The head of French bank BNP Paribas met with top US officials last week seeking lower penalties for violating US sanctions laws, a person familiar with the matter said Monday. US prosectors have told BNP Paribas they want France's largest publicly traded bank to plead guilty to charges it did business with sanctioned parties in Iran, Sudan and elsewhere; BNP chief executive Jean-Laurent Bonnafe expressed grave concerns to regulators and prosecutors about lodging a guilty plea, in part because it could endanger the bank's license for operating in the US, according to the source, who confirmed key elements of a story in The New York Times. Bonnafe offered to plead guilty on behalf of the bank's BNP Paribas USA subsidiary, but US regulators rejected that proposal, the person added.
Despite President Barack Obama's renewed push to tackle climate change, many American politicians see a tougher stance against anti-pollution standards as a vote-winner in the race to replace him. Even as confirmed that he thinks he is ready to run, Republican presidential hopeful Senator Marco Rubio rejected the scientific consensus that human activity is the main cause of climate change. Republican lawmakers say Obama is using the threat of rising sea levels, stronger storms and increased wildfires as excuses to implement restrictions that would harm the American economy. With a sharply divided Congress unlikely to take up climate change legislation this year, Obama is forging ahead with steps on his own, such as tightening emissions standards for power plants.
Uruguay's President Jose Mujica warned US President Barack Obama on Monday of the mass \"murder\" of smokers across the world, highlighting his nation's legal battle to preserve tough anti-tobacco laws. Mujica met Obama in the Oval Office for talks focusing on wider US-Uruguayan relations and issues including education, trade and economic issues. But he made a point of bringing up Uruguay's tough restrictions on smoking, which have led to it being sued for $25 million by US tobacco giant Philip Morris at the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Mujica told Obama, a reformed smoker, that eight million people a year were dying from tobacco-related illnesses, as the two leaders held a photo-op in the Oval Office.
US experts assisting the search for the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls are closely examining a new video for clues to their whereabouts, American officials said Monday. \"Our intelligence experts are combing through every detail of the video for clues that might help ongoing efforts to secure the release of the girls,\" State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. \"We have no reason to question its authenticity,\" she added after AFP obtained a new video said to be of about 130 of the girls kidnapped last month by the Islamic militant Boko Haram group. In the video, the group's leader Abubakar Shekau said the girls may be released once Nigeria frees all the Boko Haram prisoners it has in custody.
Cyprus confirmed on Monday that US Vice President Joe Biden will arrive on the divided island later this month to help push forward the UN-sponsored peace process. Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides told state radio that Biden has accepted an invitation from President Nicos Anastasiades and that preparations were being made for the visit. He said the exact dates of the trip will be discussed on Tuesday in Washington between US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Cypriot counterpart Ioannis Kasoulides. The official Cyprus News Agency said he will encourage confidence-building measures such as allowing experts to enter the Turkish-controlled ghost town of Varosha to prepare a master plan for its revival.
A drone strike killed six Al-Qaeda suspects in Yemen's east Monday, the first such raid since government troops launched their biggest offensive on the jihadists in two years, tribesmen said. In the capital Sanaa, the US embassy announced the mission \"will remain closed for consular services through May 15,\" adding that it could remain shut for even longer depending on the situation. The pilotless aircraft deployed over eastern Yemen on Monday targeted a vehicle near Al-Husun, a village in Marib province, killing at least six \"Al-Qaeda members\", tribal sources told AFP. The United States is the only country operating drones over Yemen, but US officials rarely acknowledge the covert programme.