Government and politics
PARIS - French special forces backed by helicopters led a pre-dawn operation in northern Mail Thursday and freed five humanitarian aid workers who had been held captive by a "terrorist group" — killing about 10 of the alleged militants, officials said.
Working off intelligence tips, the French forces intercepted two pickup trucks carrying the hostage-takers and their captives north of the historic city of Timbuktu, one of three major towns in a vast region on the Sahara's southern rim where the five went missing Feb. 8, said Col. Gilles Jaron, a French military spokesman.
CHARLESTON, S.C. - A man who helped himself to a refill of his 89-cent drink at a Veterans Affairs hospital found it cost a lot more than he expected when he was fined $525.
WCSC-TV reports (http://bit.ly/1r2k6V6 ) there are signs in the cafeteria telling people refills are not free. When Christopher Lewis of North Charleston, S.C., refilled his drink without paying Wednesday, a federal police officer gave him a ticket.
Lewis is a construction worker and says he never noticed the signs and has refilled his drink without paying before.
VIENNA - Iran has converted three quarters of a nuclear stockpile that it could have turned quickly into weapons-grade uranium into less volatile forms and is well on the way toward transforming the rest, the U.N. atomic agency reported Thursday.
The development — agreed to by Iran under a nuclear deal it struck late last year with six world powers — leaves Tehran with substantially less of the 20-per cent enriched uranium that it would need for a nuclear warhead.
MOSCOW - To understand Russian President Vladimir Putin's intentions in Ukraine, it helps to pay close attention to his choice of words and his reading of history. Here is what Putin had to say Thursday in a nationally televised call-in program:
LITTLE GREEN MEN
GENEVA - Here is the joint statement issued by the foreign ministers of the U.S., Russia, Ukraine and European Union after seven hours of talks Thursday in Geneva:
The Geneva meeting on the situation in Ukraine agreed on initial concrete steps to de-escalate tensions and restore security for all citizens.
All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions. The participants strongly condemned and rejected all expressions of extremism, racism and religious intolerance, including anti-semitism.
NEW YORK, N.Y. - A hotel executive and Democratic fundraiser pleaded guilty Thursday to witness tampering and conspiracy to evade campaign finance laws.
Sant Singh Chatwal was accused of working with an unidentified informant to use straw donors to make contributions to three unnamed political candidates. He also was accused of trying to persuade a witness to not speak to the FBI.
Chatwal raised at least $100,000 for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign against Barack Obama.
GENEVA - Secretary of State John Kerry says diplomats from Russia, the United States, the European Union and Ukraine have agreed on a series of steps aimed at de-escalating violence in strife-ridden Ukraine.
He said all of this "represents a good day's work." But Kerry also says "words on paper" will have little meaning if they are not followed by actions on all sides to calm the situation in the former Soviet republic.
WASHINGTON - The lawyer who argued before the Supreme Court in favour of upholding California's ban on gay marriage learned while he was handling the case that one of his children is gay and now is helping her plan her wedding with another woman.
Attorney Charles Cooper says his view of same-sex marriage is evolving after having argued in court that gay unions could undermine marriages between a man and a woman.
BAGHDAD - Militants launched a brazen attack on a military base in a restive area in northern Iraq on Thursday, killing at least 10 soldiers and wounding 12, officials said.
The morning attack at the base outside the city of Mosul, about 360 kilometres (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, started with a suicide bomber who detonated his truck packed with explosives at the gates of the facility, an army officer and a police officer said.
RAJNANDGAON, India - Indians cast ballots Thursday on the biggest day of voting in the country's weekslong general election, streaming into polling stations even in areas where leftist rebels threatened violence over the plight of India's marginalized and poor.