President Barack Obama expressed deep frustration on Tuesday at the inability by Washington to enact even modest gun control measures, in the aftermath of a rash of shootings around the United States. This is becoming the norm and we take it for granted in ways that as a parent are terrifying to me," Obama said in answer to a question at a White House online event sponsored by Tumblr. Obama spent the early part of 2013 trying to persuade Congress to approve legislation to approve legislation after a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children were killed. The move would have imposed some restrictions on gun ownership but the effort failed amid pressure from the National Rifle Association lobby.
US diplomat Jen Psaki hit back Tuesday at Russia's "propaganda machine," accusing it of being behind a series of Internet slurs mocking her for stumbling over her words. As spokeswoman for Secretary of State John Kerry, Psaki runs the gauntlet of the world's media in her daily briefings, when she is quizzed on US foreign policy in the full glare of the cameras. The attacks have been led by the Russian state-run television network RT, whose reporters have had a couple of run-ins with Psaki during the briefings, which put together a slide show called: "Jen Psaki's most embarrassing fails." But Psaki hit back Tuesday, saying the attacks on her were "sexist" and adding "many people know that there are efforts by the Kremlin and the propaganda machine to discredit a range of officials, including recently myself, as silly as that is, because the United States supports a strong, democratic Ukraine."
Iran's oil output could reach 4.0 million barrels per day in "less than three months" if Western sanctions are lifted over its nuclear energy programme, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said Tuesday. "After lifting the sanctions, (in) less than three months we can produce four" million barrels of oil per day, Zanganeh told reporters upon his arrival in Vienna on the eve of an OPEC output meeting. That compares with Iran's current production of approximately 2.7 million bpd, according to OPEC data which cites secondary sources. Zanganeh added Tuesday that the nation's oil exports currently stand at 1.5 million bpd.
US President Barack Obama Tuesday called for national "soul searching" over gun violence, warning that mass shootings were "off the charts" in a way no other advanced country would tolerate. Obama vented frustration and disbelief that there was no momentum for gun reform in the wake of a new spate of mass shootings, in impassioned remarks likely to touch off a new row with the powerful firearms lobby. "We are the only developed country on earth where this happens, and it happens now once a week," Obama said at the White House, hours after a gunman shot and killed a student at an Oregon High School in the latest shooting incident. Obama said the "biggest frustration" of his presidency so far was that Washington had not even taken "basic steps" to keep guns out of the hands of people that can do "unbelievable damage."
Russia and Ukraine resumed talks in Brussels on Tuesday to end a bitter gas price dispute and build on a tentative push by Kiev's new president towards peace after months of conflict. Ukraine's new Western-backed president Tuesday ordered the creation of humanitarian corridors in the separatist east that could save civilians and advance his plan to end nearly two months of fighting by the end of the week. Petro Poroshenko's initiative meets a major demand put forward by Moscow and helps address growing concern among rights groups about Kiev's use of firepower in heavily populated areas to suppress the pro-Russian insurgency.
The Kuwaiti opposition on Tuesday declared "war" against rife corruption, alleging that tens of billions of dollars of public funds have been stolen by former senior officials. "The real open war will start after the end of this rally and we will announce its end after we achieve victory against forces of corruption," prominent opposition leader Mussallam al-Barrak told thousands of people at a public rally. Barrak, a former MP, also charged that a number of former senior officials have stolen around $50 billion and deposited them in foreign banks including an Israeli bank. To substantiate his claims, Barrak showed what he said were copies of their accounts and huge transfers to the rally through a large screen.
The United States called on Kiev's new leaders Tuesday to work with the United Nations and other aid groups as it seeks to allow civilians to flee eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met demands from Moscow and ordered the establishment of humanitarian corridors to provide safe passage out of the areas caught up in fighting. "Their goal here is to explore options to remove civilians from harm's way," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, adding Kiev's top priority was "the safety of its citizens." "We are encouraging them with this or any other related effort to work closely with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other international organizations to plan for any internally displaced persons," she added.
Washington on Tuesday slammed an "horrific" video of a woman being sexually assaulted in Cairo and urged the new government to stand by a vow to stamp out such attacks. The video "shocked and appalled us as much as it did the Egyptian people," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. "The prevalence of sexual assaults against Egyptian women is a cause of great concern, not just to the Egyptian people but to the United States and the international community," Psaki said.
President Barack Obama on Tuesday congratulated Israel's newly elected next president, the hawkish Reuven Rivlin, and poured praise on his friend, outgoing President Shimon Peres. "President-elect Rivlin has a long and dedicated record of public service and we look forward to continued strong ties, to the benefit of both our nations, under Mr. Rivlin's presidency," Obama said in a statement. The State Department sought to play down concerns, stressing that now stalled talks coordinated by the United States between the Palestinians and Israel were not within the purview of the Israeli president. "He has dedicated his extraordinary life to the cause of peace, and I look forward to welcoming him in Washington later this month where he will receive the Congressional Gold Medal."
Nigeria was on Tuesday ordered to pay nearly $70,000 (50,000 euros) in damages after at least one person was killed and 12 seriously injured during the military's forced eviction of a slum five years ago. The case relates to an incident on October 12, 2009, when families in the the southern city of Port Harcourt were forced out of their make-shift homes by the military. The 40 waterfront settlements in Port Harcourt are thought to be home to more than 200,000 people and tens of thousands have been forcibly evicted in recent years. But the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ruled there was no justification for the shootings and said Nigeria's government had breached its obligation to protect the right to peaceful assembly.
President Barack Obama Tuesday stressed the need for political freedoms in Egypt, as he spoke to the country's new president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who overthrew his freely elected predecessor and crushed his party. Obama spoke by telephone to Sisi, as the United States resumed its uncomfortable balancing act between retaining influence with Egypt, a key regional power, despite discomfort with a political regime that conflicts with its own values. Sisi "expressed appreciation" for the call and welcomed US support for his new government, following his swearing-in on Sunday, the statement said.
South Sudan's president and rebel chief met Tuesday in a bid to end six months of civil war, agreeing to forge a transitional government within a 60-day deadline, Ethiopia's prime minster said. "They agreed to complete the dialogue process within the coming 60 days on what how, when and who... (for) the formation of the transitional government," Ethiopia's Hailemariam Desalegn said, after the rare meeting between President Salva Kiir and rebel chief Riek Machar alongside regional leaders. Kiir and Machar met on the sidelines of a regional leaders' summit in Addis Ababa organised by the East African IGAD bloc, which is brokering the slow-moving negotiations.
International prosecutors said on Tuesday it is still possible to go after those responsible for war crimes in Syria despite Russian and Chinese efforts to block cases being referred to the International Criminal Court. "Just because we have had one veto in the (UN) Security Council should not stop any of us from moving forward and seeking justice for the people of Syria," said David Crane, the former international prosecutor who indicted Liberian president Charles Taylor. China and Russia last month vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution to refer Syria to the ICC for crimes committed by both sides in the three-year civil war. "All options are on the table," he insisted to an event on the sidelines of a UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva.