Critics condemned Morsi, who appointed 17 new governors, for attempting to force Islamist control over key positions and institutions. The opposition was particularly concerned about the nation’s ailing tourism industry after a member of Gamaa Islamiya -- a one-time terrorist organization -- was named governor of Luxor, home to many of ancient Egypt’s most famous tourist sites.
“One of my first priorities is supporting and revitalizing tourism, and maintaining monuments and taking care of them,” the new Luxor governor, Adel El-Khayat, told satellite channel ONTV on Wednesday. He earlier denied calling for the destruction of ancient Egyptian monuments, a demand by some conservative Islamists who view such antiquities as pagan idols forbidden by Islam.
Sixty years after leaving destitute Greece to pursue the quintessential immigrant’s dream of striking it rich in America, Eftichios “Van” Vlahakis is back trying to do business in his again-impoverished homeland.
Vlahakis, who at age 18 arrived in Chicago with a student visa and $23, slept in homeless shelters and did odd jobs at bars and restaurants while earning a chemistry degree at Roosevelt University in the 1950s. But he soon abandoned the toxins and caustic substances in use at his first jobs with companies producing aerosols, polishes and solvents, redirecting his knowledge of the Earth’s elements to the creation of environmentally safe cleaning products.
He is the founding force behind Earth Friendly Products, his family-owned enterprise that touts its ECOS detergent as the No. 1-selling green laundry product in the world. Now he wants to expand its place in the European market with a new factory and distribution center in Athens.
Vlahakis' efforts to...
TEHRAN — For the second time in just a few days, large crowds of young revelers filled the streets of the Iranian capital late Tuesday and early Wednesday in celebratory street rallies. The capital of the Islamic Republic has suddenly become a party town.
The reason to make merry this time wasn’t political. Fans were rejoicing that the national soccer team qualified for the 2014 soccer World Cup in Brazil after beating South Korea, 1-0.
The victory in a tense match prompted thousands to take to the streets cheering, waving flags and dancing to the steady sound of honking cars, which kept many Tehran residents up until the early hours.
Pictures circulating on social media show smiling young men and women carrying Iranian flags and with flags painted on their faces milling around the streets.
The scenes were reminiscent of Saturday evening, when thousands of ecstatic Iranian youths took to the streets to cheer the surprise victory of moderate cleric Hassan Rowhani in the...
BERLIN -- President Obama on Wednesday rejected criticism from Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s office that the U.S. had said one thing and done another while arranging informal peace talks with the insurgent Taliban movement.
“We had anticipated that at the outset, there were going to be some areas of friction, to put it mildly, in getting this thing off the ground,” Obama said at a news conference here with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Karzai's office earlier in the day had abruptly canceled ongoing security negotiations with U.S. officials aimed at defining the U.S.-Afghan relationship after American-led foreign forces leave Afghanistan, a move scheduled for the end of next year.
His decision came a day after the Obama administration had announced that representatives of the United States and the Taliban would hold talks in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. U.S. officials said the talks were set to begin Thursday.
In a terse statement, the Afghan president&...
MEXICO CITY -- Could the next mayor of Ciudad Juarez be an ass?
Chon the Burro is being promoted as a candidato for the border city’s top job in next month's election. Farther south, Morris the Cat is a “candigato” in the city of Xalapa, gato being the Spanish word for cat.
Mexicans fed up with their corrupt and ineffective politicians have mounted tongue-in-cheek campaigns in several cities to get out the vote for their pets or other friendly animals. Election officials are not amused. But the public seems to like it, if we are to judge by the buzz in both social media and the Mexican press.
As of Wednesday morning, Morris, a black-and-white kitten, had more than 130,000 “likes” on his Facebook page, where he promises to do nothing more than rest and play, “like all the other candidates.”
Morris’ campaign slogan: “Tired of voting for all those rats? Vote for a cat!”
There are, of course, so many possibilities. We might...
MOSCOW -- Russian officials responded coolly Wednesday to President Obama’s call for further reductions to the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.
“We cannot allow the balance of the strategic deterrence system to be broken, or the effectiveness of our nuclear forces to be diminished,” President Vladimir Putin said at a defense industry meeting in St. Petersburg.
Obama said he wants to go beyond reductions outlined in the New START treaty and will be seeking an additional one-third cut in the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads in the U.S. stockpile, if the Russians agree to do the same.
In a speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Obama said he would work with the Russians “to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures.”
Russian officials, however, suggested that bilateral negotiations between the United States and Russia on the subject were themselves a relic of the past.
“Now, this problem is wider and naturally the circle of parties to be...
MOGADISHU, Somalia -- At least 15 people died when an Al Qaeda-linked militia attacked a U.N. compound here Wednesday, government officials said.
The dead included the attackers and four foreigners, including two South African de-miners who worked for the arms manufacturer Denel, the company confirmed. Dozens more were wounded.
Witnesses said the attack began when a suicide bomber in a car detonated an explosion outside the United Nations Development Program headquarters in Mogadishu, the capital. As the smoke cleared, gunmen in two other cars ran into the compound shooting, according to Abdi Ibrahim, a witness who was nearby as the assault unfolded before midday.
"First there was one big explosion, followed by three other explosions," he told The Times. "Then I saw uniformed men running into the compound."
The ensuring gunfight lasted more than an hour, according to witnesses.
Al Shabab, an Al Qaeda-linked militia that opposes the Somali government, later claimed responsibility for...
BERLIN -- President Obama on Wednesday announced plans to go beyond the reductions outlined in the New START treaty with Russia and said he would seek an additional one-third cut in the number of strategic nuclear warheads in the U.S. stockpile, if the Russians agree to do the same.
Summoning the words of John F. Kennedy in a speech before the Brandenburg Gate, Obama argued that the safety of the United States and its allies is rooted in fairness and freedom from threat -- including the global nuclear threat.
Just as Kennedy called on Berliners to “lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today,” Obama said, he asked them to look “to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourself and ourselves to all mankind.”
“Our work is not done,” Obama said. “So long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe.”
After a comprehensive review, he said, his administration has determined the U.S. can still ensure the security of the U.S. and its allies...
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Underscoring Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s reputation in Washington as a mercurial U.S. ally, the Karzai administration suspended security talks with the United States on Wednesday, apparently without warning, a day before U.S. officials were due to meet with the Taliban for informal talks.
In a statement that didn’t include much explanation, the Afghan president’s office said the suspension was made in light of the “contradiction between acts and the statements made by the United States of America in regard to the peace process.”
A few hours later, the presidential palace issued a second statement that said: “The Afghan High Peace Council will not attend the Qatar negotiations until they’re fully Afghanized,” adding that the opening of a Taliban office in the Persian Gulf nation on Monday undermined earlier assurances made by the United States.
The Afghan government didn’t detail those assurances or say how...
BERLIN -- President Obama tried to reassure skeptical Europeans about sweeping U.S. digital surveillance programs expanded under his watch, arguing that the programs are circumscribed, overseen by a court and effective.
"What I can say to everybody in Germany and everybody around the world is this applies very narrowly," Obama said Wednesday after a meeting in which German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed the president on whether the programs were violating the privacy rights of German citizens.
"This is not a situation in which we are rifling through the ordinary emails of German citizens or American citizens or French citizens or anybody else," he said. "This is not a situation where we can go on to the Internet and start searching any way we want."
Obama argued that the collection of bulk data on phone records and Internet activity has averted "at least 50 threats," repeating claims made by other administration officials since details about the programs were disclosed two weeks ago....
With the election of congenial pragmatist Hassan Rowhani as the next president, Iran has caught the world off-guard.
Emigres, opposition figures and diplomats had written off Friday’s vote as a preordained elevation of another anti-Western hard-liner to replace President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was ineligible to seek a third consecutive term.
But the fractious inner workings of the religious hierarchy that controls the real levers of power in the Islamic Republic conspired to advance Rowhani, the sole moderate in the six-man field. That is probably to the dismay of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who a year ago publicly accused Rowhani of making treasonous concessions to the West when he was Iran’s nuclear negotiator about a decade earlier.
The religious leaders’ acceptance of the electoral outcome -- instead of fiddling the results, as they are widely accused of having done to deprive reformers of victory in 2009 -- came as a surprise to some and has...
BERLIN -- Standing at a symbol of democracy’s triumph over communism, President Obama will announce his hopes to further reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal as he tries to outline a vision for a post-Cold War "national and citizen activism," officials said.
In a speech at the Brandenburg Gate on Wednesday, Obama will say he wants to go beyond reductions outlined in the New START treaty, seeking an additional one-third cut in the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal, if the Russians agree to do the same, a senior administration official said Wednesday.
Obama will, at least for a day, revive the topic in a high-profile speech aimed at historians and legacy watchers, as well as a European public increasingly wary of some of the president’s foreign policies. News of the scope and scale of U.S. foreign surveillance programs has become major news in Germany, adding to a short list of disappointments for a population that overwhelmingly embraced the...
SAO PAULO, Brazil -- An estimated 50,000 people took to the streets of Sao Paulo on Tuesday, continuing protests in Brazil aimed at lowering public bus fares and improving public services.
The Free Fare Movement behind the protests said it would stay on the streets until the Sao Paulo government revoked a recent bus fare increase of about 10 cents.
"Lower the bus fare, charge it to FIFA," thousands chanted as they poured down the streets of South America's largest city, referring to the international soccer association organizing the 2014 World Cup.
Mayor Fernando Haddad said he might also be willing to consider a reduction if that is what the population wants, and if he can raise funds some other way.
Earlier in the day, several cities announced reductions in bus fares as President Dilma Rousseff sought to ally herself with the largest protest movement the country has seen in two decades.Rousseff said Brazil was proud of the...
MEXICO CITY -- Alarmed by what they call troubling reports of human rights atrocities in Honduras, 21 U.S. senators are calling on the Obama administration to review how U.S. money is being spent in support of possibly abusive security forces.
In a letter to Secretary of State John F. Kerry dated Tuesday, the senators cite numerous recent killings and threats targeting union leaders, opposition figures, farmers, students, journalists and others, noting that authorities have been implicated in some of the incidents, most of which go unpunished.
“As the November 2013 [Honduran presidential] elections draw near,” the senators wrote, “we are particularly troubled by reports of corruption and extrajudicial killings.”
Besieged by drug traffickers, vicious gangs and fierce political bloodletting, Honduras suffers one of the highest homicide rates in the Western Hemisphere. Violence has especially surged since the 2009 military coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya....
ENNISKILLEN, Northern Ireland -- Calling for an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process,” President Obama expressed cautious optimism about the Taliban’s surprise agreement to negotiate directly with U.S. officials toward ending America’s longest war and decades of bloodshed in Afghanistan.
U.S. and Taliban officials announced separately Tuesday that they would hold their first formal meeting in coming days in Doha, Qatar, the site of failed negotiations early last year, although they did not set a date. Afghan officials said they hoped to follow up with their own talks with the Taliban delegation.
U.S. officials said the talks would involve a new group, the Taliban Political Commission, which they said was authorized by fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar to open an office in Doha. They said the makeup of the group is unknown, but it apparently includes or represents the Pakistani-based Haqqani network and other armed insurgent groups.
“This is an...
SAO PAULO, Brazil -- A number of cities in Brazil announced reductions in public bus fares Tuesday as authorities grappled with some of the largest street protests in years.
Another major rally was planned in Sao Paulo for Tuesday evening, after tens of thousands demonstrated in a dozen cities the previous day.
The protests began last week in response to rising transportation costs but have grown to express broader dissatisfaction with government services and the police.
President Dilma Rousseff said Tuesday that Brazil was proud of the protesters.
“Peaceful protests are legitimate and are proper for a democracy,” she said in Brasilia. “The voices on the streets want more -- more citizenship, more healthcare, more education, more transportation and more opportunities. I want to guarantee that my government also wants more.”
She then left for Sao Paulo to discuss the demonstrations with former President Luiz...
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Mali's government reached a peace deal Tuesday with Tuareg fighters who rebelled last year and seized most of the country's north.
But the deal does not resolve the West African nation's conflict with separate Islamic militias linked with Al Qaeda that are still plaguing the region.
After taking control of the north, the Tuareg rebels of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, or MNLA, were swiftly outflanked by the militias, which grabbed control of key northern towns last year, imposing a severe form of Islamic law, or sharia.
The Tuaregs, who been struggling for decades for an independent state they call Azawad, subsequently distanced themselves from the Islamists.
Under Tuesday's accord, the MNLA and a smaller Tuareg group, the High Council of the Azawad, agreed to allow security forces back into Kidal, the northeastern town that the rebels control, according to news agencies. The rebels also gave up their fight for independence and...
ENNISKILLEN, Northern Ireland -- President Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin and other world leaders joined forces Tuesday in seeking a negotiated Syrian peace settlement that would forge a “united, inclusive and democratic” government -- but couldn't agree on whether this means President Bashar Assad must go.
The declaration at the end of the two-day Group of 8 summit sought to narrow the diplomatic chasm between Assad's key backer, Russia, and Western leaders who together have been trying to start peace talks in Geneva to end a two-year civil war that has claimed more than 90,000 lives.
The declaration said the country needs a new coalition government with “a top leadership that inspires public confidence.” It made no reference to the possibility of sending U.S., British or French weapons to rebels, an option being kept open by all three G-8 members.
Russia refused to back any declaration that made Assad's ouster an explicit goal, arguing that it would...
ABU GHOSH, Israel -- Dozens of residents of this Arab village near Jerusalem woke up Tuesday to find their tires slashed and their walls spray-painted with hateful messages, their community the latest target of a series of politically motivated vandalism in Israel.
The late-night attack surprised residents of Abu Ghosh, known for its warm, neighborly relations with Jewish communities west of Jerusalem.
"Not in our worst dreams did we imagine this happening here,” said city official Issa Jaber. “Abu Ghosh has been an exemplary model of Arab-Jewish coexistence for decades."
President Shimon Peres spoke with the village mayor, Salim Jaber, and condemned the attack as "racist behavior which crosses a red line." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised action, saying the incident "contravenes the values of our people and state."
The Israeli government is beginning to crack down on such attacks, dubbed "price-tag operations" by the perpetrators and believed to be carried out by...
LONDON — With many of their governments strapped for cash, leaders at a summit of rich nations vowed Tuesday to crack down on tax cheats by swapping financial information and exposing companies that set up elaborate structures to hide their profits.
The agreement was one of the clearest indications yet of growing momentum behind a global crackdown on tax evasion and avoidance following criticism that corporations such as Apple and Google, as well as wealthy individuals, have exploited loopholes or gone to great legal lengths to escape paying their fair share.
The Group of 8 nations, including the United States, Japan and Germany, pledged to promote an international system of automatic information-sharing between tax authorities and to take steps toward forcing shell companies to reveal who their true owners are. Such moves are considered crucial to eliminate schemes that activists say result in the worldwide loss of billions, perhaps trillions, of dollars to the public purse,...
MOSCOW -- The lower house of Russia's parliament gave initial approval Tuesday to ban the adoption of Russian orphans by foreign same-sex married couples or by single persons from countries where same-sex marriages are allowed.
Some lawmakers said the measure was intended as a response to a French law passed last month allowing same-sex marriage.
The latest measure would not currently apply to Americans because they are already banned from adopting Russians. Lawmakers took that step in December in response to passage by the U.S. Congress of a law denying visas and imposing financial sanctions on Russian officials involved in the case of attorney Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison in 2011 after shedding light on a multimillion-dollar scam.
“A child must have a mom and dad because the child gets reared and educated about the world in a family,” Sergei Zheleznyak, a deputy speaker of the lower house, or State Duma, said in a speech Tuesday promoting the measure. “If a...
Officials said direct talks between U.S. officials and Taliban representatives could begin this week in Doha and would be followed soon after by a meeting between the Taliban and the High Peace Council, which will represent the Afghan government in the talks.
The opening of the Qatar office has long been a goal of U.S. officials seeking to move forward a diplomatic process ahead of the planned withdrawal of U.S. forces next year. Officials expressed cautious optimism about the prospects of the negotiations, and stressed that U.S. will act as a “facilitator” in the process.
“The core of the process is not going to be U.S.-Taliban talks,” said one senior official, who...
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- A suicide bomb blast at a funeral in northwest Pakistan killed at least 20 people Tuesday, including a newly elected provincial lawmaker, authorities said.
[Updated, 7:56 a.m. PDT June 18: Authorities later revised the casualty toll upward, saying 27 people died and 57 others were injured.]
Police said they were looking into whether the target may have been Imran Mohmand, the independent candidate in the May 11 parliament and provincial assembly elections who was killed in the blast. He was among those attending the funeral for a man who had been shot and killed on Monday.
The attack occurred in Mardan, a small, largely Pashtun city located about 85 miles from Islamabad, the capital.
Officials said the bomber was able to approach the crowd despite the presence of several police officers providing security at the funeral. Some of those officers were among the casualties, said Jafar Khan, a senior Mardan police official.
“Police here are already on high...
KABUL, Afghanistan -- An hour before NATO transferred formal responsibility for the nation’s security to Afghan forces, a large bomb targeting a minority lawmaker exploded in western Kabul on Tuesday morning, killing three civilians and wounding more than a dozen others, police said.
The intended target, Mohammad Mohaqiq, a prominent lawmaker and former Cabinet member from the minority Hazara community, survived the attack but at least four bodyguards in his convoy were wounded, said Gen. Mohammad Daud Amin, Kabul’s deputy police chief.
No group claimed immediate responsibility but the blast, a roadside bomb detonated by remote control, was specifically designed to disrupt Tuesday’s security transition, said Gen. Mohammad Zahir, head of Kabul's crime and investigation unit.
The assault in the western Pul-e Surkh area of Kabul, near the headquarters of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, was the fifth high-profile strike in six weeks on the heavily guarded...
This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.
SAO PAULO, Brazil — Tens of thousands of protesters in Brazil held rallies in at least 11 capital cities Monday, the fifth straight day of demonstrations in opposition to such issues as rising public bus fares and police violence.
Marches coordinated on social networks took place in cities including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte, where police fired tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters, and Brasilia, where a small group climbed onto the roof of Congress.
In Sao Paulo, estimates indicated at least 65,000 people filled the main arteries of South America's largest city in the fifth and largest protest in two weeks organized by the student-heavy “Free Fare Movement” against a 10-cent hike in the city’s bus fare. Support for the group has mushroomed since a widely publicized crackdown by military police Thursday that left 120 protesters and journalists injured.
ENNISKILLEN, Northern Ireland -- Sharp divisions over the civil war in Syria led to an icy encounter Monday between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom U.S. officials view as a major hurdle in their drive to force Syrian President Bashar Assad from power.
The two leaders held their first face-to-face meeting in a year at the summit of the world’s richest countries days after Obama deepened U.S. involvement in the Syrian conflict. Aides said the CIA would begin supplying arms and ammunition to some opposition forces in hopes of shifting the military balance away from Assad.
In comments to reporters, Obama and Putin expressed support for still-unscheduled Syrian peace negotiations in Geneva, but offered no sign of progress in ending a war that has killed at least 93,000 people. Russia, Syria's most powerful ally, has sent weapons to Assad's forces and is considering deliveries of sophisticated antiaircraft missile batteries.
Obama noted that he and Putin had...
ISTANBUL — Riot police in Istanbul fired water cannons and tear gas Monday to disperse pockets of protesters on the sidelines of a demonstration called by labor groups hoping to capitalize on weeks of activism to register broader discontent.
Two major labor groups urged their members to hold a one-day strike and participate in demonstrations in response to a police crackdown against activists who have led protests centered on Istanbul's Taksim Square and nearby Gezi Park in recent weeks.
A rally in Ankara, the capital, took place peacefully, and there were no immediate signs that the police operation in Istanbul had provoked major clashes in the afternoon. Earlier, Turkey's interior minister warned that anyone joining unlawful demonstrations would “bear the legal consequences.”
Meanwhile, in a sign of tension between rival groups, images from the Dogan news agency showed crowds of government supporters facing down some protesters. Some chanted, “The hands...
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. and the European Union will begin talks next month on an ambitious free-trade deal between the two rich regions that exchanged more than $645 billion in goods last year.
But the announcement, made Monday ahead of the Group of 8 summit in Northern Ireland, came against a backdrop of contention over French insistence that subsidized domestic movies remain protected as well as questions about U.S. government surveillance programs.
President Obama, standing alongside EU leaders and the United Kingdom's prime minister, David Cameron, nonetheless hailed the proposed trans-Atlantic trade agreement as a "potentially groundbreaking partnership" that would deepen ties between two areas that account for about 45% of the global economy.
The aim is to reach a comprehensive deal that would remove all tariffs and develop uniform rules and standards on a wide range of goods and services that would bolster trade, investment and jobs. The first round of talks will be held in...
TEHRAN — Iranian President-elect Hassan Rowhani on Monday promised to make the country’s nuclear program more transparent, fueling hopes that the moderate cleric can make headway on an issue that has wreaked havoc on the Islamic Republic’s international relations and resulted in punishing economic sanctions.
But he made it clear that Iran would not consider halting its uranium enrichment activities, which he said were “within the framework of law,” and called the sanctions “baseless.”
U.S. officials suspect that Iran is trying to achieve the capacity to build nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is exclusively for civilian uses, such as energy generation and cancer treatment.
“Of course, our activities are already transparent,” Rowhani, a former nuclear negotiator, said at his first news conference since his surprise election win Saturday. But, he said, “the only way to end the sanctions is to increase the...
LONDON -- Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks website, is prepared to stay holed up inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London for as long as five years if necessary in order to avoid extradition to Sweden to face what he says are politically motivated allegations of sexual assault, the Ecuadorean foreign minister said Monday.
Assange is accused of sexually assaulting two women on separate occasions in Stockholm in August 2010. He was arrested in London in December of that year, which began a series of legal appeals by his attorneys to block his extradition to Sweden. But those appeals, which went all the way up to Britain's Supreme Court, were denied.
Britain says it is duty-bound to extradite Assange to Sweden to face allegations of rape, but Ecuador has offered the white-haired Australian sanctuary if he can be guaranteed safe passage to the South American country.
Ricardo Patiño, the Ecuadorean foreign minister, met with his British counterpart, William Hague, for 45 minutes...
WASHINGTON -- Edward Snowden, the former U.S. government contractor who leaked secret details of official surveillance programs, pledged Monday to release more information about U.S. intelligence-gathering methods that he described as “nakedly, aggressively criminal.”
“All I can say right now is the U.S. government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me,” Snowden wrote in an online chat hosted by Britain’s Guardian newspaper. “Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.”
Writing from an undisclosed location believed to be in Hong Kong, the former CIA and National Security Agency systems administrator vigorously defended his disclosures about the breadth of U.S. surveillance, including programs that sweep up data about Americans’ telephone calls, emails and Internet use.
U.S. officials have said that under laws governing the surveillance programs, including the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence...
AMMAN, Jordan — Amid escalating concern about spillover effects of the war in neighboring Syria, Jordan’s King Abdullah II has warned that his kingdom is able "at any moment" to protect its national interests.
Addressing a group of cadets in a graduation ceremony at Mutah Military Academy on Sunday, the king, in full battle dress, made only a single mention of Syria, but the conflict next door was a major subtext.
"If the world does not mobilize or help us in the issue [of Syria] as it should, or if this matter forms a danger to our country, we are able at any moment to take measures that will protect our land and the interests of our people,” said Abdullah, a key regional ally of the United States.
The speech came as Jordan was taking part in "Eager Lion," a 12-day military exercise that has brought 4,500 U.S. military personnel as well as 3,500 soldiers from 17 other countries to the kingdom.
Despite the annual nature of the exercise, which has been held at the same...
BEIRUT — A car bomb targeting a checkpoint near a military airport in an upscale neighborhood of the Syrian capital of Damascus killed 10 soldiers, activists said Monday, as President Bashar Assad's troops pressed ahead with an offensive to regain territory lost to rebels trying to topple his government.
The army has scored major victories in key battlefields in western and central Syria in the past weeks and is now setting its sights on the country's largest city, Aleppo, in the north, parts of which have been opposition strongholds.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group, said 10 soldiers died in the attack Sunday night in Damascus' Mazzeh area and 10 were wounded. The neighborhood houses several embassies and a military airport.
Syrian state media confirmed there was a blast near the military airport late Sunday but did not release any casualty figures.
At least 93,000 people have been killed in Syria's conflict since it erupted in March...
MOSCOW -- Ahead of President Obama's first meeting this year with his Russian counterpart, Moscow on Monday declared that it would not accept imposition of a "no-fly" zone over Syria, one of its last remaining allies in the Middle East.
“The Russian Federation sees no necessity for the introduction of such measures and considers them counterproductive,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told a media briefing in Moscow. “We saw the way such a zone is introduced and the way such like decisions are implemented in the example of Libya.”
“We don’t want such a repetition in regard to Syrian conflict, and I think that we won’t allow such a scenario in principle,” he said.
Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to meet at a gathering of the Group of 8 industrial nations in Northern Ireland beginning Monday.
Lukashevich said any preparations for imposing a "no-fly" zone,...
JERUSALEM -- The idea of a Palestinian state is a "dead end," the conflict an intractable problem and Israel has "to live with it," Israel's economy minister, Naftali Bennett, said Monday.
Speaking to a sympathetic audience of settler leaders in Jerusalem, Bennett said "never have so many people spent so much energy on something so pointless," adding that what Israel must do in the West Bank is "build, build, build."
His comments are the latest in a series of remarks by members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government against the two-state solution, raising doubts about the possibility of peace talks that the United States is working to renew.
Earlier this month, it was Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon who dismissed the two-state solution, obliging Netanyahu's office to make clear Danon's positions did not reflect those of the government.
Bennett's comments were explained in the same way by Netanyahu's fellow party member lawmaker Zeev Elkin -- who shares Bennett's views on...
Northern Ireland venue for G-8 summit showcases recovery from 'the Troubles'
Monday-Tuesday, June 17-18 -- Security is always a challenge at the annual Group of 8 summit, and this year host nation Britain has made the task particularly daunting with its choice of a Northern Ireland town synonymous with the violent era known as "the Troubles."
President Obama and the other seven leaders of the rich-nation club will retreat to the serene Lough Erne golf resort on the outskirts of Enniskillen, scene of a 1987 bombing by Provisional Irish Republican Army militants that killed 11 and injured dozens.
British Prime Minister David Cameron and Northern Ireland provincial officials have touted the remote lakeside resort as a showcase of the recovery from that bloody, three-decade period when 3,600 died in the IRA struggle to wrest the province from British rule. The 1998 Good Friday agreement brought a tentative peace, but hundreds of republican dissidents are still thought to be biding their...
BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- In early remarks after his arrival, President Obama held up a peaceful Northern Ireland as the "proof of what’s possible" and called on young people to maintain the work that has stopped generations of deadly sectarian violence.
“For you are the first generation in this land to inherit more than just hardened attitudes and the bitter prejudices of the past, you’re an inheritor of a just and hard-earned peace,” Obama said in a speech to young people shortly after arriving in the city.
Obama arrived in Belfast on a wet, foggy Monday morning to attend a meeting of the Group of Eight industrialized nations. The summit of world leaders at a golf resort outside Belfast would have been thought impossible during the Troubles -- the conflict between Catholics and Protestants that long created instability, poverty, terrorism and deep prejudices.
Obama spoke at Belfast Waterfront Hall, an auditorium where...
BEIJING -- Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese dissident, is charging that New York University is kicking him out of a fellowship because of pressure from the Chinese government.
The self-trained lawyer, who set off an international incident last year by taking refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, said the university asked him and his wife and two children to leave in July.
"As early as last August and September, the Chinese Communists had already begun to apply great, unrelenting pressure on New York University," Chen said in a statement released early Monday. "The work of the Chinese Communists within academic circles in the United States is far greater than what people imagine."
NYU says Chen was on a one-year fellowship and that it is helping him find another position.
Chen’s supporters link the university’s decision to a new campus it is opening this year in Shanghai. The university, run along with East China Normal University, is being billed as the first jointly run...
ISTANBUL, Turkey — Riot police firing tear gas and water cannons repelled thousands of antigovernment protesters attempting to converge on Istanbul's central Taksim Square on Sunday, unbowed even as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan defended his crackdown at a rally of his supporters.
A day after police quashed an 18-day sit-in at the square's Gezi Park, Erdogan spoke to hundreds of thousands of his supporters on one side of Turkey's largest city, and throngs of protesters angrily tried to regroup and reclaim Taksim. The square had become the symbolic center of defiance against Erdogan's government.
The contrast between the two events highlighted growing divisions in Turkish society, which many say have been exacerbated by Erdogan's fiery rhetoric as he faced down the most widespread protests in his 10-year tenure.
Although they have dented his international image and angered many at home, the protests are unlikely to prove a significant challenge to his government. He was...
BEIRUT -- The election of Hassan Rowhani as Iran’s new president has raised hopes of increased engagement with other nations and a new era of moderation in the Islamic Republic, according to commentaries across the region on Sunday.
Rowhani, a soft-spoken, 64-year old bespectacled and turbaned cleric, will hold his first press conference on Monday, the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) reported. His victory was featured prominently Sunday in many Arab newspapers.
“Rowhani, the reformists' candidate, is president of Iran,” the London-based, pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper splashed on its front page.
“Can Rowhani be another Khatami?” asked the English-language Saudi Gazette, referring to ex-Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, whose administration was relatively open to the world.
Many speculated on whether Rowhani would be able to mend ties with Sunni Gulf nations, who have strained relations with Shiite Iran, part of a broader conflict between the two...
VATICAN CITY — Biker culture came to the Vatican on Sunday as Pope Francis blessed thousands of Harley-Davidsons and their riders who celebrated the manufacturer's 110th anniversary with a loud parade and plenty of leather.
Thundering Harley engines nearly drowned out the Latin recitation of the “Our Father” prayer that accompanied Francis as he greeted the crowd before Mass. Standing in his open-top jeep, Francis drove up the main boulevard leading to St. Peter's Square, blessing the thousands of people in what was a giant Harley parking lot.
Once the service got underway, bikers in their trademark leather Harley vests sat in the square alongside nuns and tens of thousands of faithful Catholics taking part in an unrelated, two-day pro-life rally.
Francis addressed them both afterward, giving a blessing to the “numerous participants” of the Harley gathering.
Tens of thousands of Harley owners from around the world...
TEHRAN — Iran's newly elected reformist-backed president said Sunday that the country's dire economic problems cannot be solved “overnight,” as he took his first steps in consulting with members of the clerically dominated establishment on his new policies.
Hassan Rowhani's surprise victory in Friday's elections puts him in charge of an executive branch that traditionally has taken the lead in handling the economy, while nuclear efforts, defense and foreign affairs remain primarily in the hands of the ruling clerics and their powerful protectors, the Revolutionary Guard.
This creates a challenge for Rowhani, as Iran suffers from more than 30% inflation as well as 14% unemployment linked to Western sanctions for Tehran's suspect nuclear program. Rowhani has called for reaching out to the international community but has little authority over the nuclear activities tied to sanctions.
The semi-official ISNA agency said Rowhani discussed inflation and unemployment as well...
CAIRO — Artists and writers protesting in downtown Cairo are calling for the resignation of Culture Minister Alaa Abdel-Aziz amid accusations that the Islamist-led government is attempting to impose restrictions on the country’s art scene.
Concerned about the future of freedom of expression, dozens of prominent artists, including film director Khaled Youssef, novelist Bahaa Taher and actor Nabil El Helfawy, have been staging a sit-in outside the Egyptian cultural ministry since June 5.
“The intellectuals, writers and artists inside the ministry announce their rejection of the minister, appointed by a religious fascist regime, who has embarked on a plan to destroy national culture,” the artists said in a group statement.
Abdel-Aziz has fired at least five ministry officials since his appointment in a cabinet reshuffle in late May. Protesters accuse him of trying to force the Muslim Brotherhood’s religious agenda on the ministry. The Brotherhood, which controls...
SEOUL — The North Korean regime Sunday suggested a high-level meeting with the United States "to ease the tension on the Korean peninsula," less than a week after its scheduled working-level talks with Seoul were called off.
In the National Defense Commission's "important statement" carried on its state-run Korea Central Television, Pyongyang said that if the U.S. is "sincerely interested in keeping the peace and security in the region, including the mainland United States," the two countries should hold high-level talks.
Proposing the two countries meet at a venue and date of Washington's choice, Pyongyang said they could discuss issues such as "easing the military tension" and denuclearization. The communist state also emphasized that there shouldn't be any precondition to the talks, and that how the situation unfolds depends solely on the U.S.
"We assert, internally and externally, that denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is our people's unchanging will," the statement...
MEXICO CITY — A powerful two-punch earthquake shook western Mexico early Sunday, knocking out electricity and cellular phone service in parts of this sprawling capital. There were no immediate reports of serious damage or fatalities.
Initial readings put the quake at a magnitude of 5.9 at around 12:30 a.m., with the epicenter about 90 miles south of Mexico City in the northern part of Guerrero state, where Acapulco is located.
It was felt with marked strength in Mexico City, swaying major apartment buildings, hotels and skyscrapers. Residents scooted from their homes, some in pajamas, or filed out of late-night bars and restaurants. Many remained in the streets long after the quake ended, bracing for aftershocks.
The shaking began gently, paused, then gave a good rattling to buildings in much of the capital.
Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera, whose inspectors immediately took to flight in helicopters and fanned out through city streets, said there were no reports of serious...
TARTUS, Syria — War may be ravaging much of Syria, but there is no sign of conflict on bustling streets here, where diners wearing designer sunglasses order freshly caught fish at seaside cafes and gaze out on a palm-fringed expanse resembling a slightly tattered version of southern France or the Greek isles.
Absent are the rows of pulverized apartment blocks that mark parts of battleground cities like Homs, Damascus and Aleppo. But that doesn't mean this ancient port — once home to Phoenicians, Romans and Crusaders — hasn't suffered its share of losses.
Colorful posters displayed in street-side shrines and a "martyrs wall" near a busy bus stop commemorate the area's sons who have been killed fighting for the government of President Bashar Assad. More than 2,500 residents, most of them soldiers, have been killed in the two-year civil war, officials say.
"It's important to show that we appreciate their sacrifice," said Samer Ahmed, 29, an auto mechanic, closely...
TEHRAN -- Wild celebrations broke out on Tehran streets Saturday evening when the Iranian Interior Ministry confirmed centrist cleric Hassan Rowhani’s presidential election victory, throwing open the political order after relentless crackdowns by hard-liners to consolidate and safeguard their grip on power.
An enormous gathering of chanting and cheering supporters flooded the center of Tehran where Rowhani's headquarters were located. Many of them wore purple T-shirts or scarves, the color of his campaign.
The mood was far different than four years ago, when enthusiastic reformers pinned high hopes on the prospects of reform candidates, only to see incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad easily reelected.
Days of unrest followed that election.
“Long live Rowhani,” tens of thousands of jubilant Iranians chanted Saturday as security officials made no attempt to rein in crowds -- joyous and even a bit bewildered by the scope of his victory, more than three times the votes of...
ISTANBUL, Turkey – Hundreds of riot police surrounded a park in central Istanbul on Saturday, firing tear gas and water cannons in a renewed push by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to restore order after two weeks of demonstrations that have exasperated his government and exposed the country's deepening political divide.
Police forces surrounded Gezi Park shortly before nightfall. They moved beneath sycamore trees toward tents and crowds of hundreds of protesters. Some demonstrators reportedly threw rocks but the dissidents appeared to be overwhelmed by security forces, whose lines spread into adjoining Taksim Square.
Ambulances arrived outside the park as tear gas enveloped the trees. Turkey’s NTV television reported that police shouted at protesters: "This is an illegal act, this is our last warning to you — evacuate."
Earlier in the day, Erdogan, angry that protesters did not leave the park after negotiations with him to end the stand-off Friday, told his...
TEHRAN — Hassan Rowhani, who a week ago was viewed as a long-shot candidate, was declared Iran’s next president on Saturday after capturing more than half of the votes cast Friday in national elections.
Rowhani, a 64-year-old cleric with a reputation as a centrist and pragmatist, received 50.7% of the vote, thus winning the presidency without the need for a runoff vote, the Interior Ministry said.
Rowhani received more than three times as many votes as the next runner-up among the six candidates, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, who won 16.5% of the vote.
A former parliamentarian and longtime mainstay of the Islamic Republic, Rowhani will replace two-term President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was barred by law from seeking a third term.
The election of Rowhani continued a history of surprises in Iranian presidential races. Even his own advisors viewed an outright victory as unlikely, and were hoping that their candidate would have a strong enough showing to force a runoff...
ISTANBUL, Turkey – Anti-government protesters on Saturday vowed to continue their occupation of Gezi Park in central Istanbul, spurning government calls for them to pack up and end two weeks of demonstrations.
“The government has ignored clear and rightful demands since the beginning of the resistance. They tried to divide, provoke and damage our legitimacy,” the Taksim Solidarity, a leading protest group, said in a statement. “This is just the beginning, resistance will continue.”
The announcement came despite negotiations with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan late Thursday and early Friday that yielded an agreement to freeze a development planned for the park pending resolution of outstanding legal issues and a referendum on the project.
Throughout Friday and Saturday, there was little suggestion that protesters would leave Gezi Park. They number in the hundreds, drinking, dancing and eating. Government officials had hoped that by freezing construction,...
TEHRAN — Iran's interior minister announced Saturday that moderate candidate Hassan Rowhani had won outright election as the nation's next president.
Mostafa Mohammad Najjar told a news conference in Tehran that Rowhani obtained more than 50% of more than 36 million votes cast in Friday's election.
Rowhani was the lone moderate candidate supported by reformists in a race that once appeared solidly in the hands of Tehran's ruling clerics. He faced five other candidates viewed as more conservative.
The victory of Rowhani, 64, a bespectacled, bearded jurist who has long been a member of the inner power circle of the Islamic Republic, was a huge surprise, reflecting several factors, including a tactically adept campaign and a fractured alliance among his hard-line opponents.
Many observers had assumed that one of his conservative rivals would likely emerge victorious, or at least make it into a runoff election. But instead the conservative vote was split, analysts said, opening the...
TEHRAN — Hassan Rowhani, a cleric embraced by reformists and moderates as an alternative to the nation’s hard-line leadership, appeared headed toward a landslide victory Saturday in elections to succeed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Rowhani, 64, a bespectacled, bearded jurist who has long been a member of the inner power circle of the Islamic Republic, was winning about 51% of the popular vote with slightly more than half of the projected ballots counted, the Interior Ministry reported Saturday. The count from Friday’s elections continued into Saturday afternoon.
As officials tallied the results, it was still not clear if Rowhani would maintain his commanding lead and avoid a runoff election next week against the second-place finisher. Under Iranian election law, a candidate needs a simple majority to avoid a runoff.
Running a distant second was a conservative office seeker, Tehran Mayor Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf, a former Revolutionary Guard commander and...
HONG KONG -- Chanting “No extradition” and “Shame on the U.S. government,” hundreds of people took to the rainy streets of Hong Kong on Saturday to voice solidarity with Edward Snowden and denounce the United States as a hypocritical “big brother” whose cyber-surveillance activities rival those of the Chinese government.
The protesters -- including several lawmakers as well as housewives, students and foreigners -- rallied in a park in the Central District, blowing whistles and carrying posters with slogans such as “Obama is checking your email” before marching uphill to the U.S. Consulate.
There, they delivered a letter to Consul General Stephen Young, urging that the U.S. cease sweeping monitoring of telephone and Internet communications around the world -- including, apparently, in Hong Kong.
“I’ve lived in Hong Kong 30 years, I’ve seen China slowly pull itself up by its bootstraps. Slowly, China will develop...
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Militants took over sections of a hospital in the southern city of Quetta on Saturday after bombing a women’s university bus and detonating a second bomb at the hospital in what authorities said were coordinated attacks that killed at least 15 people.
The violence underscored the challenge that the volatile southern province of Balochistan poses for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as he begins to tackle militancy in the troubled South Asian nation.
As of early Saturday evening, eight gunmen had seized parts of the Bolan Medical Complex in Quetta, Balochistan’s capital, and were involved in a fierce firefight with Pakistani police and special forces units surrounding the building, local police said. An unknown number of patients, doctors and nurses were still inside the hospital, but it was not known yet whether they had been taken as hostages.
The violence began Saturday afternoon at the Sardar Bahadar Khan Women’s University in Quetta. Female...
TEHRAN -- Electoral authorities began counting ballots late Friday after tens of millions of Iranians turned out to vote for a successor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Officials estimated that the turnout may have reached 70% among more than 50 million eligible voters.
The race featured five conservatives and a single moderate, Hassan Rowhani, who has been embraced by the reformist camp and achieved a considerable following in recent days.
Because of long lines, the voting deadline was extended several times, ultimately until 11 p.m. in Tehran, the capital, five hours after the scheduled closing time. Voting began at 8 am.
Television video showed lines of voters waiting patiently at polling centers throughout the country.
Official results from Friday’s balloting were expected to be released Saturday. The capital was filled with speculation about the results, and security was reported to have been beefed up in several areas.
If no single candidate wins a majority, officials...
ISTANBUL, Turkey – The political standoff between antigovernment protesters and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan eased Friday, but the last two weeks of unrest revealed national fissures and a belief by many that their leader will get his way in the end.
Erdogan agreed to halt construction in Istanbul’s Gezi Park – pending a referendum and resolution of outstanding court cases – to avert launching a fresh police crackdown after a spate of violence that left four dead and about 5,000 injured. Many protesters, however, suggested that the prime minister’s political skills would eventually prevail.
“Erdogan did not make any concessions. He will still try to build here,” said Tugce Kurt, a young protester sitting Friday in Gezi Park, the epicenter of protests that swept across Turkey in the last two weeks. “People expect us to be grateful because they didn’t gas us yesterday; that is not a concession.
MEXICO CITY -- State governors in Mexico like to choose their successors. They almost always pick their party’s candidates and then work tirelessly to see them elected. It is a way to be sure the next guy watches your back. Or so the thinking goes.
That may be the lesson that the embattled former governor of Tabasco, Andres Granier, is learning.
A member of the powerful Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Granier is the subject of a criminal investigation into the alleged embezzlement of millions of dollars from state coffers during his administration, which ended in December.
The charges were first made by his successor, Gov. Arturo Nuñez, who heads a coalition of leftist parties and who says he received a pilfered state treasury.
After more than 30 hours of interrogation by federal prosecutors, Granier was to be turned over to Tabasco investigators on Friday. Certainly a dire fate: federal authorities work under a PRI government; the state’s counterparts, for the...
The Syrian government Friday called White House allegations that it has used chemical weapons in the country’s civil war “full of lies,” according to state media reports.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry instead blamed such attacks on “terrorist” groups, the term it uses to refer to the opposition.
U.S. officials said Thursday that President Bashar Assad’s government had crossed a “red line” by using the nerve agent sarin in attacks this year, and that President Obama had authorized sending arms to some rebel groups.
The announcement came at a time when the Syrian government has been making some strategic gains in the conflict, now in its third year, including regaining control of Qusair, a town near the Lebanese border that falls along important supply lines.
"Pursuant to impudent practices, the United States has previously resorted to in order to justify its policies, the ... White House issued a statement full of lies on chemical weapons...
LONDON – Britain on Friday welcomed the U.S. statement that Syrian President Bashar Assad had deployed chemical weapons against the rebels battling his regime, a conclusion that prompted a pledge from President Obama to send arms to the opposition fighters for the first time.
The European Union took a more cautious approach, citing its “great concern” over the reports of chemical attacks and calling for United Nations inspectors to be allowed in to Syria to verify the allegations.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the mounting evidence of the use of chemical weapons such as the nerve agent sarin by Assad’s forces made an escalation of Western assistance necessary.
“We have to be prepared to do more to save lives, to pressure the Assad regime to negotiate seriously, to prevent the growth of extremism and terrorism and to stop the regime using chemical weapons against its people,” said Hague, who was in Washington this week before the Obama...
Yuri Ushakov, an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, said information provided by the United States to back up its claims “doesn’t look convincing to us.”
Russia and the U.S. have been trying to persuade the Syrian government and opposition forces to take part in peace talks in Geneva.
Thursday’s White House announcement “will certainly not help the preparations for the international conference, if the United States really decides to in fact render larger-scale assistance to the rebels,” Ushakov told reporters in Moscow.
But he stopped short of saying that Russia would respond by delivering to Syria a promised advanced air defense system.
“We are not competing over Syria, are we?” he said in response to a question about...
LONDON -- The neophyte holders of two of Christendom’s most venerable posts met for the first time Friday and spoke of fostering unity and understanding between their sometimes rival branches of the faith.
Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby exchanged warm words at the Vatican even as they acknowledged that relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion had historically been, as the pontiff put it, “not without pain.”
The Anglican Communion has its origins in the split from Rome by Henry VIII of England, who sought to divorce the first of his six wives but was refused permission by the pope.
Francis, a lifelong cleric, and Welby, a former oil executive, were installed as heads of their respective churches in March, within two days of each other. Both men have said that they neither wanted nor sought their current jobs, which were thrust on them by others.
Together they are the spiritual leaders of nearly 1.3 billion...
Among the early voters was the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who urged all Iranians to exercise their right to vote.
“I expect all people to take part in the elections,” Khamanei, the ultimate authority on matters of state, told journalists early Friday after casting his ballot.
Dominating the campaign have been concerns about the nation’s moribund economy, battered by Western-led sanctions tied to Iran’s controversial nuclear program.
State television was filled with images of people lining up to vote and placing their folded ballot sheets into plastic boxes at polling stations across the country. Officials reported no security problems or major irregularities.
Iran is choosing a successor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has served...
Iran’s ruling theocracy was unable to overcome its notorious infighting and unite behind a single candidate in Friday’s presidential election, which has suddenly boosted the prospects of the lone moderate in the race and rekindled interest among some who had planned to boycott.
A cleric and former nuclear negotiator with only modest reform credentials, Hassan Rowhani stirred little enthusiasm when he announced his candidacy in April. Even when he was one of only two centrists to survive the vetting of the conservative, cleric-controlled Guardian Council, he was given little chance of drawing more than a sliver of the vote.
But with the withdrawal earlier this week of Mohammad Reza Aref, the only other candidate not thoroughly beholden to the religious hierarchy under supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Rowhani is now seen as having a shot at emerging high enough in the six-candidate field to advance to a June 21 runoff.
Aref, a Stanford-educated academic who was vice...
SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Police used tear gas and rubber bullets Thursday night to disperse thousands of protesters in Sao Paulo who had been chanting, "The love is over -- Turkey is right here" before fleeing the law enforcement onslaught.
At least 55 people were injured and 60 arrested during the fourth demonstration in a week. The protests were originally aimed at a hike in the city's bus fares, but diverse groups came together after serious clashes with police Tuesday.
In Thursday's violence, two journalists from Folha de S. Paulo, Brazil's highest-circulation newspaper, were struck in the face with rubber bullets, the paper reported. Two other journalists were imprisoned and then released. Social networks in Brazil were abuzz with denunciations of police excess.
The crowd that formed earlier Thursday outside the Municipal Theater in South America's largest city drew together a combination of students, citizens protesting police...
ISTANBUL, Turkey — Besieged Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was meeting early Friday with antigovernment protesters after giving them a “final warning” to end a 2-week-old demonstration that has damaged Turkey’s international image and brought chaos and bloodshed to downtown Istanbul.
The meeting, which included members of the Taksim Solidarity, a leading dissident group, appeared to be a last-minute effort by the prime minister to avert a police crackdown to remove thousands of demonstrators from Gezi Park. Taksim Solidarity does not represent all protesters and it was unclear how demonstrators would react to the outcome of the talks.
Hours earlier, Erdogan had said during a speech at a meeting of his Justice and Development Party in Ankara, the capital, that the era of showdown on the streets was over in Turkey.
“We cannot allow lawbreakers to hang around freely in this square. We will clean the square,” Erdogan reportedly said...
The government in Syria has used chemical weapons in that country’s civil war, killing at least 100 to 150 civilians, the White House said Thursday in an announcement that left unclear what the U.S. response would be.
Small-scale attacks using sarin, a potent nerve gas, have taken place as recently as late May, long after international attention had been drawn to the issue, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters in a conference call. He cited intelligence on attacks in both Aleppo, in northern Syria, and in a neighborhood of Damascus, the Syrian capital.
The attacks have come from forces loyal to the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Rhodes said, rejecting the idea that the rebels have used chemical arms too.
“We have not seen any reliable reporting” that “the opposition has acquired or used chemical weapons,” he said.
The use of chemical weapons has “added an element of urgency” to the situation in Syria, Rhodes...
KABUL, Afghanistan — The number of children killed and injured in Afghanistan's war has risen sharply this year, the U.N. Children's Fund says, calling the trend “unacceptable” and “very worrying.”
At least 121 children were killed and 293 were injured in the first four months of the year, up 27% over the same period the previous year, according to figures released by UNICEF Thursday.
Roadside bombs and suicide attacks accounted for the largest number of casualties, 37%. The U.N. particularly criticized the Taliban's use of indiscriminate weapons triggered by victims stepping on or driving over a pressure plate, calling it a possible war crime.
Violence is increasing in Afghanistan as the Taliban and other militants press an intense offensive against government targets before international troops hand over full security responsibilities to Afghans. The international coalition is set to end its combat mission by the end of 2014.
The escalating attacks have...
TEHRAN — Six presidential hopefuls wrapped up their campaigns Thursday as millions of Iranians prepared to choose a successor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Polls indicate no candidate may garner a majority in Friday's voting, forcing a runoff election among the two top finishers on June 21, official media reported.
Friday’s election is the first since the disputed 2009 balloting that gave Ahmadinejad a second term amid allegations of vote-rigging, triggering massive street protests and a police crackdown. Iranian authorities have vowed that the tumultuous scene of four years ago will not be repeated.
Improving the slumping economy has been a major theme throughout the campaign, with candidates vowing to reduce inflation and unemployment. Western-led sanctions tied to Iran’s controversial nuclear program have battered the economy. Unemployment among youth reportedly reaches 40%.
Campaigns formally ended at 8 a.m. Thursday, but not after political enthusiasts caused...
ISTANBUL, Turkey – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday issued what he said was a final warning: The protesters in Gezi Park would be removed within 24 hours, he told a meeting of his Justice and Development Party in the capital, Ankara.
"Our patience is at an end,” Erdogan was quoted as saying on the English-language website of the Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman. “I am making my warning for the last time. ... We cannot wait any more because Gezi Park does not belong to occupying forces but to the people."
The demonstrations, which began as a sit-in to protest plans for a development project in the park, have escalated into nationwide protests against Erdogan's government.
In Gezi Park, protesters waited nervously Thursday. Scores of police were deployed in adjoining Taksim Square. As dawn broke, some stood in the center of the square; others slept, their faces pressed against the windows of the vehicles that bused...
BEIRUT -- The ever-escalating death toll in Syria’s two-year civil war has likely surpassed 100,000, the United Nations said Thursday, with more than 6,500 minors among those who have lost their lives.
Almost 93,000 people were killed between March 2011, when the conflict erupted, and the end of April, according to a statistical analysis carried out for the U.N. human rights office.
With a current average of 5,000 killings a month — up from 1,000 a month two years ago — the toll has probably topped 100,000 by now, according to the U.N. analysis.
“This extremely high rate of killings, month after month, reflects the drastically deteriorating pattern of the conflict over the past year,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement announcing the grim tally.
The dead included at least 6,561 minors, including 1,729 children ages 9 or younger, the analysis found.
“There are also well-...
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Five years after bitterly disputed elections, Zimbabwe faced a new political conflict Thursday as President Robert Mugabe called elections for July 31 and his rival swiftly rejected the date.
The rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, told journalists he would not let Zimbabwe be rushed into "another illegitimate election."
Mugabe issued a presidential decree Thursday setting the date, ignoring the opposition of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, which says it would be impossible to hold free and fair elections by then.
Mugabe and Tsvangirai have been partners for four years in an uneasy government of national unity under a power-sharing deal brokered by neighboring countries to resolve the deadlock after last elections.
Both sides claimed victory in the 2008 poll, which was marked by intense political violence by Mugabe supporters who set up camps around the country to beat up MDC members and intimidate voters into backing Mugabe's ruling...
After the cascade of disasters that befell Japan 27 months ago, then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan took the brunt of withering criticism for shoddy nuclear safety standards at the crippled Fukushima reactor complex and the government’s chaotic emergency response to the crises.
Kan also took away a life-altering lesson. A longtime proponent of nuclear energy for his densely populated, resource-poor nation, the government leader who resigned in disgrace five months after the March 11, 2011, earthquake-triggered tsunami and nuclear disaster is now at the forefront of Japan’s movement to phase out atomic power.
Serious strides have been made in boosting the security of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors, only two of which are online now and producing power. The rest are undergoing safety retrofits and upgrades and will face more scrupulous testing and inspection before being brought back into operation.
Anti-nuclear sentiments abound in the wake of the disasters and put the future of...
BEIJING -- Officially, the Chinese government has nothing at all to say about Edward Snowden.
But unofficially, it is only too happy to dump on the United States.After days of silence, state media have let loose with a barrage of criticism concerning Snowden’s allegations of a massive electronic surveillance program by the United States. The English-language China Daily ran a large cartoon of a shadowed Statue of Liberty, holding a tape recorder and microphone instead of a tablet and torch.
In an editorial dripping with indignation, the Communist Party-run Global Times demanded an explanation on behalf of the Chinese government.
"Before Snowden is silenced, Washington owes China an explanation of whether the U.S. as an Internet superpower abused its power over our vital interests,’’ Global Times opined.
In Hong Kong, the pro-Communist Party Takungpao newspaper added: "If the U.S. is the true defender of democracy, human rights and freedom like it always described...
ISTANBUL, Turkey -- It’s dawn and tea pots bubble above low flames. Faces appear, poking out from tents, with reddened eyes. The first cigarettes of the day are lit, their tips glowing orange. Smartphones glow as people line up in an exhausted haze, waiting for a breakfast of coffee, bread and cheese.
It is a slow start to the day, but the clock is ticking: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday declared that the protests in Gezi Park would be over within 24 hours.
Scores of police are in Taksim Square. Some stand in the center, others sleep, their faces pressed against the windows of the vehicles that bused them here.
“Today or tomorrow they will come,” said Gusel, a recent graduate of an Istanbul university who asked that his last name not be used for fear of arrest. “I have seen how the police act, we are all scared.”
Gusel said he is scared that tear gas canisters will come through the sycamore trees stretched skyward above him;...
BEIJING -- Edward Snowden told Hong Kong media that the United States is involved in extensive hacking operations directed against China and Hong Kong.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post published on the newspaper’s website early Thursday, Snowden said he wanted to demonstrate “the hypocrisy of the U.S. government when it claims that it does not target civilian infrastructure, unlike its adversaries.’’
The accusations throw a new wrench into the Obama administration’s campaign against extensive hacking operations by the Chinese military. From the U.S. perspective, cyber security was near the top of the agenda during last weekend’s summit in California between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, but there was no progress on the issue.
Snowden, 29, a former contract employee for the National Security Agency, told the Hong Kong newspaper that he believed the agency ran 61,000 hacking operations, with “hundreds of...
ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Turkey's leader might consider holding a referendum on plans for development in an Istanbul park that sparked nationwide protests against his government, according to media reports Wednesday.
Such a move would mark Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s most significant gesture to defuse the crisis, which began as a peaceful sit-in at Gezi Park two weeks ago, but quickly escalated in response to a police crackdown.
Erdogan has offered to scrap a proposed shopping center in the park but still plans to build a replica of an Ottoman-era barracks and possibly a mosque and opera house.
Wednesday’s announcement by an official with Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party came after a night of chaos as police swept through the area, firing tear gas and water cannons at protesters occupying Gezi Park and adjoining Taksim Square.
Doctors said at least 2,500 people were injured Tuesday, including 130 shot by plastic bullets.
"This was the most severe attack...
MEXICO CITY -- Powerful Mexican drug boss Rafael Caro Quintero was off the streets in 1985, arrested in Costa Rica on suspicion of ordering a hit on a U.S. drug agent. His fate appeared to be sealed in 1989, when a Mexican judge convicted him and sentenced him to 40 years in prison.
It has been a long time since Caro's halcyon days when, according to a Times article in 1992, he was the guest of honor at lavish parties, including one where he flamboyantly smoked cocaine while on the back of a dancing horse.
And apparently Caro’s influence lives on, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, particularly in the city of Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest metropolis. His dirty money is allegedly bankrolling construction and real estate projects, a luxury spa, restaurants, a shoe store, gas stations and a swimming pool company.
On Wednesday, the Treasury Department announced that 18 people -- including Caro’s four children, wife and daughter-in-law -- as well as 15...