• Migrants' newest route to Europe means an epic Balkans trek

    Updated: Sat, Mar 28, 2015

    THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — Migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East take many routes to cross illegally into the European Union, and all are fraught with likely disappointment and occasional danger. The newest path, through the EU's Balkans back door, comes with a cruel twist: an epic 250-kilometer (150-mile) walk that is surging in popularity even though most who try it fail. This month, The Associated Press traveled for 10 days and nights with a 45-member group of West African migrants trying to reach Germany and France via Hungary, the terminus of the Western Balkans route. Many trekkers have faced years of failure to reach the heart of Europe by other sea and air routes, and soon discover the new path makes its own pec

  • For African migrants, trek to Europe brings risk, heartbreak

    Updated: Sat, Mar 28, 2015

    VELES, Macedonia (AP) — This is the moment when Sandrine Koffi's dream of a new life in Europe ended — and her nightmare of an infant lost in the Macedonian night began. As club-wielding police closed in, the 31-year-old from Ivory Coast couldn't keep up with her fellow migrants. Not after more than a week of treacherous hikes through mud and bone-chilling rain; of leaky tents, stolen food and fitful sleep; of loads too heavy to bear. Koffi had given her 10-month-old daughter, Kendra, to a stronger person to carry as the 40-member group of West Africans walked with trepidation into Veles, Macedonia. They hoped, because it was pitch dark and miserably cold, that no one would see them and raise the alarm.

  • 2 Czechs kidnapped in Pakistan in 2013 freed

    Updated: Sat, Mar 28, 2015

    PRAGUE (AP) — Two Czech tourists who were abducted by gunmen two years ago as they were traveling on a bus through southwestern Pakistan have been released, the Czech government said on Saturday. "I am really glad to confirm that Hana Humpalova and Antonie Chrastecka ... returned back to the Czech Republic today in the morning," Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said in a statement. Sobotka said their release was negotiated by Turkish non-governmental humanitarian organization IHH. "I am very tired but I don't want to sleep. I am afraid this may be a dream," Chrastecka told Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency before flying home. "When we came out, we were happy to see the sun after two years, to see happy, smiling p

  • France says will propose UN Security Council draft on Israel

    Updated: Fri, Mar 27, 2015

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) — France's foreign minister said Friday his country will propose a U.N. Security Council resolution in the coming weeks that could present a framework for negotiations toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Laurent Fabius said "there is no other solution" but said he doesn't know what the United States, Israel's top ally, will agree to. The minister spoke to reporters at U.N. headquarters before leaving for the Iran nuclear talks in Switzerland. "France will be part and parcel in proposing a resolution in the U.N.," he said. He said discussions with partners will begin in the days ahead. The U.N.

  • UN Security Council keeps in place Libya arms embargo

    Updated: Fri, Mar 27, 2015

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council on Friday unanimously approved a resolution on Libya that keeps in place an arms embargo which the country's Western-recognized government says is hurting efforts to defend itself against the rise of the Islamic State group. The resolution instead urges a U.N. sanctions committee on Libya to "consider expeditiously" the government's requests for exemptions to the arms embargo. Libya and neighboring Egypt last month urgently requested international aid, including the lifting of the embargo, after a video of the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians announced the presence of Islamic State group supporters in the oil-rich North African country.

  • France calls for Islamic State to be referred to ICC

    Updated: Fri, Mar 27, 2015

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. human rights chief told the Security Council on Friday that in a "most terrible irony," the Islamic State group may be more accepting of the ethnic diversity of its members than some states are about ethnic differences among their own citizens. Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the first human rights chief from the Muslim and Arab worlds, spoke as French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius chaired a special meeting on the abuses in the Middle East on ethnic and religious grounds. Both said the Security Council should refer the situations in Iraq and Syria to the International Criminal Court. Fabius later told reporters that the Islamic State group itself, "these criminals," should be referred to the ICC.

  • Hezbollah leader slams Saudi intervention in Yemen

    Updated: Fri, Mar 27, 2015

    BEIRUT (AP) — The leader of Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah group unleashed a tirade against Saudi Arabia on Friday over its intervention in Yemen, calling it "surprising and painful," and suggesting Riyadh would suffer a "humiliating defeat" if it didn't resolve the conflict through negotiations. Hassan Nasrallah rejected Riyadh's claim that it had assembled a coalition to conduct airstrikes against Shiite Houthi rebels in order to save Yemen, an operation named "Decisive Storm." He said that since Israel was created in 1948 "there has been no decisive storm or even a decisive breeze" to help the Palestinians. Hezbollah, like Yemen's Houthi rebels, is supported by Iran, which Saudi Arabia views as its main regional rival.

  • Warships move in key strait as airstrikes widen in Yemen

    Updated: Fri, Mar 27, 2015

    SANAA, Yemen (AP) — As airstrikes in Yemen intensified on their second day Friday, Egypt and Saudi Arabia were considering an intervention on the ground, aimed at giving the president a secure foothold to return to the country, while backing Sunni tribesmen to fight against Shiite rebels and their allies, military officials said. A likely entry point for troops from the Saudi-led Arab coalition was the southern port of Aden, the Yemeni and Egyptian military officials told The Associated Press. But that could be a tough prospect: The city is already a battleground, and on Friday forces loyal to the rebels' top ally, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, were advancing toward it.

  • Yemen's Aden a key battleground in conflict

    Updated: Fri, Mar 27, 2015

    SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) — Yemen's city of Aden, a vital Arabian Sea port for centuries, is emerging as a key battleground in the fight between a Saudi-led Arab coalition backing the country's president and Shiite rebels and their allies. The coalition is eyeing landing ground troops in the city to help secure a return of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was forced to flee the country by boat from the city this week. On Friday, heavy gunbattles raged in northern neighborhoods of the city between pro-Hadi militias and military units loyal to Hadi's predecessor, ousted autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is allied to the Shiite rebels known as Houthis. Snipers of Saleh's forces were firing from rooftops, and bodies of f

  • Israel to stop withholding Palestinian tax revenues

    Updated: Fri, Mar 27, 2015

    JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel said Friday that it will transfer Palestinian tax revenues it has been withholding as punishment for the Palestinians' application to join the International Criminal Court. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said the decision was made following the recommendation of Israel's security establishment and because of humanitarian considerations. Israel has been under international pressure to release the frozen funds and Israeli security officials had warned that continuing to hold back the revenue could spark violence. Under existing agreements, Israel collects taxes and customs on behalf of the Palestinians and then transfers the sums to them. It has withheld funds before as retaliation for unil

  • Iran says nuke talks focused despite Yemen crisis

    Updated: Fri, Mar 27, 2015

    LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Iran's foreign minister sought Friday to dismiss concerns that his country's preoccupation with the crisis in Yemen could serve as a distraction at nuclear talks with six world powers, saying the negotiations remained focused on sealing a deal. Yemen is "the hot issue of the day" and has come up at the talks but "it doesn't mean that we negotiated about it," Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters. Saudi-led air strikes on Shiite rebels in Yemen are further straining relations between the Sunni Gulf kingdom and predominantly Shiite Iran. Zarif said they "have to stop and everybody has to encourage dialogue and national reconciliation." Despite Iran's concerns over Yemen, however, "our negotiat

  • Report: Cluster bomb wounds 6 boys in southern Lebanon

    Updated: Fri, Mar 27, 2015

    BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon's state-run National News Agency says a cluster bomb left behind by Israeli forces has wounded six boys, one of them seriously. NNA gave no further details about Friday's explosion on the outskirts of the southern village of Zibqine, close to the Israeli border. Local TV stations aired footage of the boys being treated at a hospital. According to the U.N. mine center, more than 30 Lebanese civilians have died in cluster bomb or land mine blasts in Lebanon since the 2006 war between Israel and the Hezbollah militant group. The United Nations and human rights groups say Israel dropped about 4 million cluster bomblets during the 34-day conflict. U.N.

  • Syria's Assad calls chemical attack allegations 'propaganda'

    Updated: Fri, Mar 27, 2015

    BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian President Bashar Assad has rejected allegations that his military used barrel bombs or chlorine gas against opposition-held areas, calling the accusations "malicious propaganda." In an interview with CBS News, the Syrian leader also said that he would be open to a dialogue with the United States, but that it must be "based on mutual respect." CBS published excerpts of the interview online Friday. The Syrian opposition and activists say government helicopters dropped bombs containing chlorine gas on the town of Sarmin in northwestern Syria's Idlib province on March 16, killing six people.

  • EU weighs new methods to coax Israel back to peace talks

    Updated: Fri, Mar 27, 2015

    BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union is assessing new ways to push Israel back to the peace negotiating table with the Palestinians for a deal based on a two-state solution, working in tandem with the United States, EU officials say. The EU is exploring new diplomatic terrain and could consider ways to discourage Europeans from buying products from Israeli settlements it believes are illegal. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's election rhetoric has fueled doubts about Israel's commitment to a two-state solution — a cornerstone of EU and U.S. policies for ending the Middle East conflict.

  • Official: 1,500 North Caucasus people fight in Iraq, Syria

    Updated: Fri, Mar 27, 2015

    MOSCOW (AP) — A senior Russian official says about 1,500 residents of Russia's North Caucasus are fighting alongside Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq. Sergei Melikov, President Vladimir Putin's envoy to the North Caucasus, says at least five militants who came back after fighting in Syria were killed in security sweeps last year. Melikov said Thursday the Islamic State group poses a "very serious threat" to the North Caucasus, Russian news agencies reported. He said efforts are needed to prevent young people from joining the ranks of militants.

  • Nearly 70 migrants found on berm on Greek-Turkish border

    Updated: Fri, Mar 27, 2015

    THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — Greek border police said Friday they had rescued 68 people, most of them Syrians, trying to cross illegally into Greece after they became stranded on a berm on the Greek-Turkish border. The migrants, including 14 children aged between 3 and 12 and seven women, were stranded after crossing the Evros river dividing the two countries and finding the fields on the Greek side severely flooded following days of heavy rainfall. The group was located before dawn Friday after one of them called Greek emergency services. Border police used inflatable dinghies to reach the group, who authorities say had been abandoned by the smuggler facilitating their journey.

  • Israel indicts Golan Druse on suspicion of spying for Syria

    Updated: Fri, Mar 27, 2015

    JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli district court has indicted an Arab Druse from the Golan Heights on suspicion of spying for Syria. Israeli police said Friday that in a joint investigation with the Shin Bet security service, they arrested two residents of the town of Majdal Shams who were documenting Israeli military operations on its northern border and had been in touch with a Syrian handler. The information collected was allegedly transferred over the Internet and in person to contacts in Syria. On Friday, one of the men, Tzudki Saliman, was indicted on counts of espionage, assisting the enemy during wartime, conspiracy to commit criminal acts and contact with a foreign agent.

  • Iraqi Shiite cleric calls for unity after militia pullout

    Updated: Fri, Mar 27, 2015

    BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric on Friday called for unity among the country's forces battling the Islamic State group after most of the Iran-backed Shiite militias pulled out of the offensive in the militant-held city of Tikrit in protest over U.S. airstrikes there. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's appeal came a day after the militias, which had been instrumental so far in the operation to recapture Saddam Hussein's hometown, announced their boycott of the Tikrit offensive. The U.S. got involved in the operation and started providing airstrikes on Wednesday in support of the mission at the request of Iraq's government.

  • Stocks recover their poise ahead of US economic data

    Updated: Fri, Mar 27, 2015

    LONDON (AP) — Global stock markets on Friday recovered their poise after the previous day's losses when investors were spooked by the escalating conflict in Yemen. However, oil prices slipped back from Thursday's sizeable advance when traders worried about the conflict's impact on oil supplies. KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, Germany's DAX rose 0.4 percent at 11,895 while the CAC-40 in France was up 0.5 percent at 5,030. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares however was 0.4 percent lower at 6,868. Wall Street was poised for a subdued opening with both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures down 0.1 percent. MIDDLE EAST: The turmoil in Yemen is also a key focus in financial markets, particularly in oil markets.

  • Turkey could provide logistical support to Yemen operation

    Updated: Fri, Mar 27, 2015

    ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country could provide logistical support to the Saudi Arabia-led operation in Yemen. Separately, Erdogan has lashed out at Iran, accusing it of trying to "dominate the region." Erdogan told France 24 television in an interview Thursday that Turkey was providing the Saudi-led mission with "our political support and if needed, we could provide ... logistical support." However, he ruled out Turkish military involvement "for now." In comments carried by the state-run Anadolu Agency on Friday, Erdogan accused Iran of testing the limits of the region's "tolerance." Saudi Arabia is leading a regional coalition in a campaign against Shiite rebel




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