Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah assured European diplomats Tuesday that his new unity government would respect past agreements with Israel, after chairing the cabinet's first meeting. The new 17-member cabinet was sworn in on Monday before president Mahmud Abbas, in line with a surprise reconciliation deal reached in April between Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas and the PLO, which dominates the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority. "Hamdallah stressed that the government is committed to all international agreements signed by the Palestine Liberation Organisation... international political initiatives and peaceful solutions," his office said. Hamdallah was briefing EU representatives to the Palestinian territories on his new government, telling them also that his cabinet would focus on service provision and resolving pressing water issues in the Gaza Strip.
The United States and Tunisia on Tuesday signed a $500 million loan guarantee agreement that will help Tunis raise money at affordable rates from commercial capital markets. The US Treasury said that the guarantee is aimed at helping the country rebuild its economy in the wake of the 2011 popular uprising that overthrew dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. "The loan guarantee agreement is designed to support Tunisia as it pursues important reforms that will provide the foundation for economic growth and prosperity," the Treasury said. It was the second US loan guarantee for the North African country.
Ex-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi won 96.9 percent of votes in Egypt's presidential election, the electoral commission announced Tuesday, almost a year after he overthrew elected Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi. Turnout in last week's election, hastily extended to three days amid fears of low turnout, was 47.45 percent, said commission chief Anwar Rashad al-Asi. Sisi's lopsided victory had been certain, with many lauding the retired field marshal as a hero for ending Morsi's divisive rule in July. Yet the lower-than-expected turnout -- Sisi himself had urged more voters to come out -- signalled a wide segment of the population was apathetic or boycotted the election.
President Barack Obama's choice of Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be the next U.S. health secretary will be debated in the Senate this week with votes expected on Wednesday and Thursday, according to a Senate Democratic aide. On Wednesday, the Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote on whether to limit debate on Burwell, who would replace outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. If a majority of the 100-member Senate votes to limit debate, a final vote on Burwell's confirmation likely would come on Thursday.
Brasília (AFP) - Activists angry over Brazil's spending on the World Cup inflated 12 giant footballs in front of Congress Tuesday, the latest protest in the build-up to the June 12 kick-off match. One, painted with the Brazilian flag, was slowly deflating -- a symbol of the deflating performance of Brazil's government, said protest organizer Antonio Carlos Costa. Brazil has been hit by a wave of protests and strikes ahead of the World Cup and a presidential election in October.
France, trying to minimise US penalties against BNP Paribas on charges of breaking sanctions, said on Tuesday that a reported $10 billion fine was excessive and warned it could damage trans-Atlantic trade talks. The remarks from French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius ramp up French concern at the size, manner and likely effects of the expected fine that could be imposed on the French bank. The New York Times newspaper reported that the governor of the Bank of France, Christian Noyer, had visited top US officials on the case in New York last week to warn that such a fine, equivalent to 7.4 billion euros ($10.1 billion), could have grave effects on the financial system. President Francois Hollande has also recently raised concerns about a plea deal with the White House, the paper wrote.
Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) (AFP) - The United States on Tuesday shut its airforce base in Kyrgyzstan that had been the main transit hub for troops going to Afghanistan, a move expected to boost Russia's influence in Central Asia. Washington was forced to shut the Manas Transit Centre north of Bishkek after Kyrgyzstan, an ex-Soviet country seeking closer ties with Moscow, refused to extend its lease last year. US ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Pamela Spratlen said all military personnel would leave the base in a week.
(Reuters) - The U.S. Army will not ignore any misconduct by released Taliban detainee Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, but he should be considered innocent until proven guilty, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said. "The questions about this particular soldier's conduct are separate from our effort to recover ANY U.S. service member in enemy captivity," General Martin Dempsey said in a posting on his Facebook page on Tuesday. "Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty," Dempsey said. On Monday, Republican members of the U.S. Congress said President Barack Obama had set a dangerous precedent with the prisoner swap and might have broken the law.
Inflation in the eurozone slowed last month to financial crisis levels, putting extra pressure on the ECB to act to fight a growing threat of deflation, data showed on Tuesday. Eurozone inflation fell to 0.5 percent in May, the same level as in March and erasing a bump to 0.7 percent in April. Inflation in the 18-nation eurozone has fallen steadily in the past year, reflecting weak demand and strength of the euro, and has raised expectations that the European Central Bank will cut interest rates at a policy meeting on Thursday. Inflation is way below the ECB's target of just under 2.0 percent and shows little sign of picking up any time soon.