Tuesday, March 19, 2013


* Pope Francis in plea for poor as inauguration Mass held Pope Francis has inaugurated his papacy at a Mass in Rome, calling on global leaders and all the people of the world to defend the poor and the weak.

* Baghdad hit by deadly blasts on invasion anniversary Up to 60 people have been killed in a series of car and suicide bombings mainly in Shia areas in and around Iraq's capital, Baghdad, officials say.

* In the West Bank as Obama visits, a subtle escalation of violence A mid-level army officer in the Bethlehem region, whose command covers 300,000 Palestinians and 100,000 Israelis, stood on a flat patch of earth just above the Jerusalem-Hebron route recently and pointed to a scythe-like bend in the road.

* Obama's Israel visit sparks letter-writing blitz in Congress On the eve of President Barack Obama's trip to Israel, both houses of Congress sent letters to the president praising him for the visit.

* Kerry arrives in Israel, paving the way for Obama visit US Secretary of State John Kerry was set to arrive in Israel on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., some 19 hours before US President Barack Obama is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday.

* US: 'No reason to believe' Syrian rebels using WMD The US State Department on Tuesday said it had no reason to believe Syrian government charges that rebels had used chemical weapons in the country's civil war.

* Bethlehem removes historic 'Palestine' monument The Bethlehem Municipality has removed a stone monument of historic Palestine out of concern that US President Barack Obama would see it during his visit.

* Ties with Netanyahu very strong, says Abdullah Jordanian King Abdullah in a series of exclusive interviews with American magazine The Atlantic said that his relationship with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is "very strong."

* Blair: Iraq uprising would have been 'worse than Syria' Iraqis would have rebelled against Saddam Hussein if there had been no invasion and it would have been "a lot worse than Syria", Tony Blair has said.

* Cyprus overshadows EU leaders' Berlin meeting A dinner on Monday evening (18 March) in the German chancellery with Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso that should have been about Europe's competitiveness was overshadowed.