By David Brunnstrom JERUSALEM (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday that core sanctions against Iran would remain in place despite its interim nuclear deal with world powers. The November 24 accord in Geneva was denounced as a "historic mistake" by Netanyahu, increasing strains in an alliance already marked by his past disputes with U.S. President Barack Obama over strategy on Iran and the Palestinians. Visiting Israel as the talks with Tehran gathered pace, Kerry met an irate Netanyahu. Israel argues an easing of some sanctions on Iran before it abandons nuclear projects with bomb-making potential risks snowballing as foreign business partners rush into the breach.
Russian federal investigators have launched a criminal probe into suspected child trafficking in the United States following a Reuters investigation which found that adopted children, some born in Russia, were being traded on the Internet. The Investigative Committee opened the case after the reports found "adopted Russian children being transferred to different families in breach of their rights", spokesman Vladimir Markin said in a statement on Thursday. Parents connect through online forums on Yahoo and Facebook, privately arranging custody transfers that can bypass government oversight and sometimes violate the law. Markin said that 26 Russian children had been among those traded through such forums.
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis AMMAN (Reuters) - Armed with machine guns, black-clad al Qaeda fighters drove their pick-ups calmly into the northern Syrian town and took over its imposing agriculture ministry building. The scene in Termanin, recounted by an activist who witnessed it last week, is being repeated in towns along the border with Turkey and at road junctions further inside Syria that have fallen out of President Bashar al-Assad's control. Whether through weakness or a desire to focus on Assad, rebel units are making way for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al Qaeda affiliate led by foreigners hardened by guerrilla warfare in Iraq, Chechnya and Libya. The landgrab has given radical jihadists a large territorial base in the heart of a Middle East convulsed by the civil war raging in Syria since 2011.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford called allegations he may have tried to buy a video that apparently showed him using crack cocaine "an outright lie" in a sports radio interview on Thursday. One day after an Ontario court released police documents that said Ford may have offered cash and a car to buy the clip from a suspected gang member, Ford appeared on a morning sports show broadcast in Washington, D.C., called "The Sports Junkies." Asked to respond to the allegation that he tried to pay for the video, Ford said: "Number one, that's an outright lie. And number two, you can talk to my lawyers about it, but I'm here to talk football, guys." According to police notes released on Wednesday of a recorded phone conversation involving two suspected gang members, Ford was aware of the video's existence in March, and offered to buy it. Ford admitted early last month he had smoked crack cocaine, saying it was probably "in one of my drunken stupors," but he has said he is not an addict.
BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej marked his 86th birthday on Thursday with a call for national unity and stability, but offered no further guidance on how his polarized nation might find its way out of its bitter political standoff.
A man on trial for the gruesome murder of a British soldier tried to behead him because he thought it the most "humane" way to kill him, comparing it to halal butchery, a court heard on Thursday. Michael Adebolajo, who has described himself as a "soldier of Allah", said he and his accomplice, Michael Adebowale, targeted 25-year-old Lee Rigby in May as he walked to his barracks in Woolwich, south London, because he was the first soldier they spotted. The murder trial at London's Old Bailey court has heard that the pair ran Rigby over with a car and then attacked his unconscious body with knives, Adebolajo attempting to behead the soldier with a meat cleaver. Adebolajo, 28, and Adebowale, 22, both Britons of Nigerian descent, deny murder.
BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian opposition fighters have killed an Iraqi freelance journalist in the rebel-held north of the country, the latest of dozens of reporters who have died in the country over the past three years, an activist group and an international media watchdog said Thursday.
A flotilla of would-be rescuers sailed to the Florida Everglades on Thursday to try to coax 41 stranded pilot whales out to sea, despite low expectations that the animals would survive. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, said 31 people in 15 boats headed to the site on Thursday morning to resume rescue efforts that had been suspended at nightfall. The Coast Guard joined in, supplementing teams from NOAA, the National Park Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and local police. "We're providing air support and keeping track of the whales," Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Ryan Doss said.
BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Fighting came to the capital of the Central African Republic on Thursday, leaving dozens of casualties and posing the biggest threat yet to the new government just as the U.N. Security Council is set to authorize an intervention force to prevent a bloodbath between Christians and Muslims.
Bangui (Central African Republic) (AFP) - Almost 80 bodies were found lying in a mosque and its surrounding streets in the Central African capital Bangui on Thursday after overnight violence, AFP reporters saw. At the PK 5 mosque, 54 bodies with what appeared to be knife and gun wounds, were laid out in the prayer hall and the courtyard.
A suicide bomber rammed an explosives-packed car into Yemen's defence ministry Thursday, allowing gunmen to launch an assault on the complex which left 25 people including three foreign doctors dead, officials said. The attacks in the capital and in the country's south have been blamed on Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which Washington regards as the jihadist network's most dangerous branch. "At least 25 people have been killed," said a security official, shortly after the defence ministry had put the death toll at 20. "A car bomb driven by a suicide bomber forced its way into the western entrance of the ministry complex," a security official told AFP.
By Erik Kirschbaum and Belinda Goldsmith BERLIN/LONDON (Reuters) - Hurricane-force winds disrupted transport and power supplies in Scotland and threatened coastal flooding in England as they closed in on north Europe in what meteorologists said could be one of the most powerful storms to hit the continent in years. British authorities said the Thames Barrier, designed to protect London from flooding during exceptional tides, would shut on Thursday night and warned of "the most serious coastal tidal surge for over 60 years in England". Prime Minister David Cameron called a meeting to discuss strategy. All train services in Scotland were suspended shortly after 8 a.m. local time until further notice due to debris on the tracks caused by storm Xaver.
Benghazi (Libya) (AFP) - An American teacher was shot dead in Benghazi on Thursday, 15 months after a deadly attack on the US consulate in Libya's second city, medical and security officials said. The dead man was a US citizen who taught at the city's international school, security services spokesman Ibrahim al-Sharaa said. The body of a 33-year-old US citizen who had died of gunshot wounds was brought in to the Benghazi Medical Centre, its spokesman Khalil Gwider said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry insisted on Thursday that Israel's security is a top priority for Washington, both in nuclear talks with Iran and peace talks with the Palestinians. Kerry is in Israel for a day of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders aimed at driving forward peace negotiations which appear to have made little headway since they began under his patronage in late July. But Iran was also high on the agenda when he met for more than three hours with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in what was their first face-to-face meeting since a fallout over the Iran nuclear deal.
Beryl Aidi, an official from the Kenya Human Rights Commission, said it was "bad news", arguing that the most contentious elements of the bill remain despite presidential changes, including the power to impose up to 20 million Kenyan shillings (173,000 euros, $234,000) in fines. The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has said the amended bill still contained "draconian provisions".
Jihadists in northern Syria have kidnapped more than 50 Kurds in the past three days, in the second such case of mass hostage-taking since July, a monitoring group said Thursday. The kidnappings come months into major battles for control of several parts of northern Syria that have pitted Kurdish fighters against jihadists, chiefly the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). "In the past three days, ISIL has kidnapped at least 51 Kurds in the towns of Minbej and Jarablus," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The kidnappings come weeks after Kurdish fighters further east, in majority Kurdish areas, expelled jihadists after battles that lasted several months.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said Thursday a peace conference on Syria slated for January should lay the groundwork for "absolutely free" elections. "The ground should be prepared for holding an absolutely free election with no preconditions," Rouhani told visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the presidency website reported. Rouhani, whose country backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said the conference should also aim for the "complete expulsion of the terrorists from Syria," using the regime's term for its foes. On Monday, international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi called for both Iran and Saudi Arabia, which supports the armed rebels, to be invited to the peace talks initiated by Moscow and Washington.
By Naomi O'Leary VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis is to set up a special committee to help protect children against sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, the archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley, said on Thursday. "The Holy Father has decided to establish a specific commission for the protection of children," O'Malley told reporters. "The commission will be able to advise the Holy Father about the protection of children and pastoral care of victims of abuse." Cases of abuse by clergy have forced the church to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation worldwide, bankrupting a string of dioceses in the United States. The precise mission and make-up of the committee is not yet decided but its role is likely to involve forming guidelines for child protection, improving screening of priests, examining ways to help victims and coordinating cooperation with civil authorities over abuse cases, O'Malley said.
Fighters linked to Al-Qaeda have kidnapped and executed an Iraqi freelance cameraman working in northern Syria, a press freedom watchdog told AFP on Thursday. "Yasser Faysal al-Joumaili's execution was the first of a foreign journalist in Syria's so-called liberated areas," said Soazig Dollet, head of Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) Middle East and North Africa desk. Joumaili had been working as a freelance cameraman for an unidentified Spanish media outlet in strife-torn Aleppo province for about 10 days, Dollet said.
The tax disc for cars and other vehicles is to be scrapped after 90 years, Chancellor George Osborne announced on Thursday. The move is predicted to save businesses a total of Â£7 million a year in administration costs as the discs are replaced by an electronic system for paying road tax. Drivers will still be able to pay their vehicle excise duty in person at a Post Office or on the phone. A tax on motor vehicles was introduced in 1920 and the first tax discs appeared a year later.
LONDON (AP) — Hurricane-force gusts hit Scotland on Thursday, causing a fatal truck accident, halting all trains and leaving tens of thousands of homes without electricity. Much of northwestern Europe braced for a storm that was expected to bring flooding to coastal areas.
BERLIN (AP) — General Motors Co. plans to largely withdraw its Chevrolet brand from Europe from the beginning of 2016, focusing more sharply on its main Opel and Vauxhall brands.
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Western diplomats urged Ukrainian authorities on Thursday to respect the massive protests gripping the country against the government's decision to freeze ties with the EU and turn to Moscow instead.
The United States on Thursday urged Ukrainian authorities to heed the demands of thousands of pro-EU opposition demonstrators, as protesters kept up a blockade of top government buildings and occupation of a central Kiev square. US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, speaking at a meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Kiev, said the US stood with the Ukrainians dreaming of a European future after two weeks of protests in Kiev. President Viktor Yanukovych's rejection of a key political and free trade deal with the EU and a crackdown on the ensuing peaceful protests have plunged the ex-Soviet country into its worst political crisis in a decade.
JERUSALEM (AP) — Looking to soothe irritated relations with Israel, America's top diplomat on Thursday pledged to support the Jewish state's security throughout separate negotiations with Iran and the Palestinians — including Israel's demand that it "defend itself, by itself."
A storm lashed Scotland and other parts of Britain with gusts of up to 142 mph (228 kmh) Thursday, killing one person and causing the cancellation of all trains and some planes. More than 130,000 homes were left without power in Scotland. All rail services in Scotland were cancelled because of debris on the lines and damage to equipment, operator Network Rail said. Police advised drivers in most of Scotland to avoid travelling.
Abuja (AFP) - Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure was on Thursday in line for another accolade, as the Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced its shortlist for African Footballer of the Year.