Syria said Tuesday the United Arab Emirates has banned its expats from voting in the country's June 3 presidential election, after similar moves by France, Germany and Belgium. On the eve of the election to be held abroad on Wednesday, "the UAE has joined the countries plotting against Syria by deciding to prohibit the holding of elections on its territory," said the Syrian foreign ministry. The UAE was one of Syria's "enemies," it said, adding that all of the countries that had barred Syrian expats from taking part in the election were "concerned about the result" of the vote.
By Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama will announce on Tuesday that he wants to leave 9,800 American troops in Afghanistan after this year and mostly end the U.S. presence by the end of 2016, senior administration officials said. The decision, to be announced by Obama in a White House Rose Garden event at 2:45 p.m. EDT, means that the president will leave office in early 2017 with no measurable troop strength in Afghanistan. The number emerged after Obama met with U.S. military commanders at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan on Sunday as the United States winds down the longest war in American history, which began following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Somalia's Shebab rebels on Tuesday claimed responsibility for a weekend bomb attack on a Djibouti restaurant packed with Westerners, saying it targeted French "crusaders". "As part of the ongoing Jihad against the Western-led Crusade against Islam, Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen forces have on Saturday night carried out a successful operation against the coalition of Western Crusaders based in Djibouti," the group said in a statement. The group said the attack "targeted a restaurant frequented predominantly by French Crusaders and their NATO allies from the US, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, resulting in 35 casualties". It said the main targets were "French Crusaders" because of their "complicity in the massacres and persecution of our Muslim brothers in the Central African Republic and for their active role in training and equipping the apostate Djiboutian troops".
More than 60,000 people have fled their homes in war-ravaged South Sudan since the rival sides signed a ceasefire earlier this month that has failed to hold, the United Nations said Tuesday. Another 20,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries since the truce -- bringing that total to around 370,000, it said. "The number of people fleeing fighting continues to rise," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told reporters in Geneva, stressing that the agency saw a risk of further displacement "over the coming weeks." Four million people -- one third of the South Sudanese population -- are at risk of starvation in the young African state, the UN also said.
Russia has withdrawn "several thousand" military personnel from the Ukrainian border in the past few days but tens of thousands of soldiers remain deployed in the region, a US defense official said Tuesday. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Russian troops "continue their repositioning and to move off the border." Russian President Vladimir Putin, who ordered the deployment of close to 40,000 troops on the Russia-Ukraine border in March, according to NATO, said on May 19 the soldiers had been recalled to their garrisons. Ukraine's army said Tuesday it had regained control of the airport serving Donetsk in eastern Ukraine after fierce fighting with pro-Russian militants.
A Turkish Airlines security coordinator in Mogadishu was killed in a drive-by shooting on Tuesday, officials said. "A vehicle carrying Turkish Airlines staff in Mogadishu came under attack," Turkish Airlines spokesman Ali Genc wrote on Twitter, naming the victim as Saadettin Dogan. "We got information that a Turkish citizen was shot dead near K4 and it was a drive-by shooting," police official Ahmed Ali told AFP in Mogadishu, referring to a key junction in the Somali capital.
A Syrian rebel commander said a team from the world's chemical weapons watchdog investigating an alleged chlorine attack against rebel-held Kafr Zita managed to visit the town Tuesday, hours after coming under attack. Inspectors overseeing the dismantling of Syria's weapons program had been forced to return to their base after their convoy was attacked, but all were safe, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said. The Syrian foreign ministry accused rebels of kidnapping the team, while opposition activists said the regime planted an explosive device under one of the vehicles to try to stop investigators from investigating the alleged use of chlorine. Then, on Tuesday afternoon, the OPCW team "arrived in Kafr Zita in the company of the Syrian Saiqa force, which is part of the (rebel) Free Syrian Army," said Colonel Mohammad al-Ali, general commander of the faction.
Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab rebels on Tuesday claimed responsibility for a weekend bomb attack on a Djibouti restaurant packed with Westerners. "As part of the ongoing Jihad against the Western-led Crusade against Islam, Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen forces have on Saturday night carried out a successful operation against the coalition of Western Crusaders based in Djibouti," the group said in a statement. The group said the attack "targeted a restaurant frequented predominantly by French Crusaders and their NATO allies from the US, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, resulting in 35 casualties". "The attack was carried out against the French Crusaders for their complicity in the massacres and persecution of our Muslim brothers in the Central African Republic and for their active role in training and equipping the apostate Djiboutian troops in Somalia and their growing intervention in the affairs of our Muslim lands," the Shebab statement said.
British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg insisted Tuesday he would not step down as leader of the Liberal Democrat coalition partners despite a terrible performance in the European elections. Pressure has been building on Clegg since the Lib Dems lost 11 of their 12 European Parliament seats, which came hot on the heels of the party losing hundreds of seats in local council elections. Emerging for his first public appearance since the vote debacle, Clegg said during a low-key visit to a youth club that he wanted to "finish the job" and dismissed calls to dissolve the coalition or modify his party's pro-EU approach. Voters appear set to inflict more pain on the centrist Lib Dems for their decision to enter a coalition with the centre-right Conservatives after the inconclusive 2010 general election.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in an interview that Washington’s cost-cutting culture helped spark the growing Veterans Administration hospital controversy by encouraging VA officials to understate their financial needs both internally and to Congress. Murray, a top appropriator and former chairwoman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, had strong words for a department that not only faces chronic management issues, but also consistently underestimates its funding needs and the how many veterans will seek care each year. Though many Republicans have called for current VA secretary Eric Shinseki to step down from his post in light of reports of secret waitlists at VA hospitals across the county, Murray focused on cultural issues that extend deeper than one official.
South Africa's economy has contracted for the first time since the global crisis five years ago, raising the spectre of recession in Africa's most developed economy. Statistics South Africa reported Tuesday that the economy shrank by 0.6 percent in the first quarter, a stunning reversal amid a rapid boom elsewhere in the continent. The South African economy has struggled to recover since the 2009 crisis and the possibility of another recession, two consecutive quarters of negative growth, is not being ruled out. "This makes for grim reading," said Razia Khan, Africa's regional head of research for Standard Chartered Bank.
President Barack Obama called Ukraine's president-elect Petro Poroshenko on Tuesday and offered him "the full support of the United States." Obama said the United States would assist Ukraine as Poroshenko "seeks to unify and move his country forward," the White House said. Poroshenko, a billionaire tycoon, won with 54 percent of the votes cast in Sunday's elections in the strife-torn former Soviet republic. Obama "stressed the importance of quickly implementing the reforms necessary for Ukraine to bring the country together and to develop a sustainable economy, attractive investment climate, and transparent and accountable government that is responsive to the concerns and aspirations of all Ukrainians," the White House said.