Entries in Britain (68)


No Change in Afghanistan Withdrawal Timeline, President Obama Says

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama Wednesday emphasized that recent difficulties in the Afghanistan war would not result in a speedier withdrawal of U.S. troops.

“In terms of pace, I don’t anticipate at this stage that we’re going to be making any sudden additional changes to the plan that we currently have,” the president said at a joint appearance in the White House Rose Garden with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Noting that 10,000 U.S. troops have already left Afghanistan in the last year, with an additional 23,000 scheduled to withdraw by this summer, the president insisted that “a robust Coalition presence” would remain in the country during the summer fighting season “to make sure that the Taliban understand that they’re not going to be able to regain momentum. After the fighting season, in conjunction with all our allies, we will continue to look at how do we effectuate this transition in a way that doesn’t result in a steep cliff at the end of 2014 but rather is a gradual pace that accommodates the developing capacities of the Afghan national security forces.”

The two men Wednesday agreed to stick with “the transition plan that we agreed to with our coalition partners in Lisbon,” President Obama said. At the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago in May, they will announce the speed at which the U.S. will shift to a support role in 2013.

“This is a hard slog,” the president said when asked about polls indicating the public wants the war to end. “This is hard work....Why is it that poll numbers indicate people are interested in ending the war in Afghanistan? It’s because we’ve been there for 10 years, and people get weary. And they know friends and neighbors who have lost loved ones as a consequence of war. No one wants war. Anybody who answers a poll question about war saying enthusiastically, we want war, probably hasn’t been involved in a war. ”

In addition to Afghanistan, the president and prime minister told reporters Wednesday that they focused on Iran’s nuclear program, Syria, and economic recovery.

On Syria, Cameron begged off questions about imposing a no-fly zone, saying that the U.S./U.K. focus right now is “on trying to achieve transition, not trying to foment revolution. We think that the fastest way to end the killing, which is what we all want to see, is for Assad to go.” Asked if President Bashar al-Assad ought to be tried as a war criminal, Cameron broadened the question to “the issue of holding people responsible,” and on that he said, “I do.”

“People should always remember that international law has got a long reach and a long memory,” Cameron said, “and the people who are leading Syria at the moment and committing these crimes need to know that.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Two Western Hostages Killed During Attempted Rescue in Nigeria

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LAGOS, Nigeria) -- A Briton and an Italian man, who were kidnapped by militants in Nigeria last year, were killed in a rescue attempt on Thursday.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan confirmed the deaths in a rescue operation conducted by forces from both countries. The two leaders say the decision was made to rescue Christopher McManus, 28, and Franco Lamolinara, 47, because they believed the men were in imminent danger, reports BBC News. Italian authorities say they were unaware of the military action that left one of their citizens dead.

The men were working as engineers on a building project for the Central Bank in Birnin Kebbi, a city in northern Nigeria, when they were kidnapped in May by Boko Haram militants. Boko Haram has been responsible for several bombings in the country, with the worst one occurring on Christmas Day at multiple locations, resulting in dozens dead. The Islamic group, whose name means "Western education is a sin," are said to have killed McManus and Lamolinara during the rescue attempt.

The captors were reportedly caught after a heavy gun battle.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


UN Nuclear Inspectors Visit Iran in Two-Day Tour

IIPA via Getty Image(TEHRAN, Iran) -- United Nations nuclear inspectors began a two-day tour of Iran on Monday.

The visit by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) comes a day after the Iran oil ministry announced a halt in oil exports to Britain and France in response to the European Union’s sanctions on the nation in January.  This will the second visit this year by the inspectors to Iran. A report on the visit is expected in few weeks.

Iran insists they are developing new energy sources, however, IAEA inspectors’ visit in November suggested the country may be moving towards developing nuclear weapons, prompting western countries to impose further sanctions on Iran.

The IAEA chief inspector says his priority in visiting Iran this week is to clarify "possible military dimensions" of the country’s nuclear program, reports BBC News.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Iran Halts Oil Shipments to Britain and France

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iran halted export of oil to Britain and France in response to sanctions imposed on the country by the European Union.

The oil ministry made the announcement on their website on Sunday. The EU imposed the sanctions against Iran last month to pressure the nation to stop developing a nuclear program. While Iran says they are intending to build new energy sources, EU nations and the United States believe the nation wants to use the program to build nuclear weapons.

Iran's oil exports to EU nations consist of nearly 20 percent of their oil shipments but a spokesperson said on the ministry website that the country can export to new customers.

It is unclear why Britain and France were singled out among the 27 EU countries.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


British Parliament Members Seeking Apologize from Leno for Sikh Joke

Kevin Winter/Tonight Show/Getty Images for The Tonight Show(LONDON) -- The backlash against Jay Leno for a joke involving Mitt Romney and a holy site for Sikhs has not gone unnoticed in the British parliament.

Two parliament members have filed a motion calling on Leno to apologize for displaying a picture of the Golden Temple on The Tonight Show last week and suggesting that the Indian shrine is a summer home belonging to Romney, a Republican presidential candidate.

Labour Party members John McDonnell and Virendra Sharma also request that the British government, "make representations to the U.S. government that while recognizing principles of freedom of speech there should be more understanding and respect shown to the Sikh faith."

Leno's joke has reportedly upset many Sikhs in India, and it’s even the basis of a libel lawsuit filed against the host by a California man, Dr. Randeep Dhillon.

Leno this week also angered the Catholic League by mocking a Los Angeles-area bishop who resigned after admitting he fathered two children.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Brits Use Fake 'Spy Rock' in Moscow Espionage Gambit: Official

This undated image from Russian television shows electronic equipment concealed in a rock, which was claimed to be used by four British embassy staff members to receive intelligence information provided by Russian agents in a park outside Moscow. HO/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- To the untrained eye, it may have just looked like a rock sitting next to a Moscow sidewalk, but to British spies prowling the Russian capital, it was actually an invaluable tool of spycraft, a fake stone with a hidden compartment for electronic equipment, according to a former British official.

It has been five years since the Russian security service, the FSB, claimed it had discovered a British espionage ring on Russian soil using the fake rock, but until now no British officials admitted the blown operation.

In a BBC documentary airing Thursday night, Jonathan Powell, then-chief of staff for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said "the spy rock was embarrassing" for the Brits, according to a BBC report.

"They had us bang to rights," Powell said. "Clearly they had known about it for some time."

In 2006, Russian television showed footage of the alleged spies using the rock to apparently transmit files to and from electronic equipment hidden in the rock. In one instance, a man walked by the rock, slows down as he passes it, and then picks up the pace, according to the BBC. In the next shot, another man walks by and picks up the rock.

Powell told the BBC he believed the Russian government had held off making their discovery public for some time "for a political purpose." At the time, the Russian government had accused British intelligence of secretly funding pro-democracy and human rights non-governmental organizations in Russia.

Around the time the Russian report was shown in 2006, then-President Vladimir Putin introduced a new law that restricted NGOs from receiving funding from foreign governments.

At that time, Britain's ambassador to Russia, Tony Brenton, reportedly said all interactions between the British government and Russian organizations was "above board."

According to the Russian news outlet RT, the FSB denies the "spy rock scandal" was linked to the NGO funding controversy, but chose to leak the story to the press in 2006 only after the spy agency failed to discreetly settle the matter with the British government.

When asked for comment on this report, a spokesperson for the British Foreign Ministry told ABC News the office does not comment on "intelligence matters."

Mark Stout, a historian for the International Spy Museum and former intelligence analyst in the U.S. government, said such a method of "cover communications" is not uncommon for most major intelligence services.

"All the major services have technical staffs... in a lot of ways analogous to Q in James Bond, who are really good at this sort of thing and always looking for the latest, greatest ways to hide something in a place that no one would've ever imagined in a million years," Stout said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ex-US Soldier Charged with Aiding Al Qaeda Group

Hemera/Thinkstock(LAUREL, Md.) -- A former U.S. Army soldier and recent convert to Islam was charged Monday with attempting to join an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group in Somalia. The indictment of Craig Baxam, 24, comes just days after the Kenyan and British governments announced they were seeking several British citizens who had allegedly joined the same terror group, al Shabaab, and plotted attacks in Kenya.

Baxam, who appeared in federal court in Maryland, faces a charge of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist group. Authorities alleged that Baxam flew to Kenya with the intention of crossing into Somalia to join al Shabaab, which has been responsible for terror attacks in Somalia, Kenya and Uganda.

Baxam, from Laurel, Maryland, served four years in the Army before being discharged last July. In December, according to U.S. authorities, Baxam was arrested by Kenyan police in a small coastal town near the Somalia border. Baxam had already been to Somalia, according to the criminal complaint, and told federal agents that he had donated between $600 and $700 to al Shabaab.

Last week, the British government warned of al Shabaab attacks inside Kenya, and Kenyan authorities announced that they had arrested suspected terrorists and issued arrest warrants for others.

One of those wanted for suspected ties to terrorism is a British mother of three who converted to Islam. Kenyan police issued an arrest warrant on Jan. 4 for 26-year-old Natalie Faye Webb, alleging that Webb had links to known Shabaab terrorists. Kenyan police provided Kenyan media with a South African passport that they said Webb had used to enter the country in 2011.

According to London's Sunday Times, UK citizen and Muslim convert Jermaine Grant was arrested in Mombasa, Kenya, by Kenyan police. He was reportedly radicalized in the same UK prison as convicted "shoe bomber" Richard Reid. Bomb-making materials were allegedly found at Grant's home when he was arrested.

Al Shabaab, which means the "lads" in Arabic, has waged a decade-long insurgency inside Somalia and more recently has conducted attacks outside the lawless country. In 2010 an al Shabaab suicide attack killed more than 76 people in Kampala, Uganda.

The group recently announced that they were sending teams of attackers to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi in response to the recent Kenyan military incursion into southern Somalia.

British authorities have warned UK nationals in Kenya to be on guard after the Kenyan government alerted the public to an increased threat of attacks in Nairobi. The UK's Foreign Office said it urged Britons to "exercise extra vigilance and caution in public places."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Prince Philip Leaves Hospital After Heart Surgery

Paul Edwards - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- After missing the traditional Boxing Day shooting party on Monday, Britain's Prince Philip has finally been given the green light to join the royal family at Sandringham.

Queen Elizabeth II's husband was released from the hospital on Tuesday after being held under observation for four nights following a successful coronary stent procedure.  He was brought to Papworth, a specialist heart hospital in Cambridgeshire, after suffering chest pains last Friday.

This health setback is believed to be the most serious of Philip's life and doctors wanted to make sure that his stent, which unblocks a coronary artery, was working properly before they released him.

Due to the hospitalization, the prince was also forced to miss the traditional Christmas morning service at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham for the first time.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Starbucks Set to Expand Business in the UK

Starbucks Corporation(LONDON) -- Starbucks is planning a big expansion in the United Kingdom.  The Seattle-based coffee chain plans to open 300 new stores, creating 5,000 new jobs in these troubled financial times.  

Two-hundred of the new openings will be drive-through shops, of which Britain currently has just nine, according to  Starbucks will open 100 new walk-in establishments in addition to about 700 other outlets in Britain.

With youth unemployment over the one million mark, Prime Minister David Cameron has called the announcement, "a real boost for Britain." Half of the chain's coffee shop staff is under the age of 24.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Britain Withdraws Staff from Tehran; Closes Iranian Embassy in London

ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Britain has withdrawn all of its staff from its embassy in Iran's capital city after the building was stormed by dozens of protesters on Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced Wednesday.

Earlier, the Foreign Office said it was removing some of its diplomats "in light of yesterday’s events, and to ensure their ongoing safety."

Tuesday's ransacking came after Britain agreed to impose more sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program, causing Iran's parliament to pass a bill approving reduced diplomatic relations with the U.K.

Along with the withdrawal, Hague also ordered the closing of the Iranian embassy in London, telling its diplomats they have 48 hours to leave Britain.

Diplomatic ties with Iran, however, were not cut.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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