Obama signs bill to boost military cooperation with Israel
President Obama has announced that America will increase its military assistance to Israel by $70 million, signing legislation to boost security ties between the two countries. The measure comes on the eve of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s trip to Jerusalem. Obama first announced the aid in May, with the money to be spent on Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.
Syrian rebels prepare for ‘mother of all battles’ in Aleppo
More than 5,000 rebels are ready to fight government forces in Aleppo, according to Free Syrian Army commander Abu Omar al-Halabi. Severe battles have raged in Syria’s biggest city for the past week, but al-Halabi claims the rebel forces have more than doubled over the past two days, and there have been reports of government tanks moving towards the city. "We are ready for the mother of all battles," said al-Halabi.
Japan would send troops to East China Sea if islands there attacked by China – minister
Japan’s defense minister Satoshi Morimoto said his country would send troops to the uninhabited Senkaku islands if they became subject to “illegal actions.” Earlier this month Chinese ships entered the waters around the resource-rich islands on two occasions. Although the islands have been in Japanese possession intermittently since 1895, they are being claimed by both China and Taiwan.
Rosneft and TNK-BP postpone joint Arctic shelf exploration talks
The British-Russian oil company TNK-BP and Russian state giant Rosneft will no longer discuss joint projects on the Arctic shelf, said TNK-BP CFO Jonathan Muir. TNK-BP offered to drill for oil and gas in 12 segments of the Arctic shelf after Rosneft put out a tender in April. There has been recent speculation that Rosneft plans to buy out the British share of TNK-BP.
Facebook sheds $10 billion in a day
Facebook has lost $10 billion of its valuation after shares fell 17 per cent during Friday’s trading. Facebook is now worth $48 billion - less than half of its initial capitalization following its IPO in May. The fall was attributed to the social network’s failure to offer a financial forecast and growing costs associated with improving its mobile phone software.
CNN chief Jim Walton quits
CNN head Jim Walton has left his post, saying the news network needs fresh leadership with a new perspective and plans. He announced his decision in an e-mail to staff and is to step down at the end of the year. Walton has led CNN for 10 years. The network has had unprecedentedly poor ratings during the past few months, trailing in third place behind its rivals Fox News Channel and MSNBC.
Iran ‘willing’ to continue nuclear talks – Khamenei’s adviser
Tehran is willing to continue talks with world powers over its nuclear program until they reach a conclusion, Ali Akbar Velayati, an international adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Friday. Iran will pursue nuclear talks until their “positive and constructive conclusion,” ISNA news agency quoted him as saying. Velayati, a former foreign minister, reiterated that the West should recognize Iran's right to peaceful nuclear activities. Tehran insists it is developing its nuclear program for peaceful purposes.
Afghan president signs decree to battle corruption
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has issued a decree to fight bribery, nepotism and cronyism. The 23-page decree instructs officials to clear the attorney general's office and the courts of corruption-related cases. The document also repeats Karzai’s request that high-ranking government officials or their relatives do not get rebuilding contracts. The decree is similar to an executive order, but is ambiguous about what happens to those who don't comply, AP said. Karzai has long been under pressure from the international community to do more to battle corruption.
Poland closes embassy in Syria, evacuates staff
Poland has closed its embassy in Syria and evacuated its diplomats because of the deteriorating security situation. The decision was made out of concern for the security of the embassy's staff, Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said on Friday, as cited by AP. Polish Embassy in Syria has been representing the US interests in the country. The embassy could reopen as soon as security conditions allow it, Sikorski said.
Suspect in Israel ‘attack plot’ to stand trial in Cyprus
A Swedish national arrested in Cyprus on suspicion of plotting to attack Israeli tourists will stand trial on September 12, officials said on Friday. The man, of Lebanese descent, faces nine charges of offences related to tracking the movements and areas frequented by Israeli visitors to Cyprus. He was arrested on July 7 as a suspected security threat, Reuters reports. Israel has said the Swede was planning an attack similar to a suicide bus bombing in the Bulgarian city of Burgas on July 18. That attack killed seven people, five of them Israelis.
Turkey sets up ‘secret nerve center’ to aid Syria rebels – reports
Ankara has set up a secret base with Saudi Arabia and Qatar to direct military and communications aid to Syrian rebels, Reuters said, citing Gulf sources. The center in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 100 km from the Syrian border is allegedly “militarily controlled” by Turkey, a source said. US intelligence representatives “are working through middlemen,” who are controlling “access to weapons and routes,” the report said. Adana is home to Incirlik, a large Turkish and US air force base. Ankara has officially denied supplying weapons to Syrian rebels. The three states have not commented on the “secret base” reports.
Serbia parliament approves ex-Milosevic spokesman’s government
Ivica Dacic became Serbia's new prime minister on Friday after the parliament approved his cabinet. In a 250-member assembly, 142 MPs supported the government and 72 voted against it. Dacic, Slobodan Milosevic's former spokesman, will head a coalition government of his own Socialist Party, the Progressive Party of President Tomislav Nikolic and several smaller groups. Dacic has pledged to promote reconciliation in the Balkans.
Several Red Cross staff pulled out of Syria
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is temporarily moving some of its foreign staff from the Syrian capital to neighboring Lebanon. The move was prompted by security concerns but a core team of about 50 staff would remain, a Red Cross spokesman in Geneva said on Friday. Syrian Arab Red Crescent was suspending some of its operations in the northern city of Aleppo due to heavy fighting, AP reports. The Red Cross hopes to bring its staff back into the country.
Greek PM outlines reforms to EU austerity inspectors
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras met international austerity inspectors on Friday. He outlined new harsh cost-cutting reforms so as Greece could get rescue loans. The day before, the EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso urged Samaras to “deliver, deliver, deliver” on previous promises. The inspectors also met on Thursday with Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras. The parties in the month-old Greek government have finalized proposals to slash 11.5 billion euro in government spending over two years.