Obama won't rush to act against Syria over chemical arms
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama signaled on Tuesday he is no rush to respond quickly to Syria's apparent use of chemical weapons, taking a cautious approach to the country's civil war, mirroring the views of the American public, most lawmakers and some U.S. allies. Obama, who last year declared that the use or deployment of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would cross a "red line," told a White House news conference there was evidence those weapons were used, but there was still much that U.S. intelligence agencies did not know.
China steps up customs checks, but North Korea trade robust
DANDONG, China (Reuters) - China has stepped up checks on shipments to and from North Korea almost two months after agreeing to new U.N. sanctions that demand greater scrutiny of trade, but the flow of goods in and out of the reclusive state appears largely unaffected. The sanctions were imposed after North Korea's third nuclear test on February 12. China has said it wants the measures enforced, but few analysts believe Beijing will take steps that hurt North Korea as it is committed to a policy of engagement.
ElBaradei says Egypt needs political consensus to heal economy
CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's government must seek political compromise to win broad support for a crucial IMF loan and revive the country's ailing economy, senior opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei said on Tuesday. The former U.N. nuclear watchdog chief and Nobel Peace Prize winner accused the ruling Muslim Brotherhood of excluding other political forces from decision making, hindering recovery two years after an uprising ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
Italy's Letta tells Merkel Europe needs more growth
ROME/BERLIN (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, fresh from winning a confidence vote in parliament, told Germany on Tuesday his government would meet its budget commitments but expected Europe to drop its austerity mantra and do more to lift growth. Speaking in Berlin on his first foreign visit since taking office on Sunday, Letta warned that Italy's February election, which saw a surge of support for parties attacking the European Union, showed that a change of course was needed.
Israel welcomes apparent Arab League softening of peace plan
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel responded favorably on Tuesday to an apparent softening by Arab states of their 2002 peace plan after a top Qatari official raised the possibility of land swaps in setting borders between the Jewish state and an independent Palestine. The original Arab League proposal offered full recognition of Israel but only if it gave up all land seized in the 1967 Middle East war and accepted a "just solution" for Palestinian refugees. Israel, which has long said it would never return to narrow pre-1967 war borders, rejected the plan at the time.
Bomb blast kills 13 in center of Syrian capital
BEIRUT (Reuters) - A bomb blast in the government-held center of Damascus killed 13 people on Tuesday, state television said, while rebels and loyalists to President Bashar al-Assad traded accusations over what they said was a chemical weapons attack the day before. Residents described scenes of carnage in Marjeh Square, in a the commercial district in the heart of the capital, with dozens of cars and buildings damaged by the bomb which went off in front of the former Interior Ministry building.
EU considers trade action after Bangladesh factory collapse
(Reuters) - The European Union voiced strong concern over labor conditions in Bangladesh after a building collapse there killed hundreds of factory workers, and said it was considering action to encourage improvements, including the use of its trade preference system. The European Union is Bangladesh's largest trade partner and clothes made inside the building - an illegally built structure that toppled last week, killing at least 390 people - were produced for retailers in Europe and Canada.
Exclusive: Sources say senior Iranian diplomat detained in March
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A senior Iranian diplomat linked to Iran's reformists was detained in Tehran in March, possibly as part of a crackdown on dissidents ahead of the June presidential election, sources familiar with the case told Reuters on Tuesday. Bagher Asadi, who has previously been a senior diplomat at Iran's U.N. mission in New York and was most recently a director at the secretariat of the so-called D8 group of developing nations in Istanbul, was arrested in mid-March in the Iranian capital according to the sources, who requested anonymity.
No talks on key Mexico reforms until spat resolved: opposition
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A multi-party alliance to modernize Mexico's economy will not discuss pending energy and tax reforms until an electoral spat between the opposition and the government is resolved, the head of the main leftist party said on Tuesday. Jesus Zambrano, chairman of the opposition Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), said there could be no talks on these reforms until the government had taken clear steps to punish those responsible for a vote-buying scandal in the Gulf state of Veracruz that was exposed this month.
Pope accepts invite to Israel, urges peace talks
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis urged Israelis and Palestinians to resume talks and make "courageous decisions" to bring peace after his first meeting with Israel's President Shimon Peres on Tuesday and accepted an invitation to visit the Holy Land. The two discussed the civil war in Syria, tensions in Iran and the scourge of anti-Semitism during half an hour of private talks in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace.