Britain's government agreed on Thursday to give extracts of letters from Tony Blair to George W. Bush to an inquiry into the Iraq war, overcoming the main hurdle to publication of the long-awaited report. The probe will receive "gists and quotes" of communications from former prime minister Blair to ex-president Bush in the run-up to the conflict in 2003, inquiry chief John Chilcot said in an official letter. But Bush's replies will not be included in the report, which is examining Britain's involvement in the war, Chilcot said.
Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmud Abbas will pray for peace at the Vatican on June 8, the Holy See said Thursday. Pope Francis had invited the pair to his home for a "heartfelt prayer" for peace during his three-day trip to the region, and the meeting "will take place on June 8, during the afternoon," a date "accepted by both parties," the Vatican said in a note. "I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer... to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace," he said. Last month, US-led peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators collapsed in bitter recriminations.
Stunning gains by radical euroskeptic parties could muddy transatlantic ties and help feed growing anti-American sentiment just as the EU and US seek to seal an ambitious trade pact, analysts warn. US officials said they were watching closely, as estimates from the weekend European Parliament elections showed anti-EU parties winning between 20 and 25 percent, including dramatic gains by radical anti-establishment parties. "We're prepared to work with all political groups and leaders that support fundamental principles of human rights, democracy, and rule of law, and hope to engage the EU leadership in order to keep this transatlantic relationship going in the future," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. In a symbolic show of deep historical transatlantic ties, US President Barack Obama visits Europe next week to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Allied invasion of Normandy.
Turkey has seen a year of turmoil from a corruption scandal to a mining disaster since mass anti-government protests shook the country, and with new demonstrations planned for this weekend, analysts say the events of Taksim Square have not been forgotten. Last year's protests, which started as a small campaign to save Istanbul's Gezi Park from redevelopment, eventually drew an estimated three million protesters. Eight people died and thousands were injured as clouds of tear gas wafted through the park on Taksim Square, following an outpouring of anger against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a heavy-handed police crackdown against the demonstrators. The unrest created one of the most serious challenges to Erdogan's 11 years in power, although a series of crises over the last 12 months -- from a government corruption scandal implicating some of the premier's key allies and a mining accident that killed 301 workers -- have sparked renewed outrage against his leadership.
Libya's contested new cabinet convened for the first time Thursday, defying the outgoing administration, which refuses to hand over power and held its own session. Amid the political chaos in the largely lawless North African state, the High National Elections Commission (HNEC) announced that Libya is go to the polls on June 25 as planned. A source in new Prime Minister Ahmed Miitig's office said his team met in a Tripoli luxury hotel.
The European Union said Thursday it was renewing economic sanctions against Syria, including an oil embargo and asset freezes against allies of President Bashar al-Assad, for another year. The measures, which will extend to June 1, 2015, affect 179 people "associated with the violent repression in Syria", and 53 entities, including the Central Bank of Syria, the EU said in its Official Journal.
A 16-year-old arrested earlier this month for scrawling graffiti on and smashing the door and windows of a dentist's practice in Yokneam, an Arab Druze town in northern Israel, was charged on Thursday, the ministry said. On Wednesday, prosecutors filed charges against Adir Yosef, 26, for damaging an Arab-owned car in Yokneam earlier in May. According to the charge sheet, Yosef's alleged felony was part of a wave of 14 racist crimes that took place in and around Yokneam over the past three months. So-called price tag attacks are nationalist-motivated hate crimes by Jewish extremists that mostly target Palestinian and Arab property, but have also included attacks on other non-Jews as well as leftwing Israelis and the security forces.
Syrian government forces rained barrels bombs on Aleppo Thursday, as they pressed a campaign against rebels in the northern city where dozens have been killed this week, a monitor said. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said jihadist fighters executed 15 civilians in the northeastern province of Hasakeh. At least seven children were among those killed by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant near the town of Ras al-Ain, it said. The Observatory did not give any immediate toll for Thursday's raids on Aleppo's rebel-held districts, but said regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs on some of the areas.
UN rights chief Navi Pillay said Thursday Morocco has improved its human rights record but must still work hard to shake off "old habits," such as torture. Pillay, the first UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit Morocco in 13 years, spoke at a news conference in Rabat at the end of a four-day visit. She said Morocco had made "great strides toward the better promotion and protection of human rights," including the adoption of a new constitution in 2011. UN delegations that have visited Morocco in past years have "expressed concern over the use of torture and ill-treatment as well as the admissibility in court of confessions obtained under torture or other ill-treatment," said Pillay.