Category: News

U.N. finds torture widespread in Afghanistan

By Josh Smith KABUL, April 24 – Torture and mistreatment of detainees by Afghan security forces is as widespread as ever, according to a U.N. report released on Monday, despite promises by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and new laws enacted by the government. At least 39 percent of the conflict-related detainees interviewed by U.N. investigators “gave credible and reliable accounts” of being tortured or experiencing other mistreatment at the hands of Afghan police, intelligence, or military personnel while in custody. That compares with 35 percent of interviewees who reported such ill treatment in the last U.N. report, released in...

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Putin says trust erodes under Trump, Moscow icily receives Tillerson

By Yeganeh Torbati and Vladimir Soldatkin MOSCOW, April 12 – Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday trust had eroded between the United States and Russia under President Donald Trump, as Moscow delivered an unusually hostile reception to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a face-off over Syria. Any hope in Russia that the Trump administration would herald less confrontational relations has been dashed in the past week after the new U.S. leader fired missiles at Syria to punish Moscow’s ally for its suspected use of poison gas. Just as Tillerson sat down for talks, a senior Russian official assailed the...

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Ai Weiwei calls on Gulf states to do more to help Syrian refugees

By Tom Finn DOHA, April 12 – Chinese artist Ai Weiwei called on wealthy Gulf Arab states to take in more Syrians displaced by six years of civil war, saying the surge of refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East was a “test for humanity”. Ai, often described as China’s most high-profile artist and dissident, has won acclaim for artwork highlighting the plight of Middle East refugees fleeing in boats to Europe. Last year Ai wrapped the giant columns of the Berlin Konzerthaus with 14,000 life jackets brought from the Greek island of Lesbos on whose beaches over a...

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Ex-president Ahmadinejad submits name for Iranian presidential election

By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin LONDON, April 12 – Iran’s hardline ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad submitted his name on Wednesday for registration as a candidate for May’s presidential election, defying the wishes of the country’s religious leadership. Although the move, reported by state media, was seen as an attempt by Ahmadinejad to bolster the candidacy of an ally, it was also a challenge to the authority of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who had warned him not to run. Registration for the May 19 election started on Monday and will last five days, after which entrants will be screened for their...

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U.N. chief calls for restart to Western Sahara talks

UNITED NATIONS, April 11 – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for new talks over the long-running Western Sahara dispute, saying the negotiations should include proposals from both Morocco and the Polisario independence movement, according to a U.N. document. The U.N. call for a restart to talks came after months of tensions in the disputed territory, which Morocco claims as part of its kingdom and Polisario says belongs to the Sahrawi people who fought a guerrilla war until a 1991 U.N.-backed ceasefire. U.N. attempts to broker a settlement have failed for years in the vast desert area, which has...

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G7 seeks broad support to isolate Syria’s Assad

By Steve Scherer and Crispian Balmer LUCCA, Italy, April 11 – The Group of Seven major global powers were joined by Middle East allies on Tuesday in a push to isolate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, hours before the U.S. secretary of state flies to Moscow, Assad’s top backer. G7 foreign ministers sat down early on Tuesday with their counterparts from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Qatar – all of whom oppose Assad’s rule – to discuss the six-year-old civil war in Syria. Pressure is building on Russia to break its ties with Assad, who stands accused...

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Hardline prosecutor emerges as main challenger to Iran’s Rouhani

By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin LONDON, April 10 – Hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, seen as pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani’s main challenger in a May 19 election, is a close ally of Iran’s supreme leader and despises the West. The hardline faction in Tehran appears to have reached consensus on the candidacy of the 57-year-old cleric, hoping to avoid splitting the vote of those avid for what they see as a revival of the values of the 1979 Islamic revolution. Raisi is a mid-ranking figure in the hierarchy of Iran’s Shi’ite Muslim clergy but has been a senior official for decades in...

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Rage at abandonment by the state as Egypt’s Christians dig graves after bombing

By Amina Ismail TANTA, Egypt, April 10 – Egyptian Christians wept with rage on Monday as they recovered the bodies of loved ones killed in twin church bombings, furious at a state they believe will no longer protect them from neighbours bent on their murder. Forty-four people were killed in the attacks on Palm Sunday, a joyous festival a week before Easter when Christians celebrate the triumphant arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem. At Tanta University hospital morgue, desperate families were trying to get inside to search for loved ones. Security forces held them back to stop overcrowding, enraging the...

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Hamas executes three Palestinians in Gaza, says they collaborated with Israel

By Nidal al-Mughrabi GAZA, April 6 – Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement executed three Palestinians on Thursday convicted of collaborating with Israel, hanging the men during a campaign to persuade any Israeli-recruited agents to come forward in return for more lenient punishment. Hamas leaders and officials, along with the heads of Gaza clans and local security chiefs, watched the execution in the courtyard of the enclave’s main police headquarters. The Hamas-run Interior Ministry said the men, aged 32, 42 and 55, were convicted of treason and spying for hostile foreign parties and had provided information that helped Israel track and...

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Assad tells paper he sees no “option except victory” in Syria

BEIRUT, April 6 – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said there is no “option except victory” in the country’s civil war in an interview published on Thursday, saying the government could not reach “results” with opposition groups that attended recent peace talks. The interview with Croatian newspaper Vecernji List appeared to have been conducted before U.S. President Donald Trump accused Assad of crossing “many, many lines” with a poison gas attack on Tuesday. Assad was not asked about the chemical attack in the northwestern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, a text of the interview published by the Syrian state news...

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