European leaders are under yet more pressure after Standard and Poor’s announcement that 15 eurozone countries face having their credit ratings downgraded.The announcement on Monday evening came just hours after France and Germany laid out their master plan to solve the sovereign debt crisis.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has, for the second day running, expressed doubts about the Russian elections, suggesting they were neither free nor fair.
She was speaking in Lithuania at a meeting of the 56-member Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Her comments went further than her criticisms of the vote on Monday:
“We have serious concerns about the conduct of those elections. Independent political parties, such as Parnas were denied the right to register. And the preliminary report by the OSCE cites election day attempts to stuff ballot boxes, manipulate voter lists and other troubling practices.”
Clinton also expressed concerns about reports that independent Russian election observers were harrassed and were the target of cyber attacks on their websites.
Three separate bombings in Afghanistan have left dozens of people dead and many more injured, including Shi’ite pilgrims.
In Kabul at least 48 people were killed when a suicide attacker detonated a device at a Shi’ite Muslim shrine where hundreds of people were taking part in a religious festival. It was one of the deadliest attacks in the capital since since the fall of the Taliban governmet in 2001.
Elsewhere, four people were killed, including one Afghan soldier, when a bomb exploded near a mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif. In Kandahar several people were injured when a device placed in motorcycle blew up. It was not close to a religious site.
The blast in Kabul during the Ashura festival appeard to be an unprecedent sectarian attack. It came a day after Afghanistan’s Western allies pledged long-term support once their troops leave in 2014.
Belgium’s new prime minister, Elio Di Rupo and his new government are to be sworn in later today.
It marks an end to the country’s record breaking 541 days of being without a government due to months of political deadlock.
Di Rupo will be Belgium’s first French-speaking premier in three decades and the first Socialist to lead the country since 1974.
Although Flemish Nationalist Bart de Wever and his N-VA party won the last election, after blocking so many initiatives to form a government he was eventually excluded from the negotiating table. His pro-independence party is not part of the new government.
But many challenges lie ahead for Di Rupo. Last Friday thousands of Belgians marched in protest at anticipated austerity measures.
And along with economic pressures the new government must also satisfy demands of the Dutch-speaking Flemish majority for devolution of powers.