By Julia Edwards and Susan Cornwell WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When U.S. President Barack Obama accepted the resignation on Friday of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, he said his priority now was fixing the troubled agency whose officials are accused of covering up delays in providing healthcare for U.S. veterans. As Obama himself said, the sprawling Veterans Affairs department "has had problems for a very long time," including management problems. Obama noted on Friday that the VA enrolled 2 million new veterans in healthcare under Shinseki's watch. Obama and many Democratic lawmakers say that the increase calls for more doctors and nurses to prevent veterans from having to endure long wait times for care. In February, Senate Republicans blocked a bill by Bernard Sanders, an Independent who caucuses with Democrats and chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, to expand veterans' benefits.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said Saturday he was "appalled" by the "barbaric" death sentence given to a Sudanese woman for apostasy. Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, 27, was condemned on May 15 under Islamic sharia law, which outlaws conversions on pain of death. "I am absolutely appalled by the decision to sentence Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag to death," Cameron said in a statement. She should be allowed to nurse her baby for two years before any death sentence is carried out, legal experts have said.
A commander from Iran's Revolutionary Guards has been killed in Syria, media said Saturday, a disclosure that runs counter to Tehran's insistence it is not fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad's forces. Reports that Abdollah Eskandari died while "defending" a Shiite shrine emerged earlier this week but neither the elite military unit nor Iran's foreign ministry have passed comment. Eskandari was formerly a commander of the Guards' ground forces and also headed a state-run charity in southern Iran that helps war veterans and families of fallen soldiers. Neither the circumstances of his killing nor details about his role in the Syrian civil war -- where Iran has staunchly backed the Assad regime -- have been officially confirmed.
Thousands of Turkish police mobilised Saturday in central Istanbul ahead of demonstrations to mark the first anniversary of last year's protests that mushroomed into a revolt against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's rule. Erdogan's government deployed thousands of riot police and police in civilian clothes to enforce a ban on protests at Taksim Square, the epicentre of last year's demonstrations, an AFP reporter said. Erdogan on Friday urged young Turks to ignore the call to stage a protest to mark the anniversary of a movement that began last year as a neighbourhood bid to save Gezi Park, adjacent to Taksim Square, from real estate developers.