Ecuador accepts Venezuela's proposal to mediate with US

Washington : Ecuadorian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ricardo Patino said that he has accepted Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro's proposal that he lead mediation efforts between Venezuela and US as a coordinator of a group of facilitators from several Latin American organisations.

He accepted the role "with a lot of pleasure, of course, if this could favour dialogue and reduce tensions, we would gladly do it," Patiño told Spanish news agency Efe on Wednesday.


UN rights expert urges Myanmar to end discrimination against ethnic minorities

New York : The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar Yanghee Lee on Wednesday called on the country's authorities to address ongoing challenges to the democratic reform process, UN news centre reported.

"I was very disturbed by reports on 10 March that excessive and disproportionate force had been used against students and other civilians and that 127 people were subsequently arrested," Yanghee Lee said during the presentation of her first report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.


British army begin training Ukrainian military

London : British military personnel have begun training members of the Ukrainian army fighting pro-Russian rebels, a media report said on Thursday.

The decision to this effect was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron last month, BBC reported.

Thirty-five trainers are working in the southern city of Mykolaiv and will spend about two months in the country.

They will be training forces engaged in battles in eastern Ukraine in medicine and defensive tactics, and supply non-lethal equipment.


Should have closed Guantanamo on my first day: Obama

Washington : US President Barack Obama has said that he should have closed the Guantanamo Bay prison on his first day at the White House back in 2009 when there was consensus with Republicans on its shutting down, Efe news agency reported.

Asked at an event in Cleveland, Ohio, on Wednesday what he would do if he could go back to his first day in the White House, Obama replied, "I would've closed Guantanamo on the first day."


Venezuelan president to campaign against US sanctions

Caracas : Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said his government will start a world campaign demanding removal of sanctions imposed by the US on the South American nation.

US President Barack Obama issued an executive order on March 9, imposing additional sanctions on Venezuelan officials. He also declared a "state of emergency" as the situation in Venezuela "constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the US", Xinhua news agency reported.


Nearly 30 children poisoned in Sri Lanka

Colombo : Nearly 30 children were hospitalized on Thursday in the northern Sri Lankan town of Jaffna after consuming water from their school tank where police later found two poison bottles.

According to police, 27 children were rushed to a hospital by the school authorities after they fell ill, Xinhua reported. Police said two poison bottles were found from the water tank.

For decades, Jaffna was the hub of a Tamil separatist campaign which the military crushed in 2009.


Thai court accepts case against former PM

Bangkok : A Thai court on Thursday accepted a criminal case against former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra for alleged malfeasance in a controversial rice-pledging scheme.

The case was accepted by Thailand's Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Office, Xinhua news agency reported.

The first hearing is scheduled for May 19, a court statement said.

The case was filed by the office of the attorney-general, and if found guilty, Yingluck could face a maximum jail term of 10 years.


Singapore ex-PM Lee's condition critical

Singapore : Former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew remains critically ill in the intensive care unit (ICU), the prime minister's office (PMO) said on Thursday.

Lee (91) was the first prime minister of Singapore from 1965 to 1990, heading the island-country for 35 years.

One of the most influential political figures in Asia, he is widely recognised as the founding father of modern-day Singapore.

Lee has been hospitalised in the Singapore General Hospital since February 5, when he was admitted for severe pneumonia, the Straits Times reported.


Latest round of Iran n-talks ends in Switzerland

Geneva: Iran and the US have wrapped up the latest round of marathon talks in Switzerland to ink a comprehensive nuclear deal before the March 31 deadline.

On Wednesday night, two separate meetings were held in the lakeside city of Lausanne; one between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, his US counterpart John Kerry, and the European Union deputy foreign policy chief, Helga Schmid, and another between Head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi and US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Press TV reported.

US blasts Israeli PM over campaign comments after election win

Washington: The White House has slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his campaign comments about Arab-Israeli voters after his win in parliamentary elections.

The US is "deeply concerned about rhetoric that seeks to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Wednesday, Xinhua reported.

"It undermines the values and democratic ideals that have been important to our democracy and an important part of what binds the US and Israel together."