China’s ambassador to the UN, Li Baodong, has told reporters that his country is not trying to protect the Syrian regime and has called on all sides to implement the six-point peace plan issued by international envoy Kofi Annan. Li also stressed that what China really wants is for the Syrian people to decide on the destiny of their country and for Syria’s sovereignty to be safeguarded. On Friday China and Russia voted against a resolution approved by the UN Human Rights Council which condemned last month’s massacre in Houla and called for an independent investigation. Li argued that while China believes in the need for such an investigation, his country also wants to hear more information from the nearly 300 UN observers currently in Syria. Kofi Annan is scheduled to brief the UN General Assembly on Thursday and is later set to attend a closed Security Council meeting on the matter.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she is open to establishing a European banking authority as a long-term solution to the eurozone’s financial crisis. Merkel was holding a meeting with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Berlin ahead of an emergency conference call between G7 finance ministers and an EU summit on the matter later in June. Both Merkel and Barroso welcomed the idea of a more integrated banking and fiscal union between the eurozone economies. Germany had been lukewarm on the idea of creating a central banking authority over fears it could eventually lead to them bailing out weaker countries in the eurozone. Merkel and German officials had been adamant that the funds from the European Stability Mechanism, due to be launched in July, were not to be transferred directly to national banks unless the EU obtains supervision rights over them.
Retail giant Costco is set to pay $3.6 million for alleged environmental violations under a settlement with Californian district attorneys, which has been approved by a local judge. The settlement stems from a civil case in which Costco was accused of violating state laws for the safe storage and handling and disposal of hazardous waste. Prosecutors said the violations took place throughout the state from 2007 to 2012. The settlement includes civil penalties, as well as costs and funds for environmental projects.
Both engines had failed before the airplane that crashed in Nigerian’s largest city of Lagos on Sunday went down, the country’s civil aviation chief said Monday. All 153 people on board were killed in one of the country’s most fatal air disasters in history. It is not yet known what caused the engines to fail prior to the crash. While 137 bodies had so far been removed from the affected area, more people are feared dead on the ground in addition to those on board.
Three US diplomats were questioned by Pakistani authorities after police in the city of Peshawar discovered weapons in their vehicles, Reuters reports. Police found several rifles, pistols and ammunition after searching the vehicles. Three Pakistani citizens accompanying the diplomats were charged with illegally possessing firearms The incident comes as relations between the two countries has hit its lowest point in years. Twenty eight Pakistani citizens have been killed over the last three days in a series of US drone strikes.
IAEA chief Yukiya Amano says that satellite images indicate buildings being demolished and soil removed at Parchin, an Iranian military site. Amano's comments will likely further reinforce suspicions among Western diplomats that Iran is trying to remove any incriminating evidence from the Parchin facility before possibly granting the International Atomic Energy Agency access. The IAEA and Iran will hold a new round of talks in Vienna on June 8.
Twenty people charged with the organization of mass clashes in Kazakhstan have received sentences ranging from four to seven years in prison. Sixteen were sentenced to three years on parole. The clashes took place in the Kazakh city of Zhanaozen on December 16-17, 2011, during which15 people were killed and over 100 wounded.
The Duke of Edinburgh, who is 90, has been taken to hospital with a bladder infection, Buckingham Palace says. He will remain under observation in hospital for a few days. Prince Phillip will miss the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert due to be held at the palace with an expected attendance of 12,000 people.
Authorities in Mexico say gunmen opened fire with automatic rifles inside a drug rehabilitation center, killing 11. Several others were wounded during the attack on Sunday night in the city of Torreon. There have been increasing reports of mass shootings at parties, bars and rehabilitation centers. More than 47,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since Mexican president Felipe Calderon deployed thousands of soldiers to areas of the country where drug cartels operate.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has said that the plan of international peace envoy Kofi Annan remains “central” to resolving Syria crisis. The UN chief also added on Monday that there is no UN discussion on military options taking place, Reuters reports. He also urged Damascus to stop violence now “in the name of humanity” and to start political dialogue. Syria rebels said on Monday they are no longer committed to Annan’s ceasefire.
Luka Rocco Magnotta was arrested in Berlin on Monday, German police say. The 29-year-old Canadian, wanted for a horrific Montreal murder, was arrested in an Internet cafe, Bild newspaper reports. French authorities earlier said they were investigating the theory that Magnotta had traveled from Paris to Berlin. Magnotta who is referred to as “Canadian Psycho,” has been at the center of an international manhunt for the murder and dismemberment of a Chinese student in Montreal last month.
A Syria rebels’ spokesman said on Monday they are no longer committed to the international peace envoy Kofi Annan’s ceasefire. Major Sami al-Kurdi also said they want a UN peace enforcement mission or an internationally imposed flight-ban and buffer zone, Reuters reports. The rebel Free Syrian Army said on Friday that it was resuming "defensive" operations. “We have begun defending our people,” the spokesman for the rebel military council said.
Russia, Ukraine and Belarus will work together to press for a review of the guilty verdict handed down against their citizens in Libya, the Russian Foreign Ministry's official spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said on Monday. “We will immediately take all the necessary steps, both within the legal framework and at the political level, to promote a speedy resolution of the problem and a speedy review of this obviously biased verdict,” he said in a statement, as cited by Interfax. Several military contractors from the three countries were convicted in Libya earlier on Monday for assisting the Gaddafi regime.
A Washington-based NGO called on the world on Monday to assist Syrian refugees. Refugees International (RI) warned in a statement that the Syrian refugee crisis “may threaten the political stability of both Lebanon and Jordan,” AP reports. RI urged the international community to scale-up humanitarian and development aid for both countries. Since March 2011, Jordan has taken in more than 110,000 refugees. Lebanon hosts 26,000, according to official figures.
A Libyan armed brigade surrounded Tripoli's international airport on Monday, Reuters said, citing a security official. The group called al-Awfea Brigade from the town of Tarhouna demanded the release of one of their leaders, whom they claimed had disappeared two nights ago, the officials said. Tanks surrounded the buildings at the airport. The flights were reportedly forced to be diverted to the capital's military airport.
Rogue trader Jerome Kerviel started his appeal on Monday against a 2010 conviction for fraud. He argued that he was a scapegoat and that Societe Generale must take responsibility for the billions of euro his gambles cost the bank, AFP reports. Kerviel said he was “not responsible for this loss” and stressed that he “always acted with the knowledge” of his hierarchy.
Syrian rebels killed at least 80 army soldiers at the weekend, an opposition watchdog said on Monday. Local doctors had confirmed the names of 80 dead government soldiers, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, as cited by Reuters. Many army checkpoints were reportedly destroyed in heavy clashes overnight in Idlib province.
Businessman Mikhail Prokhorov has announced his plans to create the Civil Platform Party. “Today we are beginning the registration of a new political force,” he said on Monday. “This party will be very special,” he said, as cited by Interfax. Prokhorov explained the party will only have 500 members representing leaders of his presidential campaign in the regions.
A 26-year-old Kuwaiti was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Monday after a court ruled he had insulted the Prophet Mohammed and the Sunni Muslim rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on social media. Shiite Muslim Hamad al-Naqi had pleaded not guilty, saying he did not post the messages and that his Twitter account had been hacked, Reuters reports. The sentence was the maximum that Naqi could have received.
Syrian authorities have released two Lebanese farmers kidnapped last Wednesday by unidentified gunmen. The farmers were captured in Lebanon's north and taken across the border into Syria. Mohammed Yassin Merei and Mahdi Hamdan were released on Sunday afternoon and handed to the Lebanese intelligence at the Masnaa border crossing, the Lebanese army said, as cited by Reuters. On Monday, relatives of two other Lebanese kidnapped last month, Mohammad Ibrahim and Adnan Mohammad, blocked the Abboudiyeh road leading to Syria in north Lebanon.
President Vladimir Putin welcomes the expression of protest feelings, suggesting that they can be done in a more civilized way. Norms of European laws regulating protests rallies should be introduced in the Russian legislation, Putin said at a news conference after the Russia-EU summit in St. Petersburg on Monday. These norms are democratic, but on the other hand they create certain framework for such events, he added.
Russian gas giant Gazprom will not sign any contracts with China in the near future, the company’s CEO Aleksey Miller said on Monday. He was speaking on the sidelines of the World Gas Congress in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Interfax reports. “No contracts will be signed at the corporate level,” he said. Speaking on the South Stream project, Miller said the gas pipeline would be built in two branches at once.
One Russian citizen charged with assisting Muammar Gaddafi got life in prison in Libya, while another was sentenced to 10 years, the Russian embassy said on Monday. Ukrainian Foreign Ministry confirmed that the country’s 19 citizens were also jailed for 10 years. Three Belarusians got the same sentences for assisting the Gaddafi regime. The court found those convicted guilty of aiding the Libyan army, including preparing surface-to-air missiles intended against NATO aircraft. Lawyers will appeal the verdict.
A suicide attacker detonated an explosives-packed car at the headquarters of Iraq's Shiite religious endowment in central Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 15 people, according to medics. More than 35 people were wounded in the Baab al-Muadham neighborhood, media reports say, citing medical officials.
At least nine people were killed and around 40 more wounded after a powerful car bomb exploded outside a Shiite administration office in central Baghdad on Monday. The blast targeted the Shiite Endowment office - a government-run body that looks after Shiite religious sites, Reuters reports. The headquarters and a nearby health administration office were damaged, police said.
A suicide bomber in Yemen has killed four tribal militiamen allied to the army. The attack happened in the town of Umsurra on Monday as militiamen were moving to reinforce a new army offensive against the nearby coastal town of Shaqra, AP reports. The military are advancing on the Al-Qaeda-held positions in the country's south. Yemeni warplanes continued strikes against Al-Qaeda forces in Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, and in the militant stronghold of Jaar.
Bolivia's leftist President Evo Morales has raised the possibility of nationalizing all natural resource-related industries. “Another policy ought to be how we recover, or nationalize, all natural resources, so they are in the people's hands under state administration,” Morales told a social summit on Sunday, as cited by AFP. Bolivia earlier nationalized some utility companies.
The Vietnamese government has agreed to open three new sites for excavation by the US to search for troop remains. The announcement came during a meeting in Hanoi between US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Vietnam Defense Minister Phuong Quang Thanh. They exchanged artifacts collected during the Vietnam War, including letters written by a US soldier who was killed, and a diary belonging to a Vietnamese soldier, AP reports. This is the first time such a joint exchange of war artifacts has occurred.
Venezuela's security officials say a prominent Colombian drug-trafficking suspect has been captured. Diego Perez Henao will be turned over to Colombian authorities, Venezuelan Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami said. Perez is believed to have links to Colombia's illegal paramilitary organizations and is labeled “one of the most wanted criminals in Latin America,” AP said. Perez, known as “Diego Rastrojo”, is suspected of involvement in extortion, murders and drug trafficking operations.
Pyongyang has aimed rockets at the specific coordinates of South Korean media groups, the General Staff of the Korean People's Army said on Monday. It warned that a "sacred war" would be launched against South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and seven news agencies if Seoul does not apologize for a "vicious smear campaign" against ongoing children's festivals in Pyongyang. South Korean media called the festivities a "publicity stunt," the statement says, as cited by AP. Ties have worsened between the two Koreas in recent months.
The renowned Russian singer Edward Khil, who became an internet sensation, has died in a St. Petersburg hospital following a stroke in April. The 77-year-old singer died while in intensive care at the Russian Institute of the Polenov. Over the last couple of years Khil was catapulted to international fame thanks to a song he performed 50 years ago called "I am very happy because I finally get home." The song caught the attention of millions around the world in 2010 and became an instant YouTube hit, earning the singer the nickname “Mr. Trololo” due to the melody and style of his singing.
Up to 16 suspected Taliban fighters are thought to have been killed and four injured after a US drone strike targeted a militant compound in north-western Pakistan. It's the seventh attack in the last two weeks, with unconfirmed reports that some foreigners are among the dead. It follows increased tension between Pakistan and Washington, which has ignored demands to stop the use of unmanned aircraft.
A 6.2-magnitude earthquake has been recorded in the Pacific Ocean south of Panama at a depth of 9.7 kilometers (Sunday 6:45 pm local time, Monday 12:45 am UTC), USGS reports. The epicenter is reported to be 346 kilometers south of the town of David and 526 kilometers south-west of the capital, Panama City. No tsunami alerts have been issued so far, and no destruction or casualties have been reported in the region at this point.
At least 30 people were killed and over 30 others injured in a road crash in northern Pakistan when a passenger bus fell into a ravine in Pakistan's northern city of Kahuta on Monday morning. There were some 100 passengers onboard, all returning from a wedding ceremony.