By Michele Kambas and Lefteris Papadimas ATHENS (Reuters) - Thousands of Greeks staged rival rallies on Friday ahead of a weekend referendum that may decide the country's future in Europe's single currency, with polls showing voters almost evenly split. Repeating his assault on European partners he accused of blackmailing and issuing ultimatums to Greece, the leftist leader called for calm ahead of Sunday's ballot.
By John Irish and Louis Charbonneau VIENNA (Reuters) - A year and half of nuclear talks between Iran and major powers were creeping towards the finish line on Friday as negotiators wrestled with sticking points including questions about Tehran's past atomic research. Iran is in talks with the United States and five other powers - Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia - on an agreement to curtail its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. "We are coming to the end," said a senior Western diplomat, who added there was no plan to carry on for long past next Tuesday.
Saudi-led air strikes killed at least 16 people in Yemen on Friday, the country's dominant Houthi militia said, and the European Union and United States appealed for a pause in the war to enable aid deliveries to stricken civilians. An Arab coalition has been bombarding Iran-allied Houthi forces and allied army units since March in a campaign to restore exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power. Houthi sources said six people including a woman and a child were killed and six wounded in a dawn air strike on the al Jaraf neighborhood of the capital Sanaa.
By Anthony Deutsch THE HAGUE (Reuters) - The Dutch government is lobbying its political allies for the establishment of a U.N. tribunal to prosecute suspects in the downing of a Malaysia Airlines plane over territory held by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine a year ago, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Friday. Rutte said a U.N. tribunal would give "the best guarantee of cooperation from all countries" in seeking justice for the families of the 298 victims, most of whom were Dutch passengers aboard flight MH17. Malaysia, one of five countries on a Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team probing the crash, told the United Nations Security Council on Thursday it plans to push for a U.N.-backed tribunal, even as Russia described the move as premature, diplomats said.
By Orhan Coskun ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey has deployed additional troops and equipment along part of its border with Syria as fighting north of the city of Aleppo intensifies, security sources said, but Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said there were no immediate plans for any incursion. Ankara has mooted the creation of a 'secure zone' on Syrian territory due to concerns about Syrian Kurd advances and the presence of Islamic State militants, as well as the possibility of a fresh wave of refugees fleeing conflict. Security sources and officials in the capital Ankara said the Turkish army had stepped up security, also sending in special forces, due to the heavy fighting.
Rival rallies swelled in central Athens late Friday ahead of a referendum the Greek government called to bolster it in its struggle with creditors, even though polls now show public support swinging against it. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who was expected to address the 'No' rally later Friday, went on television earlier to urge voters to ignore European scaremongering that the ballot could lead to Greece crashing out of the euro. Adding to that, a eurozone emergency fund officially declared Greece to be in default on Friday for not paying a 1.5-billion loan instalment to the International Monetary Fund loan earlier this week.
The number of Cubans heading to the US has surged in the months since the historic thaw in bilateral relations -- a swell experts attribute to uncertainty over the future of US policy that favors such travelers. According to the US Customs Department, 9,371 Cuban migrants came into the US between January and March, more than twice the number from the same period in 2014. As both countries prepare to solidify a breakthrough by opening embassies in each other's capitals for the first time in half a century, the influx stems from doubt over whether US policies giving preference to Cuban immigrants will change.
RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Gaza's militant Hamas rulers on Friday allowed a pair of lion cubs en route to a wildlife sanctuary in Jordan back into the Palestinian coastal strip after the animals and their entourage had been stuck for several hours on no-man's land at a Gaza-Israel border crossing.
BERLIN (AP) — The U.N.'s top human rights body backed calls Friday for accountability in last year's conflict in Gaza, in which hundreds of Palestinian civilians and six Israeli civilians were killed.
By Megha Rajagopalan BEIJING (Reuters) - A senior U.S. official told China on Friday that its legal imports of ivory act as a loophole for illegal traders, and that it needs to understand the importance of wildlife NGOs. China signed a pact banning global trade in ivory in 1981, but it got an exemption in 2008 to buy 62 tonnes of ivory from several African nations. It releases a portion of that stockpile each year to government-licensed ivory carving factories.
Rival rallies ahead of Greece's referendum were held in central Athens late Friday, with a pro-government demonstration urging a "No" vote gathering 25,000 people and a nearby "Yes" crowd attracting 20,000, according to police. The "No" rally in front of the Greek parliament was to be addressed later by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who called the Sunday plebiscite on whether to accept bailout terms in a bid to strengthen his hand in negotiations with Greece's creditors.
Dozens of Shiites and Sunnis prayed side by side Friday in a mosque near the capital of Bahrain, a country hit since 2011 by Shiite-led protests against its Sunni rulers. Residents said tight security was in place for the special session of weekly prayers in a mosque at Diraz, a Shiite village west of Manama. The joint prayers were a show of Bahraini "unity in the face of those plotting against the Arab and Islamic world", said Justice and Islamic Affairs Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ali Al-Khalifa.