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  • Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine not about to end sit-ins

  • By Gabriela Baczynska and Aleksandar Vasovic DONETSK, Ukraine (Reuters) - Pro-Russian separatists occupying public buildings in eastern Ukraine reacted to an international accord to defuse the crisis on Thursday by saying they would not agree to leave the sites before other major conditions were met. The Ukrainian and Russian governments, along with the United States and European Union, signed an agreement in Geneva that said: "All illegal armed groups must be disarmed; One protest leader even interpreted the Geneva deal to mean that the prime minister and acting president must step down -since they were illegally "occupying" the offices of state. Other activists said they planned to maintain their sit-ins until they could hold a referendum next month that some believe can emulate Crimea and see the region annexed to Russia.
  • Who gained, and what, at Ukraine talks

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before a bilateral meeting to discuss the ongoing situation in Ukraine as diplomats from the U.S., Ukraine, Russia and the European Union gather for discussions in Geneva Thursday, April 17, 2014. Ukraine is hoping to placate Russia and calm hostilities with its neighbor even as the U.S. prepares a new round of sanctions to punish Moscow for what it regards as fomenting unrest. (AP Photo)MOSCOW (AP) — The talks in Geneva on Ukraine brought together four parties that had seemed extremely far apart on some issues, but within a few hours they produced a broad agreement that that holds out substantial hope for a crisis that appeared on the verge of spinning out of control.



  • Turkey increases spy agency's powers

  • Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan walks outside his office in Ankara, Turkey, Thursday, April 17, 2014. Turkey's parliament looks set to pass a bill that increases the powers and immunities of the country's spy agency. It is the latest in a string of moves critics say is undermining democracy in the country that is a candidate to join the European Union. The bill, expected to be voted on Thursday, gives the National Intelligence Agency greater eavesdropping and operational powers and increases its immunities and abilities to keep tabs on citizens. Journalists publishing classified documents would face prison terms. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey's parliament on Thursday approved a bill that increases the powers and immunities of the country's spy agency. It's the latest in a string of moves that critics say is undermining the country's democracy.



  • NATO to send ships to Baltic to bolster defense of eastern European allies

  • By Adrian Croft BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO is sending part of its naval rapid reaction force to the Baltic Sea as part of a drive to step up the defense of eastern European allies in response to the crisis in Ukraine, the military alliance said on Thursday. Separately, Canada said it had offered six CF-18 fighter planes as its contribution to NATO efforts to beef up its presence in eastern Europe and reassure nervous allies there that NATO would protect them in the event of any Russian aggression. NATO, the 28-member alliance dominated by the United States, has made clear it does not plan to get involved militarily in Ukraine, which is not a NATO member.
  • U.S. releases $450 million of frozen Iranian funds after IAEA report

  • The United States has taken steps to release a $450 million installment of frozen Iranian funds following a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verifying that Iran is living up to its part of a landmark nuclear pact with world powers, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that "all sides have kept the commitments made" under the agreement. She said that "as Iran remains in line with its commitments," the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China, Russia and the European Union "will continue to uphold our commitments as well." The report by the U.N. nuclear agency showed that Iran had - as stipulated under the November 24 agreement - diluted half of its higher-grade enriched uranium reserve to a fissile content less prone to bomb proliferation. Tehran has also continued to convert the other half of its stock of uranium gas refined to a 20 percent fissile purity, the IAEA report said.
  • Kosovo PM urges vote on new war crimes court but calls it insult

  • Kosovo's PM Thaci speaks to Reuters during an interview in PristinaBy Fatos Bytyci PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo's premier has summoned parliament to vote on creating an EU-backed special court to try ethnic Albanian ex-guerrillas accused of harvesting organs from murdered Serbs during the Balkan state's 1990s war, but criticized the plan as an insult. The move stems from a 2011 report by Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty alleging that Kosovo Albanian guerrillas fighting a war of independence from Serbia had smuggled the bodies of Serbs into Albania and removed their organs for sale. "This issue is completely unfair and an insult for the state of Kosovo," Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, who was the political chief of the old Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), said on Thursday.



  • Text of joint statement on Ukraine

  • GENEVA (AP) — Here is the joint statement issued by the foreign ministers of the U.S., Russia, Ukraine and European Union after seven hours of talks Thursday in Geneva:
  • Canada sends fighter jets to Eastern Europe

  • Weapons are loaded onto a CF-18 Hornet fighter jet on November 4, 2009 near El Centro, CaliforniaCanada is deploying six CF-18 fighter jets to Eastern Europe as part of NATO's response to the worsening crisis in Ukraine, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Thursday. Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Ukraine was on the brink of civil war, stoking fears of outright Russian intervention. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania -- which border Russia and have sizeable ethnic Russian populations -- have all sought reassurances, as have Ukraine's neighbors Poland and Romania. Harper condemned what he called "Russia's illegal occupation of Ukraine and its ongoing aggressive military provocation."



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  • Croatia extradites ex-spy to Germany

  • BERLIN (AP) — A former top spy in Yugoslavia's feared secret service has been extradited to Germany, where he is wanted in connection with murder of a political dissident 31 years ago.
  • U.S. releases $450 million of frozen Iranian funds after IAEA report

  • The United States has taken steps to release a $450 million installment of frozen Iranian funds following a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verifying that Iran is living up to its part of a landmark nuclear pact with world powers, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that "all sides have kept the commitments made" under the agreement. She said that "as Iran remains in line with its commitments," the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China, Russia and the European Union "will continue to uphold our commitments as well." The report by the U.N. nuclear agency showed that Iran had - as stipulated under the November 24 agreement - diluted half of its higher-grade enriched uranium reserve to a fissile content less prone to bomb proliferation. Tehran has also continued to convert the other half of its stock of uranium gas refined to a 20 percent fissile purity, the IAEA report said.
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  • French far-right 'opens arms' to UKIP

  • The leader of the right-wing Front National party in France has said that she would welcome collaboration with UKIP in fighting against the EU "with open arms".
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  • French far-right 'opens arms' to UKIP

  • The leader of the right-wing Front National party in France has said that she would welcome collaboration with UKIP in fighting against the EU "with open arms".
  • French forces free five kidnapped Malian aid workers

  • A French army helicopter flies over the desert on November 1, 2013, near the village of Bourem between Timbuktu and Gao, northern MaliFrench forces have freed five Malian aid workers who were taken hostage in a February kidnapping claimed by one of the country's top jihadist groups, the presidents of France and Mali said Thursday. "An operation by the French armed forces" freed the five workers -- four Red Cross employees and a veterinarian from another aid organisation -- after "a terrorist group" kidnapped them on February 8 in Mali's restive north, the presidents said in a joint statement. The kidnapping was claimed by the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), a splinter group of Al-Qaeda's regional franchise. MUJAO is one of the groups that occupied the north of Mali in 2012 before they were driven from the region's main cities by a French-led military offensive launched in January 2013.



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  • ICC subpoenas eight Kenyan witnesses in Ruto trial

  • Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto arrives on September 23, 2013 at the International Criminal Court in The HagueThe International Criminal Court on Thursday summoned several reluctant witnesses in the trial of Kenya's Vice President William Ruto, the first time it has tried to force witnesses to testify. "Today the trial chamber granted by majority, the prosecutor's request to subpoena eight Kenyan witnesses to appear... in the case of William Ruto and Joshua arap Sang," the Hague-based court said in a statement. The ICC's founding Rome Statute does not explicitly say that the court can subpoena witnesses, and experts are divided on whether it has the right. Ruto, 47, became the highest-ranking serving official to go on trial before the ICC in September last year on charges of masterminding some of the post-election violence in Kenya in 2007-08.



  • Spate of Mideast virus infections raises concerns

  • FILE- In this Wednesday, April 16, 2014, file photo, passengers walk past the medical quarantine area showing information sheets for the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus at the arrival section of Manila's International Airport in Paranaque, south of Manila. One expert says recent outbreaks of MERS in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that led to more than 20 infections, many among health-care workers, “have put us into uncharted territory.” (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A recent spate of infections from a frequently deadly Middle East virus is raising new worries about efforts to contain the illness, with infectious disease experts urging greater vigilance in combatting its spread.



  • Pope washes feet of elderly, disabled in rite

  • Pope Francis holds the holy gospel book as he celebrates the Chrism Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Thursday, April 17, 2014. During the mass the Pontiff blesses a token amount of oil that will be used to administer the sacraments throughout the year. The Chrism Mass marks the start of the Easter celebrations. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)ROME (AP) — Pope Francis has washed the feet of 12 elderly and disabled people — women and non-Catholics among them — in a pre-Easter ritual designed to show his willingness to serve like a "slave."



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  • Hungary remembers Holocaust amid boycotts, protests

  • A person searches her siblings on the wall of Holocaust victims at the Holocaust Musem in Budapest on April 16, 2014Pécs (Hungary) (AFP) - Hungary bean 70th anniversary commemorations of the Holocaust on Wednesday amid boycotts and protests by Jewish groups which accuse the government of whitewashing the country's role in the mass deportations of Jews in 1944. Marking the day when Hungarian Jews were first placed in ghettoes in 1944, ceremonies were held around the country as part of "Holocaust 2014", a programme of events organised by Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government. In Budapest, President Janos Ader and Deputy Prime Minister Tibor Navracsics lit candles at a monument by the Danube commemorating the thousands of Jews shot into the water in 1944-1945 by the Hungarian fascist Arrow Cross militia. A ceremony was also to be held at Budapest's Holocaust Museum, with trees planted and candles lit to remember the 600,000 Hungarian Jews who perished in the Holocaust.



  • Serbia eyes renewed coalition of center-right and Socialists

  • Serbian Deputy Prime Minister and the leader of Serbian Progressive Party Vucic toasts with champagne at the party headquarters in BelgradeBy Ivana Sekularac BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia's center-right Progressive Party, which won the March election by a landslide, said on Tuesday it had offered a place in a coalition government to the Socialists of outgoing Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, despite deep differences over austerity. The two parties have been in government together since mid-2012, but the Progressives forced a snap election last month saying they needed a stronger mandate to overhaul the bloated public sector and stabilize Serbia's shaky finances. The Socialist Party (SPS) has opposed radical belt-tightening, fearing a backlash from its support base among public sector workers and pensioners. Nevertheless, Progressive Party (SNS) leader and Serbia's next prime minister, Aleksandar Vucic, said he had offered a place in a new coalition cabinet to the Socialists and a party of ethnic Hungarians.



  • Hungary's Orban retains two-thirds legislative majority

  • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban gives his first international press conference after the parliamentary election, in the Delegation Hall of the parliament building in Budapest on April 7, 2014Budapest (AFP) - Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban retained his controlling two-thirds majority in parliament following last week's election, a final ballot count revealed early Sunday, giving him free legislative rein for the next four years.



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  • ICC subpoenas eight Kenyan witnesses in Ruto trial

  • Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto arrives on September 23, 2013 at the International Criminal Court in The HagueThe International Criminal Court on Thursday summoned several reluctant witnesses in the trial of Kenya's Vice President William Ruto, the first time it has tried to force witnesses to testify. "Today the trial chamber granted by majority, the prosecutor's request to subpoena eight Kenyan witnesses to appear... in the case of William Ruto and Joshua arap Sang," the Hague-based court said in a statement. The ICC's founding Rome Statute does not explicitly say that the court can subpoena witnesses, and experts are divided on whether it has the right. Ruto, 47, became the highest-ranking serving official to go on trial before the ICC in September last year on charges of masterminding some of the post-election violence in Kenya in 2007-08.



  • Spate of Mideast virus infections raises concerns

  • FILE- In this Wednesday, April 16, 2014, file photo, passengers walk past the medical quarantine area showing information sheets for the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus at the arrival section of Manila's International Airport in Paranaque, south of Manila. One expert says recent outbreaks of MERS in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that led to more than 20 infections, many among health-care workers, “have put us into uncharted territory.” (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A recent spate of infections from a frequently deadly Middle East virus is raising new worries about efforts to contain the illness, with infectious disease experts urging greater vigilance in combatting its spread.



  • Pope washes feet of elderly, disabled in rite

  • Pope Francis holds the holy gospel book as he celebrates the Chrism Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Thursday, April 17, 2014. During the mass the Pontiff blesses a token amount of oil that will be used to administer the sacraments throughout the year. The Chrism Mass marks the start of the Easter celebrations. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)ROME (AP) — Pope Francis has washed the feet of 12 elderly and disabled people — women and non-Catholics among them — in a pre-Easter ritual designed to show his willingness to serve like a "slave."



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  • Canada sends fighter jets to Eastern Europe

  • Weapons are loaded onto a CF-18 Hornet fighter jet on November 4, 2009 near El Centro, CaliforniaCanada is deploying six CF-18 fighter jets to Eastern Europe as part of NATO's response to the worsening crisis in Ukraine, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Thursday. Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Ukraine was on the brink of civil war, stoking fears of outright Russian intervention. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania -- which border Russia and have sizeable ethnic Russian populations -- have all sought reassurances, as have Ukraine's neighbors Poland and Romania. Harper condemned what he called "Russia's illegal occupation of Ukraine and its ongoing aggressive military provocation."



  • U.S. to send additional non-lethal support to Ukraine: Pentagon

  • The United States will send additional non-lethal military support to Ukraine, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Thursday, in the latest U.S. move to reassure allies following Russia's annexation of Crimea and a buildup of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border. "Earlier this morning I called Ukraine's acting defense minister to tell him that President Obama has approved additional non-lethal military assistance for health and welfare items and other supplies," Hagel said, speaking at a Pentagon news conference after talks with Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak. The new support follows NATO's announcement on Wednesday that it would send more ships, planes and troops to eastern Europe "within days." NATO has made clear it will not intervene militarily in Ukraine, which is not a NATO member.
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  • Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine not about to end sit-ins

  • By Gabriela Baczynska and Aleksandar Vasovic DONETSK, Ukraine (Reuters) - Pro-Russian separatists occupying public buildings in eastern Ukraine reacted to an international accord to defuse the crisis on Thursday by saying they would not agree to leave the sites before other major conditions were met. The Ukrainian and Russian governments, along with the United States and European Union, signed an agreement in Geneva that said: "All illegal armed groups must be disarmed; One protest leader even interpreted the Geneva deal to mean that the prime minister and acting president must step down -since they were illegally "occupying" the offices of state. Other activists said they planned to maintain their sit-ins until they could hold a referendum next month that some believe can emulate Crimea and see the region annexed to Russia.
  • Who gained, and what, at Ukraine talks

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before a bilateral meeting to discuss the ongoing situation in Ukraine as diplomats from the U.S., Ukraine, Russia and the European Union gather for discussions in Geneva Thursday, April 17, 2014. Ukraine is hoping to placate Russia and calm hostilities with its neighbor even as the U.S. prepares a new round of sanctions to punish Moscow for what it regards as fomenting unrest. (AP Photo)MOSCOW (AP) — The talks in Geneva on Ukraine brought together four parties that had seemed extremely far apart on some issues, but within a few hours they produced a broad agreement that that holds out substantial hope for a crisis that appeared on the verge of spinning out of control.



  • Obama shows skepticism on Russia in Ukraine

  • President Barack Obama speaks in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, April 17, 2014. The president spoke about health care overhaul and the situation in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama conveyed skepticism Thursday about Russian promises to de-escalate a volatile situation in Ukraine, and said the United State and its allies are ready to impose fresh sanctions if Moscow doesn't make good on its commitments.



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