British Prime Minister David Cameron will force fellow EU leaders to vote on who should head the bloc's executive body if they try to impose Jean-Claude Juncker, Downing Street sources said Sunday. Cameron, who views the former long-serving Luxembourg prime minister as a federalist who will not adopt the modernising reforms he says the European Union badly needs, has vowed to "fight this right to the very end". London feels Juncker is an EU insider to the bone, who will not heed the backlash voters inflicted in last month's European Parliament elections, but instead press on regardless with Brussels business as usual. European centre-left leaders meeting in Paris on Saturday backed Juncker -- who is from the centre-right -- and the row is set to dominate the two-day summit of all 28 EU leaders starting Thursday.
The European Union and the United States have welcomed the unexpected release of prominent Belarus rights activist Ales Belyatsky, while urging the government to free other political prisoners as well. Belyatsky had been imprisoned since 2011 as part of President Alexander Lukashenko's crackdown on the beleaguered opposition. I believe that other political prisoners should be released soon." Belyatsky, director of human rights organisation Vyasna (Spring) which helps victims of political repression under Lukashenko, has won several top European awards and has been repeatedly nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
US Secretary of State John Kerry headed to the Middle East Sunday seeking to overcome the sectarian divide in Iraq where Sunni militants seized more ground in an offensive that could rip the country apart. Shiite fighters paraded in Baghdad on Saturday in a dramatic show of force aimed at their Sunni opponents who took control of a Syrian border crossing. Washington's new diplomatic bid is aimed at uniting Iraq's fractious leaders and repelling insurgents whose lightning offensive has displaced hundreds of thousands, alarmed the world and put Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki under growing pressure. Kerry flew out of Washington on Saturday, headed to Amman, then Brussels and Paris.
Ukraine's unilateral ceasefire hung in the balance Sunday after clashes engulfed the separatist east and Russian President Vladimir Putin put troops on "full combat alert". The resurgence of violence in the 11-week pro-Russian uprising threatening to splinter the ex-Soviet state came as Washington accused the Kremlin of covertly arming the rebels and sternly warned Putin against sending troops into Ukraine. "There is no ceasefire," a woman named Lila Ivanovna said Saturday just four kilometres (two miles) southwest of the battled-scarred rebel stronghold city of Slavyansk. Ukrainian border guards said the militia used sniper fire and grenade launchers to strike a base in the eastern Donetsk region four hours after President Petro Poroshenko declared a unilateral halt to hostilities that have claimed more than 375 lives.
South Korea's military on Sunday pursued a massive manhunt near the tense border with North Korea for a soldier who shot dead five comrades in a rare shooting incident. The army sergeant, surnamed Lim, opened fire on other soldiers at a guard post on the eastern section of the heavily guarded inter-Korea border Saturday night. The shooting spree left five dead and seven injured -- all members of Lim's own unit at the 22nd infantry division in the western province of Gangwon. Another official told AFP that Lim was due to be discharged in the next few months after completing his compulsory military service.
Canada announced economic sanctions and travel bans on 11 Russians and Ukrainians, as well as a Crimean oil company, saying they facilitated the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty. The move came as a unilateral ceasefire in the ex-Soviet state hung in the balance with clashes engulfing the separatist east and Russian President Vladimir Putin putting troops on "full combat alert." "Russia's illegal occupation of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine and provocative military activity remains a serious concern to the international community," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement. "The measures we are announcing today against additional Russian and Ukrainian individuals and an entity that have facilitated the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial sovereignty will continue to increase economic pressure on those responsible for the crisis in Ukraine."