Political News from Yahoo

Ukrainian energy firm hires Biden son as lawyer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden's visit Saturday to support Ukraine's fragile democracy came soon after his youngest son was hired by a private Ukrainian company that promotes energy independence from Moscow.


Somali warlord quits Shebab extremists

A notorious Somali warlord allied to the Islamist Shebab and on UN sanction lists has agreed to quit the extremists, the information ministry said Saturday. Powerful arms dealer Mohamed Said Atom, who is under UN Security Council sanctions for "kidnapping, piracy and terrorism", has been a close ally of the Al-Qaeda linked Shebab. But a government statement on Saturday quoted Atom as saying he had left the Shebab, accusing Islamist chief Ahmed Abdi Godane of working for a "foreign agenda." "I would like to declare that as of today I have decided to resolve my religious and political issues through peaceful means and understanding," Atom said, according to the government.


US-backed TV channel seeks to counter extremism in Nigeria

A new TV channel soon to launch with US financial backing in northern Nigeria aims to counter the growing influence of radical Islamist groups like Boko Haram, the US State Department said Saturday. It is run in Nigeria by Equal Access International, a San Francisco-based organization that has also managed media programs, partly funded by the State Department, in Yemen and Pakistan. The new television satellite channel is to be called Arewa24 -- "arewa" being the Hausa word for north, the group said. "The goal was to support the efforts of diverse civil society groups to develop alternative narratives that would resonate with the people of the region and promote tolerance," Pooja Jhunjhunwala, a State Department spokeswoman, told AFP Saturday.


Nigeria newspaper says army blocked distribution after story

A Nigerian newspaper said that it was prevented from distributing thousands of copies of its Saturday edition by soldiers, just days after it ran a story alleging corruption among army generals. The Weekly Trust, a national weekly newspaper based in Abuja, said a number of its premises were visited by soldiers, who blocked the papers from leaving the sites. "The soldiers, who were fully armed, insisted on carrying out the 'order from above' to flip through each of the several thousand copies of Weekly Trust in search of alleged 'security risk material'," the newspaper said in a statement on Saturday. The owner Media Trust Ltd said newspaper distribution was blocked at three different sites in the cities of Abuja, Kano and Maiduguri.


'Timely' chance to boost Iran nuclear talks: US

Direct bilateral talks between Iran and the United States will be "a timely opportunity" to try to advance a nuclear deal with world powers, a US official told AFP on Saturday. The bilateral talks come at a crunch time as Iran and the six world powers try to hammer out a difficult comprehensive treaty to rein in Tehran's nuclear ambitions. An interim six-month deal, under which the US and its partners released some $7 billion frozen by tough sanctions in return for a slowdown in Iran's controversial uranium enrichment program, expires on July 20. The bilateral talks "will give us a timely opportunity to exchange views in the context of the next P5+ 1 round in Vienna," the official added, asking not to be named.


Brazil leader slams 'campaign' against World Cup

A subway strike snarling Brazil's biggest city before the World Cup entered a third day Saturday as President Dilma Rousseff denounced a "systematic campaign" against her government and the tournament. Some roads were congested in Sao Paulo and commuters fumed in long bus lines in the latest labor upheaval to hit Brazil with just five days until the mega-city hosts the opening game. Police, teachers and bus drivers have also staged strikes in other cities in recent months to demand better wages, while protestors angry at the World Cup's $11 billion bill have staged demonstrations. Officials are bracing for potential protests during the tournament, fearing a repeat of the violent demonstrations that marred the Confederations Cup last year.


Yemen soldier killed in 'Qaeda attack'

A suspected Al-Qaeda attack on an army checkpoint in southeast Yemen on Saturday killed one soldier and wounded another, a security source said. The source said that the gunmen, suspected Al-Qaeda militants, had fled. Yemeni troops launched an offensive in late April to dislodge Al-Qaeda militants from their strongholds in the south of the country. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is considered by Washington the global jihadist network's deadliest franchise.


Iran talks 'timely' chance to boost nuclear talks: US

Direct bilateral talks between Iran and the United States will be "a timely opportunity" to try to advance a nuclear deal with world powers, a US official told AFP on Saturday. The bilateral talks come at a crunch time as Iran and the six world powers try to hammer out a difficult comprehensive treaty to rein in Tehran's nuclear ambitions. An interim six-month deal, under which the US and its partners released some $7 billion frozen by tough sanctions in return for a slowdown in Iran's controversial uranium enrichment program, expires on July 20. The bilateral talks "will give us a timely opportunity to exchange views in the context of the next P5+ 1 round in Vienna," the official added, asking not to be named.


UAE brings in military service

The United Arab Emirates on Saturday introduced military service, compulsory for men aged between 18 and 30, state news agency WAM announced. A law on military service was brought in under the UAE constitution, which stipulates "the defence of the federation is a sacred duty for every citizen," WAM said. Emirati nationals account for only around 20 percent of the population of oil-rich UAE, a seven-member federation. Abu Dhabi announced plans to introduce military service in January.


S.Africa's Zuma hospitalised for tests after 'exhaustion'

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma was on Saturday admitted to a Pretoria hospital for tests following a bout of exhaustion, his office said. Zuma's spokesman Mac Maharaj told AFP the president has been advised to get some rest, but "there is no cause for concern. The presidency on Friday said Zuma would "take a few days off from public engagements while continuing to perform official duties from home". Zuma, 72 was sworn in two weeks ago for a second term after his African National Congress (ANC) party won the May 7 elections with an overwhelming 62 percent of the vote.


Italy's Renzi demands EU commissioner who will bring change

Italy will not support a European Commission president who does not bring political change, warned Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Saturday, as he waded into a fractious debate over the EU's future. "The next president of the European Commission must bring political change for the next five years or he will not have Italy's support," Renzi said at a conference organised by the daily La Repubblica in Naples. They want (former Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude) Juncker -- fine. The European People's Party (EPP), which emerged as the largest grouping after last month's EU elections, has chosen Juncker as its candidate to head the Commission, which is the EU's executive.


S. African minister eyes end to platinum strike by next week

South Africa's mining minister said Saturday he expected the world's biggest platinum producers and workers to find a deal by early next week to end a crippling strike that has dragged the economy into the red. Newly appointed Mines Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi said government meditators will hold their last meeting with the union and platinum producers on Monday.


US officials to hold direct talks on Iran nukes

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is reassembling key members of the diplomatic team that held secret negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, leading to a breakthrough agreement, and sending them to Geneva for direct talks with representatives from Tehran in hopes of making progress toward a comprehensive final deal.

Russian leadership backs restoration of Stalingrad name

Russia's deputy prime minister called on Saturday for the name Stalingrad to be restored to the city that was the site of a key World War II battle against the Nazis. "I never doubted the need to give back great Stalingrad its name. Not for the sake of Stalin, but for the sake of the Stalingraders," Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin wrote on Twitter. On Friday, President Vladimir Putin responded positively to a request by a Soviet veteran at the D-Day commemorations in France for the city -- now called Volgograd -- to return to its wartime name.


Politics left behind as Mideast rivals head to Vatican

Israel's government is boycotting its Palestinian counterpart with relations to a new low, and when their two presidents join Pope Francis in a Vatican prayer for peace on Sunday politics are likely to be absent. Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmud Abbas have been acquaintances for years and held peace talks together, and have their separate reasons for honouring the pope's desire to keep the weekend event as free of controversy as possible. Then everyone goes home," Francis said after issuing the invitations during a pilgrimage to the Middle East last month. Under Israel's political system, Peres's role as president is largely ceremonial.


Increased use of barrel bombs in Mideast, Africa

WASHINGTON (AP) — Governments in the Mideast and Africa, in desperate efforts to gain battlefield ground, are using barrel bombs against their enemies, launching the cheap, quickly manufactured weapons as a crude counter to roadside blasts and suicide explosions that insurgents have deployed for years.


Burundi denies soldiers in eastern DRCongo

Bujumbura (Burundi) (AFP) - Burundi's army on Saturday denied that any of its troops were operating in the war-torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after being accused by a rights group of pursuing two journalists in the region. On Friday the Kinshasa-based press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED) said two reporters in the area had been investigating whether members of the youth wing of Burundi's ruling party were being given military training in DR Congo's anarchic eastern Kivu region. The group alleged the two journalists from Radio Ondes FM had been visited several times by soldiers suspected of being members of Burundi's army, and voiced fears for their safety. "We categorically deny this report," Burundian army spokesman Colonel Gaspard Baratuza told AFP.


The Dutch 'Iron Lady' destroying Syria's chemicals

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The diplomat ridding the world of Syria's chemical weapons is Sigrid Kaag, a statuesque and impeccably dressed mother of four who speaks six languages and is fearless in a war zone. For nine months she has led the international mission to destroy Damascus's declared chemical agents, braving mortar fire, jetting between the Middle East, Europe and New York, and liaising with Moscow, Washington and maritime fleets. Syria may have missed deadlines but with 93 percent of its declared chemical arsenal out of the country, Kaag is responsible for the only glimmer of good news to emerge from the horror of a war that has killed more than 160,000. Her star is in the ascendancy at UN headquarters, abuzz with praise for the woman who at UNICEF worked with Jordan's Queen Rania and once dreamed of becoming a singer.


Egypt court overturns conviction for Islamist prisoner deaths

An Egyptian appeals court on Saturday overturned the conviction of a policeman who was sentenced to 10 years in jail for the deaths of 37 prisoners from tear gas. It also overturned suspended one-year sentences handed to three other officers over the August deaths of the prisoners, who were alleged supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. The 37 died after the tear gas was thrown inside their closed police van when they were being transferred to Abu Zaabal prison near Cairo. Since Morsi the army ousted Morsi in July, the military-installed authorities have launched a crackdown on his supporters that has left more than 1,400 dead in street clashes and at least 15,000 in prison.


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