By Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees foreign aid, said on Tuesday he would not approve sending funds to the Egyptian military, denouncing a "sham trial" in which a court sentenced 683 people to death. "I'm not prepared to sign off on the delivery of additional aid for the Egyptian military," the Vermont Democrat said in a speech on the Senate floor, explaining why he would hold up the $650 million. "I'm not prepared to do that until we see convincing evidence the government is committed to the rule of law." The Obama administration has been grappling for months with how to deal with Egypt, one of its most important allies in the Middle East. The Pentagon said last week it would deliver 10 Apache attack helicopters and $650 million to Egypt's military, relaxing a partial suspension of aid imposed after Egypt's military ousted President Mohamed Mursi on July 3 and violently suppressed protesters.
By Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a federal regulation requiring some states to limit pollution that contributes to unhealthy air in neighboring states, reversing a lower court ruling and handing a victory to President Barack Obama. By a 6-2 vote, the court said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency acted reasonably in requiring 28 states to reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which can lead to soot and smog. ...
Barack Obama's Asia-Pacific legacy is now taking shape, but he has work to do to complete a genuine rebalancing of US power to the region that goes beyond rhetoric. The US leader ended his four-nation Asian tour in the Philippines Tuesday, after spending a week telling China not to use coercion in maritime disputes and reassuring allies that US security guarantees are genuine. He made it clear that America's defence alliance with Japan did cover disputed islands known as the Senkakus to Toyko and the Diaoyus to China. He clinched a 10-year defence pact with the Philippines, similar to one already agreed with Australia, that will put US forces close to the volatile geopolitical currents of the South China Sea.
Russia warned Tuesday that American astronauts on the International Space Station could be hurt by new US-led sanctions over the escalating crisis in Ukraine, where pro-Moscow militants seized more public buildings in the east. Washington was resorting to "Iron Curtain" policies from its Cold War-era playbook with the new Western sanctions, which were driving the Ukraine crisis towards "a dead end", Moscow raged. A day after the United States and its EU and Japanese allies unveiled fresh punitive measures for what was seen as Russian interference in Ukraine, violence worsened on the ground.
The US kept up pressure on Iran Tuesday with fresh sanctions on two groups accused of illicitly aiding the country even as negotiations continue over Tehran's nuclear program. The US Treasury set sanctions on a Chinese group accused of supporting Iran's ballistic missile program and a Dubai group which allegedly helps Iran evade restrictions in exporting its oil. Eight China-based companies linked to already-sanctioned businessman Karl Lee, or Li Fangwei, were blacklisted. The Treasury said Lee had used them as front companies to export materials to Iran for its ballistic missile program.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets US President Barack Obama this week with shared fears over the mounting Ukraine crisis helping to mend ties ruptured by the NSA eavesdropping scandal. As tensions between Russia and the West unseen since the Cold War threaten to boil over, officials and analysts said ahead of Merkel's two-day visit starting Thursday that Ukraine had given Obama and the German leader common purpose after a difficult half year. Possibilities for bringing pressure to bear on Russian President Vladimir Putin -- including economic sanctions -- and progress on agreeing a major transatlantic trade accord known as TTIP are just two of the main issues on the agenda, a senior Merkel aide said Tuesday. It is Merkel's first trip to Washington since revelations by fugitive intelligence contractor Edward Snowden that her mobile phone was also targeted in sweeping overseas surveillance by the US National Security Agency.
By Matt Spetalnick and Mark Felsenthal MANILA (Reuters) - From the elaborate details of a Japanese state visit to the more mundane question of how much face-time to give each of his Asian hosts, President Barack Obama's aides spent months meticulously scripting his four-country tour of the region. But as the week-long trip wrapped up on Tuesday it was clear that, while Obama scored points with skeptical allies simply by showing up, not everything followed the White House plan. The U.S. president's clear aim was to demonstrate that his long-promised strategic shift towards Asia and the Pacific, widely seen as aimed at countering China's rising influence, was real. "The key is what happens next," said Michael Kugelman, an Asia expert at the Wilson Center think-tank in Washington.
The United States has been moving cautiously in slapping sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine crisis, keen to keep its EU allies on board and avoid exposing fault lines within the European bloc, analysts say. Washington on Monday unveiled a raft of new sanctions against seven more individuals with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and 17 companies mostly controlled by some of his powerful allies. At the same time, the European Union said it had added 15 more people to its blacklist accused of fomenting chaos in Ukraine. Despite the moves, there was some frustration that Washington held back from full-scale economic sanctions against Russia's energy, mining and financial sectors and that rumors that state energy supplier Gazprom would be hit proved unfounded.
Turkey will launch proceedings to seek the extradition of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen from the United States, local media quoted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying Tuesday. Erdogan said a legal procedure "will begin" for the extradition of Gulen, a former ally whom the prime minister now accuses of masterminding a corruption scandal aimed at unseating the government. The prime minister's comments came a day after he told US broadcaster PBS in an exclusive interview that he wants President Barack Obama to deport Gulen and send him back to Turkey. The Gulen movement was a key backer of Erdogan's Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) when it first came to power in 2002.
Barack Obama's frustration is spilling over as he makes the most strident defence of his foreign policy yet, rebuking critics who say his diplomacy is haphazard, weak and blurs US national security red lines. His four-nation trip was meant to cement the most substantive doctrinal element of his foreign policy, the pivot of American power to Asia, which had been a little ragged of late. But Obama's inability to deter President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine, the crumbling Middle East peace process and the unstoppable carnage in Syria, opened the president to new charges his foreign policy is a bust. He rarely loses his cool in public, but Obama was at his most waspish in public comments on foreign policy during the trip -- recalling his ill-tempered debates with Republican Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential race.