Iran provided Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas with the technology it has used to rain down rockets on Israel from Gaza, its parliament speaker said on Thursday. Tehran frequently boasts of the financial and material support it gives to Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad but more rarely talks of its military assistance. "Today, the fighters in Gaza have good capabilities and can meet their own needs for weapons," speaker Ali Larijani told the Arabic service of state television. During the last major conflict in and around Gaza in November 2012, Larijani said Iran was "proud" to have provided "both financial and military support" to Hamas.
Frightened residents of the east Ukraine city of Donetsk filed into a humanitarian aid centre on Thursday to collect clothes, food and medicine as others fled the city amid fierce fighting on the outskirts. Pasta, buckwheat and a few bottles of sunflower oil could be seen stored in an office space next door with idyllic pictures of Ukraine's countryside. It's terrifying!" said Tatyana Zakharenko, a 74-year-old pensioner who lives near the airport -- retaken by Ukrainian forces in recent days but still the scene of fighting with rebels.
A Russian court on Thursday jailed a radical opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov to four and a half years for organising "mass riots" ahead of Vladimir Putin's inauguration as president in 2012. Judge Alexander Zamashnyuk sentenced both Udaltsov and his political ally Leonid Razvozzhayev to four and a half years in a corrective labour camp for organising a rally against Putin and plotting further unrest. Udaltsov, the shaven leader of a banned radical leftist group, rose to prominence as part of the protest movement against Putin's return to the Kremlin for a third term.
Argentina denied Thursday it was considering paying a "guarantee" to hedge funds demanding full payment on defaulted bonds as it held crunch talks to prevent a new default. With less than a week to go to either pay up or risk being declared in default, the Argentine government stuck to the defiant tone it has struck throughout its legal wrangling with the funds, rejecting reports that it could resolve the crisis by agreeing to pay them a guarantee at talks in New York. "Nobody can demand a guarantee from a sovereign country," cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich told journalists in Buenos Aires, lashing out at US District Judge Thomas Griesa for blocking the government's effort to restructure its debt. Time is running out for Argentina to deal with the fallout of its 2001 default, which plunged the country into an economic crisis it is still battling back from.
By Richard Cowan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers' inability to reach an agreement on immigration policy is at least partly to blame for a crisis that has seen thousands of children flee Honduras for the U.S. border, Honduran President Juan Hernandez said on Thursday. Human and drug traffickers are "perversely" exploiting confusion about U.S. immigration policy, Hernandez told reporters on Capitol Hill, flanked by Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina and U.S. House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, before a meeting with House Democrats. Hernandez, Perez Molina and El Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Ceren are scheduled to meet on Friday with U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to discuss ways to stop the flow of children migrating from the three Central American countries. The children have overwhelmed U.S. resources at the Texas-Mexico border and are also creating a political problem for Obama, who has long been pushing for changes to U.S. immigration policy.
By David Lawder WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Aiming to shake up the debate over fighting poverty, Republican Representative Paul Ryan on Thursday called for charities, community groups and even for-profit firms to compete with government in spending taxpayer money to aid the poor. Presenting his plan for a sweeping revamp of social safety net programs, Ryan said he wanted to give families more choice in how they receive taxpayer-funded assistance. He proposed replacing some 11 programs ranging from food stamps to housing vouchers with "opportunity grants" given to states to tailor aid to individual needs. The plan would shift the federal government's anti-poverty role largely to one of vetting state programs to distribute aid, and they would have to give the poor a choice of providers.
Norway has taken exceptional security measures after being informed of a possible imminent "terrorist attack" by militants who have fought in Syria, the country's intelligence chief said Thursday. The move comes as concerns are mounting in Europe about the growing national security threat posed by jihadists returning from war-torn Syria. The domestic intelligence service (PST) "recently received information that a group of extremists from Syria may be planning a terrorist attack in Norway," said PST chief Benedicte Bjoernland, adding it could be a question of days.
Europe's top human rights court condemned Poland on Thursday for hosting secret CIA prisons on its territory, saying Warsaw knowingly abetted unlawful imprisonment and torture of Guantanamo-bound detainees. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of a Palestinian and a Saudi national who were held in a US detention centre for several months in Poland in 2002-2003 before being transferred to the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Polish government "enabled the US authorities to subject the applicant to torture and ill-treatment on its territory", the ECHR said in its rulings over the cases of Palestinian Abu Zubaydah, 43, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, 49, of Saudia Arabia. The men's lawyers had argued before the Strasbourg court that during their detention, they were repeatedly tortured by waterboarding.
More than 2.2 billion people are "poor or near-poor", with financial crises, natural disasters, soaring food prices and violent conflicts threatening to exacerbate the problem, a United Nations report said Thursday. "Eliminating extreme poverty is not just about 'getting to zero'; "Those most vulnerable to natural disasters, climate change and financial setbacks must be specifically empowered and protected. UNDP chief Helen Clark said this was the first time that the annual study looked at vulnerability and resilience jointly "through a human development lens".
Church properties have been bulldozed and seized in a climate of growing harassment of minority Christians in Islamist-run Sudan since the south's 2011 independence, its council of churches said. Kori Elramla Kori Kuku, general secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches, told AFP that harassment has been on the rise ever since the separation three years ago of South Sudan, whose population follow mainly Christian and traditional beliefs. A death sentence issued in May to a pregnant Sudanese Christian woman convicted of apostasy from Islam drew worldwide attention to the issue of religious freedom in Sudan. Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag took refuge at the US embassy in Khartoum after a higher court annulled her conviction.
By Jeff Mason LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama will call on Thursday for an end to a corporate loophole that allows companies to avoid federal taxes by shifting their tax domiciles overseas in deals known as "inversions," White House officials said. Obama will make the comments during remarks about the economy at Los Angeles Technical College. Nine inversion deals have been agreed to this year by companies ranging from banana distributor Chiquita Brands International Inc to drugmaker AbbVie Inc and more are under consideration. The proposed changes, already put forward in Obama's annual budget, would be retroactive to May of this year and implemented independently of moves to achieve broader tax reform.