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US judge denies Argentina stay on paying 'vulture' funds

A US federal judge on Thursday denied Argentina's request to freeze his order to pay $1.3 billion to hedge fund bondholders, giving the country only four more days to strike a deal with them. New York judge Thomas Griesa's rejection of the stay request raised the stakes for Buenos Aires, which has warned that it could be forced to default on its debt if it has to pay the hedge funds on June 30, when it is slated to make a regular payment to holders of its restructured bonds. Argentina Economy Minister Axel Kicillof said earlier Thursday that the government had transferred $1 billion to a US bank account to service the restructured debt. On June 16, Argentina lost its final appeal to the US Supreme Court against paying what it calls "vulture funds", NML Capital and Aurelius Management, which have demanded full payment on the bonds they hold.

Torture by Uganda police ongoing despite new law

Incidents of torture by Uganda's police continue to be reported despite the introduction of a 2012 law banning the practice, the country's Human Rights Commission said Thursday. A report from the state-funded body, released to coincide with the United Nations' International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, said those affected were also stuck in a legal backlog and awaiting compensation, sometimes for years. "Despite the current new anti-torture law and other efforts to fight torture in Uganda, recent reports reveal that cases of torture still rank high among other categories of human rights violations," the report said. Uganda's parliament passed a law outlawing torture in 2012, aimed at making police and soldiers personally liable for violations and compensation.

EU fiscal rules not under attack: German economy minister

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel suggested on Thursday that the EU could ease its rules on co-financing investment projects, but insisted that he was not seeking to undermine the wider budget framework. "Nobody is attacking the Growth and Stability Pact," Gabriel told the German parliament's low house, referring to the European Union's budget rules requiring member states to keep a lid on their public deficits.

Syria not the answer to Iraq turmoil: US

The United States said Thursday it opposed a role by Syria in resolving Iraq's turmoil after President Bashar al-Assad's government was said to have carried out air strikes against militants. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, facing Sunni extremists who have swept across his country from war-torn Syria, told the BBC that Assad's air force this week struck the insurgents on the Syrian side of the border, in a marked escalation. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, while not confirming the air strikes, said that the United States believed military action by Assad would not be "in any way helpful to Iraq's security." "Iraq's security situation cannot and should not be resolved by the Assad regime, by air strikes from the Assad regime or by militias funded and supported by other countries in the region stepping in," Harf told reporters.

Sudan Christian woman 'to be freed' from police custody

Sudanese authorities agreed Thursday to release from police custody a Christian woman who tried to leave the country after her release from death row and was detained with allegedly false documents. "Now the prosecutor decided to let her go home by a guarantee," one of her lawyers, Mohanad Mustafa, told AFP. Ishag has been held at the police station in Khartoum's Arkawet district since Tuesday after national security agents stopped her and her family from leaving the country with South Sudanese travel papers. According to her American husband, Daniel Wani, diplomats from the US embassy had escorted the couple and their two children to Khartoum airport, from where they planned to travel to Washington, DC.

Israel offers to help Arab nations over Iraq crisis

Israel offered to help moderate Arab nations threatened by a lightning offensive by Islamic militants in Iraq, as the country's top diplomat met with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Kerry at a meeting in Paris that "the extremists currently operating in Iraq will try to challenge the stability in the entire Gulf region, first of all in Kuwait," a statement from the Israeli minister's office said. "Israel could provide effective and reliable assistance to moderate Arab states who are dealing with extremists," it added, without going into specific details.

US high court rules against Obama recess appointments

The US Supreme Court on Thursday placed limits on the president's power to appoint high-level judges and officials while Congress is in recess, ruling that Barack Obama violated the Constitution. In a keenly anticipated decision, the high court's nine justices invalidated three so-called "recess appointments" made by Obama in early 2012 when the Senate was holding only pro forma sessions every three days. "The president made the recess appointments before us during a break too short to count as recess under the (constitutional) Clause.

When Will Supreme Court's Aging Liberal Justices Retire?

  When will Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer retire? It’s a question that has surfaced as the Supreme Court term has come to an end in recent years. READ: ABC News’ Supreme Court Coverage But anticipation about the future plans of...

Central Africa death toll rises to 70 in four days

The death toll in the Central African Republic has risen to nearly 70 in just four days, a peacekeeping officer said Thursday, following a surge of sectarian violence in the crisis-hit country. The deaths have all happened since Monday near the central town of Barbari, which has seen a series of bloody clashes between mainly Muslim ex-Seleka rebels and Christian militias. "The death toll is still provisional because we have not been able to access all of the area," he added. The area has seen a surge in violence since the killing of 17 Muslims at a camp in the region on Monday, by gunmen claiming to be from a mostly Christian militia called the anti-balaka.

Ruling pushes gay marriage closer to Supreme Court

DENVER (AP) — The first ruling by a federal appeals court that states cannot prevent gay couples from marrying makes it more likely the Supreme Court will ultimately have to make a decision it has so far avoided — do states have the ability to prohibit same-sex marriage?

Over 100,000 seeking shelter in South Sudan UN bases

The number of civilians seeking shelter in United Nations bases in war-torn South Sudan has reached over 100,000 for the first time in more than six-months of conflict, the UN said Thursday. The continued rise in the number of people fleeing violence offers a clear indication conditions continue to worsen in the impoverished nation, with over 101,000 civilians crammed inside squalid camps across the country and the numbers continuing to rise. The largest increase has been in the northern oil-own of Bentiu, state capital of Unity, where over 45,000 civilians are now packed in a makeshift camp in dire conditions, with many areas flooded due to torrential rains. Many in camps have fled ethnic violence by rebels loyal to ousted vice-president Riek Machar, from the Nuer tribe, or forces behind President Salva Kiir, from the larger Dinka tribe.

Ukraine leader slams Russia's 'insufficient' support for peace plan

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Thursday accused Russia of failing to fully back a peace plan to end the bloodshed in the east of his country. The plan "will only be able to work if Russia cooperates. Up to now unfortunately the support (from Moscow) has been insufficient," Poroshenko told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. "The 'undeclared' war continues to rage," he said, calling on Moscow to "recall the mercenaries who are crossing the Russian border" into Ukraine.

Iraqi Kurdish leader visits disputed city of Kirkuk

Kirkuk (Iraq) (AFP) - The president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, Massud Barzani, visited the disputed city of Kirkuk on Thursday for the first time since Kurdish forces took control of it, officials said.

Oil prices edge down

London (AFP) - Global oil prices drifted lower on Thursday, with Brent slipping underneath $114 per barrel as traders took profits but kept a close eye on conflict in Iraq.

Amnesty slams Saudi jailing of rights activist

Rights group Amnesty International has condemned a Saudi court decision to jail an activist for seven years, labelling the charges as "spurious" and urging that the sentence be quashed. A court in Riyadh passed the sentence on Fowzan al-Harbi on Tuesday and also banned him from travelling for a further seven years, Amnesty said in a statement. "Harbi has been ruthlessly targeted for daring to question the Saudi authorities’ human rights record," said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty's deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme. Harbi, 36, is a founder of the local Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), and was jailed in December 2013, when a judge ordered his arrest without providing a reason, according to Amnesty.

Hawkish new Israel president ready to meet Abbas: report

Israel's hawkish president-elect Reuven Rivlin, who opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, has said he is willing to meet Palestinian counterpart Mahmud Abbas, a newspaper reported Thursday. "I met with Abu Mazen (Abbas) in the past on a number of occasions and I will also meet with him in the future," the Yediot Aharonot newspaper quoted Rivlin as saying. Rivlin said he received a letter from Abbas after he was elected on June 10 to succeed elder statesman Shimon Peres, whose term ends in late July. The incoming president is a staunch backer of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and has never hidden his opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state.