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.
Belgium investigators on Monday probed a possible terrorist link in a fatal weekend shooting by a lone gunman at the Jewish Museum in Brussels that has shocked the world. On Monday the inquiry was transferred to the federal public prosecutor's office authorised to handle terrorist cases and spokeswoman Wenke Roggen said a probe had been opened into "terrorist" assassination. Earlier, deputy public prosecutor Ine Van Wymersch said the decision to transfer the case was based on "the identity and nationality of the victims". Along with Israel's foreign intelligence agency, Mossad, and its domestic security equivalent, Shin Bet, the Nativ agency was under the authority of the prime minister's office.
Donetsk (Ukraine) (AFP) - The main airport in Ukraine's eastern city of Donetsk was rocked by an explosion and heavy shooting on Monday after armed rebels seized the facility, an AFP correspondent at the scene said. Thick black smoke was seen rising from the airport complex as the sound of heavy machinegun fire rang out and fighter jets could be heard overhead. The strategic transport hub had been evacuated and sealed off after gunmen claiming to be from the self-declared "Donetsk People's Republic" showed up overnight demanding that Ukrainian troops guarding the airport perimeter be withdrawn. The raid was launched in the hours after billionaire Petro Poroshenko claimed victory in a presidential election Sunday that the pro-Russian rebels have dismissed as illegitimate.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that Moscow was willing to talk with Ukraine's newly elected president Petro Poroshenko. "We are ready for dialogue with Kiev's representatives, with Petro Poroshenko," Lavrov said at a joint press conference with his South Sudanese counterpart Barnaba Marial Benjamin.