Ukrainian forces ceded a strategic eastern airport to pro-Russian insurgents on Monday as the government in Kiev accused Moscow of launching a "great war" that could claim tens of thousands of lives. The sense of foreboding in Kiev came as European-mediated talks over the fast-escalating crisis opened behind closed doors in the Belarussian capital Minsk, attended by government, separatist and Russian envoys. The rebels have launched a major counteroffensive in recent days that the Ukrainian government and its Western allies claim is backed by Russian forces -- a charge Moscow denies. Ukraine's Defence Minister Valeriy Geletey vowed on Monday to "immediately mount defences against Russia, which is trying not only to secure positions held by terrorists before but to advance on other territories of Ukraine".
Police in the US town roiled by protests after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager are now wearing body cameras in a bid to calm local anger, a news report said. More than 1,000 protesters again marched Saturday in the town of Ferguson, Missouri, over the August 9 killing of Michael Brown, 18, at the hands of a white police officer. Ferguson police began wearing the cameras on Saturday, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, quoting the town's police chief Tom Jackson as saying the force -- which is overwhelmingly white -- was donated about 50 body cameras by two companies.
Gaza's Islamist Hamas movement may have suffered heavy military losses during 50 days of conflict with Israel but it emerged with its political standing enhanced, analysts say. After the ceasefire last week between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in Gaza, Hamas leaders celebrated "victory" to the cheers of crowds across the enclave it rules. Hamas leaders raised the prospect of opening up Gaza to the world, winning the applause of crowds keen to see an end to Israel's crippling blockade of the territory, in place since 2006.
Volnovakha (Ukraine) (AFP) - "What are the first words of the Ukrainian anthem?" teacher Yulia Likhoshva asks her students. It is Monday, the first day back at school for children across the country, and Likhoshva is kicking things off with a patriotic lesson on "United Ukraine." Authorities say 20,000 children began this school year far away from home, having been displaced from conflict-torn eastern towns or moved from the Crimean peninsula which Moscow annexed in March. Here in Volnovakha, more than 1,000 such children enrolled ahead of the first day back, according to the town's head of education, Valentina Baltsa.
Fresh tensions with Russia over Ukraine have sparked renewed agonising in France about the sale of two Mistral-class warships to Moscow that has already drawn sharp criticism from London and Washington. France agreed in 2011 to build and sell the two advanced helicopter assault ships to Russia for a total of 1.2 billion euros ($1.6 billion) with the first scheduled for delivery in October or November and the second in 2015.
Lesotho's exiled prime minister is heading home, an aide told AFP on Monday, as regional mediators sought to reinstall him to power days after an apparent coup. "We are going home now, most probably we will be in Lesotho tomorrow," Samonyane Ntsekele, an advisor to Prime Minister Tom Thabane, said from Pretoria, where southern African states brokered a deal to end the crisis. The military and a rival political party -- the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) -- have been accused of trying to oust the 75-year-old, a charge they vehemently deny. South African president Jacob Zuma and representatives from governments in the regional bloc SADC had brought together leaders from Lesotho's three ruling coalition parties to resolve their differences.
Cuban ex-president Fidel Castro lashed out at the United States and Europe on Monday, accusing them of war-mongering and comparing the NATO military alliance's representatives to the Nazi SS. In a tortuous column published in Cuban state media, the father of the island's communist revolution also attacked US Senator John McCain over United States policy in the Middle East, calling him "Israel's most unconditional ally."
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is "alarmed" by Israeli plans to expropriate 400 hectares (988 acres) of Palestinian land in the Bethlehem area in the south of the occupied West Bank, his spokesman said Monday. Israel announced the move on Sunday, the army saying the step stemmed from political decisions taken after the June killing of three Israeli teenagers snatched from a roadside in the same area, known to Israelis as Gush Etzion settlement bloc. "The seizure of such a large swathe of land risks paving the way for further settlement activity, which -– as the United Nations has reiterated on many occasions -– is illegal under international law and runs totally counter to the pursuit of a two-state solution. "The secretary-general calls on Israel to heed the calls of the international community to refrain from settlement activity and abide by its commitments under international law and the Quartet Road Map."
By Steve Holland MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - Throughout much of his presidency, Barack Obama has been under siege about the state of the U.S. With his handling of foreign policy under fire in confronting challenges from Ukraine to the Middle East, Obama made a Labor Day trek to Milwaukee's annual Laborfest event to underscore how he feels his leadership on the economy has paid off.
Advances by jihadists in Syria and Iraq, and US calls for a coalition against them have made Gulf monarchies set aside disputes over Qatar's support for the Muslim Brotherhood, analysts say. Wary of spectacular gains made by Islamic State jihadists, the oil-rich monarchies fear the militants could advance towards their own borders, where the extreme ideologies could find support. "The biggest danger (in the Gulf) comes now from these (emerging) terrorist groups, and not from the Muslim Brotherhood," said Abdulaziz Sager, head of the Gulf Research Centre think-tank.
Gabon's education minister has resigned due to a scandal after hundreds of students failed the country's high-school exams, local media reported on Monday. Prime Minister Daniel Ona Ondo "acknowledges the resignation of the Minister of Education and Technical Education, Leon Nzouba," said government spokeswoman Denise Mekamne. He was heavily criticised for his handling of a dispute involving 900 students who were deemed to have failed their high-school exams but who challenged their grades. The former minister was pictured in August on his knees in front of protesting students, an image that made the rounds on social media and sparked public ridicule for Nzouba.
Raids by Syrian forces hunting suspected Islamic State infiltrators in the northeast town of Hasakeh have sparked an exodus of more than 60,000 civilians in three days, a monitor said Monday. Hasakeh is split between zones controlled by President Bashar al-Assad's forces, Kurdish groups and militants from the radical IS group, which is sowing terror in both Syria and neighbouring Iraq. "No fewer than 60,000 residents have fled Hasakeh's Ghuiran district since Friday, after air raids by regime forces," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. "The regime claims there are IS fighters in the neighbourhood, and that's why they are bombarding it," its chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The government of Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, has provoked anger with the purchase of a $40 million (30 million euros) presidential jet. The country's Defence Minister Karidjo Mahamadou confirmed the deal on Monday, saying it would help improve the "influence of our illustrious republic". The plane it is replacing -- also a Boeing 737 -- was bought in the 1970s by the country's former president Seyni Kountche.
Al-Qaeda militants have executed three men they accuse of planting electronic chips in the network's vehicles to help US drones target them, a security official said Monday. Scores of Al-Qaeda suspects, including some of the network's leaders, have been killed in drone strikes in Yemen. The United States is the only country operating drones over Yemen, but US officials rarely acknowledge the covert programme. "Al-Qaeda militants executed the three men with gunfire after having tortured them," the security official told AFP.
Egypt on Monday denounced Israeli plans to expropriate West Bank land, saying the move violates international law and is an obstacle to efforts for a lasting Palestinian-Israeli settlement. On Sunday, Israel said it would expropriate 400 hectares (988 acres) of Palestinian land around Bethlehem, and allowed 45 days for any appeal. Egypt last week mediated a permanent truce between Israel and the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip enclave to end a bloody and devastating 50-day war -- the deadliest in years. Negotiators are expected to return to Cairo within a month to discuss crunch issues such as Hamas's demands for a port and an airport and the release of prisoners, as well as Israel's call for militants in the Palestinian territory to be disarmed.
President Barack Obama formally notified the U.S. Congress on Monday that he had authorized air strikes and humanitarian airdrops over the weekend in the Iraqi Shi’ite town of Amerli where Islamic State militants had trapped the civilian population. Iraqi security forces backed by Shi'ite militias on Sunday broke the two-month siege of Amerli and entered the northern town after the U.S. Obama said in a letter to congressional leaders he was notifying Congress of his decision under the long-standing War Powers Resolution, which gives presidents authorization for temporary military action.