February 9, 2013

Violent clashes at a Tunisian funeral and Secretary of State Kerry speaks out on Iran. I'm David Byrd reporting from Washington.

Clashes between police and protesters broke out in Tunis during the funeral of a slain secular opposition leader Friday. As Lisa Bryant reports, tens of thousands of mourners converged on the city's main cemetery for the funeral of Chokri Belaid, who was gunned down earlier this week outside his home.

"The cemetery was a sea of people who scaled walls and tombstones under rain and wind, straining for a glimpse of the funeral cortege of slain opposition leader Chokri Belaid.

Some sang Tunisia's national anthem and many showed up with Tunisia's red and white flag wrapped around them.

Many expressed anger at Tunisia's rising insecurity that culminated in Belaid's assassination on Wednesday and bitterness that the hopes of the country's 2011 revolution have failed to pan out.

Belaid's family has blamed the ruling party, Ennahda, for his death. However, the party ultimately denies the accusations and has condemned his killing. Lisa Bryant for VOA news, Tunis."

For more on this story, log on to our website voanews.com.

French forces battling Islamist militants in northern Mali have taken a strategic airport near the Algerian border.

The French Defense Ministry said Friday that special forces seized the airport at Tessalit, a small town in Mali's Kidal region, and they are moving to secure the town itself with the help of Chadian troops.

Fighting continued elsewhere in Mali Friday. Outside the city of Gao, a suicide bomber driving a motorcycle blew himself up near a military checkpoint. One soldier was wounded in the blast.

US Secretary of State John Kerry says the international community is ready to respond if Iran is prepared to talk with "real substance" set up coming nuclear negotiations.

Kerry said in Washington Friday that the choice is Iran's--sitting and negotiating reasonably or becoming more isolated.

"The P5+1 partners are unified in our approach, and we are committed, I emphasize, we are committed to preventing Iran from, from securing a nuclear weapon."

Kerry said the United States is prepared to let diplomacy be the victor when dealing with Iran. But he repeated President Barack Obama's policy that all options are on the table in stopping Tehran from building a nuclear weapon.

European leaders have agreed on a long-term budget that would represent the first spending decrease in the union's history.

EU officials said Friday that the bloc had set a budget ceiling of $1.3-trillion for the period between 2014 and 2020. The spending plan now must be approved by the European Parliament.

Residents of nine northeastern US states are preparing for what forecasters say could be the most powerful winter storm to hit the region in 25 years.

The US National Weather Service issued blizzard warnings through Saturday afternoon in the region where millions of people live and work.

Forecasters are predicting heavy snow up to 61 centimeters in some areas will fall in major cities, including Boston and New York City. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has declared a state of emergency.

"Stay off the roads, stay home. Let the public works crews do their job over the next 48 to 72 hours. Make sure that public safety vehicles are able to get through the streets of our city"

The governors of Rhode Island and Connecticut declared weather emergencies even before the first snow flake fell. The federal Emergency Management Agency says it is working closely with its local and national partners to monitor the developing storm.

The Pakistani girl shot in the head by Taliban militants for advocating girls' education has been discharged from a British hospital.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham said in a statement Friday that Malala Yousufzai had been released the previous day after her medical team decided she was well enough to leave.

The 15-year-old had reconstructive surgery at the facility on Saturday. During the five-hour procedure, surgeons repaired her skull with a titanium plate and inserted an electronic implant to help restore hearing in her left ear.

On Wall Street, stocks climbed on Friday as corporate earnings topped estimates and European leaders reached that budget agreement. Markets were higher in Europe but were mixed in Asia.

For more on these stories, be sure to log on to our website voanews.com. I'm David Byrd in Washington.