French police fine Muslim driver for wearing veil
A French Muslim woman has been fined for wearing a full-face veil while driving a car. Police in the western city of Nantes said the veil - which showed only her eyes - restricted her vision and could have caused an accident. The woman's lawyer says they will appeal against the decision, which he described as a breach of human rights. The incident follows months of intense debate in France about whether the veils should be banned. Earlier this week, President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered parliament to debate a law banning women from wearing full-face Islamic veils in public. President Sarkozy said last year that full-face veils oppressed women and were not welcome in France. Plans to ban them by law have provoked intense debate about religious freedom in a secular society, as well as the position of Muslims in France. France has Europe's largest Muslim minority population, estimated at about five million. The French interior ministry estimates that only about 1,900 women wear full veils in the country.
Greece bailout will cost €120billion - three times original estimate, claim German MPs
German MPs today claimed that bailing out the crisis-hit Greek economy is likely to cost €120billion - around three times the original estimate. Officials said that the €45billion figure covered just the first year of a rescue package which is in fact likely to run for three. Germany was already dragging its feet over moves to help Greece, which had misled Europe about the dire state of its finances. The precarious state of its economy has plunged the Eurozone into renewed crisis just as it stumbles out of the worst recession in living memory. Spain became the latest victim of the financial turmoil as Standard & Poor downgraded its credit rating one notch to double-A with a negative outlook. The agency had downgraded Greece and Spain earlier in the week. German MPs made their claims about the true cost of the loans after a meeting with Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank.
Israel, Hamas held 120 rounds of talks
Hamas senior figure Mahmoud al-Zahar said his organization held 120 rounds of talks with Israel, mediated by Egypt and Germany, vis-à-vis kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. During a speech, al-Zahar said Hamas will continue to hold Shalit captive until Israel complies with all its demands.
Iran has no military presence in Venezuela: US general
Iran is expanding its diplomatic and economic ties with Venezuela but has no military presence in the South American country, a US general said on Tuesday. The comments came as Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez denied allegations from the Pentagon that members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force were stationed in his country. The leftist leader, who often heaps scorn on the United States, called a recent report "absolutely false" at a military ceremony. The head of US Southern Command, General Douglas Fraser, said Iran was bolstering its relations with Venezuela."We see a growing Iranian engagement with Venezuela," Fraser told reporters. Iran has a "diplomatic, commercial presence" but, "I haven't seen any evidence of a military presence," he said. There was no indication that Iran had sent arms to Venezuela, he added. The general's comments came after a Pentagon report last week said Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps had stepped up its presence in Latin America, especially in Venezuela.Apart from its military might, the elite force -- which serves under the authority of Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei -- also wields substantial economic power and runs numerous large enterprises.
U.S. forces in Afghanistan will soon outnumber those in Iraq
According to Brookings, by late May or early June, the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will outnumber those in Iraq--a shift that's symbolic of the Obama administration's focus on Afghanistan. Currently, there are 90,000 American troops in Afghanistan and 100,000 in Iraq. Forces are being withdrawn from Iraq at a pace of around 5,000 a month, while the U.S. builds up a presence ahead of a major offensive in Afghanistan, increasing troops by a couple thousand a month.
Musharraf to form political party
Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf is planning to launch a political party in a comeback bid two years after he was unseated in elections, officials said Wednesday. Musharraf, who has been abroad since ending his nine-year stint in power, could face a criminal trial if he returns home and he is wanted for questioning by the government over the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto. An aide and election official confirmed to AFP that the retired general had applied to register a new political party with the electoral authorities in the Pakistani capital Islamabad. Mohammad Ali Saif, a former cabinet minister and now a legal adviser to Musharraf, said election authorities would hear the application on May 10. "I have formally applied for a new political party called All Pakistan Muslim League. Pervez Musharraf is the head of this party and we will formally announce it after getting registered," he told AFP
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