The United States on Friday flatly rejected a plan laid out by Thailand's junta chief to delay elections for more than a year to allow time for political reforms. "We know that they have announced a, quote, 'road map toward democracy,' but with scant details included," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. She insisted that Washington believed the best path forward was "to set a timeline for early elections and to facilitate an inclusive and transparent electoral process." Only after this could elections be held, he said.
The leader of South Sudan's rebels, former vice president Riek Machar, said Friday he was "committed to peace" and ready to resume peace talks next week in Ethiopia. Speaking after talks in Nairobi with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Machar also described the nearly six-month-old conflict in the world's youngest nation as "senseless war". And I want to assure you that we are serious about bringing peace to South Sudan," he said in a brief statement after the talks. "I want to assure you that we are serious in ending this senseless killing in South Sudan.
US President Barack Obama will meet Ukrainian president-elect Petro Poroshenko in Poland next week, during a European tour dedicated to shoring up regional security amid the worst East-West crisis in years. The meeting will come less than two weeks after the pro-European Poroshenko, a chocolate tycoon, was elected in the shadow of a showdown between Washington and Moscow over the fate of Ukraine that has brought relations to their lowest level since the Cold War. The meeting will take place in Warsaw, where Obama will pay a highly symbolic visit to attend celebrations of the 25th anniversary of Poland's first post-communist elections.
Hillary Clinton has given her most detailed account yet of the attacks in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, but said she will not join the "political slugfest" over the tragedy. In excerpts from her forthcoming memoir "Hard Choices," Clinton offered a blunt rebuttal to Republican lawmakers who have repeatedly accused her of bungling the response to the September 11, 2012 attack on the US mission and of misleading the American public. "Those who exploit this tragedy over and over as a political tool minimize the sacrifice of those who served our country," President Barack Obama's first secretary of state said in perhaps the book's most anticipated chapter, "Benghazi: Under Attack."
Blantyre (Malawi) (AFP) - Malawi's high court Friday refused to delay the release of results of the country's disputed presidential elections for a recount. "The law is clear, there is no extension," said high court judge Kenyatta Nyirenda. Riot police patrolled key areas of the commercial capital Blantyre as the court decision was announced after earlier demonstrations turned violent, leaving one protester dead. President Joyce Banda -- shown in early results last week to be running third -- had claimed the vote was marred by "serious irregularities" and declared it "null and void".
A Canadian was convicted Friday of trying to join Somalia's Shebab militants, marking the first time Ottawa has brought charges of attempting to participate in terrorist activity. Mohamed Hersi, 28, was arrested at Toronto's airport in March 2011 as he was about to leave for Cairo. Prosecutors, however, said Hersi was in fact traveling to his birth country of Somalia to join the Shebab. Hersi was also convicted of counseling another person to participate in a terrorist activity, after he provided advice to an undercover policeman in the case.
By Mark Felsenthal WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In naming Sloan Gibson as acting secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, President Barack Obama turned to a staunch defender of the agency who has a background in both the military and in the corporate world. Gibson, the son of a World War II Army Air Corps tail gunner and grandson of a World War I veteran, went to West Point before joining the elite Army Rangers. He joined the VA only three months ago as deputy secretary. At a ribbon-cutting ceremony in April for a VA trauma center in Tampa, Florida, Gibson praised the "cutting-edge medical care" at the center and touted the dedication of VA employees.
The US Coast Guard said Friday it has repatriated 16 Cubans picked up in rickety boats off Florida's Key West island. "There is a legal way to seek entry into the United States," said Commander Timothy Cronin, Coast Guard Seventh District deputy chief of enforcement. "For those that choose to take to the sea and attempt to illegally enter, know that the Coast Guard continues to diligently patrol the seas to deter and disrupt illegal migration and save lives," he added in a statement.
An exiled leader of the Tiananmen Square protests deplored Friday the US stance 25 years ago, saying the ambassador confided to her that Washington didn't "care" about the crackdown. Chai Ling, who was commander-in-chief of the students agitating for democracy in Beijing, said that she had hoped the United States would intervene as Chinese troops crushed the uprising on the night of June 3-4, 1989. "We stood at Tiananmen Square until 6:00 am in the morning. We were hoping Americans would come to help us, and America never came," Chai told a congressional hearing ahead of the 25th anniversary of the uprising.
An American citizen fighting for a hardline Islamist group carried out a deadly suicide bombing in Syria, US officials confirmed Friday, in the first such case in the war. The State Department did not identify the man, said to have been behind a truck bombing on Sunday in the northern province of Idlib, but acknowledged concerns about the flow of foreign fighters into Syria. "I can confirm that this individual was a US citizen involved in a suicide bombing in Syria.
Two Malian aid workers were killed when their vehicle drove over a landmine in restive north-west Mali, officials told AFP Friday. "Two Malian humanitarian workers, who were on board a UNHCR vehicle, were killed when their vehicle blew up Thursday on a landmine in the north-west of Mali," an official from the governorate of Timbuktu told AFP. The blast took place near Goundam, about 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Timbuktu, said local police officer Nouhoum Diabate. "I saw two bodies blown to smithereens," he said, adding that the two aid workers were employees of the Norwegian Refugee Council.
Thousands rallied Friday in Libya's two main cities to a rogue general who has been pressing an offensive against jihadist militias in the east of the country for two weeks. The crowds chanted slogans criticising new Prime Minister Ahmed Miitig, whose cabinet is already mired in a political standoff with its predecessor. Khalifa Haftar, head of the so-called National Army, launched his assault on Islamist militias in the eastern city of Benghazi on May 16, and has won the support of units from the regular army and air force, as well as some militias who fought to oust dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011. In Benghazi, hundreds of people gathered outside the Tibesti Hotel, where they chanted slogans in support of Haftar's offensive and against terrorism.
The International Monetary Fund released $4.6 billion in aid to Greece Friday, after a yearlong delay to ensure Athens was meeting targets set by bailout lenders. The Fund said the Greek government had surpassed targets on closing its budget gap, but warned of a number of challenges still facing the country in fully stabilizing its finances and returning to sustainable growth. "The Greek authorities have made significant progress in consolidating the fiscal position and rebalancing the economy," said Naoyuki Shinohara, IMF deputy managing director.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged young Turks on Friday to ignore a call to mark the anniversary of last-year's Taksim Square protests that mushroomed into a revolt against his rule. Turkish police were already mobilising to face down marches announced for Saturday as opposition sympathisers mourned the death of a 64-year-old Turkish woman who had fallen into a coma during a crackdown on protesters in December. "One year later, people, including so-called artists, are calling for demonstrations, but you, Turkey's youth, you will not respond to the call," Erdogan told a crowd of a thousand young people in Istanbul. Despite a government ban on gatherings at Taksim Square, a symbolic rallying point, activists have called for a demonstration there to mark the one-year anniversary of the unrest, which left eight people dead and thousands wounded when police cracked down on peaceful protesters.