San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has resigned following ongoing allegations of sexual harassment that spurred a related lawsuit. His resignation was confirmed upon a Friday vote by the city council agreeing that the city will pay part of his legal fees. Filner maintains he did not sexually harass any of his 18 female accusers, blaming "awkwardness and hubris" for his behavior.
UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, has described the Syrian conflict as the biggest threat to peace and security in the world. “The parties that are involved in this civil war, each one of them think that they can win militarily,” he said. “There is no military solution. No side is going to win.” The envoy added: “There is only a political solution and the earlier we work on it, the better.” He called on both warring sides in Syria to come to the negotiating table.
The Czech Republic will hold an election on October 25-26, President Milos Zeman officially announced on Friday. The ballot will end a period of political stalemate triggered by a corruption and spying scandal that unseated the previous center-right cabinet in June. Opinion polls show the center-left Social Democrats will be the biggest party in the new parliament, Reuters reported. Their leader, Bohuslav Sobotka, has said his party could rule in a minority government, supported by the Communist Party or other factions. It would be the first time since the 1989 Velvet Revolution that the Communist party could have a direct impact on government policies.
Philippine authorities on Friday began a formal inquiry into a collision between a ferry and a cargo ship which killed at least 80 people and left 40 missing on August 16. Navy boats and helicopters continued to scour the waters for those still missing from the St Thomas Aquinas ferry, which sank after the collision off the central island of Cebu, AFP reported. A total of 750 passengers and crew of the 870 on board the ferry were rescued. Authorities are discussing a proposal to wind up the search for survivors by Saturday.
A three-nation investigation has led to one of the biggest seizures of synthetic drugs in Europe, the Belgian prosecutor’s office said on Friday. Core products intended to create Ecstasy pills with a street value of 1.3 billion euro ($1.75 billion) were seized after 30 raids in Belgium, the Netherlands and Poland. Police arrested 11 people, charged with possession, production and trading in drugs as part of a criminal gang. Most of the products were discovered in a suburban garage in Brussels and on a farm in southern Belgium. It was Belgium’s biggest ever bust and one of the largest in Europe.
North and South Korea have agreed to allow reunions next month of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, officials in Seoul say. It will be the first time the meetings have happened in three years. Seoul says that 100 people from each country will be allowed to meet family members, September 25-30, at a North Korean mountain resort. The deal struck on Friday marks the latest conciliatory gesture from Pyongyang.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague has said the UK believes the regime of Syria’s President Bashar Assad carried out a chemical weapons attack near Damascus that killed scores of people. The only “plausible explanation for casualties so intense in such a small area” was a chemical attack, Hague said Friday. Chances the Syrian opposition was behind the attack were “vanishingly” small, he said on television. “We do believe this is a chemical attack by the Assad regime on a large scale.” UN chemical weapons inspectors must be given immediate access to the site, Hague added.
US President Barack Obama has said that while the US aid to Egypt is unlikely to influence the government’s crackdown on protests, there is “no doubt that we can’t return to business as usual.” The aid itself “may not reverse what the interim government does,” Obama said in an interview with CNN ‘New Day’ anchor Chris Cuomo. Washington provides $1.2 billion in military aid and $250 million in economic aid to Egypt every year.
US President Barack Obama has described the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria as a “big event of grave concern.” The US is still seeking confirmation such weapons were used, he said, adding that if proved true the situation would “require America’s attention.” Syrian opposition activists say hundreds died in the alleged chemical attack near Damascus.
The number of registered child refugees fleeing Syria’s violence has topped the 1 million mark, two UN agencies said on Friday. Roughly half of all the nearly 2 million registered refugees from Syria are children, and some 740,000 of those are under the age of 11, according to the UN refugee and children's agencies. Even after the children “have crossed a border to safety, they are traumatized, depressed and in need of a reason for hope,” said Antonio Guterres, the head of the Office for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
At least one civilian was killed and 16 other people were injured, including 11 soldiers, after a bomb explosion targeting a military truck in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, security sources say. “A civilian was killed and five others were also wounded. At least 11 soldiers were wounded in the bomb blast on their truck,” Press TV quoted a military official as saying on Thursday. Several cars and motorcycles nearby were also damaged in the explosion. There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack so far.
Israel’s air force has struck targets inside Lebanon in response to a cross-border rocket salvo launched on Thursday. The four rockets, which landed in northern Israel but left no casualties, were claimed by a previously unknown Al-Qaeda-affiliated Sunni Muslim group, rather than the Iran-backed Shiite Hezbollah which operates throughout southern Lebanon. According to Israel’s military, its air force targeted a “terror site” near Na’ameh, which lies between the capital Beirut and Sidon. "Israel will not tolerate terrorist aggression originating from Lebanese territory," military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said in a statement announcing Friday's airstrike. Israel made clear that it held the Lebanese government responsible for Thursday’s rocket attack, while Lebanese president Michel Suleiman denied any involvement. "The firing of rockets towards Israel is a violation of the UN-regulated ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon," said Suleiman.
Israel has apologized to Japan after disparaging comments were posted online by the country’s head of online public diplomacy, Daniel Seaman. The official posted controversial remarks on Facebook in reference to the annual commemoration events marking the US nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. "I am sick of the Japanese, 'Human Rights' and 'Peace' groups the world over holding their annual self-righteous commemorations for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims," Seaman wrote via his Facebook page. "Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the consequence of Japanese aggression. You reap what you sow." Japanese ambassador to Israel, Hideo Sato, complained to Israel following Seaman’s comments. An apology was issued to Japan by Ya’akov Amidror, national adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.