Donetsk (Ukraine) (AFP) - A one-time candidate in Ukraine's presidential election, who bowed out of the race and now supports the insurgency in the east, on Sunday dismissed the self-proclaimed winner of the vote as "half a president". "We consider (Petro) Poroshenko -- if he is elected -- to not be legitimate. We won't recognise this vote," said Oleh Tsarov, a former member of the Regions Party of toppled pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych. "We consider that the winner of the election is president of west Ukraine -- he is a half president," he told AFP as he walked through a hotel in the rebel-held eastern hub of Donetsk with armed guards.
Tripoli (Lebanon) (AFP) - Radical Islamist preacher Omar Bakri, known for his support for Al-Qaeda, was arrested Sunday in Lebanon over his alleged involvement in sectarian clashes, security source told AFP. Lebanese authorities has issued an arrest warrant for Bakri for involvement in unrest in the northern city of Tripoli but a month ago he fled to an unknown destination, the source said. He was arrested Aley, east of Beirut, the source said, adding that he seemed to have moved from place to place to avoid arrest before being found by security forces.
Lithuania's incumbent "Iron Lady" Dalia Grybauskaite took the lead in a presidential runoff on Sunday, outpacing leftist rival Zigmantas Balcytis, partial results showed. Grybauskaite scored 55.5 percent support against 42.6 for Balcytis with one third of the vote counted in the Baltic state, which is both an EU and NATO member and is currently dominated by security concerns over a resurgent Russia. Having cultivated a reputation for Thatcher-esque toughness, Grybauskaite had been tipped to win a second five-year term, with many who remember Soviet times seeing her as the best choice to steer the country through Europe's worst standoff with Moscow since the Cold War. Balcytis, an MEP with the governing Social Democrats, took just over 13 percent.
Voters in the German capital on Sunday rejected plans for a large-scale property development on their former Tempelhof Airport, which has in recent years become a popular inner-city park. As Berlin citizens cast their ballots for the European parliamentary election, they also voted in a referendum aimed at preserving the green space, which is roughly the size of New York's Central Park. According to early results, almost 65 percent voted against the development plans proposed by the city-state of Berlin, the local statistics office said. Tempelhof, measuring 300 hectares (750 acres), sits right in the middle of the German capital of 3.4 million.
Some 200 people demonstrated in the Moroccan capital Rabat Sunday to demand the release of activists from the February 20 pro-reform movement who were jailed this week. A court in Casablanca sentenced on Thursday 11 activists from the February 20 group to jail terms of up to one year for violence against police during an unauthorised protest in April. The demonstrators, who included activists and relatives of the accused, marched to parliament in the late afternoon watched by the security forces. They were arrested on April 6 during a march by some 10,000 participants in Casablanca called by trade unions in protest at the policies of Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane.
South African President Jacob Zuma on Sunday tapped junior minister Nhlanhla Nene to become the country's first black finance minister as he unveiled his new cabinet a day after taking office. The appointment of Nene, aged 55, represents a statement of intent from Zuma, who has vowed to bring radical social and economic transformation in his second five-year term. Within South Africa's ruling ANC there is a strong desire to put more economic power in black hands. In the 20 years since South Africa struggled free from racist apartheid rule, the economy remains predominantly in white hands, despite a raft of empowerment programmes.
United Nations (United States) (AFP) - United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday called on Lebanon's political rivals to end the country's presidential stalemate. A spokesman for Ban said the UN chief "regrets that the Lebanese Parliament was unable to elect a new president within the timeframe set by the constitution." Ban urged Lebanon's leaders "to engage intensively to ensure the election of a new president without delay." Lebanon has been plunged into a leadership vacuum after President Michel Sleiman's mandate ended on Sunday with rival political blocs still divided over a new leader.
Thousands of bikers roared through Washington for the annual Rolling Thunder rally Sunday, given added fervor this year amid anger over an ongoing scandal concerning medical care for veterans. Organizers estimated around 750,000 bikers and spectators had descended on the US capital for the annual eve-of-Memorial Day rally in support of American prisoners of war and those missing in action, as they have each year since 1988. The awe-inspiring show of motorcycle might includes many US military veterans on bikes, clearly identifiable in leather jackets emblazoned with military badges and medals. Henry, 58, travelled from Maine in the northeastern United States with his wife and five other bikers.
Scores of Turkish Cypriots complained they were denied the right to vote in European Parliament elections in divided Cyprus on Sunday because they had no registered address, officials said. A group of Turkish Cypriots crossing over from the Turkish-held north of the island held a protest. Mehmet Pasa, 44, said he was given no reason why he was prevented from voting at a polling station in Nicosia. But Interior Minister Sotiris Hasikos told the official CNA news agency that only those with a registered address were allowed to cast a ballot under Cyprus's electoral law.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had no immediate reaction to the presidential vote in Ukraine on Sunday, instead focusing on an ice hockey game featuring the Russian team in Belarus. As Western-friendly chocolate baron Petro Poroshenko claimed victory in the crucial election, Putin was in Minsk to watch Russia face off with Finland in the final of the world ice hockey championships. "The head of state wanted to personally support the Russian team playing in the final of the world hockey championships," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agency ITAR-TASS.
Thousands of people from Turkey's minority Alevi community on Sunday held protests over the deaths of two people during a police crackdown on demonstrators earlier in the week. Protestors flocked to rallies in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir to call for an end to discrimination after two men were caught up in clashes between police and protesters in a predominantly Alevi district on Thursday and killed. Turkey has launched an investigation into the deaths of the two men, who were not among the demonstrators. The Alevi community follows a moderate form of Islam and makes up around a quarter of Turkey's 76 million citizens.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said Sunday that Syria's regime and the "resistance axis" including his Lebanese Shiite militant group would triumph in the Syrian conflict. Speaking as Lebanon entered a presidential vacuum, Nasrallah also said his Shiite movement wants the country to have a president "who does not conspire against it." "Syria will triumph and the resistance axis will triumph," Nasrallah said in a televised address to mark the 14th anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon. Hezbollah has sent thousands of fighters into Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad's forces against rebels seeking his overthrow, saying they are defending an "axis of resistance" against Israel and the West.
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (AP) — On a surprise visit to Afghanistan, President Barack Obama pledged Sunday to bring America's longest war to a "responsible end" by the close of the year. He promised a decision soon on keeping a small contingent of troops to help protect gains made over nearly 13 years of combat.
General Wojciech Jaruzelski, Poland's last communist leader who tried but failed to crush the freedom-fighting Solidarity union, died Sunday aged 90, a hospital spokesman said. Jaruzelski, who died in a Warsaw hospital with his daughter by his side, marked Polish history by trying to strangle the Soviet bloc's first free trade union with a brutal military crackdown on December 13, 1981. But by 1989, he became the first communist leader to clear the way for democracy by agreeing to semi-free elections with Solidarity, led by the charismatic former shipyard electrician and Nobel Peace laureate Lech Walesa.
Petro Poroshenko, who is almost certain to be tasked with steering Ukraine out of months of turmoil and bloodshed, is a billionaire chocolate baron, cabinet minister and occasional revolutionary. "The first thing we must do is bring peace to all the citizens of Ukraine," he said as he cast his vote in Kiev. He had been the clear favourite as the consensus candidate, and the polls gave him commanding lead over his nearest rival, Ukraine's "iron lady" Yulia Tymoshenko, who was considered a much more polarising figure. The tall, slightly greying tycoon is one of the country's 10 richest men with a fortune estimated at around $1.6 billion (1.2 billion euros) by Forbes magazine, which described him as Ukraine's Willy Wonka.
A Tripoli court ordered a fresh delay Sunday in the trial of 40 top figures from late dictator Moamer Kadhafi's regime, including his son Seif al-Islam, as spiralling lawlessness grips Libya. "The prosecution demanded that the trial be delayed to June 22 to prepare the indictment," defence lawyer Ali Dhabaa told AFP at the end of a two-hour hearing. The defence had also requested a new delay in the trial and demanded access to the accused, who also include Kadhafi's former spy chief Abdullah Senussi. They have been charged over their roles in suppressing the 2011 uprising that eventually toppled Kadhafi's regime.