Foreign articles

Revived Obama celebrates year-end wins

Revived Obama celebrates year-end wins

WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama has capped a crisis-strewn first two White House years by flexing restored power at home and abroad as he secured big wins in Congress on nuclear arms and gay rights.
Obama won Senate ratification on Wednesday of a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia that he said sent a “powerful signal” to the world, and fulfilled a Democratic vow by signing a bill allowing gays to serve openly in the military.
On both issues, the president took on and

Israeli settlers building 100 illegal homes: NGO

JERUSALEM – Israeli settlers have illegally begun work on at least 100 homes in the occupied West Bank since the end of a freeze on settlement construction, Israel’s Peace Now movement said on Thursday.
“Since the end of the settlement freeze at the end of September, at least 100 buildings are now under construction in the West Bank,” Peace Now’s secretary general Yariv Oppenheimer told AFP.
In November 2009, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implemented a freeze on

Iraq PM eyes security, services as new govt meets

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s new cabinet held its first meeting on Wednesday, a day after a parliamentary vote ended months of political deadlock, but now must address the public’s real concerns — security and services.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki “met this morning with his ministers to tell them that his three top priorities are security, public services, especially electricity, and relations with neighbouring countries,” Ali Moussawi, an adviser to Maliki, told AFP.
In separate

Afghanistan says Iran blocking fuel trucks

KABUL: Iran is preventing hundreds of fuel tankers from crossing into Afghanistan and supplying US-led NATO troops fighting the Taliban, senior officials in Kabul said Wednesday.
Around 1,600 trucks have been prevented from crossing for three weeks and the situation threatens to push up fuel prices, which have already skyrocketed in recent days, at the start of winter.
Although Kabul says the tankers would be used to supply ordinary Afghans, deputy commerce minister Mohammad

S Korea readies major military drill near tense border

SEOUL: South Korea on Wednesday prepared for a major show of military strength involving fighter jets and tanks near the tense North Korean border as Washington ruled out “feel-good” talks with Pyongyang.
The live-fire exercise, planned for Thursday with self-propelled guns and 800 soldiers, follows signs of an easing of tensions on the peninsula after the North backed down from a threat to retaliate against an earlier drill.
Although similar exercises have been held at the

Russian president wraps up India trade trip in Mumbai

MUMBAI: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday wrapped up a short trip to India during which he focused on reviving ties between the two Cold War allies to offset approaches by Western powers.
Medvedev squeezed in a tour of the Taj Mahal before heading to the country’s financial hub Mumbai to meet students at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay and visit a Bollywood film studio. His departure on Wednesday evening ended a flurry of diplomacy in

Israel complains to UN over Gaza rockets

JERUSALEM: Israel has urged the UN Security Council to issue a “clear and resolute” message to Palestinian militants against firing rockets into its territory from Gaza, in a letter made public on Wednesday.
The December 21 letter, released by the foreign ministry, comes amid rising tensions on Israel’s border with the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave. On Tuesday, Israel launched a series of air strikes against what it said were tunnels, training sites and weapons facilities in Gaza

EU imposes travel ban on Gbagbo, associates

BRUSSELS: European Union travel bans on defiant Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo and his powerful wife Simone entered force Wednesday, alongside another 17 influential figures.
A diplomatic source told AFP that ambassadors of the 27 EU nations completed legal procedures allowing the visa ban to take effect. Member states are looking at “lengthening the list” as well as extending sanctions to include asset freezes.
The action came as Ivory Coast’s deadly political

US poised to ratify nuclear treaty with Russia

WASHINGTON: A landmark treaty on nuclear arms that will bind the United States and Russia is set for ratification Wednesday after an arduous Senate battle, handing President Barack Obama a major diplomatic triumph.
“We are on the brink of writing the next chapter in the 40-year history of wrestling with the threat of nuclear weapons,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair John Kerry after lawmakers Tuesday moved 67-28 to end debate on the new Strategic Arms Reduction

Obama woos senators on Russia treaty vote

WASHINGTON – A landmark US-Russia nuclear arms control treaty faced a key test vote in the US Senate as early as Tuesday as President Barack Obama ramped up pressure on wary lawmakers to back the accord.
Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wooed Republicans by telephone, lawmakers said Monday, as the top US uniformed officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, wrote a letter unreservedly backing the pact.
“This treaty has the full support of your

Frankfurt airport reopens

FRANKFURT – Frankfurt airport, Germany’s biggest, reopened on Tuesday after fresh snowfall grounded early flights and caused others to be re-routed to Munich in the south, spokesmen said.
Planes were grounded earlier in the day for some three and a half hours and 300 of the 1,300 daily flights at Europe’s third biggest airport were cancelled, a spokesman told AFP. By around 0800 GMT, however, the situation seemed to be improving in the main terminal used by flag carrier Lufthansa

Hariri ‘respects’ but brushes off Iran supremo

BEIRUT – Lebanon’s ruling camp on Tuesday brushed aside comments by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who dismissed a UN probe into the murder of former premier Rafiq Hariri as “null”.
“This is Iran’s position,” Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of the slain Sunni Muslim ex-premier, told a news conference. “We have nothing but respect for Ayatollah Khamenei, and we fully respect all of his opinions, which he is free to hold,” he added. “We in Lebanon, as a government,

Fresh snow adds to Europe travel chaos

LONDON – Thousands of angry travellers forced to sleep in airports and train stations across Europe faced more misery on Tuesday as fresh snowfalls paralysed transport systems just days before Christmas.
London Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, was only operating about a third of its normal schedule during a fourth day of disruption, while Frankfurt halted all flights after a new blanketing of snow.
For a third day, queues stretched for hours outside the London terminal

Assange says Swedish women accusers in a ‘tizzy’

LONDON – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Tuesday said the Swedish women who have accused him of sexual assault had got into a “tizzy” about the possibility they had caught a sexually transmitted disease from him.
Assange told the BBC that one account of what happened in August – the month at the centre of allegations against him – was that the two women had panicked when they found out they had both slept with him and went to police who “bamboozled” them.
He insisted he

South Korea stays on guard despite N Korea concessions

SEOUL – A wary South Korea stayed on guard against North Korea on Tuesday, with jet fighters and warships deployed, a day after the communist state backed off from threats of attack over a live-fire exercise.
Washington and Seoul expressed scepticism at another reported concession by Pyongyang – an agreement to reopen its nuclear sites to UN inspectors. Hours after the South defied North Korea’s threats and staged Monday’s artillery exercise near the disputed sea border, the

Iran quake kills seven, wrecks villages

TEHRAN – A 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck southeastern Iran, wrecking villages, bringing down power lines, and killing up to seven people and injuring hundreds more, Iranian media reported on Tuesday.
The late Monday quake, with its epicentre near the town of Hosseinabad in Kerman province, was followed by more than 30 further tremors, including one of 5.0 magnitude, the Mehr news agency said, quoting the geophysics department of Tehran university. State media reported that mild

I Coast’s Gbagbo digs in under fire from UN

ABIDJAN – Defiant Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo dug in his heels on Tuesday under a barrage of international criticism, as the United Nations defended its hard-pressed peacekeepers and threatened sanctions.
Both Gbagbo and his rival Alassane Ouattara claim to have won last month’s Ivory Coast presidential election, but UN monitors and almost all of the world community recognised the challenger and has demanded Gbagbo step down.
Furious, the 65-year-old strongman ordered