French president visits Qatar, deepening ties to Gulf
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — French President Francois Hollande, seeking to strengthen political and business ties with the energy-rich Gulf states, arrived in Qatar on Monday at the start of a two-nation trip that will include a visit to neighboring Saudi Arabia.
Saudi-led troops in 'limited' first Yemen deployment
The Saudi-led coalition battling rebels in Yemen sent a "limited" force to the city of Aden, Yemeni sources said, in what would be its first ground deployment inside the country. "A limited coalition force entered Aden and another force is on its way" to the port city, a Yemeni government official in Aden told AFP, requesting anonymity. The coalition launched air strikes against the Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels and their allies on March 26 after they seized control of large parts of the country and advanced on Aden, where President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi had taken refuge.
Saudi-led coalition using cluster bombs in Yemen: HRW
The Saudi-led coalition bombing rebels in Yemen has been using US-supplied cluster munitions in its air campaign, Human Rights Watch said Sunday, warning of the long-term dangers to civilians. Washington defended its transfers of cluster munitions, saying they were subjected to stringent requirements. "Recipients of such transfers must commit that cluster munitions will only be used against clearly defined military targets and will not be used where civilians are known to be present or in areas normally inhabited by civilians," a US Defense Department official told AFP. HRW said it had gathered photographs, video and other evidence indicating that cluster munitions had been used in coalition air strikes against the Huthi rebel stronghold of Saada province in Yemen's northern mountains in recent weeks.
Egypt extends mandate by three months to deploy military abroad
The Egyptian government said it had extended by three months the deployment of "some elements of the armed forces" abroad, enabling it to continue participating in a Saudi-led coalition that has been launching air strikes in Yemen. Egypt, which has one of the Middle East's largest military forces, is a close ally of Saudi Arabia and has said it is participating in the alliance targeting Yemen's Houthi rebels, who are allies of Iran. Egypt initially authorized a 40-day mandate on March 26 to defend national and Arab security in the Gulf, the Red Sea and the Strait of Mandeb. The defense ministry asked for the mandate to be renewed before its expiry, a statement from the cabinet said on Sunday.
Spanish rebel party Podemos seeks second wind
Spain's anti-austerity party Podemos, whose meteoric rise has upended the country's politics, is seeking a second wind as an internal crisis over strategy hits and polls show its popularity may have peaked. The surprise resignation on Thursday of one of the party's founders, 52-year-old political science professor Juan Carlos Monedero, threw the spotlight on party divisions ahead of regional and local elections on May 24, and a general election later in the year. Podemos's first crisis since its 2014 foundation comes as centre-right upstart Ciudadanos (Citizens) is stealing the confidence of voters who want to end the dominance of Spain's two main parties, but who fear the hard left's radical tone. Monedero, a former advisor to late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, expressed disappointment over the direction of the party, which was born out of the Indignant protest movement that occupied squares across Spain in 2011 demanding an end to austerity.