7 Ukrainian troops killed, rebels operate tanks
Rebels were operating tanks in the region, a particular sore spot for Ukraine, which accuses Russia of letting the vehicles cross the border.Vladislav Seleznev, spokesman for Ukrainian forces in the east, said the seven soldiers had been killed since Thursday and 30 injured in fighting against pro-Russian separatists outside the village of Yampil in the Donetsk region. He said 300 rebels were killed, but that could not be immediately verified.An Associated Press reporter saw pro-Russian fighters moving in a column with two tanks and three armored personnel carriers near the town of Yanakiyeve in the direction of the town of Horlivka in the Donetsk region. The tanks flew small flags of a pro-Russian militia but otherwise had no markings. The fighters declined to say what they were doing, other than that it was a „secret operation.”Russian President Vladimir Putin has voiced concern about the Ukrainian military onslaught, while NATO on Thursday reported that Russia was resuming a military build-up at the Ukrainian border.Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko discussed details of his peace plan in a telephone call to Putin on Thursday. Poroshenko’s office said he emphasized the need for introducing effective border controls and quickly releasing hostages.View galleryPro-russian troops in tanks, several armored vehicles, and tracks drive on a road in the direction o …Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Russian officials were surprised at Western expressions of concern over the renewed troop buildup, saying it was merely a previously announced measure to tighten border controls.”This is not a matter of some sort of concentration of forces, but of the strengthening of border controls of the Russian Federation,” Peskov was quoted as saying by the Itar-TASS news agency.Separately, Putin’s foreign policy aide, Yuri Ushakov, said the Russian president is committed to dialogue on Ukraine and is planning to have a phone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama in the coming days.Ushakov also mentioned that Putin, on a visit to Austria next week, would be meeting with the chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to discuss Poroshenko’s peace plan for Ukraine.The U.N. says at least 356 people, including 257 civilians, have been killed since May 7 in eastern Ukraine._Vasilyeva contributed from Moscow.
Romanian court orders 30-day detention for president’s brother
Ukraine Wants A Ceasefire — Russia Is Sending A Bunch Of Tanks Into Ukraine
Welcome to Radio Republic — the only official station of the self-proclaimed rebel Donetsk People’s Republic, coming at the war-torn region with a blend of patriotic jingles and political diatribes to keep listeners tuned in.Run from a makeshift studio inside the rebel’s heavily-fortified headquarters, the station — along with a TV channel seized by the pro-Moscow insurgents — is used by separatist leaders to promote their views and recruit fighters.The rebels’ black, blue and red flag hangs on the studio wall as the main presenter Georgy recites the latest advice and exhortations to listeners.Next up is a recruitment ad: „Miners, take up arms and defend your land — tomorrow will be too late,” it says to rousing music.Georgy asked that his surname not be reported and his face not to be photographed due to the illegal nature of the operation.Bespectacled and bedecked in jeans and sneakers, his outfit is a change from the gun-toting, camouflage-clad rebel fighters roaming the region.”I’ve made my choice. I don’t stand at checkpoints with a gun but I don’t rule it out. I am better at this than I am at shooting,” Georgy said.- Pirates and separatists -A former DJ on a commercial music station, Georgy joined the newly-formed outlet in April after manningbarricades outside rebel headquarters.The station airs on two FM frequencies and also streams online.The pirate station uses a satellite link to rebroadcast a Russian state talk channel Vesti FM, which it then interrupts with its own jingles, news and discussion shows.View galleryGeorgy, the main host of Radio Republic, the official radio station of the self proclaimed „Don …”We’re just terrorists and separatists and I don’t know how many criminal charges there are for our activities,” Georgy said.He was referring to Kiev’s view of the separatist rebels, who held self-rule referendums in May in the restive eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions that were denounced by the West and Ukraine’s new leadership as illegal.Fighting between the two sides since early April has killed at least 365 civilians and fighters, prompting fears of civil war on the EU’s doorstep.Georgy said the pirate radio does not have permission to use Vesti FM’s content, though it is hard to see why Russia would object to a station broadcasting its message in eastern Ukraine.In Donetsk the rebels have systematically taken over or closed down independent and pro-Kiev outlets. The handful of stations still on air mostly play inoffensive pop music.Radio Republic’s urgent tone is in marked contrast, but Georgy denied it was scaremongering.”It’s my voice, I wrote the text. It’s the truth. I’m not lying to my listeners,” he said.Next to the studio’s door are two iron bars for protection and a glass-fronted cupboard containing five gas masks.All 10 staff working in the rudimentary soundproof studio are unpaid volunteers, Georgy said.- Tank drivers needed -The station is not the rebel republic’s only media mouthpiece.Downstairs in the headquarters, supporters pull up chairs around a television showing the Kremlin’s Rossiya 24 rolling news channel — with the addition of the Donetsk republic’s logo in the top left corner.The channel — once Ukrainian public TV — broadcasts around 30 minutes of its own content each hour, with the rest coming from Rossiya 24, said the producer, who gave his name only as Alexei.While it doesn’t have official permission to use Rossiya 24 content, the Donetsk rebel channel has „unspoken agreements” on sharing information and footage with Russian TV correspondents in the region, Alexei said.”In an unrecognised republic, it’s a matter of shared trust and mutual help,” he added.The channel is based at the city’s TV centre, which doubles as a barracks and training centre for rebel fighters.A much larger operation than its radio counterpart, the channel has around 75 staff — most former Ukrainian TV employees.The rebel leadership „asked us to form a new channel,” Alexei said.”At the moment, the main thing is to tell people the truth and show them that their opinion, their choice is very important. This is war, real war.”Rolling text along the bottom of the screen tells viewers to call a helpline to report „looting, kidnappings, terrorism and provocations”.Another ad simply states: „Urgently needed: drivers of light and medium tanks.”The screen then switches to a slick, emotive promotion for the separatist movement.”Your country is dying… are you an ungrateful brute or someone who can change the world?” it asks.
New battles as Ukraine says 300 separatists killed in fighting
KIEV (Reuters) – Fighting raged for a second successive day in the east of Ukraine on Friday, a day after clashes in which Ukrainian government forces said about 300 separatists were killed.The casualty figures for the pro-Russian separatists could not be independently confirmed though a rebel commander said on Thursday the rebels had sustained „heavy losses” when they were outgunned by government forces backed by heavy armor.The government forces said seven of their own number had been killed in Thursday’s fighting. The new fighting on Friday was about 100 km (60 miles) from the border with Russia.Fighting broke out just east of the town of Krasny Liman early on Thursday after pro-Russian separatists refused to lay down their weapons in line with a peace plan proposed by President Petro Poroshenko, the government forces said.The government forces have been gradually squeezing rebels in the area though separatists, who rose up against central rule from Kiev following the overthrow of a president sympathetic to Moscow, still control the strategic city of Slaviansk.Vladyslav Seleznyov, a spokesman for Kiev’s „anti-terrorist operation”, said about 300 separatists had been killed in action around the villages of Yampil and Zakitne which included artillery fire and air attacks.Heavy weapons had been seized from the separatists, including an armored personnel carrier, a truck with a high-caliber machine gun mounted on it, a shoulder-launched missile, grenade launchers and small arms, Seleznyov said on his Facebook page.”Losses to Ukrainian servicemen are seven dead and 30 wounded. Military action is continuing,” Seleznyov said.(Writing by Richard Balmforth, Editing by Timothy Heritage)
Ukraine orders 1-week government cease-fire
The Kremlin dismissed the plan, saying it sounded like an ultimatum and lacked any firm offer to open talks with insurgents.Petro Poroshenko, making his first trip to the east as Ukraine’s president, said that the cease-fire will run until the morning of June 27 and that his troops reserve the right to fire back if separatists attack them or civilians.”The Ukrainian army is ceasing fire,” he said in a statement. „But this does not mean that we will not resist. In case of aggression toward our troops, we will do everything to defend the territory of our state.”Separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions have declared independence from his government in Kiev, occupied public buildings and fought with heavy weapons against Ukrainian troops.Rebel leaders have already dismissed Poroshenko’s plan, and it remains to be seen whether they will comply and how much pressure Russia will put on them to cease fire.View galleryPro-russian troops ride on a tank on a road in the direction of Donetsk not far from Debaltseve, Don …The Kremlin denies supporting the insurrection and has said that Russians fighting in Ukraine are doing so as private citizens.Russia said in a statement that an initial analysis of Poroshenko’s plan shows that „it’s not an invitation for peace and talks, but an ultimatum” to insurgents in southeast Ukraine to lay down their weapons. It said the plan „lacks the main element — an offer to start talks.”The Kremlin said Poroshenko’s government issued the peace plan „deliberately or accidentally” at roughly the same moment that Ukrainian forces fired into Russian territory, wounding a Russian customs officer. It said the Russian side was waiting for Ukrainian „explanations and excuses” over the attack.The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said that its forces were trying to flush out insurgents near the border checkpoint, but denied targeting it.The White House said in a statement that U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed the ceasefire and spoke Friday by phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and separately with French President Francois Hollande. All three leaders agreed that if Russia doesn’t take immediate steps to calm tensions in eastern Ukraine the U.S. and Europe will impose new penalties on Russia, the statement said.View galleryPro-russian troops in tanks, several armored vehicles, and tracks drive on a road in the direction o …Leonid Slutsky, a senior lawmaker in the lower house of Russian parliament, said Russian President Vladimir Putin could be waiting to see concrete action by the Ukrainian forces to stop fighting.”That will be a proof that Poroshenko is indeed the president. That could be considered the first step toward peace,” Slutsky said, according to an ITAR-Tass report.Putin has criticized Ukraine’s military operation against the rebels but he has resisted both the rebels’ pleas to join Russia and appeals from Russian nationalists to send troops into Ukraine.The White House and European leaders urged support for the plan.White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the U.S. government „has been very clear in our support for President Poroshenko’s effort to bring peace and unity to Ukraine.” He said the White House wants Russia „to stop supporting the militants who are fomenting so much violence and instability.”View galleryPro-russian troops in tanks, several armored vehicles, and tracks drive on a road in the direction o …Tension between Russia and Ukraine escalated sharply in February when protests in favor of closer ties with the European Union drove President Viktor Yanukovych from power. Russia denounced the events as a coup and annexed Ukraine’s mostly Russian-speaking Crimea region. The rebellion in the eastern regions broke out shortly afterward, with Ukraine accusing Russia of supporting it.Poroshenko’s cease-fire is intended to give separatists time to lay down their arms and to allow fighters from Russia to safely leave the country.The proposed next steps include joint security patrols to prevent looting and other crime, new local and parliamentary elections, and measures to protect the language rights of Russian speakers in the east.In the longer term, Poroshenko has suggested decentralizing power to give the country’s regions more political authority.At a border crossing near Izvaryne in the separatist Luhansk region, 100 or more cars waited in line for hours to cross from Ukraine into Russia as people fled the unrest. Some cars were piled high with possessions.One car had a sign on the windshield that said „children.” A man named Sergei, who would not give his last name for fear of retaliation, said, „People are simply leaving everything and trying to escape the war.”The United Nations says at least 356 people have been killed since May 7 and 34,000 have fled their homes. The U.N. report doesn’t include casualties from previous weeks of fighting, so the actual toll could be significantly higher._Dobrnjakovic reported from Izvaryne. AP reporters Vladimir Isachenkov and Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.
Saudi king stops in Cairo to visit Egypt’s Sisi
The 90-year-old monarch, on his way home from Morocco, did not leave his plane, which was on the ground at Cairo airport for just over an hour. Sisi and his delegation were on board for just over 30 minutes.Abdullah’s advanced age and frail health mean he rarely travels on state business, so even the short visit was a clear sign of how he has positioned himself as Sisi’s leading Arab ally.Egypt’s official news agency reported that the talks covered the importance of the two nations working together to address regional challenges, a sign of how the Gulf monarchy sees Cairo as a crucial partner against the rapid rise of Islamism.Through phone calls to Sisi, donations of cash and oil products, supportive statements and his visit to Cairo, Abdullah has made clear his approval of former army chief Sisi as president.Abdullah is the first foreign leader to visit Sisi since he took office less than two weeks ago to a cooler reception from Western governments concerned by a crackdown on dissent.Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, and its wealthy Gulf Arab partners Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, have given more than $20 billion to help Egypt since Sisi ousted Islamist President Moahmed Mursi last July, and are likely to pledge more. Analysts say Saudi Arabia wants Egypt to be a bulwark against Islamism as conflicts rage in Iraq and Syria that could alter regional alliances and national borders.Egypt’s state news agency MENA reported that the talks covered Iraq, Syria, and Libya, and „the importance of coordination and joint action between the two countries to meet the challenges prevailing in the region.”SUPPORTSisi has not spoken publicly about the Iraq crisis since it erupted days after his inauguration.Analysts said Abdullah’s trip indicated Riyadh had put Egypt at the heart of a regional policy aimed at curbing Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite rival Iran.No further announcements about financial support immediately emerged from the meeting. Sisi thanked the king for his support to date support and for his initiative in organizing a donor conference to „provide necessary support in the coming period”, MENA reported.The conference was announced by Abdullah 15 minutes after Sisi was declared president. A date has not yet been set.The Egyptian delegation included Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahleb and the Defence and Finance ministers.Abdullah was accompanied by the Saudi ministers of foreign affairs and finance as well as security officials and former intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Al-Arabiya television reported.Sisi served as defense attache in Riyadh during former president Hosni Mubarak’s rule before eventually rising to head up military intelligence, his last job under Mubarak.Abdullah and Sisi have spoken on the phone since Sisi’s ouster of Mursi, but it is unclear if they had met before Friday.After the Egyptian delegation left the monarch’s gleaming white plane by escalator, Al-Arabiya broadcast footage of the Saudi king standing to shake hands with Sisi before sitting to talk with him.(Reporting By Mostafa Hashem; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Dominic Evans and Robin Pomeroy)
Iran sent ‘small numbers’ of operatives into Iraq: US
The comments by spokesman Admiral John Kirby marked the US government’s first public confirmation that Iranian operatives had crossed into Iraq, where the Baghdad government is struggling to counter the swift advance of Sunni extremists.”There are some Iranian revolutionary operatives in Iraq but I’ve seen no indication of ground forces or major units,” Kirby told a news conference, apparently referring to Tehran’s Quds force, the covert arm of the Revolutionary Guard Corps.When US troops occupied Iraq between 2003 and 2011, Washington accused Tehran of using the Quds force to support Shiite militias attacking American soldiers.”Their interference in Iraq is nothing new,” Kirby said.But the United States and Iran now find themselves sharing a common interest in helping Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki fend off the onslaught by Sunni militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).Pentagon cannot confirm Iranian special forces in … Play VideoThe Pentagon offered no further details on the nature of the Iranians’ presence or their operations, amid media reports that Tehran had launched a concerted effort to shore up Iraqi forces.”I’ll let the Iranians speak for their activities,” Kirby said.”We have indications that there are at least some operatives inside Iraq,” he said, saying the alleged deployment amounted to „small numbers” of agents.Some Iraqi army and police units have collapsed against the ISIL fighters, in some cases ditching their uniforms and weapons before fleeing.The rapid offensive by ISIL, which has overrun swathes of northern and central Iraq, has alarmed Tehran — which has close ties to the Maliki government — as well as Washington.Western diplomats say Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Quds Force, has traveled to Baghdad to advise Maliki in the crisis.Iran has previously sent military advisers to Syria to aid President Bashar al-Assad’s regime against rebel forces.President Barack Obama announced Thursday plans to send up to 300 US military advisers to Iraq but stopped short of ordering air strikes against ISIL forces, though he left the door open to that possibility.Iran Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian dismissed the move as evidence that Obama lacked „serious will” to fight terrorism.
Ukraine’s Poroshenko declares week-long ceasefire, warns rebels
KIEV (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Friday ordered a seven-day ceasefire in the fight against pro-Russian separatists, but also warned them they could face death if they did not use the time to put down their guns.In Moscow, the Kremlin, whose support Poroshenko needs for his plan to end the insurgency in the rebellious east, denounced the ceasefire as an ultimatum to separatists rather than a peace offering.Poroshenko, installed only three weeks ago as president after seven months of turmoil in the ex-Soviet republic, ordered government forces to cease firing to allow his peace plan for the region to take root.But after fierce fighting on Thursday about 100 km (60 miles) from the Russian border that apparently caused heavy losses for separatists and some deaths on the Ukrainian side, Poroshenko backed his declaration with a warning to the rebels.Interfax news agency quoted him as telling military officers in the east that the temporary ceasefire would give the rebels just one week to lay down their arms, after which „they will have to be eliminated.”The ceasefire „does not mean that we will not fight back in the event of aggression towards our military. We will do everything we can to defend the territory of our state,” his website quoted him separately as saying.The ceasefire will run from 10 p.m. on Friday until 10 a.m. on June 27, it said.After announcement of the ceasefire, Poroshenko launched a 15-point peace plan to end the insurgency in the Russian-speaking east which erupted in April after street protests in the capital Kiev toppled the Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich.Russia subsequently annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. Kiev’s new authorities quickly saw the hand of Moscow when separatist groups took control of strategic buildings and towns in the east, declaring „people’s republics” and declaring they wanted to join Russia.View galleryUkraine’s President Petro Poroshenko walks at the military camp near the town of Svyatogorsk in …SEPARATISTS UNIMPRESSEDIn Donetsk, the main industrial hub in the region, the rebels remained unmoved by Poroshenko’s ceasefire gesture or the unveiling of a peace plan on Friday.”What kind of reaction do you expect? When they (the Kiev side) pull out their army, then you will have our reaction,” a spokeswoman for the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic said.The first soldiers for a people’s republic army would take oaths of allegiance on Donetsk’s Lenin Square on Saturday, she announced defiantly.A spokesman for government forces said about 300 separatists were killed in fighting on Thursday in an eastern area about 100 km from the border and fighting continued there on Friday.Ukrainian forces lost seven servicemen, he said. The rebel casualties could not be verified independently.Earlier on Friday, Kiev said government forces had regained control of the border with Russia and could now stop supplies being sent to arm pro-Russian separatists – something Poroshenko needed to hear before calling a ceasefire.Poroshenko is now gearing up for a round of high diplomacy to sell his peace plan to allies and adversaries alike in a bid to end the insurgency that threatens the unity of the country.His biggest challenge will be to win real support from Russian President Vladimir Putin for his plan, despite relations being at rock bottom amid Ukrainian accusations that Moscow fomented the unrest.View galleryUkraine’s President Petro Poroshenko (C) greets servicemen at the military camp near the town of …But the Kremlin, in a quick reaction, denounced the ceasefire move. „This is not an invitation to peace and negotiations but an ultimatum to militias in the southeast of Ukraine to lay down their arms,” it said in a statement.It also said a Russian border post had come under fire and demanded „an explanation and an apology” from Kiev.Moscow denies orchestrating the troubles and supporting the rebels. It has urged Ukraine to end „punitive” action against the separatists and engage in dialogue with them.PEACE PLAN DETAILS Poroshenko’s peace plan would offer a safety corridor out to Russia for rebels and volunteer Russian fighters on condition they lay down their arms.It also calls for establishment of a 10 km (6.25 mile)-wide „buffer zone” along the 1,900 km (1,180 mile)-long border.The plan would offer freedom from prosecution for separatists who put down their arms and had not committed „serious crimes” and require all hostages to be freed.It calls for „decentralization” of powers and full Russian-language rights to address the grievances of people in the east.Ukraine says fighters from Russia and supplies of guns and other military equipment have been pouring into the country to support the separatists.But though relations with Russia have deteriorated sharply, the pro-Western Poroshenko is under pressure all the same to secure support from Moscow, as well as from his backers in the West, for his plan. On Thursday, he openly appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin for his support when he outlined the plan in a telephone conversation, his website said.Poroshenko’s new foreign minister will present the blueprint on Monday to his European Union counterparts in Luxembourg. Their support assumes added value after the political association agreement signed between the two sides on June 27.There were no clear details on the flow of battle on Friday east of Krasny Liman, a town controlled by government forces about 100 km (60 miles) from the border with Russia.”Military action is continuing,” government forces spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov said.At the border crossing point of Izvarino on Friday, there was a two-kilometer tailback of cars, buses and minivans of people trying to cross into Russia to escape the fighting. Many vehicles were packed with bags and personal belongings, children’s toys, water and food.”We dropped everything, our house and property. Packed whatever we could carry and now we’re going to Moscow and further on,” said Natalya Bryalkova, 45, from a small town near Luhansk which was the scene of heavy fighting this week.”Ukraine has gone nuts. I’m hoping to return but I don’t think it will work,” she said.(Additional reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic in Luhansk, Pavel Polityuk in Kiev and Alissa de Carbonnel in Moscow; Writing by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Tom Heneghan)
China urges peaceful development of seas, says conflict leads to „disaster”
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s thinly veiled reproach was the most influential to place blame on the Shiite prime minister for the nation’s spiraling crisis.The focus on the need to replace al-Maliki comes as Iraq faces its worst crisis since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011. Over the past two weeks, Iraq has lost a big chunk of the north to the al-Qaida-inspired Sunni militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, whose lightning offensive led to the capture of Mosul, the nation’s second-largest city.The gravity of the crisis has forced the usually reclusive al-Sistani, who normally stays above the political fray, to wade into politics, and his comments, delivered through a representative, could ultimately seal al-Maliki’s fate.Calling for a dialogue between the political coalitions that won seats in the April 30 parliamentary election, al-Sistani said it was imperative that they form „an effective government that enjoys broad national support, avoids past mistakes and opens new horizons toward a better future for all Iraqis.”Deeply revered by Iraq’s majority Shiites, al-Sistani’s critical words could force al-Maliki, who emerged from relative obscurity in 2006 to lead the country, to step down.View galleryAn Iraqi woman living in Iran holds a poster of the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s top S …On Thursday, Obama stopped short of calling for al-Maliki to resign, but his carefully worded comments did all but that. „Only leaders that can govern with an inclusive agenda are going to be able to truly bring the Iraqi people together and help them through this crisis,” Obama declared at the White House.The Iranian-born al-Sistani, believed to be 86, lives in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, south of Baghdad, where he rarely ventures out of his modest house on a narrow alley near the city’s Imam Ali shrine and does not give media interviews. His call to arms last week prompted thousands of Shiites to volunteer to fight against the Sunni militants who now control a large swath of territory astride both sides of the Iraq-Syria border.The extent of al-Sistani’s influence was manifested in the years following the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq when he forced Washington to modify its blueprint for the country and agree to the election of a constituent assembly that drafted the nation’s constitution.For the past two years, he has shunned politicians of all sects, refusing to receive any of them to show his disillusionment with the way they run the country. However, the danger posed by the Islamic State militants appears to have forced him to say more.His call to arms has given the fight against the Sunni insurgents the feel of a religious war between Shiites and Sunnis. His office in Najaf dismissed that charge, with his representative, Ahmed al-Safi, saying Friday: „The call for volunteers targeted Iraqis from all groups and sects. … It did not have a sectarian basis and cannot be.”View galleryIraqi men line up for physical examinations at the main army recruiting center to volunteer for mili …Al-Maliki’s State of Law bloc won the most seats in the April vote, but his hopes to retain his job are in doubt with rivals challenging him from within the broader Shiite alliance. In order to govern, his bloc must first form a majority coalition in the new 328-seat legislature, which must meet by June 30.If al-Maliki were to relinquish his post now, according to the constitution the president, Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, would assume the job until a new prime minister is elected. But the ailing Talabani has been in Germany for treatment since 2012, so his deputy, Khudeir al-Khuzaie, a Shiite, would step in for him.Al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government long has faced criticism of discriminating against Iraq’s Sunni and Kurdish populations. But it is his perceived marginalization of the once-dominant Sunnis that sparked violence reminiscent of Iraq’s darkest years of sectarian warfare in 2006 and 2007.Shiite politicians familiar with the secretive efforts to remove al-Maliki said two names mentioned as replacements are former vice president Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite and French-educated economist, and Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite who served as Iraq’s first prime minister after Saddam Hussein’s ouster. Others include Ahmad Chalabi, a one-time Washington favorite to lead Iraq, and Bayan Jabr, another Shiite who served as finance and interior minister under al-Maliki.Nearly three years after he heralded the end of America’s war in Iraq, Obama announced Thursday he was deploying up to 300 military advisers to help quell the insurgency. They join some 275 troops in and around Iraq to provide security and support for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and other American interests.View galleryIraqi men are examined at the main army recruiting center to volunteer for military service in Baghd …But the U.S. leader was adamant that U.S. troops would not be returning to combat.Obama has held off approving the airstrikes sought by the Iraqi government, though he says he could still approve „targeted and precise” strikes if the situation required it and if U.S. intelligence gathering identified potential targets.Manned and unmanned U.S. aircraft are now flying over Iraq 24 hours a day on intelligence missions, U.S. officials say.A Shiite politician close to al-Maliki said Obama did not offer enough to help Iraq at its hour of need.”His plan does not rise up to the level of Iraqi-U.S. relations. His message is clear: America is not ready to fight terrorism,” said the official, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.View galleryVolunteers in the newly formed „Peace Brigades” participate in a parade near the Imam Ali …Another Shiite, cleric Nassir al-Saedi, warned that the 300 advisers would be attacked. Al-Saedi is loyal to anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army militia fought the Americans during their eight-year presence in Iraq.”Our message to the occupier: We will be ready for you if you are back,” he said during Friday prayers attended by al-Sadr supporters in Baghdad’s Sadr City district.Sunnis, predictably, had a different take.Mohammed al-Khalidi, a Sunni lawmaker who favors replacing al-Maliki’s government, said he thought „Obama’s statement was balanced and reasonable.””But,” he added, „U.S. officials should be aware that the situation in Iraq needs an immediate remedy because Iraq is heading to the unknown.”_Associated Press writers Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sameer N. Yacoub contributed to this report.
Costly helps lift the burden from Honduras’ Laing
CURITIBA, Brazil (AP) — Eduardo Laing will no longer be mentioned in quite the same way in Honduras.Up until Friday’s goal by Carlo Costly in a 2-1 loss to Ecuador, Laing had been the last Honduras player to score a goal in the World Cup.That was on June 21, 1982 in the Spanish city of Zaragoza when Laing’s 60th-minute goal clinched a 1-1 draw against Northern Ireland. Scoring goals didn’t seem so difficult at that time for the Central American team. Earlier in the tournament it had drawn with host Spain 1-1.Though Honduras came last in its group and failed to qualify for the knockout stages, few would have thought it would take until Friday, June 20, almost 32 years to the day, to score again in a World Cup.Costly put Honduras ahead in the 31st minute Friday after he latched onto a long ball following a misjudgment from Ecuador defender Jorge Guagua.The goal ended a 511-minute drought and saved Honduras from posting some World Cup records. Without a goal in its previous five World Cup matches— its other appearance after 1982 was in 2010 — Honduras matched the tournament record of Bolivia and Algeria.If Costly’s goal had come just seven minutes later, Honduras would have been on its own in terms of minutes without a goal at a World Cup. As it stands, it is second behind Bolivia’s 517 minute stretch.Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez said he wasn’t interested in the milestone, just in the fact that his team lost 2-1. Languishing in bottom spot in Group E after two defeats, Honduras has only a very slim chance of qualifying for the knockout stages.
Swiss defense cracks under French strikes
It could have been even worse if Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers hadn’t blown full time a split second before Karim Benzema drove the ball into the top right corner from the edge of the area.He raced off to celebrate what would have been France’s sixth goal — and his second of the game — but it did not count.”I didn’t hear the whistle,” Benzema said. „But, it did not matter, five goals is more than enough.”The Swiss squad had had more than enough, too, despite scoring two late consolation goals.Their biggest strength — the defense and team play — became their undoing as France raced to a 2-0 lead.View gallerySwitzerland’s Goekhan Inler, left, and goalkeeper Diego Benaglio walk off the pitch following th …”The two quick goals really broke us,” Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said. „It was hard to come back to the game.”Until Friday, Switzerland lost just once in 18 matches over the past two years and reached No. 6 in the FIFA rankings. It all unraveled against a team they hadn’t beaten since 1992″It was a bleak day for us,” Hitzfeld said. „We were not able to show our true potential.”Much was expected of the Swiss in Brazil, where they were seeded in Group E.The opening match wasn’t a real confidence boost, with the 2-1 win over Ecuador only sealed with a dramatic goal by Haris Seferovic in the 93rd minute.The sloppy match was the first warning. The defeat against France has alarm bells ringing. Switzerland slipped into third spot — on goal difference — when Ecuador beat Honduras 2-1 in the later match.Hitzfeld said that an early exit by his central defender Steve Von Bergen after a rough tackle by Olivier Giroud, which left the Swiss player with bloodied head, contributed to the defeat.”Philippe Sanderos had to come straight from the bench without a proper warm-up,” Hitzfeld said. „Of course, this is not an excuse, but it hampered our defensive line.”Still, Hitzfeld said he was optimistic that Switzerland could qualify from the group by beating Honduras in the last group match. France will take on Ecuador in the other remaining group match.”Everything is in our hands,” Hitzfeld said. „We still have a good chance of qualifying.”
Biden in Central America to discuss migrant crisis
Officials had insisted for weeks that criminal violence was responsible for the surge of Central American children and families rather than the perception that minors and parents with children would be allowed to stay in the U.S.In a softening of that position, the U.S. government this week began a regional public-relations campaign to fight the widespread belief in Central America that children and families are allowed to stay in the U.S. if they are caught by the Border Patrol.That belief has been fueled both by migrant smugglers seeking more clients and by calls home from children and families who have been released by the thousands in recent years, with notices to appear in immigration court, because there are no facilities to hold them.The administration said Friday that it was opening detention centers to house families, although it did not provide details.At the same time, Biden met in Guatemala City with President Otto Perez Molina, who asked the U.S. to start a temporary work program for Guatemalan migrants and grant „temporary protected status” for Guatemalan migrants. Salvadorans and Hondurans who were in the U.S. at the time that status was granted — 2001 for El Salvador and 1999 for Honduras — can apply and receive some protections against deportation.View galleryU.S. Vice President Joe Biden waves during a photo opportunity at the National Palace in Guatemala C …Homicide, extortion, rape and gang recruitment have risen to epidemic levels in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador in recent years. The violence is seen as the key factor driving migrants north, with children making up an increasing proportion of the U.S.-bound flow. The 20,000-plus unaccompanied children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador detained at the U.S. border last year was more than double the previous year’s figure.To coincide with Biden’s trip, the Obama administration pledged $93 million in new programs to reduce violence in Central America. The funding includes $40 million to reduce gang membership in Guatemala, $25 million to build 77 youth outreach centers in El Salvador and $18.5 million to build 77 youth outreach centers in Honduras.”We’re approaching this issue with a shared recognition that the current situation is not sustainable. It is unacceptable. And we have a shared responsibility to take significant steps to address this issue,” Biden said after meeting with Perez Molina. „But I want to make clear, Mr. President, the United States recognizes that a key part of the solution to this problem is to address the root causes of this immigration in the first place. Especially poverty, insecurity and the lack of the rule of law.”Biden was also meeting with Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Ceren and high-ranking ministers from Honduras and Mexico. The vice president’s office said Biden spoke by phone with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez while traveling to Guatemala.Biden scheduled a meeting in the afternoon with migrants’ advocates expected to call for easier immigration to the U.S. The vice president’s visit coincided with the arrival of two flights carrying at least 250 migrants deported from the U.S. Guatemala’s migration department said it expected two more such flights Friday, bringing the total of Guatemalans deported in 2014 to 27,140.Despite the waning likelihood of U.S. immigration reform, Sanchez Ceren told reporters that he would emphasize the need for reform in which „family reunification can be something achieved through the best means possible.”He said he had spoken with the foreign ministers of Guatemala and Honduras about presenting a united demand for a deal with the U.S. that would make it easier for immigrant families in the U.S. to be legally reunited with children they left behind.Meanwhile, U.S. diplomats in the region warned families not to send children north or go themselves.”All who enter the United States without proper immigration status are subject to deportation proceedings. Simply put, there is no reward for the great risk to which these children are being subjected,” Anthony Wayne, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, said Thursday.
BRAZIL BEAT: Benzema’s 2nd goal can’t beat clock
Hold on — never mind. Referee Bjorn Kuipers blew his whistle moments before the ball soared into the net on Benzema’s curling, first-time strike, ending France’s 5-2 win over Switzerland in Group E on Friday.Kuipers was smiling a big impishly as he walked off the pitch. The French had plenty to smile about despite that last goal not counting, considering they have won both their matches and are all but guaranteed to advance.__STRONG IRAN BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — Argentina is not just facing Iran’s national football team, but its culture and war-torn history, too, when the two teams go head to head at the Mineirao Stadium on Saturday.At least if you believe Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella, who strayed beyond sport when he analyzed the Iranians on Friday before their Group F match.View galleryArgentina’s head coach Alejandro Sabella listens to a question during a news conference at Minei …”It’s a team that has to do with the Iranian culture,” Sabella said. „A country that has been through wars. A country that is physically and mentally strong.”Iran fought an eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s.He didn’t explain how that affects the way Iran plays football, but said he expected Iran to try to hurt Argentina on set pieces and counter-attacks.— By Karl Ritter – www.twitter.com/karl_ritter_ALTIDORE’S REHABView galleryUnited States’ Jozy Altidore arrives at Sao Paulo FC training center in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Frida …SAO PAULO (AP) — U.S. forward Jozy Altidore slowly made his way to the field Friday at Sao Paulo Futebol Club accompanied by trainers, his injured left leg taped.Altidore was still smiling — even if this is hardly the way he envisioned his World Cup going.”I’m hanging in there,” he said.The Sunderland striker, who scored twice in his team’s final sendoff series match against Nigeria, strained his left hamstring in the first half of Monday’s 2-1 victory against Ghana in Natal. He will miss Sunday’s second Group G match against Portugal at Manaus.Teammates and coach Jurgen Klinsmann are still hopeful he will play again in Brazil.Klinsmann is likely to choose between Aron Johannsson — Altidore’s replacement against Ghana — and Chris Wondolowski to start Sunday.View galleryCristiano Ronaldo and Joao Moutinho, left, peek from the dressing room prior to a training session o …”Jozy is a special player. You can’t — it’s like saying, ‘Hey, go be Cristiano Ronaldo’ — you can’t necessarily replace certain aspects of it,” Wondolowski said. „But I think both Aron and I bring different styles, different sets of skills that I think are useful, and I think that’s what we’re going do.”—By Janie McCauley — www.twitter.com/JanieMcCAP__EYES ON ICE CAMPINAS, Brazil (AP) — The most scrutinized knee in the World Cup was on display again Friday as Cristiano Ronaldo practiced with his Portugal teammates. And that was all anyone could talk about at the team’s base in Campinas, with scores of cameras zooming in on the reigning world player of the year’s every move, twitch and gesture.Team officials sighed when asked about the status of Ronaldo, who has been struggling with a leg injury since before the tournament. Even for a team used to having all the attention on its star player, the media madness appeared to be weighing on Portugal.View galleryThis June 18, 2014 photo provided by the World Series of Poker shows pro soccer player Max Kruse pla …At the team’s news conference, the majority of the questions were about Ronaldo, even though he wasn’t the one answering them.Teammate Helder Postiga said he was sick of it.”After the training today there were 10 players applying ice on themselves. We used three bags of ice! That cannot be a reason to create so many rumors about Cristiano,” he said. „Cristiano is training; he’s fine. He is going to be important for us. He is going to help the team. We all have a common goal. Ice is just an exercise, something normal after training. You need to take it more naturally.”— By Aron Heller — www.twitter.com/aronhellerap___POKER STAR LAS VEGAS (AP) — Max Kruse isn’t playing for Germany at the World Cup, so he found another international competition — the World Series of Poker.The Borussia Moenchengladbach forward finished in third place and won $36,494 this week in one of the Las Vegas tournament’s 65 events.Kruse, 26, played in three World Cup qualifiers for Germany but has since fallen out of favor.WSOP spokesman Seth Palansky says it was Kruse’s first time playing the 2-7 Draw Lowball variant of poker, so he got a 30-minute tutorial from fellow German and poker star George Danzer before making his strong showing.The seven-week series features an estimated 80,000 players. Organizers expect to give out $200 million in prize money during the events.— By Michelle Rindels — www.twitter.com/RindelsAP_Associated Press reporters will be filing dispatches about happenings in and around Brazil during the 2014 World Cup. Follow AP journalists covering the World Cup on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP_Sports/world-cup-2014
Some see foreign hand in growing Polish scandal
Though no evidence has emerged to that effect, in the current context that’s understood as a reference to Russia, whose relations with Poland have worsened due to Warsaw’s strong opposition to the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine.The crisis broke five days ago when the popular weekly magazine Wprost released a secretly taped conversation between Poland’s central bank head and the country’s interior minister in which they appear to be colluding over how the bank could help the governing party win re-election in 2015. That would amount to a violation of the bank’s independence.Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Thursday that early elections within weeks may be necessary to calm the situation, but he vowed not to step down now.”I will not resign in response to actions that, we all know, had criminal character, and, maybe were …. aimed at the government’s resignation or fall,” Tusk said.So far only one suspect has emerged in the criminal investigation of the case: the manager of the restaurant where the talks took place, identified only as Lukasz N. The magazine has referred to its right to protect its sources, but has also suggested that past or current secret agents, a business group or Tusk’s political opponents could be behind the recording.View galleryPoland’s Prosecutor General Andrzej Seremet tells a news conference in Warsaw, Poland on Thursday, J …Some officials are suggesting interference from the Kremlin.”There’s a difficult international situation,” the leader of the opposition Law and Justice party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski said earlier this week. „We don’t know where this information came from. It could be an intervention from abroad. We have to protect this government.”Gen. Marek Dukaczewski, a retired head of military intelligence, said he feels certain the bugging was not the work of Polish security forces. In an interview with the newspaper Polska The Times, he said it’s more likely the work of „foreign services hostile to us, who have used part of the material for their own internal needs, but also want to cause some turbulence on our internal arena.”In past days Poland has been completely focused on the new crisis, pushing aside its earlier focus on Ukraine, said Marcin Zaborowski, the head of the Polish Institute of International Affairs. That of course, serves Moscow’s interest, but is not enough to consider the Russian connection „a viable theory” at this point, he said.Edward Lucas, author of the book „Deception: Spies, Lies and How Russia Dupes the West,” argued that Russia does have a „big interest in destabilizing Poland,” though he too stresses that there is no evidence.View galleryPolish Prime Minister Donald Tusk listens to a question during a press conference in Warsaw, Poland, …”The Russians are experts at bugging and at information warfare,” he said. „Clearly Poland is a major problem for Russia at the moment.”Polish-Russian ties have been tense for years but took a turn for the worse with Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Poland is staunchly pro-West and has reacted to the violence in Ukraine by pledging to increase its defense budget and calling for a permanent NATO presence on its soil. For years it has taken the lead in the EU in trying to encourage democratic and Western values in Ukraine.And the Russians are known for using bugged conversations to embarrass political opponents.In February, a bugged phone call posted on YouTube with Russian subtitles captured U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Victoria Nuland dismissing the European Union with an expletive in frustration over Europe’s pace in helping Ukraine. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the video was „a new low in Russian tradecraft,” indirectly suggesting that Russia was responsible for bugging the call.Lucas, the author, said there was „a lot of Russian intelligence activity” directed against Poland before it joined NATO in 1999 but it diminished in recent years as Polish counter-intelligence has improved. Still, from time to time Russian spies are caught spying on Poland from within its borders or from elsewhere in Europe, he said.”There is no doubt that Poland is a major Russian intelligence target,” he said.__Monika Scislowska in Warsaw contributed to this report.
Hollande richtet «Sozialisten»-Gipfel in Paris aus