Ukraine's new president told his Russian counterpart Thursday the reported crossing of three tanks into his country's separatist east was "unacceptable", as the pair held what Kiev called "substantive and extended" telephone talks. President Petro Poroshenko also discussed his plans to defuse the crisis in the east of the country as he held what are thought to be his first telephone talks with Russia's Vladimir Putin since he was sworn in at the weekend. "Poroshenko called the situation unacceptable," the president's spokesman said on his Facebook page, referring to reports that three Soviet-era tanks had moved into Ukrainian territory from Russia. Moscow has denied the allegation, earlier raised by Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who stopped short of accusing Russia of being behind the reported incursion.
Bowe Bergdahl, handed over on May 31 in return for five Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo prison, was "expected to arrive on Friday" at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, a defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP. The US Army sergeant has been recuperating at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, amid growing debate over the swap that secured his freedom, with some US lawmakers accusing President Barack Obama of capitulating to "terrorists." "Leadership was lacking, if not non-existent," he wrote in a letter sent to family during his time in captivity, obtained by the Daily Beast website.
The European Union hopes the United States will be "fair" in its treatment of BNP Paribas over the French bank's alleged US sanctions violations, a senior EU official said Thursday. The EU's internal market and services commissioner, Michel Barnier, said that Brussels was following developments in the US case against France's largest bank, which reportedly might have to pay at least $10 billion in fines to resolve the accusations. "Given the importance of this case and the importance of this bank... we are closely following the situation and we simply wish that this affair be handled in a proportionate, fair and objective manner," Barnier said at a news conference in Washington. The bank is accused of breaking sanctions against Iran, Sudan and Cuba between 2002 and 2009 by carrying out dollar transactions with them, but such cases are usually the subject of negotiations with US judicial officials.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate on Thursday confirmed Federal Reserve Governor Jerome Powell to a fresh term on the U.S. central bank's board. Powell, who has served at the Fed since May 2012, was approved for a fresh term that would carry until January 2028. The one-time investment banker said earlier this month that the time was not yet ripe to consider raising U.S. interest rates given the "significant amount of slack in the labor market." (Reporting by Howard Schneider and Krista Hughes; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
Nigeria's military indicated on Thursday that it could follow the example of Sri Lanka in fighting terror, to bring an end to an increasingly deadly insurgency by Boko Haram militants. A high-ranking military delegation from the South Asian island nation, led by Chief of Defence Staff General Jagath Jayasuriya, was in the capital, Abuja, to meet their Nigerian counterparts to share experience and expertise. The visit came after Pakistan's President Mamnoon Hussain held talks with his opposite number, Goodluck Jonathan, on Tuesday and the leaders pledged greater co-operation in defence and counter-terrorism. Sri Lanka, with Jayasuriya as army chief, brought its decades-long civil war with ethnic Tamil Tiger rebels to an end in May 2009 after a devastating military onslaught.
Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - A Palestinian newspaper group said Thursday that it had stopped printing titles run by Islamist group Hamas after receiving a series of warnings from the Israeli army. The Al-Ayyam newspaper group, which is based in the West Bank, has stopped printing and distributing Hamas newspapers Falastin, Al-Resala and Al-Istiqlal, its managing editor Abdel Nasser al-Najjar told AFP. The decision followed a phone call late Wednesday from the Israeli army, threatening to close Al-Ayyam's offices if it did not stop publishing the papers, he said. Israeli soldiers raided Al-Ayyam's offices last month and issued similar threats.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate on Thursday approved former Treasury official Lael Brainard for a seat on the Federal Reserve's board, helping rebuild the central bank's depleted policymaking ranks. Brainard, who served as a top financial diplomat at the Treasury until last year, was confirmed with more than 60 votes in the 100-member chamber to serve out the remainder of an unexpired term ending in January 2026. (Reporting by Howard Schneider and Krista Hughes; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
A panel of experts called Thursday for minor drugs offences to be decriminalised in west Africa, where trafficking, consumption and production is undermining development and causing a public health crisis. The West Africa Commission on Drugs (WACD) said current policies were fuelling corruption in a region where the cocaine trade alone, estimated at $1.25 billion (920 million euros) a year, dwarfs the combined budgets of several countries. "We call on west African governments to reform drug laws and policies and decriminalise low-level and non-violent drug offences," commission chairman Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president of Nigeria, told reporters in Dakar. "West Africa is no longer just a transit zone for drugs arriving from South America and ending up in Europe but has become a significant zone of consumption and production.
The European Investment Bank said Thursday it was considering funding private businesses in Zimbabwe despite Harare's $300 million debt to the institution. "We are here to explore the possibilities to reengage activities in Zimbabwe. We see possibilities with the private sector," said Diederick Zambon, who heads the banks division for southern Africa and Indian Ocean. He told journalists that the private sector was "the backbone of the economy" and crucial to the further development of the country.