The trial of a former Lebanese minister accused of plotting attacks and transporting explosives has been postponed to December 5, a judicial source told AFP on Friday. Michel Samaha was due to face a military court on Friday but the judge, Brigadier General Khalil Ibrahim, postponed the hearing because the ex-minister's alleged co-conspirator, Syrian security services chief Ali Mamluk, was absent. We had handed the arrest warrant to Libanpost (Lebanon's postal service) but the company told us they could not deliver the letter because of the situation in Syria," the source said. Mamluk -- one of Syria's most senior security officials -- is believed to be in Syria.
Beijing on Friday slammed as "provocative" a proposal by US lawmakers to rename the street outside China's Washington embassy in honour of the jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo. Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 on a charge of "incitement to subversion of state power", based in part on his spearheading of Charter 08, a petition urging greater protection of human rights and democratic reforms in China. A diverse group of members of the US House of Representatives said that changing the name of a section of the road would embolden Chinese rights campaigners. "Liu Xiaobo is a man who has violated Chinese laws, he has been convicted by the Chinese judicial authorities," he added.
Afghan presidential hopeful Ashraf Ghani vowed Friday to sign a security pact with the United States within a week if he wins an upcoming run-off election. His pledge came only days after US President Barack Obama said the 32,000 American forces in Afghanistan will be scaled back to 9,800 by early 2015 and complete a full withdrawal by the end of 2016. "I'm committed to signing a bilateral security agreement within the first week of taking over," Ghani said, addressing an audience in Washington via Skype from the western Afghan city of Herat. "The reason is that our national security forces need assurances regarding our global partnerships and the resources both human and material that would come through the bilateral security agreement," Ghani told the Atlantic Council think-tank.
Residents of the Libyan capital complain the armed groups they hailed as liberators for toppling Moamer Kadhafi have become their oppressors as opposing alliances back rival governments in their struggle for power. A city that was ultra-safe during Kadhafi's four-decade dictatorship has become a place of fear, constantly on tenterhooks for a new eruption of fighting between the competing former rebel militias, many of them from outside Tripoli. The battle for control of Libya's oil and gas wealth has intensified as preparations step up for a June 25 general election with competing caretaker governments laying claim to power, one from the cabinet office, the other from a five-star hotel. One is backed by Islamists and militia from Libya's third city Misrata to the east.
By David Alexander and Mark Felsenthal WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned on Friday following a meeting with President Barack Obama that came amid a firestorm of outrage over delays in medical care for U.S. veterans. Shortly after the private White House session, Obama announced to reporters that "with considerable regret, I accepted" Shinseki's resignation. The move came after a growing number of Democrats and Republicans in Congress, as well as some veterans' groups, had called for his removal. Obama said he accepted the resignation of the soft-spoken, 71-year-old retired Army general after being briefed on the initial findings of the investigation into abuses that were initially found in Phoenix but later identified at other facilities across the country.
Thailand's junta chief on Friday ruled out elections for at least a year to have time for political "reforms", defending the recent military coup in the face of rising international alarm. "The (ruling military regime) have a timeframe of one year and three months to move towards elections," said army chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha in a televised national address over a week after the army takeover. Only after this could elections be held. Thailand's military seized power on May 22 -- the 19th actual or attempted putsch in its modern history -- and set about rounding up scores of political figures, academics and activists.
Veteran actor Gerard Depardieu who fled his native France in protest over a new wealth tax is now paying a rate of only six percent in his newly adopted country of Russia, the Izvestia daily reported Friday. Russian President Vladimir Putin granted Depardieu a Russian passport in 2013 after he left France in protest at having to pay a 75-percent tax rate. The 65-year-old actor filed his tax return on time in the remote Mordovia region where he has registered as a self-employed businessman, the deputy chief of the region's tax service, Sergei Shalyayev, told Izvestia, refusing to divulge the amount.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had tried to convince Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel to be a candidate in the race for president, media said on Friday. Israeli media began reporting Netanyahu's last-minute attempt on Tuesday, when candidates had to present 10 MPs' signatures to be eligible for the position. Wiesel, who lives in New York, told top-selling daily Yediot Aharonot on Friday that Netanyahu had called him three times and then tried to pressure him through mutual friends, but the 86-year-old Romanian-born Nobel Peace Prize winner refused. Netanyahu's efforts to draw the Jewish-American writer and political activist who does not hold Israeli citizenship into the presidency race were reportedly part of his attempts to prevent the election of Reuven Rivlin of his own Likud party as president.
German industrial giant Siemens plans to eliminate about 11,600 jobs around the world as part of a major restructuring, a company spokesman told AFP on Friday. "These jobs will be cut," the spokesman said, confirming remarks made by chief executive Joe Kaeser to a conference of investors and analysts in New York on Thursday. Another 4,000 jobs will be cut as part of a regrouping of regional activities. Siemens said in early May that it expected its markets "to remain challenging in fiscal 2014" with a sustainable recovery not expected until late in the fiscal year.
Beleaguered Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg faced calls to expel Lord Rennard from the party on Friday after the peer apologised to four women who accused him of harassment. Rennard, a former Lib Dem strategist, confessed that he "may well have encroached upon 'personal space'" of the female party members, though he stopped short of admitting to sexual harassment. Three of the four party members who made the allegations, which emerged over a year ago, are now calling for Rennard to be permanently expelled from the party, according to BBC reports. "The real question here is, 'Should the Lib Dems accept him back on the benches in the House of Lords?' And I don't think the answer to that is yes," she told BBC News.