit we exhibited today in a very thorough discussion," Kerry said, adding that he wished Germany well in its World Cup soccer final against Argentina on Sunday.


Egypt jails 101 Morsi backers for 3 years

An Egyptian court Sunday sentenced 101 supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi to three years in jail for acts of violence in the Nile Delta city of Damietta, state media reported. Egyptian courts have sparked international concern over a spate of mass trials of Morsi's supporters, with rights groups repeatedly accusing the authorities of using the judiciary as a tool of repression. State news agency MENA said the 101 Morsi supporters were jailed for three years after they were found guilty over July 2013 clashes in which 18 people were injured in Damietta, while 17 co-defendants, all minors, were acquitted. Since Morsi's ouster in July last year, a government crackdown on his supporters has killed 1,400 people in street clashes, and over 15,000 Islamists and protesters have been jailed.


In Gaza, war clouds Palestinian teen's dream of peace

In 2012, Mohamed Abu Aisha took part in a US peace camp with Israelis, but now he wonders if some of them are flying the warplanes overhead in Gaza. Standing in the Tuffah neighbourhood in eastern Gaza City, the 17-year-old stares at the devastation left by an Israeli strike in which 18 people were killed on Saturday night. "It is a disaster," says Abu Aisha, who lives two streets away. Abu Aisha just graduated from Gaza's American International School and is eager to show off his fluent English.


China 'detains prominent financial TV anchor'

Chinese authorities have detained a prominent financial news anchor for state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), according to media reports, in what appears to be the latest target in a corruption crackdown. Authorities on Friday "took away" Rui Chenggang, 36, known for his fluent English and interviews with corporate and world leaders, along with the deputy director of CCTV's finance channel Li Yong, the influential Caixin magazine reported on its website. The government has not confirmed the detentions, which were reported by state media including the mouthpiece of the Communist Party, the People's Daily. Shanghai media platform "The Paper" quoted CCTV sources as saying Rui and his family members allegedly set up a public relations company which made use of his influence for "seeking profits".


Cairo power pylon targeted by bombs: security

Three small bombs exploded on Sunday in a western Cairo suburb, targeting an electricity transmission pylon and cutting power to the area for nearly an hour, a security official said. Militants have stepped up attacks in Egypt, mostly against the security forces, since the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 and the new authorities launched a deadly crackdown on his supporters. "Three bombs planted near an electricity transmission pylon... in the 6th of October suburb exploded on Sunday at dawn," the security official said. "The attack left no casualties, but electricity was cut to the neighbourhood for an hour before the pylon was repaired."


Islamist militia attacks rivals at main Libya airport

Deadly clashes raged Sunday around Libya's main international airport, closing in down, as Islamist militia attacked liberal rivals in their Tripoli bastion, in an intensifying power struggle. Exchanges of fire with heavy weapons forced the closure of Tripoli airport, as foreign ministers from the North African nation's neighbours were to meet later in Tunisia to consider how to aid chaos-riddled Libya. The assault on the Zintan group by rival Islamist militants also came after the UN pulled staff from Libya citing security reasons, and as the United States warned of further escalation. An airport official said "rockets struck inside the airport perimeter around 6 am (0400 GMT)", followed by heavy clashes between the Zintan militia which controls the airport and rival gunmen.

New EU executive likely to be stacked with 'men in grey suits'

The EU boasts several powerful women -- indeed German Chancellor Angela Merkel may be the continent's most powerful person -- but the top jobs being decided for its European Commission are likely to be overwhelmingly filled by men. "Imagine the photo: men in grey suits!" Ann Mettler, head of the Brussels-based Lisbon Council think-tank, bristled to AFP. Her indignation is shared by many people who deal with the EU's executive arm, which over the coming days is to appoint new faces as its powerful commissioners, who decide crucial issues across the 28-nation bloc. A lack of female candidates being put forward is undermining a European commitment to gender equality, providing a headache for Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg's ex-premier who is seen taking over the new Commission later this year following EU elections held in May.


See how they run: The 2016 presidential checklist

WASHINGTON (AP) — For a year, The Associated Press has been tracking movements and machinations of more than a dozen prospective presidential candidates. Here's the latest presidential prep checklist:

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