Palestinians, Israeli troops clash in teens search
BAGHDAD (AP) — With the country in turmoil, rivals of Iraq’s Shiite prime minister are mounting a campaign to force him out of office, with some angling for support from Western backers and regional heavyweights.
On Thursday, their effort received a massive boost from President Barack Obama.
The U.S. leader stopped short of calling for Nouri al-Maliki to resign, saying “it’s not our job to choose Iraq’s leaders.” But, his carefully worded comments did all but that.
“Only leaders that can govern with an inclusive agenda are going to be able to truly bring the Iraqi people together and help them through this crisis,” Obama declared at the White House.
“We’ve said publicly, that whether he (al-Maliki) is prime minister or any other leader aspires to lead the country, that there has to be an agenda in which Sunni, Shiite and Kurd all feel that they have the opportunity to advance their interest through the political process,” the president said.
An “inclusive agenda” has not been high on the priorities of al-Maliki, whose credibility as an able leader suffered a serious setback when Sunni militants of the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant launched a lightning offensive last week that swallowed up a large chunk of northern Iraq, together with the nation’s second city, Mosul.
Al-Maliki, who rose from relative obscurity to office in 2006, when Iraq’s sectarian bloodletting began to spiral out of control, quickly became known for a tough hand, working in alliance with American forces in the country since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
Over the years that followed, Sunni tribes backed by the Americans rose up to fight al-Qaida-linked militants, while al-Maliki showed a readiness to rein in Shiite militiamen — and by 2008, the violence had eased.
Since the withdrawal of American forces in late 2011, however, it has swelled again, stoked in part by al-Maliki himself.
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli soldiers clashed with Palestinians during an arrest raid early Thursday in the most violent confrontation so far in the weeklong search for three missing Israeli teens believed to have been abducted in the West Bank.
The military said about 300 Palestinians took to the streets when the soldiers entered the West Bank town of Jenin overnight. Some opened fire while others threw explosive devices or rocks at the soldiers, who responded with live fire, it said. There were no serious injuries reported on either side. Israel has blamed the Islamic militant group Hamas for the apparent abductions, without providing evidence, and has launched a widespread crackdown on the group, arresting scores of members while conducting a feverish manhunt for the missing youths.
Hamas has praised the abduction of the teenagers, but has not claimed responsibility for it.
The crisis has escalated already heightened tensions between Israel and the new Palestinian government, which is headed by Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas but supported by Hamas. Israel along with the West, considers Hamas a terrorist group because of its long history of attacks on Israeli civilians. Hamas has abducted Israelis before.
NEW DELHI (AP) — For the past two weeks, the top civil servants in India’s labyrinthine bureaucracy have been sent back to school.
Graduate degrees are commonplace in this crowd. Plenty have diplomas from Oxford, Cambridge or Harvard, and most were raised speaking English — the language used in most official documents and correspondence in India.
But these days, they are spending their evenings frantically looking up words after new Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that all official documents must be written in Hindi, spoken by hundreds of millions across northern India. While many bureaucrats speak the language, few know the formal phrases needed for official communication.
“It’s unbelievable how much time I spend rifling through the Hindi dictionary,” said a senior official, who asked not to be named for fear being seen as criticizing the new government. “A simple letter now takes me ages.”
Modi’s campaign promises included a vow to crack the whip on Delhi’s gargantuan and slow-moving bureaucracy, but the language shift is also clearly part of an outsider’s attempt to etch his own imprint on the political culture of the Indian capital.