European diplomats have ended an arms embargo on Syria, raising the possibility some European countries could begin selling weapons to rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad. The European Union renewed economic sanctions against Syria, but failed to reach a consensus on extending the arms ban after Britain and France sought to ease it. British Foreign Secretary William Hague hailed the move.
William Hague: “The European Union has agreed to bring to an end the arms embargo on the Syrian opposition and to maintain other sanctions on Syria, all the other existing sanctions on the Syrian regime. This is the outcome that the United Kingdom wanted. It has been difficult for many nations, of course. That is why we’ve had such long discussions today, over the last 12 or 13 hours or so. But I think it is the right decision.”
Following the EU decision, Russia now says it will move ahead with deliveries of anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. The Assad regime received another boost Saturday when the head of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah vowed to commit his fighters to defending the Syrian president. In the latest sign of spillover from the conflict, unidentified gunmen reportedly killed three soldiers at a Lebanese border checkpoint today before fleeing into Syria. Meanwhile, Arizona Sen. John McCain paid a surprise visit to Syria on Monday where he met with leaders of the rebel group Free Syrian Army. McCain has pushed for more direct U.S. involvement in the conflict, including arming the rebels.
Journalists with the French newspaper Le Monde are reinforcing claims the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against rebel forces. They say they witnessed multiple chemical attacks over the past two months. Following one attack, a Le Monde photographer reportedly suffered blurred vision and respiratory trouble for days.
More than 50 people were killed Monday in a wave of car bombings that hit Shiite areas in the Iraqi capital Baghdad. More than 100 more were wounded. The blasts were the latest sign Iraq is reaching a level of sectarian violence not seen in years.
A U.S. marine was killed in a gun battle with police early Sunday in Texas after allegedly killing one person and wounding five others in a shooting rampage that spanned dozens of miles. Officials said 23-year-old Esteban Smith had been stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
A New York Times investigation has found right-wing groups that complained of extra vetting by the IRS were engaged in activity that actually did appear to merit extra scrutiny. The groups reportedly tested rules limiting political activity for certain tax-exempt organizations by sponsoring political ads and organizing members to campaign for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Tax rules prevent social welfare groups from participating in elections as their primary activity. One group that complained of undue IRS scrutiny spent thousands on ads for a Republican congressional candidate, failed to report the spending on its tax return, and denied participating in such activities on a form.
In Cambodia, at least 23 garment workers were injured Monday when police used stun batons to disperse a protest at a factory that makes clothing for the U.S. company Nike. Thousands of workers, most of them women, had blocked a road outside the factory. They are demanding an additional $14 a month on top of their $74-per-month minimum wage. Earlier this month at least two workers were killed in a collapse at another Cambodian factory that made shoes for the Japanese firm Asics.
Last week’s killing of a British soldier in London has sparked a wave of anti-Muslim hate crimes. On Monday, right-wing protesters marched through London chanting anti-Muslim slogans. On Sunday night, a mosque in the north of England was firebombed. British police have arrested 10 suspects in connection with the death of soldier Lee Rigby, who was run over and then slashed with meat cleavers. One of the main suspects, Michael Adebolajo, had reportedly been captured in Kenya in 2010 and handed over to British authorities on suspicion of attempting to work with the Somali militant group al-Shabab. A British human rights group said the suspect reported being tortured in Kenya. They also said British intelligence services attempted to recruit him as an informant last year.
Police in France are searching for a man who stabbed a French soldier in the neck while he was on patrol near Paris. The soldier survived Saturday’s attack, which a police spokesperson said bore similarities to the one in London three days earlier.
Christophe Crepin: “You don’t have to be a great observer to be able to see the similarities. We are in a place, a soldier, an individual who stabbed him. You don’t have to be a great observer to see that people are taking inspiration from acts committed abroad and reproducing them here.”
At least four people were killed in the Afghan capital Kabul on Friday when Taliban militants launched a coordinated attack on a compound affiliated with the United Nations. The hours-long assault began with a suicide bombing outside the International Organization for Migration.
FARC rebel leaders and the Colombian government have reached an agreement on land reform in what could be a major step toward a long-awaited peace deal. The plan would provide farmers with loans and other aid as well as creating a land bank for redistributing farmland. More than half of farms in Colombia are owned by roughly 1 percent of landowners. Cuban diplomat Carlos Fernández read the joint statement from Colombia and the FARC, which came during peace talks underway in Cuba.
Carlos Fernández: “What we have agreed to in this accord will be the beginning of radical transformations in the rural and agrarian reality of Colombia, with equity and democracy. It is centered on the people, the small farmer, access to and distribution of land, the fight against poverty and the stimulation of production.”
Lawyers for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio say they will appeal a federal judge’s ruling that his office violated the constitutional rights of Latinos by targeting them for traffic stops and illegally detaining them based on their race and ethnicity. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Murray Snow ordered the Arizona sheriff’s office to stop using race as a factor in whom it stops. The ruling came as part of a class action lawsuit brought by Latino drivers. Arpaio’s office is facing a separate civil rights lawsuit filed by the U.S. Justice Department.
In Oregon, a 17-year-old boy has been arrested for allegedly plotting to blow up his high school in an elaborate attack involving both explosive devices and guns. Investigators responding to a tip reportedly found six bombs in Grant Acord’s bedroom.
Rallies were held across the globe Saturday to protest agricultural giant Monsanto and its genetically modified seeds. Organizers said “March Against Monsanto” actions were held in 52 countries and 436 cities around the world, including New York City and Mexico City.