US President Barack Obama welcomed the completion of Afghanistan's presidential vote, set to usher in the country's first democratic transfer of power, saying it was critical to ensure more international support. Afghan voters lined up outside polling stations en masse -- with a final turnout expected to exceed 50 percent, or seven million -- to pick a successor to President Hamid Karzai for the first time since the US-led invasion in 2001. Karzai has refused to sign a security agreement that would allow the US to keep around 10,000 troops in Afghanistan to train local forces and hunt Al-Qaeda, and relations with Washington have dropped to a new low. "Millions of Afghan men and women took to the polls today with courage and commitment," US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.
Yokota Air Base, Tokyo (Japan) (AFP) - US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel on Saturday vowed America would stand by its security commitments to Tokyo, after Russia's intervention in Ukraine raised concerns in a region plagued by its own territorial disputes. Hagel, on a two-day visit to Japan as part of a tour of Asia, said Russia's annexation of Crimea had sparked worries among allies in the Pacific and elsewhere. Japan is locked in a bitter dispute with China over islands in the East China Sea, and some analysts have warned that Russia's move in Ukraine could embolden Beijing or other powers to take unilateral action to settle territorial claims.
ZunZuneo, a Twitter-style application designed to get Cubans talking among themselves on their cell phones, has become the latest obstacle to improved relations between Washington and Havana. The US Agency for International Development has (USAID) admitted to building the application so that Cubans, who face strict curbs on expression, could "talk freely among themselves." White House spokesman Jay Carney described the program as a "development assistance" scheme. He bristled at suggestions that USAID was being used to mount a covert operation aimed at inciting political unrest against Cuba's communist leaders.