US Ambassador to Ecuador Adam Namm said his government had “nothing to do” with the decision on Julian Assange’s request for asylum in Ecuador. He also stated that the Assange case was only an issue between Ecuador, the United Kingdom and Sweden, not the United States. Last month Assange, the founder of the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, asked Ecuador to grant him political asylum, and stationed himself in the country’s embassy in London. Ecuador provided him with temporary protection, but said the decision on whether or not to grant him asylum would require a long process.
US President Barack Obama has signed into law new legislation that provides for more than $100 billion to be spent on highway and other transportation projects during the next two years, thereby prolonging a program that was set to expire on June 30. The legislation also maintains interest rates of 3.4 per cent for subsidized Stafford loans for undergraduates, which were set to double on July 1 had Congress not taken action.
Haitian judge Bredy Fabien has dismissed charges of attempted murder and criminal association that had been brought against two American citizens – Jason William “Zeke” Petrie and Steven Parker Shaw. Fabien added, however, that the release was conditional, and that the two still needed to be available for questioning. Petrie and Shaw were detained with more than 50 protesters who held a rally calling for the reinstatement of the recently disbanded armed forces of the country. Petrie and Shaw allegedly drove a group of hopeful soldiers in the march and were originally charged with conspiracy. That charge was later dropped, and replaced with attempted murder and criminal association.
At least seven people have been killed and 20 injured after a suicide bomber blew up a car parked near an anti-Qaeda fighter’s home in western Iraq. The explosion happened in Ramadi, the capital of the predominantly Sunni province of Anbar, near the house of a Sahwa (the Sunni Awakening movement) fighter who was not at home at the time of the attack. Sahwa is a coalition of Sunni tribes helping to maintain security in their communities.
The Paris meeting of the Friends of Syria group is "politically wrong" and immoral, Russia's Foreign Ministry said. “Friendship” with only one part of the Syrian nation may seriously exacerbate the conflict in the country, said ministry spokesman Aleksander Lukashevich. It seems that some participants in the Geneva meeting last Saturday do not realize the responsibilities resulting from the final communiqué, he added. The meeting of the Friends of Syria took place in Paris on Friday. Russia and China opted not to attend.
Six gunmen on motorcycles have attacked a bus in Pakistan, killing 18 people and injuring two. The attack happened near the border with Iran in the country's southwest, after the bus, on its way to Iran, stopped at a roadside shop in the Kech area of the Baluchistan province, Reuters reports.
A US court released George Zimmerman on bail for the second time on Friday. On Thursday, a judge set Zimmerman’s bond at $1 million. It is reported that Zimmerman went through a bail bondsman, paying 10 per cent of the bond amount up front. Zimmerman is accused of second-degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, which he claims was an act of self-defense. A previous bond was revoked after prosecutors claimed Zimmeman had deceived the court about his financial situation.
A Libyan election commission employee was killed as unidentified gunmen shot down a helicopter carrying voting materials, says Libya's National Transitional Council. The council described the attackers, who assaulted the craft near the eastern city of Benghazi, as “enemies of the revolution.” The incident took place a day before the country is to stage its first presidential election since a popular uprising ousted Muammar Gaddafi from power last year.
The Romanian Parliament has voted in favor of impeaching President Trajan Basescu on grounds that he overstepped his authority by meddling in government business and legal affairs. A joint meeting of both chambers saw 258 MPs casting votes for the motion, while 116 opposed it. A national referendum is to be held within the next 30 days to decide whether Basescu will be ousted from office, which he has held since 2004.
At least four suspected al-Qaeda militants were killed and two more wounded by a US drone attack near the Afghan border on Friday, say Pakistani intelligence officials. The drone fired missiles near Miran Shah, the main town of the North Waziristan tribal region. This is the first US drone attack since Pakistan reopened NATO supply routes on Wednesday. The South Asian country disrupted the routes over constant US airstrikes on Pakistan’s territory, with 24 Pakistani soldiers dying in a November attack.
Enrique Pena Nieto has won Mexico's presidential election, the country's electoral commission announced Friday. The results were announced after a vote-by-vote recount of results at more than half of the country's 143,144 polling stations. The recount demanded by Nieto's closest rival, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, began Wednesday and ended early Friday.
A European Union prosecutor in Kosovo has indicted 11 suspects including a deputy prime minister on corruption charges. Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Bukoshi was accused of abuse of office and corruption during a six month period in 2010 when he was health minister. Other suspects, all of whom are current or former health ministry officials, are charged with abuse of official position, mistreatment in exercising duties and obstruction of justice, the EU mission in Kosovo (EULEX) said on Friday, as cited by Reuters. Bukoshi has denied the allegations. The indictment is seen as a blow to Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, who has been criticized for not doing enough to fight corruption.
Sudanese police fired volleys of teargas at worshippers trying to demonstrate after Friday prayers. Hundreds of Sudanese protesters left the Imam Abulrahman mosque in the Omdurman suburb of Khartoum, only to be driven back inside by teargas, Reuters reports. “From the moment they left the mosque, the police fired teargas,” witnesses say. Small-scale anti-austerity protests have swept through Sudan over the past three weeks. Demonstrators have called for the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, in power for 23 years, to resign. Sudanese police and security forces routinely crush any signs of dissent.
The State Duma on Friday passed in the first reading controversial amendments to the law on non-profit organizations (NPO). The legislation stipulates that any politically active NPO funded from abroad will be labeled as a “foreign agent.” Such NPOs will have to be registered at the Justice Ministry in a separate register and assigned the status of an organization “performing the functions of a foreign agent.” The legislation proposed by United Russia deputies was supported by 323 deputies, with four MPs opting to vote against it.
Pakistani customs officials will scan all containers passing through Pakistan to supply NATO troops in Afghanistan to ensure they do not contain ammunition and weapons. “We scanned the containers randomly in the past, but now every container will be duly scanned,” Karachi customs spokesman Qamar Thalho said on Friday, as cited by AFP. Islamabad reopened overland routes to NATO convoys earlier this week. The move followed a US apology for the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in an airstrike last November.
A former member of the Red Army Faction has been convicted as an accessory to the 1977 murder of West Germany's chief federal prosecutor. The Stuttgart state court on Friday sentenced Verena Becker to four years in prison, AP said. Becker originally was accused of playing a leading role in the fatal ambush of prosecutor Siegfried Buback, his driver and a bodyguard. But prosecutors later called for her to be convicted as an accessory. Becker, 59, testified that she was “never involved in concrete preparation” for the attack. The two-and-a-half years she already served in jail will count as time served.
Syria's army took control of the rebel stronghold of Khan Sheikhoun in northern Idlib province on Friday, an insurgent spokesman said. “The Free (Syrian) Army withdrew from the town last night after it ran out of ammunition,” Abu Hamam said, as cited by Reuters. The takeover was reportedly preceded by an assault on the town backed by helicopters. Khan Sheikhoun is a town of more than 70,000 people, which straddles the western highway linking Damascus to Aleppo.
A meeting of over 100 countries on Syria has agreed to massively bolster aid to the Syrian opposition. “The participants decided on a massive increase in aid to the opposition,” AFP cited the gathering’s final statement as saying. Some participants will supply the Syrian opposition with “means of communication to allow them to communicate more safely… and to protect themselves within the framework of their peaceful activities,” it reads. The opposition Syrian National Council pressed the meeting for a no-fly zone over Syria. But the US, European and Arab countries were expected to focus on economic sanctions.
Kuwait's emir, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, has reappointed the former prime minister following his resignation earlier this week. The emir’s decree calls for reinstated Prime Minister Sheik Jaber Al Hamad Al Sabah to designate members of Cabinet. The earlier resignation of the government was seen as a procedural formality after a court ruled in late June that parliamentary elections held in February were unconstitutional. After Sheikh Jaber selects a 15-member Cabinet, Kuwait’s ruler is likely to dissolve parliament and call new elections.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Friday that a Syrian “senior official” and commander of the Republican Guard had “defected and is on his way to Paris.” The ministry confirmed that Fabius was referring to Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass. He was considered a close friend and contemporary of President Bashar al-Assad. His father, Gen. Mustafa Tlass, was defense minister from 1972 to 2004, acting as a key ally of Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current leader. It is not known if the defecting general will join an international meeting on Syria being held in Paris.
Yemeni air strikes killed three Al-Qaeda fighters and wounded seven in the country's south, Yemeni military officials say. The strikes by Yemen's air force this week were part of an ongoing offensive. The raids targeted militants in the border between Abyan and Shabwa provinces, AP reports. The US has been helping Yemen in the army’s offensive against Al-Qaeda in the south of the country. Earlier this week, a suspected US drone strike killed two Al-Qaeda fighters.
Finland would consider leaving the eurozone rather than paying the debts of other states, Finnish Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen said in a newspaper interview on Friday. Finland is committed to being a member of the eurozone, the minister told Kauppalehti daily. But AFP quoted her as saying that “Finland will not hang itself to the euro at any cost and we are prepared for all scenarios.” Finland would not agree to an integration model in which countries were collectively responsible for other states' debts and risks, she stressed.
Libyan political parties held their last rallies before the first national elections following the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. On Saturday, people will vote for the 200-member transitional parliament. The Alliance of National Forces, led by secular-leaning former premier Mahmoud Jibril, the National Front, which emerged from a Gaddafi-era opposition movement, and Islamist groups all brought their supporters together, AP said. The 24-hour campaign ban takes effect on Friday.
The head of the main opposition Syrian National Council has called for a no-fly zone in the country. “All steps have to be taken to establish a humanitarian corridor and a no-fly zone,” Abdel Basset Sayda said on Friday. He claimed that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad “is about to fall,” AFP quoted him as saying. The SNC head was speaking at an international meeting on Syria in Paris.
Chinese police arrested 802 people on suspicion of child trafficking, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security said on Friday. It also said 181 children were rescued in a major operation spanning 15 provinces, AP reports. The recent operation broke up two trafficking rings, and the ring leaders were arrested. The national operation was set up earlier this year. State media also reported that parents wishing to sell their babies could find potential buyers through a clinic in north China's Hebei province.
French President Francois Hollande has called for stiffer sanctions against the Syrian government and more support for rebels. “Bashar al-Assad must go,” Hollande said, speaking at the start of the meeting of Western and Arab states in Paris on Friday. Assad’s resignation is “in the interest of Syria, of its neighbors and everybody who wants peace in the region,” the French president said. During the previous international meeting on Syria in Geneva, world diplomats did not resolve differences over the role Assad should play in a political transition. Hollande also urged participants at the gathering in Paris to agree to step up humanitarian aid to Syrians.
The gunman who shot dead four hostages during a flat eviction and then killed himself in Germany’s Karlsruhe on Wednesday was French, police said. The 55 year-old man was originally from the Alsace region, according to a police spokesman. It is not clear whether the gunman also had German nationality. The property he had been living in with his 55-year-old partner was sold off in April, and the imminent eviction had “shaken his personal existence,” investigators say.
The US says it doesn't support a South Korean plan to restart whale hunting. Seoul earlier said it would revive whaling for “scientific purposes.” Russell F. Smith, deputy assistant secretary for International Fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Thursday the US didn't believe that killing whales is necessary for scientific research. He added that the South Koreans wanted to hunt Minke whales, which are in danger of extinction, AP reports. South Korean says it needs to study the whales' fish consumption as their growing population “is reducing” stocks of fish.
The official count of Mexico's presidential election has confirmed the victory of Enrique Pena Nieto. With just over 99 per cent of the ballot boxes counted, Pena Nieto had more than 38 per cent of the vote, AP reports. Leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is in second place was with more than 31 per cent. Pena Nieto, who reportedly has a lead of more than 3.3 million votes, is seeking to return the former autocratic ruling party to power after a 12-year hiatus. Lopez Obrador is likely to challenge the count by the country's electoral authority as the candidate alleges Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party was engaged in vote-buying.
Two oil terminals in eastern Libya were forced to halt production for 48 hours by a group of federalism supporters, AFP reports. “The pumping and loading of oil has been stopped,” said a supervisor at a major oil terminal in the port town of Ras Lanuf. He added that workers decided to comply with the group’s demands to avoid an "escalation." The Libyan pro-federalism movement had threatened earlier to boycott and sabotage the first Libyan elections since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The movement demands an equal allocation of seats in the 200-member national assembly due to be elected on July 7.
Provincial Philippine information officer Maynardo Valdez was accused of gross misconduct and dishonesty and dismissed after Facebook photos showed him attending a high school reunion at an island resort when he was supposed to be at work. According to a Philippine Information Agency chief, Valdez was absent four days last year. He did not respond to calls from his superiors and when they tried to contact him through Facebook, they saw pictures of him at the reunion.
Nigerian airline Dana Air has begun compensating the families of those killed in a plane crash last month. Each family is expected to receive up to $100,000. Nine families have received deposit payments of $30,000 so far, and will later get $70,000 more, an airline spokesman said, adding that 67 other claims are currently being processed. The Dana Air plane crashed into a two-story building in a densely-populated neighborhood of Lagos on June 3, killing all 153 people onboard.