• APNewsBreak: Garcia resigns as FIFA prosecutor

    Updated: Wed, Dec 17, 2014

    GENEVA (AP) — The American lawyer who led the investigation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bid process resigned from the FIFA ethics committee on Wednesday in protest over the handling of his findings. Michael Garcia cited a "lack of leadership" at the top of FIFA in a resignation statement. He also said he has lost confidence in the independence of his ethics committee colleague, German judge Joachim Eckert. Though Garcia did not identify Sepp Blatter by name, he also revealed that the FIFA executive committee — led by the longtime president — made a failed complaint of unethical conduct against the former U.S. Attorney in September.

  • Kurdish Iraqi forces launch operation in Sinjar

    Updated: Wed, Dec 17, 2014

    BAGHDAD (AP) — Kurdish Iraqi forces launched a major operation Wednesday to retake the militant-held town of Sinjar in northern Iraq, part of a push to secure the road that leads directly to the Syrian border. Peshmerga forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, moved into the town, which has been under the control of the Islamic State group since August, a statement from the Kurdish Regional Security Council said. Peshmerga fighters were able to retake at least eight small villages around Sinjar, driving "large numbers" of militants to flee to Mosul and other areas under their control, the statement added. The U.S.

  • Israeli PM slams EU taking Hamas off terror list

    Updated: Wed, Dec 17, 2014

    JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the European Union Wednesday for removing Hamas from its terrorist list, calling it a staggering example of European hypocrisy and an indication that many on the continent have learned nothing from the Holocaust. The European Union court order to remove Hamas from the EU terrorist list came the same day as a United Nations body in Europe delivered a stinging rebuke to Israel's settlement construction in the West Bank and called for Israel to be investigated for war crimes. "Today we witnessed a series of examples of European naiveté and, may I add, hypocrisy," Netanyahu said before an audience of international journalists in Jerusalem.

  • Egypt refers to trial 26 suspected homosexual men

    Updated: Wed, Dec 17, 2014

    CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian prosecutors swiftly referred 26 men to trial Wednesday on charges connected to their suspected homosexuality after they were arrested in a much publicized raid on a Cairo bathhouse, an official said. The official from the prosecutors' office said the trial will begin Sunday, only two weeks after the raid. It is an unusually quick referral in a case that has captured public attention. Some cases can take more than a year to be referred to trial in Egypt's backlogged judicial system. Scenes of half-naked men covering their faces and being taken by policemen out of the bathhouse on Dec. 7 were filmed by a private TV channel and later aired amid criticism from activists.

  • Pope gets cake, tango and chicken for birthday

    Updated: Wed, Dec 17, 2014

    VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis got a cake, cards and a tango demonstration for his 78th birthday Wednesday — and 800 kilograms (1,760 pounds) of chicken meat for the poor. The Vatican said Wednesday the meat, provided by a Spanish producer, would be distributed to soup kitchens. Francis also greeted eight homeless people bearing sunflowers during his Wednesday general audience, held under bright sunny skies in St. Peter's Square. As he drove around in the open-air car to greet the crowds, children handed up birthday cards they had made for him. Francis asked one: "Did you make this? It's good!" Others held up signs saying "Feliz Cumpleanos" ("Happy Birthday" in Spanish) and sang to him.

  • In Qatar, migrant workers paid to be sports 'fans'

    Updated: Wed, Dec 17, 2014

    DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The men grappled with each other to board the quickly filling bus. Others wriggled in through the windows, scaling the outside, using the large wheels as footholds and leaving scuff-marks on the white exterior with their shoes. These weren't refugees fleeing disaster. They were migrant workers in 2022 World Cup host Qatar, fighting to earn a few dollars. The job: Pretend to be a sports fan. Qataris boast they're mad for sports. The ruling emir of the oil-and-gas rich Gulf nation is so fond of football he bought Paris Saint-Germain, now France's powerhouse team. Lobbying World Cup organizer FIFA in 2010, his royal mother said: "For us, football is not just a mere game or a sport among many. It is THE sport

  • UN extends cross-border aid delivery to Syria for a year

    Updated: Wed, Dec 17, 2014

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Wednesday to extend cross-border delivery of humanitarian aid to Syrians in rebel-held areas without Syrian government approval. The resolution, sponsored by Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg, expresses grave distress at the "devastating humanitarian situation" and the fact that 12.2 million Syrians require urgent assistance including medical aid. They include 7.6 million people displaced inside Syria, 4.5 million in hard-to-reach areas and 212,000 in besieged areas. "This is the biggest single humanitarian crisis the world faces at the moment," Australia's U.N. Ambassador Gary Quinlan said after the vote. The resolution extends until Jan. 10, 2016 the a

  • UK inquiry: Soldiers mistreated Iraqi detainees

    Updated: Wed, Dec 17, 2014

    LONDON (AP) — A judge-led inquiry on Wednesday found British soldiers mistreated nine Iraqi detainees after a 2004 battle, but it rejected allegations that soldiers murdered and tortured prisoners. The inquiry, which began in 2009, concluded that British soldiers used methods such as blindfolding prisoners and depriving them of food and sleep during "tactical questioning" at Camp Abu Naji in southern Iraq. The soldiers also used threatening interrogation techniques that breached the Geneva Convention, the report said. Thayne Forbes, a former High Court judge, also criticized British soldiers for "tasteless trophies" such as striking poses for photos with detainees.

  • Geneva Conventions invoke rights of Palestinians

    Updated: Wed, Dec 17, 2014

    GENEVA (AP) — The international community delivered a stinging rebuke to Israel's settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, saying Wednesday the practice violates its responsibilities as an occupying power. A declaration adopted by consensus among 126 of the 196 parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention insists that international humanitarian law must be followed in areas affected by the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The Geneva Conventions govern the rules of war and military occupation. Nations that took part in a one-day conference in Geneva "emphasize that all serious violations of international humanitarian law must be investigated and that all those responsible should be brought to just

  • Britain's message for UAE visit: Nice, not naughty

    Updated: Wed, Dec 17, 2014

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Britain wants to make sure its citizens are more nice than naughty while soaking up the Persian Gulf sun this holiday season. A social media campaign by British Embassy staff in the United Arab Emirates running this week is a play on the classic poem "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," and includes travel advice aimed at keeping unwitting Britons out of trouble. The rhyme is meant for visitors to the Emirates, an oil-rich seven-state federation of former British protectorates on the Arabian Peninsula. It highlights potential cultural pitfalls through the eyes of a fictional traveler, Stu Nicholas. "No holding of hands or Christmas kisses; under the mistletoe, despite amorous wishes,"

  • Yemen's Shiite rebels close port, storm newspaper

    Updated: Wed, Dec 17, 2014

    SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen's powerful Shiite rebels shut down a strategic Red Sea port on Wednesday, and stormed the offices of the country's main state newspaper, officials said. The rebels, known as Houthis, closed Hodeida port, the second largest in Yemen, and prevented its director from entering his office, a port official said. The port was seized by Houthis in October, a month after they swept through the capital, Sanaa. This month, they sacked the governor of Hodeida and replaced him with an ally. The militiamen, empowered by supporters of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh, have plunged Yemen into turmoil.

  • France: 5 terror attacks thwarted, networks broken

    Updated: Wed, Dec 17, 2014

    PARIS (AP) — France has thwarted five terror attacks and dismantled 13 networks linked to extremists in Syria but the number of young people leaving to join the fight has doubled in the past year, the country's top security official said Wednesday. French fighters make up the largest contingent of Europeans being recruited to join Muslim extremists in Iraq and Syria, and security officials fear they will return newly skilled in warfare and carry out attacks at home. Calls by the Islamic State group for lone-wolf attacks in the West have heightened anxiety. A Frenchman who is believed to have fought with the organization is charged in a deadly shooting at a Brussels Jewish museum.

  • European Parliament wants Palestinian state

    Updated: Wed, Dec 17, 2014

    STRASBOURG, France (AP) — The European Parliament has stopped short of pushing for outright recognition of a Palestinian state, urging renewed peace talks instead. Legislators voted 498-88 Wednesday in favor of a compromise resolution supporting "in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood" — but as part of a two-state solution with Israel. The resolution supports two states on the basis of 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states. After years of deadlock in Mideast peace efforts, a growing number of European leaders and lawmakers want to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state. Supporters hope that would force negotiations to resume.

  • Tourist dies in hot air balloon accident in Turkey

    Updated: Wed, Dec 17, 2014

    ISTANBUL (AP) — A hot air balloon fell in the popular tourist region of Cappadocia on Wednesday, killing a Chinese tourist and injuring six other passengers from China and Malaysia, the region's governor said. Gov. Mehmet Ceylan said a sudden change of wind direction appeared to have caused the balloon — which took off from Goreme — to make a rough landing. The exact cause of the accident was under investigation, he added. The injured tourists were hospitalized but were not in life-threatening condition, he said. Dozens of hot air balloons carry tourists aloft most mornings in Goreme to watch the sunrise over the world-renowned landscape of geological formations in the area.

  • EU court takes Hamas off terrorist list

    Updated: Wed, Dec 17, 2014

    BRUSSELS (AP) — A European Union court on Wednesday ordered the Palestinian group Hamas removed from the EU terrorist list for procedural reasons, but says the bloc can maintain asset freezes against Hamas members for now. The Islamic militant group, which calls for the destruction of Israel, hailed the decision. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the EU to reverse it. Hamas was put on the EU terrorist list as part of broader measures to fight terrorism in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. It won elections in 2006 and runs Gaza, and has long contested the classification. The EU court ruled Wednesday that the listing was based on press and Internet reports and not on "acts examined and confirmed in d

  • Germany to send up to 100 troops to train Kurds

    Updated: Wed, Dec 17, 2014

    BERLIN (AP) — The German Cabinet has agreed to send up to 100 troops to the northern Iraqi city of Irbil to train Kurdish forces for their fight against the Islamic State group. Parliament is to debate the mission in January but since the government has a large parliamentary majority the mission is expected to be approved. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters Wednesday that "we have to make sure the front line against (the Islamic State group) is held." Germany has already provided weapons and other military gear worth 70 million euros ($87.8 million) to aid Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga fighters. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Germany had "good experiences with the peshmerga.

  • Libya frees aircrew of 3 Ukrainians, 1 Russian

    Updated: Wed, Dec 17, 2014

    TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — The foreign minister of Tripoli's militia-backed government says it has freed four crew members — three Ukrainians and one Russian — of an Emirati cargo plane who were detained after landing illegally in a western Libyan airport. State news agency LANA on Tuesday quoted Mohammed al-Gharyani as saying the four were detained after landing in the western air port of Ghadams, 450 kilometers southwest of Tripoli, near the Algerian border last month. Three others remain in detention and are under interrogation, he added. Libya is mired in its worst fighting since longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown in 2011, leaving the country with two rival governments.

  • Under Abbas, majority say they can't speak freely

    Updated: Wed, Dec 17, 2014

    RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Two-thirds of Palestinians say they are afraid to criticize Mahmoud Abbas, according to a poll, and some of the Palestinian president's recent actions only seem to confirm claims that dissent comes at a price. Last month, Abbas outlawed the West Bank's largest labor union and briefly jailed its two leaders for organizing strikes. Security agents routinely monitor social media and send threats or complaints to some of those criticizing Abbas. Meanwhile, the Palestinian leader's Fatah movement continues to purge supporters of an exiled rival.

  • Aussie leader: Siege gunman dropped off watch list

    Updated: Wed, Dec 17, 2014

    SYDNEY (AP) — A gunman responsible for a deadly siege in a Sydney cafe was once on the national security agency's watch list — but was dropped off it years ago for reasons that remain unclear, Australia's prime minister said Wednesday. Man Haron Monis, a 50-year-old Iranian-born, self-styled cleric described by Prime Minister Tony Abbott as deeply disturbed, took 17 people hostage inside a downtown Sydney cafe on Monday. Sixteen hours later, the siege ended in a barrage of gunfire when police rushed in to free the captives. Two hostages were killed along with Monis. Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Wednesday that Monis was on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation's watch list in 2008 and 2009 but was later d

  • UN to vote on extending cross-border aid delivery to Syria

    Updated: Tue, Dec 16, 2014

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council has scheduled a vote Wednesday on a resolution extending cross-border delivery of humanitarian aid to Syrians in rebel-held areas in desperate need of food and medicine, without government approval. The draft resolution, sponsored by Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg, expresses grave distress at the continued deterioration of "the devastating humanitarian situation," and the fact that 12.2 million Syrians require urgent assistance including medical aid. This includes 7.6 million people displaced inside Syria, 4.5 million in hard-to-reach areas and 212,000 in besieged areas. The resolution would extend until Jan. 10, 2016 the authorization for U.N.