By Laila Bassam, Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Tom Perry | ALEPPO, Syria/BEIRUT ALEPPO, Syria/BEIRUT Thousands of people were evacuated on Thursday from the last rebel bastion in Aleppo, the first to leave under a ceasefire deal that would end years of fighting for the city and mark a major victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
By Timothy Gardner | WASHINGTON WASHINGTON President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday named U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke of Montana, a former Navy SEAL commander who questions whether humans are largely the cause of climate change, as his choice for secretary of the interior.If the Senate confirms Zinke, a Republican, to lead the Interior Department, he will head an agency that employs more than 70,000 people across the country and oversees more than 20 percent of federal land, including national parks such as Yellowstone and Yosemite.As a one-term U.S
OTTAWA Diplomats from Canada this week paid a rare visit to North Korea and were able to see a Canadian pastor serving a life sentence for subversion, a foreign ministry official said on Thursday.Hyeon Soo Lim, who served at one of Canada's largest churches, was sentenced to hard labor for life in December 2015 for what North Korea says was an attempt to overthrow the regime. He is the only Western citizen known to be held currently in North Korea.Chantal Gagnon, a spokeswoman for Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion, confirmed a report by North Korea's KCNA news agency that said the diplomats visited the country from Tuesday until Thursday and saw Lim."We are still very concerned about his health, well-being and continued detention and are working actively to secure his release," she said.
By Laila Bassam, Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Tom Perry | ALEPPO, Syria/BEIRUT ALEPPO, Syria/BEIRUT An operation to evacuate thousands of civilians and fighters from the last rebel bastion in Aleppo began on Thursday, part of a ceasefire deal that would end years of fighting for the city and mark a major victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. A convoy of ambulances and buses with nearly 1,000 people aboard drove out of the devastated rebel-held area of Aleppo, which was besieged and bombarded for months by Syrian government forces, a Reuters reporter on the scene said
UNITED NATIONS Incoming United Nations chief Antonio Guterres on Thursday appointed Nigeria's Environment Minister Amina Mohammed as his deputy secretary-general and Brazilian diplomat Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti as chef de cabinet, a U.N. spokesman said. Before her appointment as environment minister a year ago, Mohammed was outgoing U.N.
By Stephanie Nebehay | GENEVA GENEVA Close to 1,000 civilians and 26 wounded, including several children, were evacuated from east Aleppo on Thursday, in an operation the International Committee of the Red Cross expects to double by day's end, a senior official told Reuters."Many more" rotations of the buses and ambulances would be needed in coming days, said Robert Mardini, ICRC regional director for the Near and Middle East, in an interview in his Geneva office after being briefed by ICRC's Syria delegation chief Marianne Gasser in Aleppo."This for us is the first step, it was a positive one," Mardini told Reuters. "We were able so far to evacuate 26 wounded persons from east Aleppo and close to 1,000 civilians, who were transferred from east Aleppo to western rural Aleppo"."There is another rotation under way and we hope to be able to evacuate almost the same number of wounded and civilians." The first evacuees were escorted on buses and 13 ambulances through government-held west Aleppo to opposition-controlled areas, where they will choose where they want to go.A team of 14 ICRC staff and nearly 100 volunteers from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) took part in the operation, for which they needed a crane to remove debris and burned buses to clear the way into "volatile and unpredictable" east Aleppo, Mardini said.
WASHINGTON In a veiled warning to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, China's ambassador to the United States on Wednesday said that China would never bargain with Washington over issues involving its national sovereignty or territorial integrity.Ambassador Cui Tiankai, speaking to executives of top U.S
By Christine Kim | SEOUL SEOUL Long the voice of the conglomerates that form the engine of South Korea's economy, the Federation of Korean Industries could become another casualty of the scandal that is poised to cost President Park Geun-hye her job, as key members flee.The FKI, whose board is made up of the chiefs of the country's conglomerates, or chaebol, has been the nexus for close ties between government and big business. It formed the two non-profit foundations, Mir and K-Sports, backing Park initiatives that are central to the current political crisis.Prosecutors have charged Park's friend Choi Soon-sil with colluding with the president into pressuring conglomerates such as the Samsung Group [SAGR.UL] to pay funds to the foundations.Last week, Jay Y.
By Patricia Zengerle | WASHINGTON WASHINGTON A defence policy bill that President Barack Obama is expected to sign into law this month will give President-elect Donald Trump greater influence over U.S. foreign broadcasting entities.The National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress last week includes a provision abolishing the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent body that oversees government-backed media outlets such as the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, and replaces it with a chief executive nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.The election victory of Republican businessman Trump, who has had a stormy relationship with some media outlets he accuses of being biased against him, has raised concerns among some officials about whether the media outlets can maintain their editorial independence under a Trump-appointed CEO.It is not clear, however, if the change is intended to give the president greater influence over news, information and fact-checking that U.S.
FRANKFURT Germany has carried out its first group deportation of Afghans whose asylum applications have been rejected, in line with an agreement reached with Kabul earlier this year.A charter plane carrying about 50 Afghans left Frankfurt on Wednesday, a Reuters journalist at the scene said.A spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Refugees said authorities were expecting a plane with 50 returnees from Germany to arrive on Thursday in Kabul.If the returnees need help to get back to their home provinces, the ministry will provide help, the spokesman said, adding around 10,000 Afghans had returned from Europe so far this year.More than a million migrants from the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere have arrived in Germany since the beginning of 2015, prompting concerns about security and integration. The influx has boosted support for anti-immigrant groups such as the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.In 2016, Afghans were the second biggest group of asylum seekers in Germany after Syrians, according to data from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). A spokeswoman for the German Interior Ministry said the deportations were taking place on the basis of an agreement made with the Afghan government in October.The Afghans are flown to Kabul and then ultimately sent back to their home regions if they are regarded as reasonably safe.
ANKARA One of the two suicide bombers in an attack on an Istanbul soccer stadium last weekend had come from Syria, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.The twin attacks in Istanbul on Saturday - involving a suicide bomber on foot and another in a car - killed 44 people, mostly policemen, outside Besiktas soccer stadium, and injured more than 150.Earlier this week, Turkish police carried out a series of raids and detained 568 people over alleged links to Kurdish militants, intensifying a crackdown after the bombings.An offshoot of the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) claimed responsibility for the attacks on Saturday night. "We are always telling our counterparts that we are receiving this threat. And now, we see that the Besiktas bomber also came from Syria," Cavusoglu told TGRT TV in an interview
ANKARA One of the bombers in an attack on an Istanbul soccer stadium last weekend had come from Syria, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.The twin attacks in Istanbul on Saturday - involving a car bomb and a separate suicide bomber - killed 44 people, mostly policemen, outside Besiktas soccer stadium, and injured more than 150.
By Laila Bassam, Lisa Barrington and John Davison | ALEPPO, Syria/BEIRUT ALEPPO, Syria/BEIRUT Plans to evacuate besieged rebel districts of Aleppo were under threat on Wednesday as renewed air strikes and shelling rocked the Syrian city in a bombardment the United Nations said "most likely constitutes war crimes".Iran, one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main backers, imposed new conditions, saying it wanted the simultaneous evacuation of wounded from two villages besieged by rebel fighters, according to rebel and U.N.
By Crispian Balmer and Giselda Vagnoni | ROME ROME Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni won the backing of the fragmented Senate on Wednesday, allowing his government to formally take office as a new threat emerged to the legacy of predecessor Matteo Renzi.Renzi resigned last week when he lost a referendum on his proposed reform of the constitution. Looking to stave off political turmoil, the head of state asked Gentiloni, the outgoing foreign minister, to form a new cabinet.After winning an initial vote of confidence in the lower chamber of parliament on Tuesday, Gentiloni secured victory in the upper house Senate and promised to push ahead with Renzi's reform agenda.But the reform drive, once heralded by investors as a sign that Italy was finally facing up to myriad problems such as chronic economic underperformance and rampant graft, looks increasingly ragged.With the constitutional reform already shot down by a referendum, another of Renzi's flagship projects, a shake-up of the labour market, risks suffering the same fate with Italy's main union demanding a plebiscite on the law.Italy's Constitutional Court said on Wednesday it would review the request on Jan
By John Miller | ZURICH ZURICH Switzerland's highest court on Wednesday blocked efforts to ban a state-funded Islamic-focused academic centre at a Swiss university, ruling that an anti-immigration political party's proposed local referendum on it was discriminatory.
GENEVA Syria's government forces and their allies have almost certainly violated international law and probably committed war crimes by the latest bombardment of civilians hoping to be evacuated from eastern Aleppo, the U.N. human rights chief said on Wednesday."The Syrian Government has a clear responsibility to ensure its people are safe, and is palpably failing to take this opportunity to do so," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein said in a statement."The Government of Syria is also obliged under international law to provide medical assistance to all sick and wounded people – civilians and fighters alike," he said.He added that he was appalled that a deal to evacuate many thousands of civilians from eastern Aleppo appeared to have collapsed, and said it was outrageously cruel that hope of survival had been snatched away from them
WASHINGTON The head of U.S. forces fighting Islamic State said on Wednesday that weapons seized by the group when they captured the Syrian city of Palmyra posed a danger to U.S.-led coalition in the region, but he said that threat could be managed.Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend told a Pentagon video briefing that the weapons seized by Islamic State when it captured Palmyra recently included armored vehicles and air defense equipment."I'm not really exactly sure ..
By Guy Faulconbridge | LONDON LONDON If Prime Minister Theresa May has a detailed Brexit plan, it is very secret.Since the June 23 referendum, May has been clear only that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union and that she will formally trigger exit talks by the end of March 2017.May says it would be foolish to reveal her cards before one of the most complicated negotiations in post-World War Two European history that could decide the fate of both her premiership and the world's fifth largest economy."It is absolutely right that we do not set out at this stage every single detail of our proposed negotiating strategy, because that would be the best way to get the worst possible deal for Britain," May told parliament when asked whether she had a coherent plan.May attends an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday but she has not been invited to a dinner where leaders of the other 27 EU member states will discuss their approach to Brexit.Britons' vote to leave the bloc has opened a huge number of questions including whether exporters will keep tariff-free access to the single European market and British-based banks will still be able to serve continental clients, not to mention immigration and the future rights of the many EU citizens already living in the United Kingdom.The absence of a specific government stand on these and many other issues has confused May's allies and perturbed company bosses, while investors try to work out what Brexit might mean for the future of their businesses and for London, the only financial centre to rival New York.Brexiteers say there is little point laying out detailed demands as, with France and Germany due to hold elections next year and the future of a new Italian government uncertain, it is still unclear who will be in power in Paris, Berlin and Rome.Another unknown is how Donald Trump, who once said Brexit was wonderful, could affect the divorce proceedings after he becomes U.S. president next month.Behind the secrecy, though, there are signs of muddle.When May pushed for informal negotiations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a Nov.
MOSCOW Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview with Russian state television that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump could become a natural ally to Damascus if he shows he is sincere about fighting terrorism."If Trump can genuinely fight against terrorism, he can be our natural ally," Assad, speaking through an interpreter, said in the interview which was broadcast on Wednesday
By David Brunnstrom | WASHINGTON WASHINGTON China appears to have installed weapons, including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, on all seven of the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea, a U.S.