Muslim Women Arrested for Defying France's Burqa Ban

Abid Katib/Getty Images(PARIS) -- Muslim women defied France's new ban on full-face veils Monday and at least two protesters were arrested outside Notre Dame cathedral for wearing the traditional masks, which the French president has called "a sign of enslavement."

Three women wearing niqabs -- a veil that leaves just a slit for the eyes -- joined a protest of about a dozen people outside the famous Paris cathedral, saying the ban violates their freedom of religion. Two of the women were arrested and charged with staging an unauthorized protest.

It was unclear whether the women would be fined the $215 penalty the law imposes for wearing a veil.

There are some five million Muslims living in France, but only about 2,000 women are estimated to wear the now outlawed veils. Many of those women have vowed to defy the ban.

The ban implemented Monday comes two years after French President Nicolas Sarkozy first suggested outlawing the veils.

The penalty for forcing a woman to wear a veil is far stiffer than that for a woman caught wearing one. People found forcing a woman to cover her face are subject to a $43,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

Many opponents of the ban say it violates the country's religious freedom statutes.

Head scarves are still legal, but the niqab and burqa, from which women peer out through a screen, are banned.

France is the first country to implement such a ban. Italy is mulling a similar law.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Former Ivory Coast Leader Arrested

ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images(ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast) -- Former President Laurent Gbagbo is under arrest in the capital city of Abidjan following weeks of civil conflict between his supporters and forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the recognized winner of last November’s election.

The capital has been the scene of bitter fighting, with U.N. agencies warning of a significant humanitarian crisis facing the civilian population.

The French say Gbagbo has been handed over to Ouattarra’s forces.

Although the U.N. backs Ouattara as the rightful winner of the election, the 45 percent of the population that voted for Gbagbo may not be so quick to accept these latest developments.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Royal Wedding: Kate and William Make Final Walkabout

Chris Jackson/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Prince William and Kate Middleton were out and about Monday for their last official engagement together before the royal wedding later this month.

The couple visited England's East Lancashire town of Darwen to open an academy and launch a prince's award. This is the last stop on a mini-tour of the nation Middleton might one day rule as queen: all carefully choreographed by royal aides.

They were expected to be met by crowds of thousands on their second and final engagement at nearby Witton Country Park in Blackburn.

William will officially open an academy and launch an award called the SkillForce Prince's Award. SkillForce is an education charity, and William is its patron. Starting Summer 2012, it will present the new award to teenagers who show significant character or make a major contribution to their community.

This is part of the prince's role as patron of the Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge, an initiative that aims to protect permanently 2,012 outdoor recreational spaces across the U.K. and demonstrate the importance of green spaces for sport.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Another Strong Aftershock Rocks Japan; Tsunami Warning Issued

Comstock/Thinkstock(TOKYO) -- A 6.6 magnitude aftershock struck Japan Monday, less than one week after another strong earthquake rocked the country and left at least three people dead.

The latest aftershock comes on the one-month anniversary of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that killed up to 25,000 people.

A three-foot tsunami warning was issued for northeastern Japan following Monday's tremor.  No injuries or damages have yet been reported.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the company that runs Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, evacuated its workers following the aftershock and temporarily stopped efforts to cool the plant's reactors.  The company said power had been cut at the plant but no damage or irregularities were reported.

On Thursday, a 7.1 aftershock also hit the country, leaving close to four million people without power.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


One Month Later: Japan Remembers Quake, Tsunami Victims

JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- People across Japan fell silent Monday afternoon as they reflected on the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit their country exactly one month ago, leaving thousands dead and lingering fears of a nuclear meltdown.

At 2:46 p.m., sirens sounded to mark the exact time the 9.0 magnitude quake struck the country on March 11, spawning a massive tsunami afterwards that has left up to 25,000 people dead and thousands more displaced from their homes.

Dozens of aftershocks have since rocked Japan, with the latest one striking Monday, a 7.1 magnitude tremor that prompted yet another tsunami warning.

The initial quake crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, leaving it on the verge of a nuclear meltdown as plant operators work around the clock to cool the damaged reactors and prevent more radiation from seeping into the environment.  Radiation has already been detected in the water and soil in and around the damaged plant, as well as in tap water, milk and various vegetables.

The natural disasters have also taken a toll on Japan's economy and the auto industry.

Leading Japanese automakers, like Toyota and Honda, had been forced to shut down all vehicle production in the country following the March 11 earthquake.  The halt in production compromised the availability of parts and automobiles worldwide and had an adverse effect on stock markets.

But the Japanese auto industry appears to be bouncing back.  Toyota announced last week that it would resume vehicle production at all of its Japanese plants on April 18, while Honda said it would reopen two auto assembly plants in Japan Monday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Royal Wedding Guest List Revealed

Indigo/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Details about the royal wedding guest list have slowly come out since the invitations were put in the mail in early February.

As anticipated, many foreign dignitaries and members of Britain's aristocracy will be in attendance, but according to The Mail on Sunday, some unexpected celebrities, personal aides, friends and exes also made the cut.

As was previously reported, David and Victoria Beckham and Sir Elton John all received invitations.  It has been revealed that film director Guy Ritchie, comedian Rowan Atkinson, designer of Kate Middleton's royal engagement dress Daniella Helayel, and former English rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward will also be at Westminster Abbey on April 29.

Breaking with tradition, Prince William has invited a number of his aides to the reception.  Among them are two of his former nannies, his press officer, his private secretary and his personal secretary.  Also invited is William's former headmaster from the Ludgrove School, the provost of Eton College, and William's housemaster at Eton.

The couple, who visited the Caribbean island of Mustique in the past, included some of the locals on the wedding guest list.  The owners of the villa where the couple stayed, the island's head tennis coach, yoga teacher, doctor and the owner of Basil's Bar all received invitations, along with the owners of the villa where Middleton and William previously stayed.

Among William's friends at the wedding will be a number of former Etonians, including banking heirs James and David Jardine-Paterson, polo player Ben Vestey and his wife Chloe, and Thomas van Straubenzee, who is expected to assist Prince Harry with the best man's speech, together with his younger brother Charles.

The Prince's best friends from Gloucestershire are all on the list, including all of the Duke of Northumberland's children, polo player Captain Jack Mann, Olympic gold medalist Richard Meade, and Susanna and Jake Warren, the grandchildren of the Queen's former racing manager, the Earl of Carnarvon.

From William's inner circle of friends, Guy Pelley, who helped organize the bachelor party, will attend the wedding alongside his mother, father and two brothers, as will millionaire Arthur Landon and his mother Katalina.

The couple's friends from St. Salvator's residence hall at St. Andrews have been asked to the evening reception.  They include Virginia Fraser, neighbor of the couple while at St. Andrews, and former roommates Olivia Bleasdale, Oli Baker and Fergus Boyd.  The Prince and Miss Middleton have also invited Sir Henry Cheape, who owns the Strathtyrum Estate in St. Andrews where the couple shared a farmhouse.

It appears as if both Middleton and William have invited their exes to the royal wedding.  Rupert Finch, whom Middleton dated briefly at St. Andrews and her rumored high school boyfriend, Willem Marx, will attend, along with all of William's former flames: Isabella Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe, Jecca Craig, Arabella Musgrave, Olivia Hunt and Davina Duckworth-Chad.

Middleton's sister, Pippa, will bring her boyfriend of one year, Alex Loudon, while her brother will go to the wedding solo.

Prince Harry has not revealed if he will have a date to the wedding, but The Mail on Sunday confirmed that his on-and-off girlfriend Chelsy Davy has been invited to the wedding and the evening reception.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Japanese Begin One Last Effort to Find Disaster Victims

STR/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- It's been one month since a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami ravaged northern Japan and, despite the best efforts of the Japanese government, getting an exact death count has been difficult.

It's believed that at least 25,000 people died from the tsunami that stretched six miles inland but four weeks later, only 13,000 deaths have been confirmed.  The biggest fear of victims' families is that their loved ones were washed out to sea, making recovery impossible.

That doesn't mean the government has given up on the search.

On Sunday, the Japanese military stepped up its efforts to find bodies by scouring areas away from the evacuation zone near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

As many as 22,000 Japanese soldiers are taking part in the final push to locate bodies, assisted by 110 American troops.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


General Petraeus Doesn't See Al Qaeda Comeback in Afghanistan

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Disputing published reports, Gen. David Petraeus says that al Qaeda is not making a comeback in Afghanistan.

The Wall Street Journal said it quoted an unidentified American military official as saying "al Qaeda is coming back," citing examples of terrorist training camps, hideouts and bases popping up along the northeastern border with Pakistan.

Petraeus, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, argued that al Qaeda numbers are small in the country, perhaps no more than 100 fighters.

He did acknowledge that the group has been observed searching for new areas to set up bases, including the mountainous regions of Nuristan and Kunar provinces.

Meanwhile, Petraeus reaffirmed his commitment to stay at his post through Afghanistan's fighting season, which typically wraps up in October or November, when the weather turns cold.  Speculation is rife that he may be in line for the job of CIA director if the current spy agency chief, Leon Panetta, leaves this year, as has been rumored.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Iraqi Firebrand Cleric Makes New Threat Against US Troops' Stay

AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images(BAGHDAD) -- A celebratory mood in Iraq turned ugly Saturday during the eighth anniversary to commemorate Saddam Hussein being driven from power in Baghdad.

Over in the capital's Sadr City, thousands gathered to hear a message read from firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in which he warned the U.S. that its soldiers and civilians won't be welcome in Iraq after the end of 2011, when all troops are due to leave the country.  To emphasize that point, protesters burned American flags as well an effigies of Americans in business suits.

Al-Sadr is currently in Iran, where he's closely allied with Tehran's theocratic regime.  During the height of the Iraq war, his Mahdi Army militia fought against U.S. forces but he agreed to disband the group so that the coalition and Iraq's army could defeat the insurgency led by al-Qaeda.

Now, the cleric, who has become a major political figure in Iraq, is threatening to reorganize his milita if the U.S. extends its military stay in Iraq after the December 2011 deadline to withdraw.

Several officials with his movement also oppose any expansion of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, which is already the largest diplomatic mission in the world.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gadhafi Accepts Cease-Fire; Is This Time Different?

Salah Malkawi/ Getty Images(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- Moammar Gadhafi has accepted an outline for a cease-fire with rebels, according to South African President Jacob Zuma, who met with the Libyan leader Sunday to present the African Union's road map for resolving the months-long conflict.

The road map includes an immediate and verifiable cease-fire, and ultimately a transition to a new government in Libya.

The African Union delegation, led by Zuma, says it will travel to Benghazi on Monday to meet with rebel leaders, who must also accept the AU's proposal.

Gadhafi has in the past announced his own cease-fires, only to immediately break them.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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