World News | WRHL World News 2014-04-16T02:52:39Z World News Pro-Russia separatists take armor, humiliating Ukraine forces By Gabriela Baczynska and Thomas Grove KRAMATORSK/SLAVIANSK, Ukraine (Reuters) - Separatists flew the Russian flag on armored vehicles taken from the Ukrainian army on Wednesday, humiliating a Kiev government operation to recapture eastern towns controlled by pro-Moscow partisans. Six armored personnel carriers were driven into the rebel-held town of Slaviansk to waves and shouts of "Russia! Russia!". The military setback leaves Kiev looking weak on the eve of a peace conference on Thursday, when its foreign minister will meet his Russian, U.S. and European counterparts in Geneva. Moscow has responded to the overthrow of its ally Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich in February by announcing its right to intervene militarily to protect Russian speakers across the former Soviet Union, a new doctrine that has overturned decades of post-Cold War diplomacy. Obama looks to salvage Asia 'pivot' as allies fret about China By Matt Spetalnick and Manuel Mogato WASHINGTON/MANILA (Reuters) - When a Philippine government ship evaded a Chinese blockade in disputed waters of the South China Sea last month, a U.S. Navy plane swooped in to witness the dramatic encounter. The flyover was a vivid illustration of the expanding significance of one of Asia's most strategic regions and underscored a message that senior U.S. officials say President Barack Obama will make in Asia next week: The "pivot" of U.S. military and diplomatic assets toward the Asia-Pacific region is real. Washington's Asian allies, however, appear unconvinced. During Obama's four-nation tour of Asia that begins on April 23, his toughest challenge will be to reassure skeptical leaders that the United States intends to be more than just a casual observer and instead is genuinely committed to countering an increasingly assertive China in the region. Iranian negotiators reject hardline criticism of nuclear talks By Michelle Moghtader ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Iranian hardliners stepped up criticism of Tehran's negotiations with world powers over its nuclear program on Wednesday, but negotiators defended the planned deal that could lead to an end to economic sanctions. The hardliners, unsettled by the shift to a more moderate foreign policy since President Hassan Rouhani took office in August, have repeatedly criticized the talks in recent months but Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei backs them. Iran and six world powers - the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China - struck an interim deal in November under which Tehran agreed to limit some of its nuclear work in return for the easing some sanctions imposed on Iran for its disputed atomic program. Jordanian warplanes destroy vehicles trying to cross from Syria: spokesman By Suleiman Al-Khalidi AMMAN (Reuters) - Jordanian warplanes hit and destroyed several vehicles trying to cross the border from Syria, a government spokesman said on Wednesday, underlining Amman's concern about incursions from areas controlled by Syrian rebels. A Jordanian security source said the targets appeared to have been Syrian rebels with machine guns mounted on civilian vehicles who were seeking refugee from fighting with government forces in southern Syria. "What was targeted by the Jordanian air force does not belong to the Syrian army," a military source was quoted by SANA as saying. "There was an attempt to infiltrate across the border from Syria by a number of vehicles," said Jordanian government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani, also a cabinet minister. UK says Iraqi murder allegations against its troops a conspiracy Allegations British troops unlawfully killed up to 20 Iraqi men at an army camp in 2004 were part of a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, the British government told a public inquiry into the deaths on Wednesday. "The untruthful allegations cannot be attributed to honest mistakes or misunderstandings," lawyers for Britain's Ministry of Defence said in a closing submission to the inquiry, which has cost at least 27 million pounds ($45 million). "They are the product of a conspiracy between a number of the Iraqi core participants to pervert the course of justice." Almost three years after the final British troops left Iraq in 2011, costly inquiries about the war have helped keep alive a public debate about why Britain got involved in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and how the war was conducted. Despite their allegations, lawyers for relatives of the dead Iraqis said last month there was insufficient evidence to back their clients' main claim of unlawful killing, which relates to events during and after a battle in southern Iraq on May 14, 2004. Yemen's al Qaeda leader vows to attack America in new video By Yara Bayoumy DUBAI (Reuters) - The leader of al Qaeda's wing in Yemen has vowed to attack the United States, in a video apparently showing a gathering of the group celebrating a mass jailbreak of fighters. The 15-minute video, dated March 2014 and posted on a website used by Islamists, shows masked men waving al Qaeda's black flag and celebrating the arrival of the freed prisoners. We have to remember that we are always fighting the biggest enemy," says a man speaking in the open in a mountainous area, whom the video identifies as its leader Nasser al-Wuhaishi. The video, entitled "Images from the reception of the freed prisoners from Sanaa's central prison," included testimony from fighters involved in the jailbreak. Mexico nabs No. 2 in Beltran-Leyva gang MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican police said Wednesday they have captured a man identified as the second highest-ranking figure in the once-powerful Beltran Leyva drug cartel. Algerian police break up anti-government protest before election Algerian police broke up a rare anti-government protest on Wednesday, a day before elections that look set to give President Abdelaziz Bouteflika a fourth term in office although he is still recovering from a stroke. Small groups of demonstrators from Barakat - the name means "Enough" - tried to hold a sit-in in downtown Algiers before uniformed police surrounded them and dragged them off. The ruling Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN) and the army have been the main influence on the North African state's politics since independence from France in 1962. "We are just peacefully demonstrating, we are not calling for a revolution or trying to make trouble." Police dispersed several small groups of protesters, some waving Algeria's green and white flag. NATO ups military presence amid Russian threat BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO is strengthening its military footprint along its eastern border immediately in response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine, the alliance's chief said Wednesday. Mexico arrests mayor for drug cartel extortion MEXICO CITY (AP) — Prosecutors in western Mexico arrested the mayor of a city that once served as a stronghold of the Knights Templar drug cartel on charges that he helped the gang extort money from city council members. Cuba publishes text of foreign investment law HAVANA (AP) — Cuba on Wednesday published the full language of a new law that seeks to make it more attractive for foreign investors to bring badly needed capital to the island, but provides less advantage for projects that are 100 percent foreign-financed. Toyota Camry gets a top-to-bottom makeover NEW YORK (AP) — Shaken by the advances of newer, sportier rivals, the Toyota Camry is trying to shed its vanilla reputation. New chief but few changes at Brazilian federation SAO PAULO (AP) — The Brazilian soccer federation has elected a new president on Wednesday, although little is changing at the helm of the organization. Syrian opposition accuses Assad's forces of new poison gas attack Opposition activists accused President Bashar al-Assad's forces of a new poison gas attack in the Syrian capital on Wednesday, posting footage of four men being treated by medics. They said the chemical attack, the fourth the opposition has reported this month, was in the Harasta neighborhood. A voice off-screen gave the date and said Assad's forces used "poison gas in Harasta." It did not say if there were fatalities. The voice off-screen said chemical weapons were also used in Harasta on Friday. Ukraine says investigating Russia's Sberbank for financing separatists Ukraine has launched a criminal investigation against Russia's biggest lender Sberbank for facilitating financing of pro-Russian separatists, acting Attorney General Oleh Makhnitsky said on Wednesday. Makhnitsky said the Attorney General's office was investigating 14 banks for helping to finance separatists who have taken over a number of buildings in eastern Ukraine, but he did not say whether all the investigations were criminal. "A criminal investigation has been launched against, for example, Sberbank Russia, and work is underway in that direction ... for financing terrorism," Makhnitsky said in an interview on Fifth Channel television. Top Asian News at 7:00 p.m. GMT MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — A ferry carrying 462 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island, sank off South Korea's southern coast on Wednesday, leaving more than 280 people missing despite a frantic, hours-long rescue by dozens of ships and helicopters. At least four people were confirmed dead and 55 injured. The high number of people unaccounted for — likely trapped in the ship or floating in the ocean — raised fears that the death toll could rise drastically, making it one of South Korea's biggest ferry disasters since 1993, when 292 people died. Geneva talks on Ukraine face steep hurdles MOSCOW (AP) — Thursday's high-level talks in Geneva on Ukraine come as the country's eastern regions are awash in turmoil and pro-Russian insurgents have seized police stations and government buildings in at least nine cities. Jamaica agency admits sprinter's test was flawed KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Jamaica's anti-doping agency is acknowledging that sample collection procedures in sprinter Veronica Campbell-Brown's positive test were "inconsistent" with international standards. White House urges Ukraine to continue to restore order responsibly ON BOARD AIR FORCE ONE (Reuters) - The White House on Wednesday said it was appropriate for the Ukraine government to take action to restore law and order and urged it to continue to do so in a measured and responsible way. White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters traveling on Air Force One that Kiev had responded with "admirable restraint" to destabilizing actions by armed separatists in the country. (Reporting by Steve Holland, writing by Jeff Mason; Editing by Sandra Maler) Uruguay's leader declares $322,883 in wealth MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) — Uruguayan President Jose Mujica says his wealth adds up to $322,883. Nearly a third of that is cash, kept in three bank accounts that he didn't previously declare. S.Africa's Zuma booed at election rally Disgruntled residents in a small South African town booed President Jacob Zuma Wednesday during an election campaign of the ruling ANC three weeks ahead of general polls, according to a report. Rally-goers reacted angrily while Zuma -- under fire for multimillion-dollar state-paid renovations to his private home -- was answering questions from the stage, according to City Press newspaper. But Zuma, 71, who is seeking a second term, said he could not interfere with ongoing government processes. The ruling African National Congress has won every election since the first all-race polls in 1994, and is almost certain to win again in the May 7-vote. Vermont Senate passes mandatory GMO food-labeling law The Vermont Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would make the state the first in the United States to enact mandatory labeling of foods made with genetically modified crops. "We are really excited that Vermont is going to be leading on this," said Falko Schilling, a spokesman for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, which backed the bill. The bill, approved 28-2 by the Senate, has already passed the Vermont House of Representatives. The move in Vermont comes as the developers of genetically modified crops and U.S. grocery manufacturers push for passage of an opposing bill, introduced in Congress last week, that would nullify any state law that requires labeling of foods made with genetically modified crops. Bosnians see victims excavated from mass grave SEJKOVACA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Denisa Hegic pulled her scarf around her nose to guard against the stench, and drew back the plastic shroud. Shaking, she reached down to touch her mother's skull, and caressed it. Media watchdog slams Algeria visa delays to cover polls Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has criticised Algerian authorities over delays in issuing visas for foreign journalists to cover the country's presidential election on Thursday. Many journalists were "issued visas late in the day accompanied by drastic restrictions", the Paris-based group said in a statement issued on the eve of polling. Several journalists were still waiting for a response on Wednesday to visa applications, including AFP correspondent Simon Martelli although two of his colleagues were granted visas and travelled to Algiers. Martelli put in his visa application on February 28 at the Algerian embassy in Rabat, where he is posted. Iraq: Abu Ghraib prison closure not permanent BAGHDAD (AP) — An Iraqi Justice Ministry official said Wednesday that this week's closure of the infamous Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad is temporary and that it will be reopened once the security situation in the surrounding area is stable. ICC puts Darfur rebel leader's trial on ice The International Criminal Court on Wednesday postponed until further notice the war crimes trial of Darfur rebel leader Abdallah Banda, blaming "logistic difficulties" for the hold-up. "Today the trial chamber decided to vacate the date of May 5, initially scheduled for the opening of the trial... of Abdallah Banda," the Hague-based court said in a statement. Banda, around 51, faces three war crimes charges for allegedly leading an attack on African Union peacekeepers in war-ravaged northern Darfur in September 2007, killing 12. Banda's co-accused, Saleh Jerbo, 36, who was supposed to accompany him in the dock, has since been killed in fighting, Jerbo's lawyers told the court last year. Egypt court jails 120 Morsi backers over clashes An Egyptian court jailed 120 supporters of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi for three years on Wednesday over clashes that left dozens of people dead last year, officials said. The trial is part of a relentless crackdown that has targeted Morsi's supporters since the army ousted him in July. The defendants were sentenced over clashes pitting Islamist protesters against the security forces and civilian opponents that killed 24 people and wounded 90 in the central Cairo district of Dokki on October 6, the judicial officials said. Since Morsi's ouster his supporters have staged near-daily protests calling for his reinstatement, and their rallies have often descended into street clashes with security forces and civilian opponents. Top Asian News at 6:30 p.m. GMT MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — A ferry carrying 462 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island, sank off South Korea's southern coast on Wednesday, leaving more than 280 people missing despite a frantic, hours-long rescue by dozens of ships and helicopters. At least four people were confirmed dead and 55 injured. The high number of people unaccounted for — likely trapped in the ship or floating in the ocean — raised fears that the death toll could rise drastically, making it one of South Korea's biggest ferry disasters since 1993, when 292 people died. Ukraine operation to retake east unravels ahead of talks Slavyansk (Ukraine) (AFP) - An operation by Ukrainian forces to reassert control over the country's eastern regions collapsed in disarray Wednesday in the face of pro-Russian resistance, a day ahead of international talks on the escalating crisis. A concerned NATO said it planned to deploy more forces in eastern Europe and called for Russia to stop "destabilising" the former Soviet republic, which has been in deep turmoil since the ouster of pro-Kremlin president Viktor Yanukovych in February. Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that the Ukrainian government's decision to send in troops this week to put down a separatist uprising in its industrial heartland has dragged the country to the brink of civil war. In a sign that its plan was backfiring, Ukraine's defence ministry said Moscow-backed militants blocked and seized six armoured vehicles that had been deployed Tuesday in a bid to oust the separatists. Pistorius defense tries to rebuild case PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius' lawyers tried to roll back the prosecution's momentum at his murder trial Wednesday following the star athlete's shaky testimony, presenting a forensic expert who quickly found his own credentials and findings sharply questioned. Saudi court detains rights lawyer A Saudi court has ordered the arrest of a prominent rights lawyer who was on trial for insulting the authorities and defying the ultra-conservative kingdom's ruler, his wife said Wednesday. Waleed Abulkhair was already on bail for holding unauthorised meetings for reformists when he went to a fifth hearing of his trial at a Riyadh court on Tuesday. His wife Samar Badawi had not heard from him since he told her he was switching his phone off to enter the closed-hearing courtroom, and was only told on Wednesday that he was in jail, she said. No reason was given for Abulkhair's latest arrest. Egypt Islamist sentenced to 7 years for forgery CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian court convicted an ultraconservative Islamist and ally of ousted President Mohammed Morsi of forging official documents to conceal that his mother was a U.S. citizen, and sentenced him Wednesday to seven years in prison. NATO to bolster security of eastern allies worried over Ukraine By Adrian Croft BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO said on Wednesday it would send more ships, planes and troops to eastern Europe to reassure allies worried by Russia's annexation of Crimea but shied away from new permanent bases in the east as Poland wanted. "You will see deployments at sea, in the air, on land to take place immediately, that means within days," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a news conference after NATO ambassadors agreed the measures. NATO has made clear it will not intervene militarily in Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, despite Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and a buildup of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border. Angola opposition denounces backslide in democracy Angola's main opposition party Unita expressed concern Wednesday about what it called the deteriorating state of democracy in the oil-producing southern African country, after a rare meeting with its longtime president. The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita) said it feared a reversal in progress made since a devastating civil war with its rival the ruling MPLA party ended more than a decade ago. "Since 2002 we have started a process of democratisation and national reconciliation, but for some time now we have been backsliding," said party leader Isaias Samakuva a day after meeting President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. Encounters between the opposition leader and Dos Santos, who will soon celebrate 35 years in power, are very rare. 17 injured in highway clash of Croatian fans ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Police say at least 17 supporters of two rival Croatian football clubs have been injured, two seriously, as they clashed on a busy highway. Al-Nusra chief killed by rivals in Syria Beirut (AFP) - Jihadist militants of the Islamist State of Iraq and the Levant have killed the head of the Al-Nusra Front and his family in northern Syria, a monitoring group said Wednesday. Bosnians see families excavated from mass grave SEJKOVACA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Family members of victims from Bosnia's 1992-1995 war are beginning to travel to northwestern Bosnia to view the remains of corpses meticulously pulled from the earth and identified through DNA analysis. WRHL 2014-04-16T19:52:39Z