Ukraine forces kill up to five rebels; Russia starts drill near border
By Aleksandar Vasovic and Alexei Anishchuk SLAVIANSK, Ukraine/ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Ukrainian forces killed up to five pro-Moscow rebels on Thursday as they closed in on the separatists' military stronghold in the east, and Russia launched army drills near the border in response, raising fears its troops would invade. The Ukrainian offensive amounts to the first time Kiev's troops have used lethal force to recapture territory from the fighters, who have seized swaths of eastern Ukraine since April 6 and proclaimed an independent "People's Republic of Donetsk." Ukraine's acting president accused Moscow of supporting "terrorism at the state level" against his country for backing the rebels, whom the government blames for kidnapping and torturing a politician found dead on Saturday. "The window to change course is closing," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned in a hastily arranged appearance in the State Department, where he cited President Barack Obama's comments earlier on Thursday that Washington was ready to impose new sanctions if Moscow did not alter its policy.
Thu, 24 Apr 2014 20:46:56 -0400
Israel suspends peace talks after Palestinian unity bid
By Jeffrey Heller JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel on Thursday suspended U.S.-sponsored peace talks with the Palestinians in response to President Mahmoud Abbas's unexpected unity pact with the rival Islamist Hamas group. The United States had been struggling to extend the talks beyond an original April 29 deadline for a peace accord. "The government of Israel will not hold negotiations with a Palestinian government that is backed by Hamas, a terror organization that calls for Israel's destruction," an official statement said after a six-hour meeting of the security cabinet. Asked to clarify whether that meant the talks were now frozen or would be called off only after a unity government was formed, a senior Israeli official said: "They are currently suspended." In Washington, a U.S. official said the United States would have to reconsider its assistance to Abbas's aid-dependent Palestinian Authority if the Western-backed leader and Hamas formed a government.
Thu, 24 Apr 2014 16:50:40 -0400
Obama wraps up Japan visit after security pledge but no trade deal
By Antoni Slodkowski and Matt Spetalnick TOKYO (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama neared the end of a state visit to Japan on Friday during which he assured America's close ally that Washington would come to its defense but failed to clinch a trade deal vital to his promised "pivot" to Asia. Failure to reach a trade deal has delayed a joint statement on security and economic ties that Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were expected to issue after their summit on Thursday. Obama and Abe had ordered their top aides to make a final push to reach a trade agreement but Economy Minister Akira Amari told reporters on Friday that gaps remained despite recent progress. The TPP is high on Abe's economic reform agenda and central to Obama's policy of expanding the U.S. presence in Asia.
Thu, 24 Apr 2014 20:53:38 -0400
Korean school tribute leaves empty spaces for unfound ferry victims
By Ju-min Park and James Pearson ANSAN, South Korea/SEOUL (Reuters) - A floral tribute to the children who drowned in a sinking South Korean ferry features photographs of the victims in their school uniforms and lines of empty spaces waiting to be filled with photos as the confirmed death toll rises.
Thu, 24 Apr 2014 22:33:42 -0400
Former U.S. test site sues nuclear nations for disarmament failure
By David Brunnstrom WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The tiny Pacific republic of the Marshall Islands, scene of massive U.S. nuclear tests in the 1950s, sued the United States and eight other nuclear-armed nations on Thursday, accusing them of failing in their obligation to negotiate nuclear disarmament. The Pacific country accused all nine nuclear-armed states of "flagrant violation of international law" for failing to pursue the negotiations required by the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It filed one suit specifically directed against the United States, in the Federal District Court in San Francisco, while others against all nine countries were lodged at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, capital of the Netherlands, a statement from an anti-nuclear group backing the suits said. The action was supported by South African Nobel Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation said.
Thu, 24 Apr 2014 17:22:03 -0400
Iran dismisses U.S. criticism of its election to U.N. NGO committee
Iran on Thursday rejected U.S. criticism of its election to the United Nations' committee on non-governmental organizations (NGOs), saying Washington's rebuke came from "baseless accusations" and violated the spirit of cooperation needed at the world body. U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power on Wednesday said, "The unopposed candidacy of Iran, where authorities regularly detain human rights defenders, subjecting many to torture, abuse, and violations of due process, is a particularly troubling outcome." Hamid Babaei, spokesman for Iran's U.N. mission in New York, vehemently rejected Power's remarks. "Iran categorically rejects baseless accusations raised in the statement of (Power) regarding status of human rights and civil liberties in the Islamic Republic of Iran and find these assertions both unconstructive, obstructive and against the spirit of cooperation between sovereign member states," he said.
Thu, 24 Apr 2014 15:37:50 -0400
Ex-junior Springbok Melck relishing Germany debut
Making an international debut in your 30s is rare, but South African-born Saracens flanker Justin Melck is relishing his chance to help minnows Germany qualify for the Rugby World Cup. When his Saracens team-mates take on Clermont Auvergne in Saturday's European Cup semi-final, Melck has been released to pull on the jersey of his ancestors in a test against Sweden in the unlikely rugby outpost of Stockholm. Cape Town-born Melck, 31, who has a German passport and whose mother hails from Gondelsheim, near Karlsruhe, admits he knows little about his new team-mates and has taken some teasing from within the Saracens squad. "There has been some banter from the Saracens boys, you could hear the German national anthem at a training session for example.
Thu, 24 Apr 2014 23:05:40 -0400
Obama warns North Korea on nuclear test: South Korean media
SEOUL (Reuters) - President Barack Obama warned North Korea on Friday against conducting another nuclear test, saying that it would draw a firm international response. "If North Korea were to make the mistake of engaging in another nuclear test, it should expect a firm response from the international community, " he said in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper. (Reporting by Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Paul Tait)
Thu, 24 Apr 2014 23:04:59 -0400
Top Asian News at 3:00 a.m. GMT
TOKYO (AP) When President Barack Obama arrives in South Korea on Friday, he will be thrust anew into the role of consoler in chief in a time of crisis, a responsibility he has become all too accustomed to in the United States. South Korea is reeling from the ferry disaster that has left more than 300 dead or missing, with the vast majority of the victims students from a high school near the capital of Seoul. The tragedy has consumed South Korean President Park Geun-hye in the lead-up to Obama's visit and could distract from the security and economic agenda she had been expected to highlight during her meetings with the U.S. president.
Thu, 24 Apr 2014 23:02:24 -0400
China to outlaw eating of protected animal species
China will jail people who eat rare animals for 10 years or more under a new interpretation of the criminal law, state media reported, as the government seeks to close a legal loophole and better protect the natural environment. China lists 420 species as rare or endangered, including the panda, golden monkeys, Asian black bears and pangolins, some or all of which are threatened by illegal hunting, environmental destruction and the consumption of animal parts, including for supposedly medicinal reasons. Consumption of rare animals has risen as the country has become richer, with some people believing spending thousands of yuan on eating them gives a certain social cache. "Eating rare wild animals is not only bad social conduct but also a main reason why illegal hunting has not been stopped despite repeated crackdowns," Lang Sheng, deputy head of parliament's Legislative Affairs Commission said, the official Xinhua news agency reported late on Thursday.
Thu, 24 Apr 2014 22:34:53 -0400
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