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.
Turkey's embattled prime minister lashed out at international media on Tuesday, accusing news outlets of stirring unrest during the one-year anniversary of mass anti-government protests. Recep Tayyip Erdogan singled out CNN International, whose reporter was arrested live on air last Saturday while covering street clashes, accusing the network of spying. "International media organisations who came to Istanbul for provocative and exaggerated broadcasts were left empty-handed," Erdogan told members of his ruling AKP party in an apparent reference to the incident. On Saturday, police violently dispersed demonstrators in Istanbul and Ankara as they marked a year since the start of nationwide protests denouncing Erdogan's authoritarian rule.
WARSAW (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Tuesday defended his administration's operation to rescue Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity, saying the United States was committed to freeing its prisoners of war regardless of how they were captured. Obama acknowledged that the Taliban fighters who were freed from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for Bergdahl could engage in efforts that were detrimental to U.S. security again. He said he was confident the United States could go after those individuals if that were the case. ...
US President Barack Obama told European allies Tuesday they had a responsibility to boost defence spending in return for US protection amid new instability in Europe. "We have seen a steady decline, that has to change," Obama said, bemoaning cuts in military spending across Europe in an age of economic austerity. Obama said that with a few exceptions, including Poland, European nations had not been pulling their weight in the alliance -- a fact that was exposed by the East-West showdown over Ukraine.
Human Rights Watch has reacted angrily to Rwandan allegations of bias in its reporting on the central African nation, saying it has been "misrepresented" and its staff "disparaged". The statement from the group, released overnight on Monday, came after Rwanda's justice ministry accused the rights organisation of colluding with terrorists and signalled it may no longer be allowed to work in the country. "Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned that the Rwandan Ministry of Justice has grossly misrepresented the work of Human Rights Watch and disparaged its staff," the group said in a statement. "Human Rights Watch has worked on Rwanda for more than 20 years, since before the 1994 genocide, documenting abuses against Rwandans and defending the human rights of all, regardless of their political or other affiliation," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.