JERUSALEM | Israel's prime minister says he expects recently announced peace talks with the Palestinians to be tough, and that any agreement reached would have to be ratified in a national Israeli referendum.
Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Sunday at his weekly Cabinet meeting, his first on-camera remarks since U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the resumption of peace talks over the weekend — ending a five year deadlock.
Netanyahu said his main guiding principles will be to maintain a Jewish majority in Israel and to avoid a future Palestinian state becoming an Iranian-backed "terror state."
Final status negotiations aim to reach a deal on the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including borders, the fate of Palestinian refugees and security arrangements. The Palestinians say talks will be based on Israel's pre-1967 borders.
Japan's ruling coalition gains control of parliament in vote
TOKYO | Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition won a comfortable majority in the upper house of parliament in elections Sunday, giving it control of both chambers and a mandate to press ahead with difficult economic reforms.
The win is an endorsement of the Liberal Democratic Party's "Abenomics" program, which has helped spark a tentative economic recovery in Japan. It's also a vindication for Abe, who lost upper house elections in 2007 during his previous stint as prime minister. Official results weren't expected until early today.
The victory offers the hawkish Abe more leeway to advance his conservative policy goals, including revising the country's pacifist constitution and bolstering Japan's military, which could further strain ties with key neighbors China and South Korea, who are embroiled in territorial disputes with Japan.
Controlling both houses of parliament has been an elusive goal for Japanese governments in recent years. With a divided parliament, it has been hard to pass legislation, and voters fed up with the gridlock and high leadership turnover appeared willing to opt for the perceived safety of the LDP, which has ruled Japan for most of the post-World War II era.
Albert abdicates; son Philippe is successor as Belgian king
BRUSSELS | Belgium's King Albert abdicated on Sunday after a 20-year reign, clearing the way for his son, Philippe, to take over as this fractured nation's seventh king later in the day.
The 79-year-old Albert signed away his rights as the kingdom's largely ceremonial ruler at the royal palace in the presence of Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, who holds the political power in this 183-year-old parliamentary democracy.
Less than two hours later, Belgium's new king Philippe, 53, took the oath before the nation's legislators at the parliament building a short walk across the Royal Park in the heart of the city.
"Belgium is modernizing itself and it gives me joy," Albert said. He also called for continued "cohesion" between the nation's 6 million Dutch-speaking Flemings and 4.5 million French-speakers.
U.S. unarmed bombs dropped on Australia Great Barrier Reef
CANBERRA, Australia | Two U.S. fighter jets have dropped four unarmed bombs in Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park when a training exercise went wrong.
The two AV-8B Harrier jets launched from aircraft carrier USS Bonhomme Richard each jettisoned an inert bomb and an unarmed explosive bomb in the World Heritage-listed marine park off the coast of Queensland state on Tuesday, the U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement on Saturday.
The four bombs were dropped in more than 164 fee) of water away from coral to minimize possible damage to the reef, the statement said. None exploded.
The jets from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit had intended to drop the ordnances on the Townshend Island bombing range but aborted the mission when controllers reported the area was not clear of hazards.
The pilots conducted the emergency jettison because they were low on fuel and could not land with their bomb load, the navy said.