Bayeux (France) (AFP) - "It's wonderful as an old man of 91 - it's like coming home." As he was pushed in his wheelchair past the white gravestones of the Commonwealth war cemetery in Bayeux, Australian Bob Cowper was transported seven decades back in time. Returning to Normandy for the first time since taking part in the D-Day invasion, the former night fighter pilot found his mind flooding with bittersweet memories of flying over the landing beaches on June 6, 1944. At the end of a day when, in Barack Obama's words, "blood soaked the water and bombs broke the sky," Cowper and a Royal Australian Air Force comrade climbed into their Mosquito fighter plane and headed for northern France.
By Harriet McLeod CHARLESTON S.C. (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina looks poised to be the latest member of the Republican establishment to fend off a primary challenge from the Tea Party, overcoming criticism from some members of his party that he is not conservative enough. Graham's fundraising and poll numbers far outpace his six opponents' in Tuesday's primary election.
The Israeli and Palestinian presidents will plant an olive tree as a symbol of peace after an unprecedented prayer meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican Gardens on Sunday amid high tensions in the Middle East. The Vatican said it hoped the initiative launched by Francis, which will include Christian, Jewish and Muslim prayers and music, would have an impact on public opinion but stressed it would be a purely spiritual event. Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas will arrive separately to be greeted by Francis at the Vatican's St Martha Residence, where he lives.
By Roberta Rampton and Jeff Mason COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER FRANCE (Reuters) - President Barack Obama paid tribute on Friday to U.S. veterans who 70 years ago stormed the beaches of northern France, telling them their spirit of courage and sacrifice is being continued by a new generation of soldiers who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. For most, it likely will be the last time they are able to witness a milestone anniversary of the Allied invasion in northern France that helped bring the defeat of Nazi Germany. Obama told the stories of several veterans, including 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper Kenneth "Rock" Merritt, who is from Oklahoma but now lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame has dismissed criticism of his government's human rights record, saying those suspected of threatening national security should even be killed on sight, reports said Friday. His comments, made in a speech in the west of the country on Thursday, came the day after Washington accused the central African nation of carrying out arbitrary arrests and urged Kagame to respect freedom of expression. On Wednesday the United States, which has become increasingly critical of Rwanda's government in recent months, urged the country to "account for individuals arrested over the past two months and currently in custody." "We also call upon Rwanda to fully respect freedom of expression, including for members of the press so that they can investigate, report and facilitate discussion on issues of public concern," the State Department said.
Bukavu (DR Congo) (AFP) - At least four people were killed when 301 inmates broke out of the main prison in Bukavu in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the provincial justice minister said Friday. "The current toll is four people dead, two soldiers on guard duty and two inmates who were trying to escape" on Thursday, said Gisele Balegamire, minister of justice and human rights in South Kivu province, where Bukavu is the capital. In all, 54 of the escaped detainees had been rounded up by Friday morning, but "three of them are badly wounded and in hospital for treatment", Balegamire told AFP. At first light Thursday, inmates overpowered warders on duty, "took weapons and managed to open the prison gate", the policeman added.
IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said Friday she was "not a candidate" to become head of the European Commission. "On this EU thing, I am not a candidate. I have a job, I happen to think it is a rather important job and I intend to complete my term," Lagarde said at an International Monetary Fund event in London. Lagarde, from France, has been mentioned as a possible alternative to Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the executive body of the European Union.
Telecommunications giant Vodafone on Friday admitted the existence of secret wires that allow government agencies to listen in to conversations on its networks. Revealing its cooperation with state agencies, Vodafone said in a 20-page report entitled "Law Enforcement Disclosure" that direct wires are connected to its network, allowing live conversations to be listened to and recorded. Vodafone admitted that as a global business it faced "constant tension" while enforcing the laws of different countries and the "expectations" of governments. Vodafone said that in about six countries where it operates, phone tapping is required by law, although it did not identify the countries.
Colleville-sur-Mer (France) (AFP) - Barack Obama on Friday paid poetic tribute to the men who breached "Hitler's Wall" and stormed ashore to liberate Europe on D-Day, saying their sacrifice secured a still-evolving age of democracy and freedom. The US president, speaking as a commander-in-chief who wound down the Iraq war and will end US combat in Afghanistan this year, movingly told the dwindling numbers of living D-Day survivors at the Omaha Beach American cemetery in Normandy, that their legacy was safe with a fresh generation of veterans. Obama conjured up the moments of carnage and courage when allied forces left an armada of boats early on June 6, 1944 in the English Channel and walked into a torrent of Nazi fire to liberate Europe. "By the end of that longest day, this beach had been fought, lost, refought and won –- a piece of Europe once again liberated and free.
Sixty migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia and two Yemeni crew members drowned last weekend in the worst such tragedy off the coast of Yemen this year, the UN said Friday. "The tragedy is the largest single loss of life of migrants and refugees attempting to reach Yemen via the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden this year," Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the UN's refugee agency, told reporters in Geneva. "The victims were reportedly buried by local residents after their bodies washed ashore near the Bab El Mandeb area off Yemen's coast," UNHCR said in a statement. The agency pointed out that counting previous such tragedies in the same area, at least 121 people have so far died this year trying to reach Yemen.