(Photo: Ebrahim Noroozi / AP)
Hassan Rowhani, a moderate cleric who scored a surprise victory in Iran’s presidential election, held out the prospect of improved relations with the United States.
US government to end effort to restrict morning-after pill
New York Times: The Obama administration told a U.S. District Court judge it would stop trying to block the over-the-counter availability of Plan B One-Step for all women and girls.
The reversal by the government means that anyone, no matter how young, will soon be able to walk into a drugstore and buy the pill, Plan B One-Step, without a prescription.
The Justice Department had been fighting to prevent that outcome, but said late Monday afternoon that it would drop its appeal of a judge’s order to make the drug more widely available. In a letter to Judge Edward R. Korman of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, the administration said it would comply with his demands that the Food and Drug Administration be allowed to certify the drug for nonprescription use.
Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images via nytimes.com
Afghan President Visits Qatar To Discuss Peace
Afghanistan’s president landed in Qatar Sunday to discuss his country’s stalled peace process and the possible opening of a Taliban office in the Gulf state, officials said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai said President Hamid Karzai will not hold any talks with Taliban representatives now in Qatar.
He will meet with Qatari officials on the sidelines of an annual conference on relations between the United States and the Muslim world.
“As we have already said, any official negotiations regarding peace with the Taliban can take place only between the high-ranking Taliban representatives and the High Peace Council of Afghanistan,” Mosazai told reporters.
Mugabe signs Zimbabwe constitution, paving way for vote
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe signed a new constitution into law on Wednesday, replacing a 33-year-old document forged in the dying days of British colonial rule and paving the way for an election later this year.
Approved overwhelmingly in a referendum in March, the constitution clips the powers of the president and imposes a two-term limit. However, it does not apply retroactively so the 89-year-old Mugabe technically could extend his three decades in office by another 10 years.
A beaming Mugabe, flanked by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, his main political rival, and Deputy President Joice Mujuru signed multiple copies of the charter at State House in the capital to cheers and applause from aides.
The constitution was rewritten under terms of a power-sharing deal between Mugabe and Tsvangirai after elections in 2008 marred by violence.
The five-year coalition government formed under the same agreement expires on June 29, and parliamentary and presidential elections should follow within 90 days of that date.
However, many obstacles remain, not least finding the estimated $130 million needed to pay for the election and reaching agreement on outside monitors.
Harare has turned down offers of United Nations or donor assistance and Mugabe accused some in the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC), which has been mediating in the crisis, of trying to impose their will.
“We rejected this,” he told reporters after the signing ceremony, adding that any vote would be fair. “We will ensure that there won’t be any violence, that there won’t be any rigging.”
Mugabe made no mention of an election date but Tsvangirai later told reporters it would be later rather than sooner because of the need to amend electoral laws and allow the 30-day registration period for new voters mandated in the constitution.
State media said on Wednesday that Mugabe was pressing for a vote before July although his rivals wanted it delayed to allow for the opening up of broadcast media, registration of new voters and reform of the military to ensure it stays out of politics.
China president makes first ever visit to Trinidad, starting regional tour that will end in US
Chinese President Xi Jinping (above, right) met for the first time with officials in Trinidad and Tobago Saturday on the first stop of a four-country regional tour.
In a news conference, Xi announced that China was awarding Trinidad a $250 million loan to build a children’s hospital. He also said he and Trinidadian Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (above,left) had signed a memorandum of understanding to co-operate on a range of issues.
“We both agree to actively advance co-operation in key areas of energy, minerals and infrastructure development and also to advance our co-operation in new energy, telecommunications and agriculture,” Xi told reporters after he and Persad-Bissessar met in her office.
Persad-Bissessar said Trinidad views China “as a very key business partner and a potential new market for our energy products and for alternative energy research.” She added that Xi agreed to send the Caribbean 100 volunteer medical professionals over the next three years.
John Baird appoints Canada’s first ambassador to Somalia in more than 20 years
A longtime Canadian diplomat will become the country’s first ambassador to Somalia in more than two decades.
The announcement of David Angell’s appointment marks a restart of diplomatic relations between Canada and the east Africa country.
Canada hasn’t had an ambassador accredited to Somalia since 1990 but had signalled it wanted to rekindle relations following presidential elections in the country last year.
Angell was appointed Canada’s ambassador to Kenya last fall and he’ll continue to live in Nairobi while carrying out his new duties.
His appointment was formally announced Tuesday by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird (pictured above) during a visit to Kenya.
It had been approved by the Privy Council Office last week as part of a broader diplomatic shuffle which also saw Canada’s ambassador to Mali receive responsibility for Niger.
Myanmar says President to make official US visit
Myanmar’s reformist President Thein Sein will visit the White House next week, the first such trip by a Myanmar head of state in almost 47 years and a sign of warming ties.
Myanmar state television announced the U.S. visit Monday, saying it comes at the invitation of President Barack Obama. It gave no exact date, but congressional staffers in Washington who were briefed on the upcoming trip said Thein Sein would meet Obama May 20.
The last Myanmar leader to visit the White House was the late dictator Ne Win in 1966.
South Africa President Jacob Zuma met and held discussions Monday with Lesotho Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane, in an effort to promote the African Agenda and strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries.
“Bilateral cooperation between South Africa and Lesotho spans a wide range of areas including, but not limited to, trade and investment, security, energy, transport, agriculture, tourism, water and environment,” the Presidency said in a statement on Monday.
The Presidency said the two leaders reaffirmed the historical and cultural relations that exist between the two sisterly countries.
“They committed themselves to working together in the implementation of the joint projects in the areas of water, energy and tourism,” the Presidency said.
South Africa recently hosted the Joint Bilateral Commission for Cooperation (JBCC) with Lesotho, where wide ranging bilateral, regional and international issues were discussed.
WASHINGTON — Keeping a keen eye south of the border, the Obama administration is intensifying its engagement with Latin America, hosting leaders from a pair of presidents at the White House and sending Vice President Joe Biden to visit two others.
Peru’s President Ollanta Humala and Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera will travel to Washington in June to meet with President Barack Obama, the White House said Wednesday. And next week, Biden will make stops in Brazil and Colombia, plus the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago.
Dovetailing on Obama’s trip last week to Mexico and Costa Rica, the visits reflect the administration’s desire to show the U.S. relationship with its neighbors to the south is about much more than drugs, crime and illegal immigration. The need for closer economic ties topped Obama’s agenda during the three-day trip.
You betcha!!! The Minnesota state Senate passed the marriage equality bill. The governor has pledged to sign it into law!
Iraqis Vote in First Election Since U.S. Withdrawal
Iraqis cast ballots in regional elections Saturday amid tight security, marking the country’s first vote since the U.S. military withdrawal and a key test of its stability.
The results will not directly affect the shape of Iraq‘s national government. But the vote will be an important barometer of support for Iraq’s various political blocs heading into 2014 parliamentary elections, and the outcome could exacerbate sectarian tensions.
Saturday’s vote will also test the Iraqi army and police, who face a reviving al-Qaida insurgency and are for the first time since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion securing an election on their own.
As in past elections, officials have ratcheted up security precautions to thwart attempts by insurgents to disrupt the vote.
Security cordons are set up around polling places, and only authorized vehicles are being allowed on the streets in major cities. Voters dipped an index finger in ink after casting ballots to ensure each person voted only once.
There were no immediate reports of violence in the hours after voting got underway at 7 a.m. local time.
(Photo: AFP - Getty Images)
France became the 14th country in the world to allow same-sex couples to wed Tuesday, when its parliament approved a law that has sparked often violent street protests and a rise in homophobic attacks.
Obama, Putin set up two rounds of talks
U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday set up two rounds of talks in coming months in a bid to move past a fight over human rights and seek common ground on issues such as Iran, Syria and North Korea.
The announcement of an Obama-Putin summit in early September, added to plans for a meeting at a G8 summit in Northern Ireland in June, suggested the two leaders want to revive the momentum from a reset in relations despite tensions over the so-called Magnitsky List.
Once a landlord’s serf, Pakistani Hindu woman enters poll fray
When Veero Kolhi (above, center) made the asset declaration required of candidates for Pakistan’s May elections, she listed the following items: two beds, five mattresses, cooking pots and a bank account with life savings of 2,800 rupees.
While she may lack the fortune that is the customary entry ticket to Pakistani politics, Kolhi can make a claim that may resonate more powerfully with poor voters than the wearily familiar promises of her rivals.
For Kolhi embodies a new phenomenon on the campaign trail - she is the first contestant to have escaped the thrall of a feudal-style land owner who forced his workers to toil in conditions akin to modern-day slavery.
The project to define the partially disputed border was launched in 2008 and has put down 763 markers, leaving 72 to go by the June deadline, the state-run daily said.
“The project aims to create a shared border of peace, friendship and sustainable development and will also enhance the special relationship, solidarity and comprehensive cooperation between Laos and Vietnam,” it said.
Laos and Vietnam have been close allies since the Indochina War, which pitted the United States military against the two countries’ communist forces.