Blantyre (Malawi) (AFP) - Malawi, traditionally dependent on Western aid donors, will look for "new friends" in countries such as China and Russia, newly elected President Peter Mutharika said at his inauguration Monday. The ceremony at a stadium in the commercial capital Blantyre was boycotted by outgoing president Joyce Banda, who was soundly beaten by Mutharika in disputed elections held on May 20. Mutharika, who takes power in one of the world's poorest countries where 40 percent of the budget comes from aid, said the donor nations were "welcome to stay here". Foreign policy would be based on what is best for Malawi, he said.
US political and military officials warmly welcomed Bowe Bergdahl's release in Afghanistan, but questions about the circumstances of his kidnapping are becoming more insistent, with some soldiers accusing him of desertion. From the White House to the Pentagon, officials have celebrated the recovery of the 28-year-old army sergeant from his Taliban captors, repeatedly citing the promise never to leave a soldier behind. Some fellow soldiers, including members of Bergdahl's unit, have accused him of abandoning his post, and perhaps even deserting in a bid to flee to India. He is safe, and now it is time to speak the truth," Nathan Bradley Bethea wrote in the Daily Beast.
By Bill Cotterell TALLAHASSEE Fla. (Reuters) - Florida Governor Rick Scott used his veto pen sparingly on Monday, signing a record $77 billion state budget that balanced spending on programs favored by his Republican supporters in the state legislature against the concerns of fiscally conservative voters. In announcing his fiscal decisions, Scott emphasized the budget's tax cuts and increases in state education support. Democrats still called it a "pork-filled" election-year budget, pointing out that, although the bottom line for education is higher, the per-pupil state spending is $177 below its level of 2007-08, the first budget year of ex-Governor Charlie Crist, a former Republican now running against Scott as a Democrat. Vetoes included items such as a $2 million seawall intended for Cocoa Beach, or $3.25 million earmarked for a Stetson University science center. By contrast, he vetoed $368 million in budget items last year and $142 million the year before.
The head of Colombia's FARC rebels, long believed to fund guerrilla activities via the drug trade, said Monday that he opposes the trade as "counter-revolutionary." Timoleon Jimenez, known by his nom de guerre "Timochenko," said in an interview posted on the Internet that the FARC is opposed at its core to drug trafficking, "because it has killed many of our colleagues." Jimenez, chief commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, added in the interview that drug trafficking "has slowed development and has done a lot of harm," particularly in terms of "large number of youths" lost to the drug trade.
Spain's Prince Felipe faces an uphill battle to revive the monarchy's popularity when he takes the throne of a nation battered by economic hardships that have shattered faith in political elites, analysts say. King Juan Carlos, 76, announced Monday that he will hand over the crown to his more popular son Felipe, 46, saying he wanted to hand over to "a younger generation" after several turbulent years in Spain. The king is credited with smoothing Spain's transition to democracy after the death of long-time dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975 and was widely respected for most of his nearly four decades on the throne. But anger over a secret luxury elephant-hunting trip to Botswana in 2012, when one in four Spaniards was out of work, and a corruption scandal centred on his youngest daughter Princess Cristina and her husband Inaki Urdangarin, hurt his standing.
Brasília (AFP) - Brazil's foreign minister denied Monday that fugitive US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden had applied to the Brazilian government for asylum. Snowden, who is currently in Russia on temporary asylum that expires in August, told Brazil's Globo TV in an interview aired Sunday that he "would love to live in Brazil" and had formally applied for asylum there.
US officials said Monday that more than 77,000 banks and other financial institutions worldwide have joined its fight against tax evasion. That many institutions in nearly 70 countries have registered to work under the rules of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which will be implemented beginning on July 1. The law demands that the foreign banks, investment houses and others provide information to US authorities on accounts held by US citizens and firms. If they do not do so, the US Treasury says it could institute a 30 percent withholding tax on payments made from the United States to the financial institution, essentially a stiff tax on its US business.
By Richard Cowan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama established an interagency group on Monday to handle the growing influx of children coming to the United States illegally without parents or relatives accompanying them. In a memo that describes an "urgent humanitarian situation," Obama has put the Federal Emergency Management Agency in charge of coordinating humanitarian relief to the children, including housing, care, medical treatment and transportation. The Obama administration estimates that about 60,000 "unaccompanied minors" - children under 18 - will enter the United States illegally this year. Many of the children are from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, and are fleeing domestic abuse or violent gangs that prey on children as young as 12, White House officials said.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki finally acknowledged that Daniel Wani is a US citizen after he waived his right to privacy, and said he was receiving help from the US embassy in Khartoum. His wife, Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, who is a Christian like her husband, was sentenced to death on May 15 under the Islamic sharia law that has been in place since 1983 and outlaws conversions under pain of death. But Psaki said the State Department did not yet have all the information needed to confer US citizenship on the two infants. "To transmit US citizenship to a child born abroad, there must be, among other requirements, a biological relationship between the child and a US citizen parent or parents," Psaki told reporters, quoting from the US immigration and nationality act.
Activists began reading the names of 100,000 people killed in Syria outside UN headquarters on Monday, in a modest launch of what they hope will be a global protest. A dozen Syrian-Americans opposed to President Bashar al-Assad got the event off to a slow start in New York's Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, an hour later than advertised on Facebook. The names of 100,000 of the more than 160,000 people killed during the three-year civil war will be read during a 24-hour period in cities across North America, Europe and inside Syria, they said. Demonstrators held up a banner that read: "Over 160,000 dead in Syria.
The United States on Monday voiced renewed concerns about the "large" number of executions in Iran, the day after a political prisoner was hanged despite international concern. Gholamreza Khosravi Savadjani was executed after being convicted of "waging war against God" by helping the People's Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran (PMOI), Iranian state media reported. But the exiled Iranian opposition said he had been jailed just for being a member of the PMOI, and Amnesty International condemned his 2010 trial as unfair.
An international dragnet has dismantled a global computer hacker network which used a sophisticated computer virus to steal millions of dollars from companies and consumers, the US Justice Department announced Monday. Gameover Zeus, which first appeared in September 2011, stole bank information and other confidential details from victims. According to FBI investigators, the virus infected between 500,000 and a million computers in 12 countries, creating a network of "bots" the hackers could "infiltrate, spy on, and even control, from anywhere they wished." "Gameover Zeus is the most sophisticated botnet the FBI and our allies have ever attempted to disrupt," said FBI Executive Assistant Director Anderson.
Has Europe under-estimated the security threat posed by battle-hardened homegrown Islamic militants returning from Syria? After the chance arrest in France of the suspected perpetrator of last week's deadly shooting at a Jewish Museum in Brussels, concern mounted Monday that the region is ill-equipped to cope with the threat posed by homegrown Islamic militants returning from Syria's battlefields. Mehdi Nemmouche, a Frenchman who spent more than a year fighting in Syria, was detained on Friday in Marseille following a random customs check on the coach on which he had been travelling, which had started its journey in the Netherlands. Police sources said Nemmouche had refused to say anything to his interrogators.
President Barack Obama vowed Monday to force US power plants to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent in his most ambitious action yet on climate change. Acting on his own faced with steely opposition in Congress, Obama laid out a plan that would let the 50 states choose their own approaches as long as each enforces restrictions on carbon emissions. The plan will help "make sure that future generations are able to enjoy this beautiful blue ball in the middle of space that we're part of," Obama said. Power plants account for some 40 percent of US emissions of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas that contributes to the planet's warming temperatures.
Ankara on Monday brushed off criticism from Baghdad that it is being "driven by greed" in an escalating row over oil pumped from Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region and shipped overseas via Turkey. Hussein al-Shahristani, Iraq's deputy prime minister for energy affairs, on Sunday threatened legal action against firms that purchased what he called "smuggled oil", which Turkey started to export through its territory on May 22. His remarks represent a significant ratcheting up of rhetoric after Baghdad filed an arbitration case against Ankara in a widening dispute over Iraq's prized natural resources. But Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz dismissed claims that Ankara was trying to illegally profit from the exports, saying: "This oil is not Turkey's, it is Iraq's."
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Pentagon investigation concluded in 2010 that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl walked away from his unit, and after an initial flurry of searching the military decided not to exert extraordinary efforts to rescue him, according to a former senior defense official who was involved in the matter.