A quarter of a century after Communist authorities crushed the Tiananmen Square demonstrators and their hopes of reform, protest leader Wu'er Kaixi still lies awake at night, haunted by the dead and their unrealised dreams. But after seven weeks in the square their aspirations were abruptly shattered by an overnight military crackdown that ended on June 4, 1989, leaving hundreds of people dead -- by some estimates, more than 1,000 -- and a ruling party hell-bent on preventing any future such challenges to its power. "During the time it did seem quite promising that the Chinese authorities may yield, may actually answer to our call for Chinese political reform," said Wu'er, then a charismatic 21-year-old activist, who became number two on the government's most-wanted list of student leaders. Students began to pour into Tiananmen Square.
Russia and Ukraine have a "good chance" of striking a deal to resolve a standoff over Russian gas deliveries to Ukraine by June 1, European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said Monday. "We made relatively good progress and have a good chance of reaching an agreement by June 1," said Oettinger after a Berlin meeting with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and his Ukrainian counterpart Yuri Prodan. Europe is locked in a confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, where Brussels believes the Kremlin has supported pro-Moscow separatists and worked to destabilise the Western-leading transitional government by threatening to cut off gas supplies. Amid the standoff, Russian energy giant Gazprom has hiked gas prices and toughened conditions for former Soviet satellite Ukraine.
South African business and opposition leaders expressed concern Monday over President Jacob Zuma's new cabinet, while the media accused him of bowing to pressure from labour and communist allies. Zuma announced a 35-member cabinet late Sunday to see through his second term, which notably included the country's first black finance minister since the advent of democracy 20 years ago. Nhlanhla Nene, 55, the former deputy head of the treasury, replaced Pravin Gordhan, of Indian origin, who was moved to the local government portfolio. The cabinet "does not inspire confidence that South Africa's major challenges –- weak economic growth, unemployment and corruption -- will be tackled effectively," said opposition Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille.
Kuwait expressed its hopes on Monday that a landmark visit by Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah to visit Iran next week will strengthen security, stability and peace in the Gulf. The visit comes amid a recent thaw in relations between Shiite Iran and the Sunni-ruled Gulf states despite high sectarian tensions over the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Sheikh Sabah, on his first visit to Tehran as head of state, will lead a high level delegation consisting of the ministers of foreign affairs, oil, finance and commerce and industry, the cabinet said in a statement. Iran's newly-appointed ambassador to Kuwait Ali Riza told reporters on Monday the emir's visit "will give a push to regional cooperation and consolidate ties".
A Bahraini court jailed four people for life on Monday for blowing up a car in an attempt to disrupt an F1 Grand Prix race in 2013, the state news agency said. All of the men were accused of blowing up a car in November 2013 near a financial centre in the capital Manama "to disrupt a Formula 1 race," the agency said. They were also accused of making and possessing explosives, detonating explosives and stealing a car, all with the aim of "carrying out a terrorist act," the agency added, saying the men admitted their responsibility. Bahrain has held an annual three-day Grand Prix event since 2011.
Secretary of State John Kerry called on Iran on Monday to release a former US Marine "unjustly" held for nearly three years. Amir Hekmati was arrested in August 2011, put on trial and found guilty of spying for the CIA. "Mr Hekmati has spent almost three years in an Iranian prison on false espionage charges. We remain especially concerned about reports of Mr Hekmati's health in prison," Kerry said in a statement.
US President Barack Obama congratulated Narendra Modi and said he was looking forward to working with him after he was sworn in as Indian prime minister on Monday. "As the president and prime minister agreed in their call after the election, as the world’s two largest democracies, India and the United States share a deep bond and commitment to promoting economic opportunity, freedom, and security for our people and around the world," a White House statement said. Modi was controversially refused a visa to visit the United States in 2005 over allegations he turned a blind eye or worse to deadly anti-Muslim riots in the western state of Gujarat three years earlier. The US State Department has said that Modi will face no problems visiting the United States as prime minister because he will receive a special A-1 visa as a head of government.
The United States on Monday called for calm in Malawi after polls to elect a new president raised the specter of a protracted political crisis. "We join the African Union and the international community in calling for calm as the Malawi Election Commission works to tally the vote and to resolve any challenges or complaints," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement. "We urge all political leaders and their supporters to refrain from violence, and to resolve any disputes in a manner that adheres to Malawi's laws and its constitution."
Sudanese prosecutors on Monday banned journalists from reporting on the case of former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, detained after reportedly accusing a counter-insurgency unit of abuses against civilians in Darfur. The order comes after a watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, warned of authorities' "increasingly repressive attitude to the media", despite government talk of greater freedoms in the country. Mahdi is charged with treason-related offences and could face a possible death sentence if convicted. State security prosecutors "banned the publication and the media's dealing with the criminal case" of Mahdi, the official SUNA news agency said.
A Turkish court on Monday ordered the arrest of four former Israeli military chiefs over a deadly 2010 maritime assault, in a move which could jeopardise reconciliation efforts between the countries. The ruling is part of an ongoing criminal trial in absentia of the four men on charges brought by aid group IHH and the victims' families in 2012, which has been denounced as a "show" by Israel. It also follows months of negotiations between former allies Turkey and Israel to end a diplomatic row sparked when nine activists were killed after Israeli commandos boarded the Turkish-flagged ship. "If this is the message that the Turks want to send to Israel, it was perfectly well understood," said the official, declining to elaborate further on what this meant for the reconciliation process.
Though no stranger to controversy or diatribe, the European Parliament is set to usher in its first fully-fledged neo-Nazi members, from Germany and Greece. With around 300,000 votes at Sunday's European elections the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) is expected to claim one of the country's 96 seats in the new Parliament, in a historical ground-breaker. It describes itself as "national socialist," just like Germany's Nazis in the 1930s, and is openly xenophobic and anti-semitic so a group of German regional governments have tried to have it banned for propagating racism. Meanwhile, with almost all ballots counted in Greece, the neo-Nazi "Golden Dawn" party is claiming over nine percent of the vote, which would net it three seats in the 751-member Parliament.
Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday said the United States will back the new Ukraine leader and support its people, just as Petro Poroshenko was named winner of the weekend's presidential election. Ukraine's election commission chief said that the tycoon won the election in the first round by collecting more than half the votes in a poll that Washington hopes will bring stability to the eastern European country. "We will support their efforts to determine their own future in a more united, secure, independent, and prosperous Ukraine," Kerry said in a statement before Poroshenko's victory was announced. Sunday's vote was seen as the most important in Ukraine's post-Soviet history as it fights to stay united after months of turmoil and avert economic collapse.
Donetsk (Ukraine) (AFP) - A fierce battle erupted Monday for control of the main airport in rebel-held eastern Ukraine, just hours after president-elect Petro Poroshenko vowed he would not let the country become another Somalia. Ukrainian fighter jets and combat helicopters struck the terminal building at Donetsk airport to try to dislodge separatist gunmen who seized the complex, triggering heavy gun battles. Plumes of thick black smoke rose from the airport complex as the sound of explosions and heavy machinegun fire rang out throughout much of the day, AFP correspondents at the scene said. Scores of gunmen had stormed the airport in an apparent show of defiance against Poroshenko, the Ukrainian magnate who claimed a resounding victory in Sunday's presidential poll.
The triumph of France's far right National Front (FN) in European elections has left President Francois Hollande fighting for his political life, allies and analysts warned Monday. A day after his Socialist Party polled a record low of less than 14 percent and one in four voters backed the FN, Hollande was hit by another stinging rebuke from the country's disgruntled electorate. With his authority crumbling, Hollande also faces the prospect of a rebellion within his party, where a significant minority of deputies blame the government's attempts to comply with the rules of the euro single currency for turning voters against the party and the European Union (EU). Le Nouvel Observateur, an influential left-leaning weekly, concluded bluntly that: "Hollande no longer has any chance for 2017," and urged the French left to turn its attention to finding an alternative candidate with a better chance of combatting the FN.