French President Francois Hollande on Monday kicks off a summit with business leaders aimed at creating half a million vitally-needed jobs in return for lower taxes, but a labour row threatens to mar the event. Hollande's government has pledged to cut state spending between 2015-2017 to finance a package of payroll and income tax cuts designed to bolster demand, make companies more competitive and attract investment. They are particularly incensed by Prime Minister Manuel Valls delaying a promise of early retirement for people in physically-tough jobs following pressure from Medef, the main employers' union.
Iran said Sunday it supports Nuri al-Maliki's bid to stay on as Iraq's premier but that it is ready to back any other candidate chosen by parliament in Baghdad. Maliki's "State of Law coalition won first place in the last legislative elections... (and) any decision that is taken in Iraq and has the support of parliament has Iran's backing," said Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. "If Mr Maliki is chosen as prime minister, we will work hard together. If another person is chosen by parliament, the Islamic Republic of Iran will also support them.
As Malawi marks 50 years of freedom from colonial rule on Sunday, many local people say the country today is living in a new form of bondage: poverty. At an event in the capital Lilongwe, thousands of Malawians, along with African leaders such as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, are expected to mark five decades of freedom from Britain. Malawi's President Peter Mutharika, who was elected as the country's fifth leader since independence in May, will use the event to outline government plans for the fragile economy in a keynote address that also marks the 20-year anniversary of multi-party democracy. "Why should we celebrate 50 years of independence if the majority of us are still poor and barely survive?" she said.
Australia's immigration minister will visit Colombo this week for talks on illegal immigration following international concern at his country's handling of Sri Lankan asylum-seekers, it was announced Sunday. Scott Morrison is due to meet top officials from President Mahinda Rajapakse's government when he arrives Wednesday, an official told AFP.
Suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen ambushed and killed six soldiers on Sunday in the southern Yemeni province of Abyan, a stronghold of the jihadists, a military official said. "Gunmen belonging to Al-Qaeda have ambushed an army vehicle" on a main road outside Mahfad, shooting dead all of the soldiers on board, the official said. In late April, the Yemeni army launched a ground offensive against Al-Qaeda in Abyan and nearby Shabwa province. The operation aimed to expel the militants of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula from smaller towns and villages in the two provinces that escaped a previous sweep in 2012.
A Jerusalem court ordered Sunday that a Palestinian American teenager, who was allegedly beaten in police custody, be released to house arrest for nine days pending an investigation into stone-throwing allegations. Tariq Abu Khder, 15, who holds US citizenship and lives in Florida, is a cousin of Mohammed Abu Khder, a 16-year-old Palestinian whose kidnap and murder by suspected Jewish extremists on Wednesday sparked four straight days of riots. "He was given nine days house arrest in Beit Hanina for the duration of the investigation," police spokeswoman Luba Samri said, following a hearing at Jerusalem Magistrates Court, referring to a neighbourhood of annexed Arab east Jerusalem.
Syrian warplanes bombed gunmen inside Lebanese territory on Sunday on the border between the two countries, Lebanon's official National News Agency reported. The town of Arsal and the area around it are largely Sunni Muslim, and residents sympathise with the Sunni-led uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In April, Syrian forces backed by allied fighters from the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah retook control of most of the Qalamun region, just across the border from Arsal.
Kenya's main opposition party is gearing up for a mass rally on Monday in a major challenge to the country's year-old government amid mounting security woes and fears of renewed ethnic violence. Opposition leader and former prime minister Raila Odinga plans an anti-government rally on July 7 in central Nairobi, the anniversary of protests for multi-party democracy in the 1990s, a date heavy with symbolism and known commonly as "Saba-Saba" , or "Seven-Seven" in Swahili. Attacks last month on the coastal Mpeketoni district left at least 60 dead and were claimed by Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents, but President Uhuru Kenyatta blamed "well-planned, orchestrated and politically motivated ethnic violence" carried out by "local political networks." Odinga, 69, says he is organising the rallies to address major government failures, including worsening crime and insecurity, rising living costs, impunity, corruption and allegations of ethnic favouritism in government appointments.
With one in five people unemployed and pensioners outnumbering those in work, Serbia is struggling with a record budget deficit and could sink into bankruptcy. Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic has pledged reforms, including cuts in the bloated public sector, but analysts warn concrete measures have yet to be taken and financial markets could punish Serbia for its failure to act. The Balkan state is expected to post a record budget deficit of 8.0 percent this year, with growth forecast to reach 1.0 percent. Vucic, who was elected earlier this year on a promise to overhaul Serbia's ailing economy, said his cabinet was now ready to push through painful reforms that include increased taxes, as well as fresh cuts in the public sector and to generous subsidies.
A foreign tourist was shot and seriously wounded while touring a historical site in Kenya's port city of Mombasa on Sunday, police said. "She has been rushed to hospital and an investigation and search for the attackers launched," Mombasa's deputy divisional police chief Tom Okoth said. Mombasa has been the scene of worsening unrest in recent months with a string of shootings and bombings blamed on Somalia's Shebab rebels or local supporters. Last month the Shebab, which has carried out a number of attacks on Kenyan soil in retaliation for Kenya's military intervention in Somalia, warned foreign tourists to stay out of Kenya.
Switzerland has one-upped its European Union neighbours with a free trade deal with China that its politicians and business sector say is crucial to boosting ties with the world's second-largest economy. The free trade agreement (FTA), in force since Tuesday, is China's first with a mainland European country and was sealed in 2013 after two years of talks. "We look to the huge Chinese market, but on the other side, China will find in Switzerland partners on a top technology level and a top innovation level," said Economy Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann, as he marked the start of the FTA with Chinese officials in Basel. The deal will cut red tape and tariffs on Swiss farm and industrial exports to China, giving them access to the country's 1.4 billion increasingly wealthy consumers.
France is expected to scrap a planned hike in the tax levied on hotel stays after an outcry by the tourist industry, the Journal de Dimanche newspaper reported Sunday. The report follows criticism from Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who told RTL radio on Saturday that the proposed tax increase was "much too high". Hoteliers and tourist chiefs have been up in arms over the measure, which would have seen the hotel tax go from a current 1.50 euros ($2) to up to eight euros -- and 10 euros in Paris. They said it would deal a blow to the tourist industry in France, which is the most visited country in the world.
The first appearance of self-proclaimed "caliph" Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a video shot in an Iraqi mosque illustrates the extent of his jihadist group's control and confidence, experts say. Baghdadi, whose Islamic State (IS) group holds territory in both Iraq and Syria, called for Muslims to "obey" him during the prayer sermon at the Al-Nur mosque in Mosul on Friday, according to the video distributed online the following day. "Put simply, one of the most wanted men on earth was able to travel into central Mosul and give a 30-minute sermon in the most venerated mosque in the largest city under control of the most notorious jihadist group of our time," said Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center. "The fact that Baghdadi has appeared publicly at all in such a central location underlines the extent of confidence felt within his organisation."
At least 18 people have been killed in new attacks in Kenya's Lamu coastal region, the same area where some 60 people were massacred last month, the Kenyan Red Cross said Sunday. A spokesman for Somalia's Shebab rebels claimed that the Al-Qaeda-linked group's fighters had carried out another attack in the area. The Red Cross said nine people died and one person was missing in the locality of Gamba in Tana River county, while nine people were killed in Hindi, a trading post in Lamu county. We are calling on the public to work closely with us," said Robert Kitur, a senior Lamu police official.
Dozens of people have been killed in weekend clashes in northern Yemen between the army, allied tribes and Shiite Huthi rebels, military and tribal sources said Sunday. The Huthis -- also known as Ansarullah -- have advanced from their mountain strongholds towards Sanaa in a suspected attempt to expand their sphere of influence as Yemen is reorganised into six regions. The clashes intensified on Saturday in the western neighbourhoods of Amran city, as well as eastern and southern outskirts, and Yemeni fighter jets bombed rebel positions around the city, various sources said. A medical official in Amran said "at least 40 people were killed" in the western neighbourhoods of the city.