When outgoing Afghan leader Hamid Karzai moves out of the presidential palace post-elections to take up residence next door, he will be relinquishing power but not influence, as he seeks an active public role in his "retirement" years. Karzai is due to step down in the coming weeks after Saturday's run-off election, paving the way for Afghanistan's first democratic transfer of power. The elections are meant to signal a fresh start for Afghanistan after the 13-year rule of Karzai dominated by the US-led military intervention that followed the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Karzai's relations with the US have collapsed, his regime is accused of massive corruption, and the country is still beset by the Taliban insurgency as NATO troops pull out and aid money declines.
Iran's president begins a landmark trip to Turkey on Monday as the two countries try to build trade ties despite an often fraught competition for regional influence and deep differences over the Syrian war. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will meet his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, where the powerful neighbours are expected to discuss security concerns as well as trade opportunities. Iran, a Shia theocracy, is the chief backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Sunni-majority Turkey has moved from trying to encourage reform in Syria to overtly supporting the armed opposition.
Representatives from Iran and the United States meet in Geneva Monday for their first full-scale official talks in decades aimed at bridging the gaps in negotiations for a deal on Tehran's disputed nuclear programme. Abbas Araqchi, a vice foreign minister who will lead the Iranian delegation, said Sunday that the tete-a-tete with US officials was essential as the negotiations are delicately poised. The P5+1 group of permanent members of the Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany have long sought to reach a settlement over Iran's nuclear programme. The announcement on Saturday of the US-Iran meetings in Geneva came as a surprise, but appeared to confirm the need for secondary steps to close big gaps between Tehran and Washington's positions.
David Cameron will on Monday meet with cabinet ministers to discuss Ofsted's report into the Birmingham schools where hardline Muslims allegedly tried to take control of the governing boards. According to reports, the education watchdog is to downgrade Park View Academy amid claims of a "Trojan Horse" plot. The allegations are based on a letter purported to have been sent by Islamists in Birmingham, explaining how to infiltrate the city's schools, although the authenticity of the letter has been questioned. In a statement released by Downing Street, Cameron said he would meet with cabinet ministers and that the government was looking into the possibility of inspecting schools with no prior notice.
Heavily armed militants attacked Pakistan's busiest airport in the southern city of Karachi Sunday night, killing at least six people as flights were suspended and the army was called in, officials said. Some six militants were also killed in the assault as gunfire, which continued overnight, and two huge blasts rocked the Jinnah International airport. Army spokesman Asim Saleem Bajwa said in a statement: "All passengers in planes have been evacuated and three terrorists killed." The attackers appeared to have entered from at least two sides of the airport;
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma left hospital late Sunday, the day after he was admitted for routine tests following a bout of exhaustion, this office said. "President Jacob Zuma has been discharged from hospital this evening," his office announced in a statement late Sunday. The 72-year-old leader checked into hospital on Saturday after officials from his party had asked him on Friday to take a break because "the punishing election programme was taking its toll, not on him only, (but) on many of us," ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe had earlier said. Following the discharge from hospital, Zuma will "continue to rest for a few days and will work mainly from home during the rest period," said Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe in the statement.
Kurdish rebels in Turkey's southeast are ramping up attacks in a bid to pressure Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to speed up reforms ahead of presidential elections, analysts say. A recent spate of ambushes, kidnappings and roadblocks by Kurdish militants threatens to further erode the fraught relationship between Ankara and the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) ahead of Turkey's first direct presidential election in August. The PKK declared a ceasefire in March 2013, but peace talks stalled in September after the rebels said they were suspending their retreat from Turkish soil, accusing the government of failing to deliver on promised reforms. The upsurge in violence in the southeast is seen as a sign that the PKK -- blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Ankara and much of the international community -- is raising the stakes in order to secure greater concessions.
China's foreign minister is expected to meet newly elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday as the nuclear-armed rival giants attempt to reset decades of tense relations. Foreign Minister Wang Yi is set to call on Modi as part of a two-day visit to New Delhi to build relations with the new right-wing government that swept to power last month on a pledge to revive the economy. Wang held talks with his Indian counterpart on Sunday in the first high-level meeting between the two countries since Modi took office. India described those talks as a "productive and substantive" step towards stronger relations between the neighbours whose ties have long been frosty over a border dispute in the Himalayas.
Quetta (Pakistan) (AFP) - At least 23 people including several Shiite pilgrims were killed in a gun and suicide attack on the restive Pakistan-Iran border late Sunday night, Pakistani officials said, in the latest assault on the beleaguered minority sect. The attack came when a bus carrying Pakistani pilgrims returning from a visit to holy Muslim sites in Iran stopped at a restaurant in the Pakistani town of Taftan in Baluchistan province, around 700 kilometres (430 miles) southwest of the provincial capital Quetta. Akbar Durrani, the provincial home secretary said: "Twenty-three pilgrims were killed in the suicide attack in Taftan. Addressing a press conference, Durrani said four suicide bombers attacked two restaurants full of pilgrims.
Heavily armed militants attacked Pakistan's busiest airport in the southern city of Karachi Sunday night, forcing the suspension of all flights as the army was called in to repel the gunmen, officials said. Army spokesman Colonel Nayer said that troops had been deployed from the Malir cantonment near their airport. A spokesman for Airport Security Force (ASF) told AFP: "Four to five terrorists have managed to reach the runway, they are heavily armed with ammunition and grenades and ASF commandos have cordoned off the area along with police and rangers. The spokesman said the gunmen had entered the airport by cutting through a barbed-wire fence at the airport's old terminal which is no longer used for passengers but instead has offices, workshops and hangars.
Bangui (Central African Republic) (AFP) - The Central African government collected several hundred weapons in a disarmament drive on Sunday but admitted it was a modest amount after months of rampant arms proliferation in the crisis-hit country. The voluntary disarmament day called by Prime Minister Andre Nzapayeke was focused on eight districts in the capital Bangui and two neighbouring areas. In the PK-5 districts, the last hold-out for the capital's Muslims after months of sectarian attacks, French and African peacekeepers collected 69 grenades, 13 bows, 62 arrows, 15 guns and some 200 munitions from around 192 individuals.
Secretary of State John Kerry defended Sunday the prisoner swap that freed US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, said to have been sometimes kept in a metal cage and in total darkness while in captivity. Kerry doubled down on President Barack Obama's controversial decision to release five Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo Bay a week ago in exchange for the freedom of Bergdahl, who the top US diplomat said was at risk of being tortured by his captors.
Heavily armed militants attacked Pakistan's busiest airport in the southern city of Karachi Sunday night, killing at least five people as flights were suspended and the army was called in, officials said. The assault on Jinnah International Airport has raised fears about the possibility of a prolonged siege similar to other brazen attacks on key installations in recent years. A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, Abid Qaimkhani told AFP: "Four to five terrorists have managed to reach the runway, they are heavily armed with ammunition and grenades and Airport Security Force commandos have cordoned off the area along with police and rangers. A paramilitary ranger engaged in the operation said the militants had entered through the Engineering Section of the Pakistan International Airlines near the airport's old terminal.