Saudi King Abdullah Tuesday hailed the election of Egypt's ex-army chief Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to the presidency as an "historic day," calling for a donors conference to help Egypt through its economic troubles. The king, whose oil-rich nation is a strong ally of Egypt, said Sisi's sweeping win with 96.9 percent of the vote represents a "historic day and a new stage for Egypt," in a telegram published by Saudi state news agency SPA. "To the brothers and friends of Egypt ... I invite all to a donors conference ... to help it overcome its economic crisis," he said. Riyadh pledged billions of dollars in aid to Egypt's new authorities after the overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last July.
Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah assured foreign diplomats on Tuesday that his new unity government would respect past agreements with Israel, after chairing the cabinet's first meeting. The new 17-member cabinet was sworn in on Monday before president Mahmud Abbas, in line with a surprise reconciliation deal reached in April between Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas and the PLO, which dominates the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority. "Hamdallah stressed that the government is committed to all international agreements signed by the Palestine Liberation Organisation ... international political initiatives and peaceful solutions," his office said. Hamdallah was briefing European Union representatives to the Palestinian territories on his new government, also telling them his cabinet would focus on providing services and resolving pressing water issues in the Gaza Strip.
Libya's outgoing premier said Tuesday he would hand power to his rival and successor in "a week or two," after deadly fighting between a rogue ex-general and Islamists in their Benghazi stronghold. Abdullah al-Thani had refused to recognise the new government of Ahmed Miitig, who convened a cabinet meeting Monday despite his objections.
An armed Russian fighter jet intercepted a US military reconnaissance plane in late April in international airspace over the Sea of Okhotsk, several days after another intimidating maneuver in the Black Sea, the Pentagon disclosed Tuesday. US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey both communicated US concerns over the incident directly to the Russians, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said. Warren said the US RC-135 reconnaissance plane was on a routine mission over international airspace when it was intercepted by an Su-27 fighter.
Turning a new page in their troubled ties, President Barack Obama is set to name the first American ambassador to Somalia since the civil war erupted over 20 years ago, a US diplomat said Tuesday. "As a reflection both of our deepening relationship with the country and of our faith that better times are ahead, the president will propose the first US ambassador to Somalia in more than two decades," Undersecretary Wendy Sherman told a US think tank. Although the US never formally severed ties, the embassy in Mogadishu was closed in 1991 as Somalia descended into chaos amid a bloody power struggle among brutal warlords. "Almost overnight the very word 'Somalia' became a synonym for chaos," Sherman told the US Institute for Peace.
The OSCE's media rights advocate urged US authorities on Tuesday not to take action against a US journalist who refuses to testify in a trial against a former CIA officer. New York Times journalist James Risen was summoned by a federal appeals court to testify about confidential information leaked to him by ex-CIA official Jeffrey Sterling. "It is not acceptable to force a journalist to testify and disclose their sources when reporting on matters of public interest," OSCE media freedom representative Dunja Mijatovic said in a statement Tuesday.
Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah assured European diplomats Tuesday that his new unity government would respect past agreements with Israel, after chairing the cabinet's first meeting. The new 17-member cabinet was sworn in on Monday before president Mahmud Abbas, in line with a surprise reconciliation deal reached in April between Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas and the PLO, which dominates the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority. "Hamdallah stressed that the government is committed to all international agreements signed by the Palestine Liberation Organisation... international political initiatives and peaceful solutions," his office said. Hamdallah was briefing EU representatives to the Palestinian territories on his new government, telling them also that his cabinet would focus on service provision and resolving pressing water issues in the Gaza Strip.
The United States and Tunisia on Tuesday signed a $500 million loan guarantee agreement that will help Tunis raise money at affordable rates from commercial capital markets. The US Treasury said that the guarantee is aimed at helping the country rebuild its economy in the wake of the 2011 popular uprising that overthrew dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. "The loan guarantee agreement is designed to support Tunisia as it pursues important reforms that will provide the foundation for economic growth and prosperity," the Treasury said. It was the second US loan guarantee for the North African country.
Ex-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi won 96.9 percent of votes in Egypt's presidential election, the electoral commission announced Tuesday, almost a year after he overthrew elected Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi. Turnout in last week's election, hastily extended to three days amid fears of low turnout, was 47.45 percent, said commission chief Anwar Rashad al-Asi. Sisi's lopsided victory had been certain, with many lauding the retired field marshal as a hero for ending Morsi's divisive rule in July. Yet the lower-than-expected turnout -- Sisi himself had urged more voters to come out -- signalled a wide segment of the population was apathetic or boycotted the election.
President Barack Obama's choice of Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be the next U.S. health secretary will be debated in the Senate this week with votes expected on Wednesday and Thursday, according to a Senate Democratic aide. On Wednesday, the Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote on whether to limit debate on Burwell, who would replace outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. If a majority of the 100-member Senate votes to limit debate, a final vote on Burwell's confirmation likely would come on Thursday.
Brasília (AFP) - Activists angry over Brazil's spending on the World Cup inflated 12 giant footballs in front of Congress Tuesday, the latest protest in the build-up to the June 12 kick-off match. One, painted with the Brazilian flag, was slowly deflating -- a symbol of the deflating performance of Brazil's government, said protest organizer Antonio Carlos Costa. Brazil has been hit by a wave of protests and strikes ahead of the World Cup and a presidential election in October.
France, trying to minimise US penalties against BNP Paribas on charges of breaking sanctions, said on Tuesday that a reported $10 billion fine was excessive and warned it could damage trans-Atlantic trade talks. The remarks from French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius ramp up French concern at the size, manner and likely effects of the expected fine that could be imposed on the French bank. The New York Times newspaper reported that the governor of the Bank of France, Christian Noyer, had visited top US officials on the case in New York last week to warn that such a fine, equivalent to 7.4 billion euros ($10.1 billion), could have grave effects on the financial system. President Francois Hollande has also recently raised concerns about a plea deal with the White House, the paper wrote.
Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) (AFP) - The United States on Tuesday shut its airforce base in Kyrgyzstan that had been the main transit hub for troops going to Afghanistan, a move expected to boost Russia's influence in Central Asia. Washington was forced to shut the Manas Transit Centre north of Bishkek after Kyrgyzstan, an ex-Soviet country seeking closer ties with Moscow, refused to extend its lease last year. US ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Pamela Spratlen said all military personnel would leave the base in a week.