Libya’s newly formed national assembly has elected Mohammed el-Megarif as interim president. A former foe of Muammar Gaddafi and leader of the country’s oldest opposition movement, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, el-Megarif takes office, replacing Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, who headed the outgoing National Transitional Council. Jalil officially handed over power to the nationally-elected assembly during a ceremony late on Wednesday.
The US neighborhood watch volunteer charged with the killing of an unarmed black teenager will try to have the murder charge dismissed under Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ self-defense law, his attorney said Thursday, AP reports. In February this year, George Zimmerman shot dead 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, sparking nationwide outrage, particularly as he was not arrested until weeks after the incident. "Most of the arguments, witnesses, experts and evidence that the defense would muster in a criminal trial will be presented in the ‘stand your ground’ hearing,'' said the statement posted by Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O'Mara, on Zimmerman's official defense website. Under the law, the judge can dismiss the charges if it is proven that Zimmerman shot Martin because he “reasonably believed” he might be killed or suffer “great bodily harm” from the unarmed teenager.
The defense attorney for James Holmes, the man accused of the deadly shooting spree in a theater in Aurora, Colorado, has said that he is mentally ill during a court hearing on Thursday. The attorney added that James Holmes tried to get help with his illness before the shootings. Holmes was present at the hearing in which a judge was considering a request by 20 media organizations to lift a gag on documents related to the case. Twelve people were killed and 58 were wounded after Holmes went on a shooting rampage at a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora on July 20.
Georgia’s reaction to President Putin’s comments on the South Ossetian War amount to “hysteria,” says Russia’s Foreign Ministry. Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that the Georgian attack in 2008 did not catch Russian troops by surprise. Tbilisi called the words “an acknowledgment” that Russia had been preparing a strike against Georgia. Moscow reminded Georgia that Tbilisi had been violating peacekeeping agreements long before the conflict. The Foreign Ministry also says the comments prove Georgia “has not resigned itself to the failure” and “has recoup plans for the long-suffering peoples of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.”
Tehran says it is ready to be a mediator in the Syrian conflict and host delegations from both the government and the opposition. The announcement was made at a conference on solutions for ending the Syrian conflict that took place in Tehran. Iran says the conference is an attempt to start an alternative political process, separate from Western-led initiatives. Some 30 countries attended the meeting, including Russia and China, as well as Pakistan, Iraq, Algeria and Venezuela.
The Briz-M upper stage and the Express-MD2 and Telkom-3 satellites will fall to Earth in winter or spring 2013, a leading researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Space Research Institute said. The satellites were put into the incorrect orbit during Russia’s August 6 launch. Natan Eismont told Interfax on Thursday the objects will not fall to earth “for quite a long time, at least this will not happen earlier than six to eight months from now.” The satellites and the upper stage's debris will not fall until their apogee altitude lowers to below 300 kilometers. If the angle at which they enter the atmosphere is steep, it would be easier to calculate the area where they could touch down. If it is low, it will be difficult to predict it accurately enough.
Hundreds of Philippine troops, backed by assault helicopters, launched offensives on two strongholds of a breakaway Muslim guerrilla group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement, in the south, officials said Thursday. The operation followed militants’ attacks on at least 14 military camps and outposts since Sunday, which left at least four soldiers dead, AP said. The rebel group broke off last year from the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front, involved in peace talks with the government.
Turkey's foreign minister has accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of arming Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants. Ahmet Davutoglu told Turkish media while traveling to Myanmar overnight that Assad had given weapons to the PKK, which has established a presence in the towns of Kobani and Afrin in northern Syria. “Assad gave them weapons support. Yes - this is not a fantasy. It is true. We have taken necessary measures against this threat,” Reuters quoted Davutoglu as saying. In early July, Assad denied that Syria had allowed the PKK to operate on Syrian territory close to the Turkish frontier. On Thursday suspected PKK militants ambushed a Turkish military bus in the western province of Izmir, killing a soldier and wounding at least 11 people.
Tehran calls for “serious and inclusive” talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Thursday. Iran believes that the Syrian crisis can only be resolved through such talks, Salehi said at the start of a conference in Tehran to discuss the crisis in Syria. Salehi also warned that Iran “rejects any foreign and military intervention in Syria.” Tehran supports UN efforts to resolve the crisis, he said.
Uruguay’s parliament will debate full legalization of marijuana, with state control over its production and distribution. Social Development Minister Daniel Olesker said the bill still could be amended, local paper El Pais said on Thursday. “It is designed to legalize this market,” RIA Novosti quoted him as saying. “It will allow us to battle illegal drug trafficking.” The government announced an initiative for the draft law last week. Cultivation of marijuana is an offense in Uruguay.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he is “deeply worried” Britain might leave the European Union in a referendum. The eurozone crisis could lead to a “powerful political change of the EU,” Blair told German newspaper Die Zeit on Thursday. “And on this point, I am deeply worried that Britain could decide by referendum to leave the whole process,” he added. “If more competences are transferred to the EU, then its democratic legitimacy must be built up too,” the former premier warned. “We need a balance between European institutions and the nation states,” Blair stressed.
Police fired warning shots and teargas to disperse a demonstration in Sidi Bouzid. The central Tunisian town is the birthplace of last year's revolution in the country. One person was wounded by a rubber bullet and four others affected by the teargas were taken to the town's hospital, AFP reports. The protesters were demanding the resignation of the Islamist-led government. The security forces began firing into the air when the demonstrators tried to force their way into the provincial government headquarters. A similar incident took place at the end of June.
Alleged Kurdish militants have ambushed a bus with Turkish servicemen in western part of the country near a city of Foca 05:00 GMT. One serviceman was killed and at least 11 were wounded. Before shelling the bus the militants detonated an explosive device on the road. The attack became as a complete surprise since the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party’s (PKK) militants usually attack military vehicles in south-east Turkey, where they plan to create their state of Kurdistan. The nearly three-decade conflict between Turks and Kurds has claimed 40,000 lives.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has appointed Health Minister Wael Nader al-Halki as new prime minister, Syria TV reported on Thursday. The president signed a decree days after the defection of the previous premier, Riyad Hijab. Halki, born in 1964, replaces caretaker premier Omar Ghalawanji. The new PM reportedly comes from the southern province of Deraa, where the uprising against Assad erupted.
Several Egyptian journalists left their columns blank in daily papers on Thursday. They protested against the appointments by the upper house of parliament of 50 new editors for state-owned publications. Many of the newly-appointed editors are known for their Islamist views, AP said. The columnists denounced in short notes what they describe as the Brotherhood's attempt to control the state-owned media. The upper house, the Shura Council, is formally the owner of the state press. It includes flagship dailies Al-Ahram and Al-Akhbar.
More than 2,000 Syrians have fled violence and crossed the border with neighboring Turkey in the past two days, Turkish officials said on Thursday. This brings the total number of Syrians who have sought refuge in Turkey to 50,227, according to Turkish Disaster and Emergency Administration.
An Afghan soldier tried to gun down a group of international troops in the country’s east, but was killed as NATO forces fired back, the alliance has said. Thursday's attack happened outside a coordination center for Afghan and international forces in Laghman province, according to a coalition spokesman. No Western service personnel were killed in the incident, German Lt. Col. Hagen Messer said, as cited by AP. The incident is the latest in attacks in which Afghan soldiers or police have turned on their international colleagues.
The closed murder trial of the wife of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai has ended after one day in the Hefei Intermediate People’s Court in eastern China. Tang Yigan, the deputy director of the court in Anhui province, said the trial has ended, but would not say when a verdict was expected, AP said. Gu Kailai and a household aide face charges of murdering Neil Heywood. The British businessman had close ties to the Bo family. Two British diplomats were allowed into the court under an agreement with China, but international media were excluded.
Egyptian police and gunmen clashed again in the Sinai town of al-Arish on Thursday, the state Nile News television reported. “Clashes resumed between armed men and police forces in front of Police Station Number Two in al-Arish,” it said. The Egyptian military earlier launched an offensive against suspected Islamist militants in the region after the killing of 16 border guards on Sunday. The Egyptian president fired intelligence chief and the province's governor on Wednesday.
The failure of the main fuel delivery cable could have prevented a Russian rocket from putting Express MD2 and Telkom-3 communications satellites into target orbits on Tuesday, a newspaper reports says. The Proton-M was launched before midnight Monday. The booster's first stages worked fine, but the upper stage intended to give the final push to the satellites switched off prematurely. Kommersant daily said on Thursday, citing experts investigating the incident, that the pressure in the fuel tank had fallen and the nominal traction was not reached. Then electronic sensing elements allegedly sent a signal to stop the engine, and the third switching on did not happen, the paper reports. The incident could have been caused by foreign objects in the fuel tank or mechanical failure of the main cable, the sources in the space industry say.
All the Iranians kidnapped by Syrian rebels last week are alive and well, the Iranian Foreign Ministry says. This contradicts statements by rebels holding them that three of the captives had been killed in an air attack. There is no indication that some of the kidnapped “were martyred,” Mojtaba Ferdowsipour, head of the Iranian foreign ministry's Middle East office, told Iran's Al-Alam television. Rebels seized 48 Iranians in Damascus on August 4 on suspicion of being military personnel. Tehran insists they are religious pilgrims.
Belgian regulator FANC will close nuclear power station Doel 3 at least until the end of August after an investigation into possible cracks in the core tank. The government adopted a plan in July to close 1,006 MW Doel 3 reactor, operated by GDF Suez unit Electrabel, in 10 years. The FANC said it will only give a permit for further operation if convincing arguments can be made, Reuters reports. The regulator will also close the 1,008 MW Tihange 2 reactor in the south for inspection in September. The country's other reactors will be inspected in 2013.
International auditors will remain in Athens all of September, AFP said, citing sources in the EU. The move means Greece is unlikely to get its next installment of bailout funds before October. A favorable report from the auditors of the troika of the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank is key to paying its part of Greece’s next installment of 31.5 billion euro in rescue funds. The disbursement, previously expected in September, was delayed due to a two-month political deadlock in Greece.
A Swiss laboratory wants guarantees that investigative findings into the 2004 death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will not be used for political purposes. Experts from the Swiss Institute of Radiation Physics have been invited to the West Bank to test Yasser Arafat's remains for possible polonium-210 poisoning. Last month, the institute said it had detected elevated levels of radioactive material in stains on Arafat's clothing.
Libya's National Transitional Council has successfully handed over power to the country's first elected assembly. The executive body is composed of 120 independent seats and 80 party seats. The 200-member congress must now name a new chairman and steer Libya to full parliamentary elections after a new constitution is drafted.
An Australian rescue team has left Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island for Antarctica in order to evacuate an American citizen experiencing a medical emergency at a US scientific base, AP reports. The team from the Australian Antarctic Division set off on Thursday morning and will attempt to land on an ice runway near the McMurdo research station by early afternoon. The patient is reportedly in a stable condition, but may need "immediate corrective surgery."
Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, has undergone heart surgery, AP reports, citing a NASA spokesman. It was not clear where the surgery had been carried out or where the 82-year-old former astronaut was recuperating. "Neil's pioneering spirit will surely serve him well in this challenging time and the entire NASA family is holding the Armstrong family in our thoughts and prayers," the statement from NASA administrator Charles Bolden read. Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed on the moon on July 20, 1969.
The death toll from monsoon rains in the Philippines has risen to at least 73. Widespread flooding and landslides have caused chaos across the country, leaving more than a million people without shelter. An estimated 80 per cent of the capital Manila is now engulfed by water. Forecasters say still more rain is on the way.
Police have arrested dozens of rioters as thousands of Chilean students took to the streets of Chile's capital, Santiago, on Wednesday, raging against the government's policy on education. Hooded vandals set three city buses ablaze amid violence that left dozens injured. Police used water cannons to break up the protest. Students say their demonstration was motivated by a lack of response to their demands to make public education accessible to all. Authorities have vowed to stamp out what they have called the "radicalizing demonstrations", but the message has so far only fueled further anger.