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  • Short of cash, U.N. cuts Syria refugees' rations again The World Food Programme, running short of cash, will halve the value of food vouchers given to Syrian refugees in Lebanon this month and may cut all help for 440,000 Syrians in Jordan next month, the U.N. agency said on Wednesday. "Just when we thought things couldn’t get worse, we are forced yet again to make yet more cuts," Muhannad Hadi, WFP's Regional Director for the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and Eastern Europe, said in a statement. “Refugees were already struggling to cope with what little we could provide.” United Nations aid agencies said last week that a $4.5 billion appeal to tackle the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015 was less than a quarter funded, putting millions of vulnerable people at risk, and had already led to cuts in vital assistance.
  • Rebel fire kills 20 civilians in Yemen's Aden 

    A Yemeni member of the southern separatist movement, loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, keeps position in Aden's suburbs, on June 3, 2015Rebel fire on a residential district of Yemen's second city Aden killed at least 20 civilians Wednesday as loyalist forces in central city Taez launched a manhunt for 1,200 escaped prisoners. Both cities have seen heavy fighting as loyalists of exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi battle to fight back Huthi Shiite rebels with the support of a Saudi-led bombing campaign launched in March. Aden was Hadi's last refuge before he fled into exile in neighbouring Saudi Arabia in March and his loyalists have been battling to defend it against the rebels and renegade troops.

  • HRW urges Gulf states to follow Kuwait on maid rights 

    A general view of Kuwait City, seen in 2014Kuwait's first-ever legislation on the rights of domestic helpers is a "major step" that other Gulf states should follow, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday. Kuwaiti authorities should rigorously implement the law, passed last week, and address remaining legal and policy gaps that discriminate against domestic workers and put them at risk, the New York-based rights group said. The new law grants domestic workers the right to a weekly day off, 30 days of annual paid leave, a 12-hour working day with rest, and an end-of-service benefit of one month a year at the end of the contract, among other rights, HRW said.

  • Year into Sisi's power, Egyptians lament persistent hardships 

    Egypt's President Sisi addresses a joint news conference in BerlinBy Yara Bayoumy CAIRO (Reuters) - After a year in power, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's aura of invincibility may be fading as he comes under closer scrutiny from a public growing impatient with the same social inequalities that triggered a mass uprising in 2011. To be sure, Sisi is still firmly in control, with security forces cracking down on dissent, and Western and Gulf Arab powers on his side, pumping billions of dollars into the economy each year to support a strategic ally. Egypt's leaders, he said, were out of touch.

  • Russia-US ties alive and well at Iran nuclear talks VIENNA (AP) — Russia-U.S. relations are at a post-Cold War low just about everywhere, except at the Iran nuclear talks.
  • Islamic State threatens to topple Hamas in Gaza Islamic State insurgents threatened on Tuesday to turn the Gaza Strip into another of their Middle East fiefdoms, accusing Hamas, the organization that rules the Palestinian territory, of being insufficiently stringent about religious enforcement. The video statement, issued from an Islamic State stronghold in Syria, was a rare public challenge to Hamas, which has been cracking down on jihadis in Gaza who oppose its truces with Israel and reconciliation with the U.S.-backed rival Palestinian faction Fatah. "We will uproot the state of the Jews (Israel) and you and Fatah, and all of the secularists are nothing and you will be over-run by our creeping multitudes," said a masked Islamic State member in the message addressed to the "tyrants of Hamas".
  • Yemen fighting allows 1,200 prisoners to flee SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Some 1,200 inmates fled a prison in Yemen on Tuesday after guards deserted their posts amid fierce fighting between Shiite rebels and their opponents, officials said.
  • Egypt's president vows 'swift justice' after assassination 

    An Egyptian woman chants pro-government slogans, during the funeral of Egyptian Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat, killed in a bomb attack a day earlier, outside the Hussein Tantawi Mosque in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, June 30, 2015. Heavy security forces deployed across the Egyptian capital for the burial of Barakat, the top judicial official in charge of overseeing prosecution of thousands of Islamists. The poster at bottom left shows a photo of Barakat. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)CAIRO (AP) — President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi vowed Tuesday to accelerate a crackdown on extremists and bring "swift justice" after the assassination of Egypt's chief prosecutor, raising the prospect of carrying out executions of senior Muslim Brotherhood figures, including the former president.

  • Pope to meet with homeless, prisoners and immigrants in US 

    Pope Francis blesses the faithful as he celebrates the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Monday, June 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis will meet with homeless people, immigrants and prisoners during his upcoming trip to Cuba and the United States and become the first pope to address the U.S. Congress. He'll also preside over a meeting about religious liberty — a major issue for U.S. bishops in the wake of the Supreme Court's gay marriage decision.

  • Angry protesters whitewash rainbow flag on West Bank barrier 

    THIS ADDS MORE INFO - A part of the separation barrier is seen repainted after an Palestinian artist painted a rainbow flag in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, June 30, 2015. The artist, Khaled Jarrar, said Tuesday his art was meant as a reminder that Palestinians live under Israeli occupation, at a time when gay rights are in the news after the U.S. allowed same-sex weddings. Palestinian protesters perceived the painting as support for homosexuality, a taboo subject in Palestinian society where gays are not tolerated and rushed to paint it over hours after it was painted. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Palestinian protesters whitewashed a rainbow flag of gay rights that was painted by a Palestinian artist on six slabs of the West Bank separation barrier.

  • Italy recovers first bodies from deadliest migrant shipwreck Italy's navy said on Tuesday it had retrieved the first bodies from the wreck of a boat that sank in the Mediterranean three months ago, killing up to 800 migrants attempting to cross from Libya to Europe. Recovery operations started on Monday, using remote-controlled vehicles and a container called a "Big Bag" in a submersible basket to haul the bodies up from the fishing boat, which is lying at a depth of about 370 meters (1,200 feet). The disaster, believed to be the worst in decades of perilous sea-borne migration from North Africa, has shocked the European Union into expanding rescue operations.
  • UK and Netherlands become less migrant-friendly: index By Emma Batha LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain and the Netherlands have become less friendly places for migrants due to the impact of far-right parties and austerity measures, with both countries falling out of the top 10 in an index released on Tuesday. The index comparing integration policies in 38 countries comes at a highly sensitive time for Europe as governments clash over how to share out tens of thousands of migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. Sweden was the best country for integration, followed by Portugal and New Zealand, according to the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) 2015.
  • Millions of children face disease, malnutrition in war-torn Yemen: U.N. By Kieran Guilbert LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Escalating violence in Yemen has devastated the country's health system and exposed millions of children to the threat of preventable diseases including measles, pneumonia and diarrhea, the United Nations children's agency UNICEF said on Tuesday. Since fighting intensified in March, many hospitals and health centers have been unable to function properly and vaccination services have been disrupted, according to UNICEF. Health centers lack the electricity and fuel needed to distribute vaccines and keep them cold, while the fear of conflict is deterring parents from taking their children to receive vaccinations, the U.N. agency said.
  • Iran-US talks give foes rare window into another world 

    Iranians gather at Tehran's Azadi Square (Freedom Square) on June 30, 2015, to unveil a petition in support of the Iranian team pursuing a nuclear agreement with world powersIran and US have not had diplomatic ties for more than three decades, yet over the past 20 months they have likely sat down together more often than any other nations on Earth. The sustained pace and intensity of the nuclear negotiations between Iran -- an Islamic clerical theocracy -- and the United States which prides itself on its constitutional freedoms, is all the more astonishing given the old enmities under the surface. Only last week shouts of "Death to America" rang out in the Iranian parliament, while Washington issued yet another indictment of Tehran's failure to improve human rights, after also reaffirming its conviction that Iran is the top state sponsor of global terror attacks.

  • Amnesty slams Egypt over arrests of youths CAIRO (Reuters) - Amnesty International has accused the Egyptian authorities of jailing young activists to quell unrest under one of the toughest crackdowns in the country's history.     In a report released Tuesday called "Generation Jail: Egypt's youth go from protest to prison," Amnesty looked at the cases of 14 young people among thousands it said were arbitrarily imprisoned in Egypt in the past two years in connection with protests. ...
  • Denmark to impose controls on border, risking EU ire 

    Danish customs officers watch traffic at a checkpoint on the German-Danish border crossing in FroslevBy Alexander Tange COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark will impose controls on its border to stop smugglers and illegal migrants, its new foreign minister said on Tuesday, in a move likely to worry the European Union but please a right-wing party on whose support the government now depends. More police, machines screening number plates and other measures would increase security without breaking EU rules guaranteeing freedom of movement through the bloc, Kristian Jensen told Reuters. The EU is grappling with an unprecedented flow of refugees from the Middle East and Africa which is testing its asylum rules and the Schengen agreement - its core agreement on unrestricted travel.

  • California oil train risks worse in minority areas: report By Terry Wade HOUSTON (Reuters) - Californians most exposed to the risks of oil train derailments or fires overwhelmingly live in poorer, minority neighborhoods, two environmental groups in the state said on Tuesday. The report, the first of its kind to explicitly link issues of class and race to the ongoing oil train safety debate, urged state regulators to ban oil imports by train into California and reject permits for several projects refiners have proposed to expand oil-by-rail cargo capacity. After analyzing U.S. census data for the 10 biggest cities in the state and several smaller ones near refineries, ForestEthics and Communities for a Better Environment found the neighborhoods with the largest minority populations were usually inside the so-called blast zone, the one-mile evacuation zone along tracks recommended by the U.S. Department of Transportation in case of accidents.
  • The Iran deal: A look at what it does and problems remaining 

    Secretary of State John Kerry plays with his crutches as he talks to reporters before leaving from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Friday, June 26, 2015, en route to Vienna, Austria. Kerry flies to Vienna on Friday to join negotiators from six powers and Iran seeking an agreement under which Tehran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions that have crippled its economy. (Carlos Barria/Pool Photo via AP)VIENNA (AP) — World powers and Iran are back in nuclear talks, and this round may be the deciding one.

  • Third day with no new MERS cases in South Korea 

    The number of those to have been infected by MERS remain unchanged at 182, South Korea's health ministry saysSouth Korea said Tuesday it had gone three days without any new cases of the deadly MERS virus, in a welcome boost to efforts to tackle the largest outbreak outside Saudi Arabia. The news came as the health ministry said an 81-year-old woman who contracted Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in late May had become the 33rd fatality from the current outbreak.

  • Obama speaks to Cameron, Tunisian leader in attack aftermath WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is offering U.S. assistance to the investigation into the attack in Tunisia that killed 38 people at a beach resort.
  • Four Israelis wounded in suspected Palestinian West Bank shooting A gunman opened fire at a group of Israelis near a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank on Monday, the Israeli military said, in a suspected Palestinian drive-by attack. A spokesman for Israel's ambulance service Magen David Adom said medics were treating four people in their twenties, one of them badly wounded. Earlier on Monday, police said a Palestinian woman stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier at a crossing between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
  • For world, limited options if Iran talks fall apart 

    FILE - In this Saturday, June 13, 2015 file photo, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference on the second anniversary of his election in Tehran, Iran. A picture of the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hangs on the wall. Should the talks over Iran's nuclear program collapse, the alternatives are not appealing: the war option that the United States has kept on the table has few fans, and the world does not seem willing to truly bring Iran to its knees by shutting off the flow of capital and goods. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)CAIRO (AP) — The Iranian nuclear talks are playing out in classic fashion: A self-imposed deadline appears to have been extended due to stubborn disputes, with the sides publicly sticking to positions and facing internal pressure from opponents ready to pounce on any compromise.

  • Putin, elites bid farewell to ex-PM and master spy Primakov 

    Russian President Vladimir Putin pays his respects beside the coffin of former prime minister Yevgeny Primakov during a memorial service in Moscow on June 29, 2015Russia on Monday bade farewell to former prime minister, foreign minister and master spy Yevgeny Primakov, with a state funeral for one of the last Soviet-era political titans who died last week aged 85. Dignitaries led by President Vladimir Putin paid their last respects to the former prime minister, whose remains lay in state in the House of the Unions in central Moscow flanked by an honour guard. "Without doubt he was a great citizen of our country," Putin said after laying flowers by the coffin and briefly touching it with his hand.

  • Cyprus sentences Lebanese to six years on bomb charges 

    A Cypriot policeman escorts a 26-year-old Lebanese-Canadian suspect, Hussein Bassam Abdallah, into a police van following a court appearance in Larnaca on June 29, 2015Cyprus on Monday sentenced to six years in jail a Lebanese man who pleaded guilty to terror charges linked to 8.2 tonnes of potential bomb-making material found in his home. Judicial authorities said that Hussein Bassam Abdallah, who also has a Canadian passport, was a member of the military wing of the Iranian-backed Shiite movement Hezbollah. The 26-year-old was sentence to jail by a criminal court in the southern town of Larnaca after he pleaded guilty to terror charges.

  • IS threat grows as 'caliphate' enters second year The Islamic State group's "caliphate" enters its second year Monday with the jihadists expanding their territory in Syria and Iraq, and their global reach, by claiming attacks in Tunisia and Kuwait. The extremist group headed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced on June 29, 2014 that it was reviving a form of Islamic government known as the "caliphate", pledging it would "remain and expand". In the year since, the group has gained more territory in Syria and Iraq despite an attempted fightback supported by a US-led coalition air campaign.
  • Hungarian police use tear gas to break up clashes at migrant camp By Gergely Szakacs and Sandor Peto BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungarian police fired tear gas to subdue hundreds of people fighting each other and throwing rocks in an overcrowded camp for migrants in the eastern city of Debrecen, authorities said. Rioting migrants also set fire to garbage and a policeman was injured when a flying rock struck him in the head, Interior Ministry spokesman Attila Samu said. Hungary, a landlocked central European country of 10 million people, is in the European Union's Schengen visa-free travel zone and thus an attractive destination for tens of thousands of migrants entering Europe through the Balkans from the Middle East and Africa.
  • Italy begins to recover hundreds of migrant bodies from shipwreck By Steve Scherer ROME (Reuters) - Italy's navy said on Monday it had begun to recover the bodies of up to 800 migrants from a fishing boat that sank in the Mediterranean three months ago, a tragedy that prompted the European Union to expand sea rescue operations. The 20-metre fishing boat capsized and sank in April as it approached a merchant ship that had come to its aid. Three navy ships and remote-controlled submersibles have been used to take bodies from the sea bed near the shipwreck, which is about 135 km (85 miles) north of Libya at a depth of about 370 meters (1,214 ft), the navy said in a statement.
  • French minister: No new target date for Iran nuclear talks 

    Journalists and journalists are waiting in front of Palais Coburg where closed-door nuclear talks with Iran take place in Vienna, Austria, Monday, June 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Negotiators trying to rein in Iran's nuclear program have decided not to set a new target date to conclude talks, France's foreign minister said Monday, and he warned that if an agreement isn't "very robust" other countries in the Middle East will seek to develop nuclear weapons.

  • Putin urges all to fight IS group, backs Syria's Assad 

    Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualem, right, meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's Kremlin, Russia on Monday, June 29, 2015. (Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)MOSCOW (AP) — In a surprise meeting with Syria's foreign minister, Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged his support Monday for Syrian President Bashar Assad and called on all Middle East nations to join forces to fight Islamic State militants.

  • Putin and Russian political elite bid farewell to Primakov 

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, walks with flowers during a civil funeral for former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, in Moscow's House of the Unions, Russia, Monday, June 29, 2015. Primakov, whose career included journalism, diplomacy and spycraft, has died at age 85. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's president and political elite joined thousands of mourners on Monday in bidding farewell to Yevgeny Primakov, a former prime minister who also served as Russia's top diplomat and foreign intelligence chief during a long and distinguished career.

  • AP PHOTOS: Editor selections from the Middle East 

    FILE - In this Thursday, June 25, 2015 file photo, an Afghan girl waits to receive food donation during the holy month of Ramadan in Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini, File)In the Middle East this week, the holy month of Ramadan — when devout Muslims abstain from all food and drink from dawn to dusk — brought scenes of hardship and charity, and also images of carnage.

  • Family pleads for American's release on margins of Iran talks 

    This handout photo obtained on June 28, 2015 shows Sarah Hekmati (L), her husband Ramy Kurdi (C) and US television personality Montel Williams outside the venue of the Iran talks in ViennaSarah Hekmati's young son had it all figured out. At this point the family of Amir Hekmati feels it may need superhuman intervention to free the former US Marine, who has been imprisoned in Iran since 2011. "We've been struggling for four years now, and we're just exhausted," Sarah Hekmati told AFP on Sunday, describing how her brother's incarceration has taken its toll on the family with her father now terminally ill, and her young children unable to grasp why their uncle is being held by Iran.

  • Italian coast guard: 2,900 saved in several sea rescues ROME (AP) — Italian coast guard ships and vessels from a multi-nation naval mission and humanitarian organizations rescued at least 2,900 migrants Sunday from 21 boats launched by smugglers from Libyan shores, authorities said.
  • Kuwait names Saudi man as suicide bomber in mosque attack 

    This undated photo released by Kuwait News Agency, KUNA, Sunday, June 28, 2015, shows Fahad Suleiman Abdulmohsen al-Gabbaa. Kuwaiti authorities on Sunday identified al-Gabbaa as a Saudi citizen who flew into the Gulf nation just hours before he blew himself in an attack on one of Kuwait’s oldest Shiite mosques during midday Friday prayers, that killed over two dozen people and wounded over 200. (AP Photo/KUNA)KUWAIT CITY (AP) — Kuwaiti authorities on Sunday identified the suicide bomber behind an attack on a Shiite mosque that killed 27 people as a Saudi citizen who flew into the Gulf nation just hours before blowing himself up.

  • Factbox: A guide to nuclear talks between Iran and six major powers By Louis Charbonneau VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran and six world powers - the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China - are in what may be the final phase of negotiations aimed at securing a deal on sanctions relief in exchange for limits on Iranian nuclear activities. BACKGROUND The nuclear standoff between Iran and the West goes back to at least 2002, when a group of exiles revealed undeclared nuclear facilities in Iran. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) later confirmed that they were a uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and a heavy-water production plant at Arak.
  • Police arrest Kuwaiti national, others for mosque bombing 

    Thousands of Sunnis and Shiites from across the country take part in a mass funeral procession for 27 people killed in a suicide bombing that targeted the Shiite Imam Sadiq Mosque a day earlier, at Kuwait's Grand Mosque in Kuwait city, Kuwait, Saturday, June 27, 2015. Police in Kuwait said they are interrogating a number of suspects with possible links to the suicide bombing, which was claimed by an affiliate of the Islamic State group. (AP Photo)KUWAIT CITY (AP) — Police have arrested a number of people, among them a Kuwaiti citizen, suspected of being behind a suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque that killed 27 people, Kuwait's Interior Ministry said early Sunday.

  • Tunisia faces tough task facing up to extremist threat 

    Flower bouquets are seen at the site of a shooting attack on the beach in front of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port el Kantaoui, south of Tunis on June 27, 2015Friday's assault by a Tunisian student at a popular resort at Port El Kantaoui that killed 38 people illustrates the complexity of the challenges ahead for Tunisia four years after its revolution. After Friday's attack, Prime Minister Habib Essid announced an "exceptional plan to better secure tourist and archaeological sites". The authorities announced a crackdown on such mosques in March 2014, and in July last year officials vowed to close mosques where the killing of 15 Tunisian soldiers had been celebrated.

  • The Latest: Germany says 1 citizen killed in Tunisia attack 

    This image taken from a militant website associated with Islamic State extremists, posted Saturday, June 27, 2015, purports to show Tunisian gunman Seifeddine Rezgui who killed tens of people in the Tunisian beach resort of Sousse on Friday. (Militant photo via AP)TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — The latest news from an attack on a beach resort in Tunisia (all times local):

  • Once unheard of, US-Iran talks become the new normal 

    From left, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, second from right, at a hotel in Vienna, Austria, Saturday, June 27, 2015. After nearly a decade of international diplomacy, negotiators are trying to reach a final agreement by Tuesday that would curb Iran's nuclear activities for a decade and put tens of billions of dollars back into the Iranian economy through the easing of financial sanctions. (Carlos Barria/Pool Photo via AP)VIENNA (AP) — The top American and Iranian diplomats faced each other across a square table in a 19th century Viennese palace, the room austerely decorated and the atmosphere calm as they started the final push for a generation-defining nuclear agreement on Saturday.

  • South Korea fears MERS may have spread to new hospital 

    Medical workers at a separated clinic center for MERS at Konkuk University Hospital in Seoul on June 24, 2015South Korea on Saturday said it was closely monitoring a hospital in eastern Seoul over fears that hundreds of people there may have been exposed to the deadly MERS virus. The city's health minister said the man was being tested for MERS.



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