February 6, 2013

Bulgaria accuses Hezbollah of a deadly airport attack last year. European Union and Africa consider international force for Mali. I'm Ray Kouguell reporting from Washington.

The Bulgarian government says Hezbollah was responsible for the bombing of a tourist bus near a Black Sea port city last year, in which five Israelis, one Bulgarian were killed. VOA's Al Pessin reports.

Bulgaria's Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov made the announcement Tuesday in Sofia. The minister said genetic material led investigators to conclude two Hezbollah operatives were among the three men responsible for the attack. But investigators found no direct link to Hezbollah's backers in Iran or to the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

On July 12 of last year, a bomb exploded on a bus carrying an Israeli youth group at an airport near Burgas. In addition to those killed, 32 Israelis were wounded, most of them children. Another man was also killed and he was believed to be a suicide bomber. Al Pessin, VOA news, London.

President Obama plans to make his first presidential visit to Israel and will also go to the West Bank and Jordan. The White House says the topics of discussion will be wide-ranging. They will include Syria and Iran.

Israel media reports Mr Obama would arrive march 20. But the White House is not confirming any date just yet.

The UN says the humanitarian crisis in Syria is now at "catastrophic" proportion and is dramatically expanding its aid operation to reach one million more people. The World Food Program plans to feed one and three-quarter million people this month, then up to two million in March and two and a half million by April.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in Cairo, where he will be attending a summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation which begins today.

On Tuesday, Egypt's top Muslim cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb told the visiting Iranian leader that his Shiite-led government must refrain from interfering in the affairs of Gulf Arab states and must give full rights to Sunnis living in Iran.

Chadian soldiers have begun securing the Malian city of Kidal, which was last major stronghold of Islamist militants in the country. Representatives of European and African nations meeting in Brussels Tuesday discussed the possibility of creating an international force to help stabilize Mali. Lisa Bryant has details.

Officials meeting in Brussels said that any decision on turning a West African military mission to stabilize Mali into an international one must be approved by the United Nations and the Malian government.

But Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, who heads the Economic Community of West African States or ECOWAS Commission, suggested it was a viable option.

At a news conference, Ouedraogo said the problems in Mali are not just a question of national or regional security, but of international security. He said the international community must make sure northern Mali should not be used as a sanctuary for terrorists and narcotraffickers.

Lisa Bryant for VOA news, Paris.

South African police have arrested 19 suspected members of the M23 rebel group that launched a rebellion in the Democratic Republic of Congo last year. Authorities say the arrests were made Tuesday in South Africa's northern Limpopo province. South African police say they believe the suspects were trying to overthrow the DRC government.

US Attorney General Eric Holder has explained the Obama administration's rationale behind legally allowing the government to kill US citizens abroad. Mr Holder says the targeted suspects must pose an imminent threat of violent attack on the United States.

He spoke about it after a confidential Justice Department memo on the government's use of drone strikes against al-Qaeda suspects was leaked.

President Obama is urging Congress to delay automatic spending cuts set for March 1. Speaking at the White House, he called for lawmakers to quickly pass a package of limited spending cuts and tax reforms until they can come up with what he calls a "smarter solution" to the nation's debt problems.

"Deep, indiscriminate cuts to things like education and training, energy and national security will cost us jobs and it will slow down our recovery. It's not the right thing to do for the economy. It's not the right thing for folks who are out there still looking for work. And the good news is this doesn't have to happen."

President Obama said he is cautioning against sweeping reductions. The $1.2-trillion package of automatic cuts to domestic and defense programs is known as "sequester."