Russian troops massed on Ukraine's borders are moving back toward Moscow, but there are still "danger signs," US Secretary of State John Kerry said late Thursday. "There is evidence of Russians crossing over, trained personnel from Chechnya trained in Russia, who've come across to stir things up, to engage in fighting," the top US diplomat told PBS television. He urged Russia to take advantage of the recent presidential elections and "build a road forward where Ukraine becomes a bridge between the West and the East." "The troops that were on the border are moving back towards Moscow not towards Kiev," he said.
United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The UN Security Council expressed "disappointment and concern" Thursday that an election of a new Lebanese president has not occurred and demanded that polls be held without delay. In a unanimous declaration, the Council's 15 member states urged the country's parliament "to uphold Lebanon's long standing democratic tradition and to work to ensure that presidential elections take place as soon as possible and without external interference." Over the past two months, Lebanon's parliament convened five times to try to elect a successor to President Michel Sleiman but failed each time due to a lack of quorum. The Council said it "reiterates its full support for the government of Lebanon to discharge its duties during this interim period."
Spies based in Iran created a bogus news organization used for espionage since 2011 against US and Israeli military targets, security researchers said. A report released this week by iSight Partners says that more than 2,000 people are or have been targeted in the operation dubbed Newscaster, which uses a "front media outlet" called NewsOnAir.org. Some of the news organizations whose work was misappropriated included the Associated Press, Reuters and the BBC. The documents from iSight called the operation "brash and complex" and added that it found at least two legitimate identities falsified from news organizations including Fox News and Reuters.
United Nations (United States) (AFP) - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has strongly condemned recent attacks in the Central African Republic, including at a church in the capital Bangui, his spokesman said Thursday. Ban encouraged the transitional authority to do "everything within its means to prevent further violence in the capital and throughout the country," said Stephane Dujarric. The UN chief appealed to international forces in the Central African Republic "to take all necessary measures in support of these efforts," Dujarric added. Ban also encourages Central African Republic's leaders and partners to work with peacekeepers towards meaningful dialogue "to chart a sustainable path to peace," he said.
The United States warned China Thursday against sparking tensions in international airspace after Japan accused Beijing of "dangerous maneuvers" above disputed seas. "We do not accept China's declaration of an ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) over the East China Sea and urge China not to implement it," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. "We continue to urge China to work with other countries to establish confidence-building measures, including emergency communications channels, which can address dangers and lower tensions." Japan has alleged that a Chinese fighter on Saturday flew within roughly 30 meters (100 feet) of a Japanese OP-3C surveillance plane above the waters where the countries' air defense identification zones overlap.
Turkey's top court ruled on Thursday that a blanket ban on YouTube violated individual rights and freedoms, clearing the way for the popular video-sharing site to come back. YouTube has been banned in Turkey since March 27 after the site was used to spread audio recordings where senior government, military and intelligence officials are allegedly heard weighing possible military action inside war-torn Syria. The decision was in response to individual complaints to the constitutional court on the grounds of a breach of rights, an official from the prime minister's office told AFP. Turkey's transportation ministry which is also in charge of communication services was due to be informed of the verdict, added the official.
United Nations (United States) (AFP) - UN peacekeeping missions should deploy more drones and state-of the art technology to become more effective, limit boots on the ground and keep aid workers safer, their chief said Thursday. On the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, staff paid tribute to more than 3,000 peacekeepers who have died since 1948, including 106 last year, and to those still serving on the frontline. The head of UN peacekeeping, Herve Ladsous, said that a peacekeeper died on average once every three days in 2013, and that technology needs to be upgraded to assist a record number of UN boots on the ground. The Security Council last month approved a new mission in the Central African Republic and in December voted to send an extra 5,500 soldiers to war-torn South Sudan.
Mineral-rich Mozambique is considering the establishment of a sovereign wealth fund, the country's finance minister said Thursday. "We think it's a good idea," Manuel Chang told AFP on the sidelines of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) conference on Africa. "But we won't do what others have done," he added, suggesting Mozambique would not rush into creating the fund given other pressing demands that will require huge injections to fix, such as the infrastructure. Mozambique's reserves are believed to be the world's third largest.
By Scott Malone and Daniel Lovering BOSTON (Reuters) - Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg used his commencement address at Harvard University on Thursday to bash a U.S. academic culture that he described as increasingly intolerant of ideas from outside a narrow liberal spectrum. Citing the campus protests that caused luminaries including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde to back out of planned speeches, Bloomberg criticized students and faculty for being hostile to ideas that clashed with their own ideologies. Standing amid the centuries-old stone buildings of Harvard Yard, he compared the atmosphere in U.S. academia to that which prevailed during Senator Joseph McCarthy's 1950s campaign to ferret out Communists in public life. "In the 1950s the right wing was attempting to repress left-wing ideas," said Bloomberg, who started his career on Wall Street before launching the news and data company that bears his name.
Hillary Clinton, already at the center of a political frenzy over her possible 2016 presidential campaign, dropped by for lunch with President Barack Obama Thursday. The former rivals and colleagues spent time together before Clinton heads off on a publicity tour for her new book "Hard Choices," which will be released on June 10 and is seen as laying the groundwork for a possible fresh White House bid. "The president enjoyed an informal, private lunch with Secretary Clinton at the White House this afternoon," said an administration official on condition of anonymity. Clinton, 66, who lost a divisive campaign for the 2008 Democratic nomination to Obama, agreed to serve as secretary of state in his first term after they buried the political hatchet.
The United States described as "horrific" Thursday the case of a Christian Sudanese woman who has been sentenced to hang for converting from Islam. High-level US officials have raised the plight of Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, 27, with top Sudanese counterparts and US embassy officials have been attending her public hearings and will monitor the appeals process in Khartoum. "We're concerned about this horrific case, and we've expressed that many, many, many times," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. Ishag's husband Daniel Wani is a US citizen, and he told AFP on Tuesday that he was trying to visit his wife in the women's jail in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman after she gave birth to their second child, a baby girl.
President Barack Obama called for more research Thursday into concussions among youth athletes -- and admitted he had probably seen stars himself while playing American football as a youngster. Obama called a "summit" at the White House amid a rising spate of such injuries, not just in contact sports but in others like football, which is widely played by both girls and boys in the United States. White House officials said Obama decided to use the "convening power" of the presidency to bring together groups as diverse as leading medical authorities and the National Football League (NFL) to build momentum on the issue. He noted that the dangers of head injuries and brain damage among young players were much more well known now than they had been for many years -- when children were forced to endure a "suck it up" culture by coaches and parents.
United Nations (United States) (AFP) - China will soon send an infantry battalion to reinforce the United Nations peacekeeping mission in war-torn South Sudan, officials said Thursday. In December, the Security Council voted to send an extra 5,500 peacekeepers -- some re-assigned from other UN missions in Africa -- to the UN mission in the world's newest country, bringing the total deployment there to 12,500. UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous confirmed Thursday that China had agreed to send a "battalion" of 850 soldiers within the next few months. UN officials said this was the first time China will send a combat unit to a UN peacekeeping operation.
The White House expressed concern Thursday that pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine were using advanced weapons "from the outside" after they shot down an army helicopter killing 12 soldiers. The downing of the aircraft came amid escalating clashes between Kiev's forces and separatists in the eastern part of the country, following the election win of chocolate magnate Petro Poroshenko. "We are disturbed by the ongoing violence in eastern Ukraine, including reports that separatists have shot down a Ukrainian military helicopter," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.