Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was given a warm reception by the faithful on Monday when he joined in Eid al-Fitr prayers in Damascus, to mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Assad took part in prayers at the Al-Kheir mosque, in Muhajarin, near his home in northwest Damascus. State television showed Assad being greeted by Syrian Grand Mufti Ahmed Badreddin Hassoun and, at the end of prayers, being surrounded by scores of well-wishers keen to shake his hand.
Shakhtar Donetsk's Brazil-born forward Luiz Adriano has said he is considering becoming a Ukrainian citizen to make himself eligible for the national team, local press reported Monday. "It's true, I have an intention to receive Ukrainian citizenship," the 27-year-old striker was quoted as saying by the www.football.ua website. "But my final decision will depend on the situation in Ukraine," said Adriano, alluding to the conflict between government forces and pro-Russian rebels in the east of the country. Adriano joined Shakhtar in 2007 and has scored 108 goals in 235 matches for the five-time defending Ukrainian champions.
Russia will use every means to defend itself after the arbitration court in the Hague ordered it to pay $50 billion compensation to Yukos shareholders, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday. Energy giant Rosneft, which acquired the assets of Yukos after the jailing of its founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky, said that all its dealings were lawful. Lavrov responded to an initial report of the verdict on Monday morning at a briefing saying: "It goes without saying that Russia, the agencies that represent Russia in this case, will use all the legal options it has to uphold its position." Rosneft said in a statement that it "considers that all its deals in acquiring Yukos's former assets and also all its other actions towards Yukos were fully lawful and were carried out according to the legislation in force."
Libya on Monday denied claims from Cairo that Egyptian nationals were among those killed in a rocket attack on a house in Tripoli at the weekend. Egypt's foreign ministry had said a rocket hit a house in the capital on Saturday, killing 23 people, including several Egyptians. Some of them are Egyptians, but we don't know how many," ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty told AFP.
Japanese officials are handing out radiation-blocking iodine tablets to people living in the shadow of two nuclear reactors slated to restart this year, underscoring concerns about atomic power after the Fukushima crisis. The move to distribute the pills -- which help to reduce radiation buildup in the body -- started Sunday for those living within a five-kilometre (three-mile) radius of the Sendai nuclear plant. Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority said earlier this month that two atomic reactors at the Sendai plant were safe enough to switch back on, marking a big step towards restarting nuclear plants which were shuttered after Fukushima.
A top-ranking North Korean military official has threatened a nuclear strike on the White House and Pentagon after accusing Washington of raising military tensions on the Korean peninsula. The threat came from Hwang Pyong-So, director of the military's General Political Bureau, during a speech to a large military rally in Pyongyang Sunday on the anniversary of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War. Hwang, who holds the rank of vice marshal in the Korean People's Army, said a recent series of South Korea-US military drills, one of which included the deployment of a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier, had ramped up tensions. "If the US imperialists threaten our sovereignty and survival... our troops will fire our nuclear-armed rockets at the White House and the Pentagon -- the sources of all evil," Hwang said in his speech broadcast Monday on state television.
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — Coal from Appalachia rumbles into this port city, 150 railroad cars at a time, bound for the belly of the massive cargo ship Prime Lily. The ship soon sets sail for South America, its 80,000 tons of coal destined for power plants and factories, an export of American energy — and pollution.
Dutch and Australian police will make a fresh attempt on Monday to reach the crash site of Malaysian flight MH17 in insurgent-held east Ukraine, after heavy fighting nearby scuppered their previous effort. The continuing unrest has also led Dutch authorities, who are leading a probe into the downing of the plane that killed all 298 on board, to conclude that it was unrealistic to send an armed mission to secure the site. Amid international recriminations over the chaos on the ground blocking access to the site, both sides in Ukraine's war traded blame, with Kiev accusing the rebels of "destroying evidence" and the insurgents saying Ukraine's army was targeting civilians. Washington released new photographs to bolster its claim that Russia, blamed by the West for abetting the insurgency by arming it -- including the missile that allegedly shot down MH17, was now taking a direct role in the conflict by firing into Ukraine, targeting the armed forces.
Aruba on Sunday freed a Venezuelan ex-military intelligence chief wanted in the United States on drug trafficking charges, stating that he had diplomatic immunity. Retired major general Hugo Carvajal, who was arrested Wednesday, flew home and was greeted with a hug by President Nicolas Maduro at a Socialist Party meeting in Caracas. Carvajal, who had been awaiting confirmation as Venezuela's consul in Aruba, has been on a US Treasury blacklist since 2008 for alleged links to the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). After Carvajal's arrest, the US Justice Department on Thursday unsealed a May 2013 indictment charging him with protecting drug shipments on behalf of Colombian traffickers.
An art exhibition in China by a North Korean defector has been cancelled, gallery staff said Monday, with reports saying the show had been dismantled on official orders. Sun Mu, who slipped out of North Korea in 1998 and uses a pseudonym because of concerns for his safety, paints satirical imitations of Pyongyang's propaganda imagery. An exhibition of his works had been due to open at the Yuan Dian gallery at the weekend, but China is nuclear-armed Pyongyang's key diplomatic backer and aid provider, even if their relationship has been strained by the antics of leader Kim Jong-Un. "Chinese police blocked people from entering the museum," South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported, adding that officers "removed his paintings and ad banners hung around the museum".
The UN Security Council Monday joined US President Barack Obama in calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, after Israel and Hamas ignored calls for a truce despite mounting civilian casualties. The Security Council resolution came during a lull in fighting in Gaza early Monday, the beginning of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival, after a day of strikes and counter-strikes. A military spokeswoman told AFP that since midnight no Gaza rockets had hit Israel, and the Jewish state had carried out no strikes in the Palestinian enclave. It also voiced "grave concern regarding the deterioration in the situation as a result of the crisis related to Gaza and the loss of civilian lives and casualties".
By David Brunnstrom WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visits India this week as Washington tries to revitalize ties it sees as a counterbalance to China's rising power, but rapid progress is unlikely, despite the reformist reputation of India's new leader. The visit by Kerry, and a trip by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel next month, follow the resounding election win of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May and are meant to create a good climate for Modi's planned visit to Washington in September. Analysts say it is only once Modi meets President Barack Obama that the United States may have a more realistic hope for progress on big defense projects, on removing obstacles to U.S. firms' participation in India's nuclear power industry, and for firmer statements of shared interests in Asia.
After a week of failed diplomacy, dithering and doubt, Tsar Nicholas II ordered Russia's armies to mobilise on July 30, 1914. Joyous street rallies broke out in support of the call to arms, with nationalist fervour still high two days later when the German Emperor Wilhelm II responded by declaring war on his Russian cousin. "Only the tsar, with his German origins, is against the war," the liberal journalist Mikhail Lemke mused in his diary at the time.
A group of 157 asylum-seekers held for weeks on the high seas on an Australian customs vessel were likely economic migrants from India, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said Monday. "The indications are... that there are a very large number of people on this ship that had been resident in India for a very long time," Morrison told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He said the boat had come from the "safe" nation of India, and had not stopped anywhere else on the way. "They have come from India and as a result where they are safe in India, a passage to Australia here is nothing more than an economic migration seeking to illegally enter Australia."
News-hungry, patriotic crowds had been massing for hours outside newspaper offices in Vienna when emperor Franz Joseph's "To My Peoples!" proclamation of war against Serbia finally came on the evening of July 28, 1914. Special editions were ripped out of newspaper sellers' hands, and in Vienna at least, nationalistic songs were sung late into the summer night, triumphant speeches were made and thousands thronged the streets. "Maybe people didn't think it would be over by Christmas, but the feeling was that it would be done by mid-1915," historian and Austrian Military Museum (HGM) director Christian Ortner told AFP. "But Vienna was playing a game of very high risks."
Pacific island leaders will renew calls for meaningful action on climate change at a regional summit opening in Palau on Tuesday, amid fears rising seas will swamp their low-lying nations. Many of the 15 nations represented at the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) lie barely a metre (three feet) above sea level, and regard themselves as the frontline of climate change, an issue they say threatens their very existence. While emissions controls and carbon footprints can seem like abstract concepts in the climate debate, Palau President Tommy Remengesau said Pacific island nations were already facing the reality of global warming.