Iran's chief negotiator said Sunday that direct talks agreed between Tehran and Washington are essential, as discussions on his country's disputed nuclear programme are entering a "serious phase". The two countries will hold their first full-scale bilateral talks in decades on Monday and Tuesday, an unprecedented move toward securing a comprehensive nuclear deal between Iran and the West. Iranian officials will then hold discussions with Russia in Rome on Wednesday and Thursday. The Iranian foreign ministry said it was "working to arrange" other bilateral meetings with members of the P5+1 group -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the US and Germany -- before the powers meet in Vienna from June 16-20.
Ex-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who was sworn in Sunday as Egypt's president, may have donned civilian clothes but his crackdown on opponents has raised fears he could herald a return to autocracy. Sisi was chosen as president in a May 26-28 election with 96.91 percent of the vote, nearly a year after toppling the country's first freely elected leader, Islamist Mohamed Morsi. The 59-year-old became Egypt's most popular political figure and de facto head of state after leading the July 3 ouster of Morsi following massive rallies demanding the Islamist's resignation. Such remarks have sparked concern of a return to autocracy worse than under Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted by a popular uprising in early 2011.
Five leading Afghan militants freed from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for a US soldier have pledged to honour an agreement between the Taliban and Qatar, which is hosting them. The men, officials in the Taliban regime driven from power by the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, were released on May 31 and flown to Qatar in exchange for US army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. Their release provoked criticism from some US politicians, who said they could pose a threat to Americans abroad, and anger from Afghans opposed to the Taliban. But in a statement posted on their Pashto-language website on Friday, the men said they would remain faithful to an agreement with Qatar, which mediated their release.
Thousands of soldiers and police were deployed across Bangkok on Sunday, an official said, as anti-coup protesters vowed to stage flashmob rallies in several locations in defiance of an army edict banning political assemblies. "We have deployed more than 6,500 soldiers and police at several key places believed to be the areas for protest this afternoon," said deputy national police chief Somyot Poompanmoung. Political assemblies of more than five people were banned under martial law declared by Army Chief Prayut two days before he seized power in a coup three weeks ago.
Pristina (Undefined) (AFP) - Kosovo voted Sunday in snap polls seen as a key test for the country's EU ambitions and for Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, an ex-guerrilla chief who has dominated politics since independence six years ago. Polling stations opened at 7.00am local time (0500 GMT) throughout Kosovo, with all eyes on the turnout from the Serb minority in the north, voting for the first time since Kosovo broke away from Serbia. A high turnout from the 120,000-strong Serb community would be seen as a boost to Thaci's dream of joining the 28-nation European Union, after last year's historic agreement on improving Kosovo's ties with Belgrade.
A minister from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling party has said rapes happen "accidentally" in the latest controversial remarks by a politician amid renewed anger over attacks against women. These kind of incidents happen accidentally," Paikra, of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which also rules at the national level, told reporters. Paikra, who was asked for his thoughts on the gang-rape and lynching of two girls in a neighbouring state, later said he had been misquoted. The minister, Babulal Gaur, gave the remarks on Thursday at a time of growing outrage over the gang-rape and murder of the girls, aged 12 and 14, in northern Uttar Pradesh state late last month.
Ex-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is to be sworn in Sunday as Egypt's new president, confirming the de facto status of head of state which he has already held for nearly a year. Sisi will take his oath of office at the Constitutional Court, which police and soldiers have placed under heavy guard ahead of the ceremony at 0730 GMT. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, Arab royals from the Gulf and African leaders will later attend a reception at Cairo's Ittihadiya presidential palace. Sisi won the May 26-28 polls with 96.9 percent of the vote, in a crushing defeat for his only rival, leftist leader Hamdeen Sabbahi, who walked away with only three percent of the vote.
China's foreign minister began a two-day visit to India on Sunday for the first high-level talks between the world's two most populous nations since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge. Wang Yi arrived in New Delhi as a special envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping to "establish contact with the new government of India", the Indian foreign ministry said. Despite his hardline nationalist reputation, Modi has been making overtures to traditional rivals China and Pakistan since his Bharatiya Janata Party swept to power last month. Foreign policy expert Ranjit Gupta told AFP the visit was a "good augury".