JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GettyImages(SLIGO, IRELAND) -- Emerging from a two-hour meeting at the G8 summit, President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed that the bloodshed in Syria must stop and that there should be a renewed push for negotiations.
They also stated the obvious: their positions on Syria differ greatly.
“Our opinions do not coincide,” Putin said, in a tense photo-op with Obama following their first meeting in a year.
“All of us have the intention to stop the violence in Syria, to stop the growth of victims and to solve the situation peacefully, including by bringing the parties to the negotiating table in Geneva,” he said.
Russia continues to arm Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and Putin does not agree that his longtime ally must step down from power for a political settlement to be successful.
After declaring that Assad had crossed the “red line” and used chemical weapons against his own people, the White House announced last week that the U.S. would ramp up support for the political and military opposition.
“We do have differing perspectives on the problem,” Obama said in a carefully-worded statement, “but we share an interest in reducing the violence, securing chemical weapons and ensuring that they're neither used nor are they subject to proliferation; and that we want to try to resolve the issue through political means, if possible.”
“We have instructed our teams to continue to work on the potential of a Geneva follow-up to the first meeting,” he said.
The Guardian via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- New documents revealed by alleged National Security Agency (NSA) leaker Edward Snowden reportedly show how British cyber spies regularly stole secrets from foreign diplomats during the 2009 G20 summit in London.
During an espionage campaign, which was reported Sunday by the U.K.'s The Guardian newspaper, England's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) allegedly set up Internet cafes outfitted with email interception and key-logging software designed to track any delegates' computer use there. The GCHQ also allegedly hacked into delegates' BlackBerry phones to read their emails and gather phone call information.
The documents also reportedly show that the GCHQ's sister organization in the U.S., the NSA, tried to eavesdrop on Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev as he telephoned back to Moscow via satellite.
One slide that appears to be from a "Top Secret" GCHQ presentation said, "Diplomatic targets from all nations have an MO [modus operandi] of using smart phones... Exploited this use at the G20 meetings last year."
According to The Guardian, another slide describes a method of email interception that can allow the spies to read people's email "before/as they do."
As The Guardian noted, the sophisticated espionage techniques appear "to have been organized for the more mundane purposes of securing an advantage in meetings." One slide brags about "recent successes" including the ability to deliver "messages to analysts during the G20 in near real-time... [and] provide timely information to U.K. ministers."
The revelation on the G20 came just hours before the United Kingdom began the smaller G8 summit on Monday. England's Prime Minister, David Cameron, and President Obama both spoke before reporters Monday at the G8 but did not address The Guardian's allegations or Edward Snowden.
Snowden, who first appeared publicly a week ago to claim he was the source of a series of startling articles on NSA spying that appeared in The Guardian and in The Washington Post, remains in hiding in Hong Kong, where on Monday, The Guardian said he will be answering questions from readers.
Top U.S. administration officials acknowledged and defended the previous surveillance programs revealed by Snowden. Late last week, U.S. officials told ABC News they feared Snowden could defect to China with a head, and several computers, full of secrets. The Chinese foreign ministry reportedly denied that Snowden was their spy on Monday.
A spokesperson for the GCHQ told ABC News of Sunday's report from The Guardian, "We do not comment on intelligence matters."
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(SLIGO, Ireland) -- President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron took some time out of their busy summit schedules to visit with local school children Monday afternoon.
“Hello, everybody,” Obama said as they walked into a classroom of nine-, 10- and 11-year-olds at Enniskillen Integrated Primary School.
“Good afternoon Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister,” the children, dressed in navy blue uniforms, answered, in unison.
After learning the students had been studying the G8, Obama quizzed them briefly on the agenda.
The two leaders then joined a group of roughly 20 students for an art project in an outdoor courtyard.
“Do you trust me with this brush?” Obama joked, as he picked up some blue paint and joined the students in decorating a large canvass.
“I think I just went outside the lines,” he said.
Cameron, who was painting alongside Obama, finished his portion first and the students cheered him on with a “hip, hip, hooray!”
“Now I feel bad,” Obama quipped. “I didn’t realize that David was going to move so fast.”
The president later got his own cheer from the children when he finished his painting.
First lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha, meanwhile, were off exploring their family’s Irish roots. Visiting Trinity College in Dublin on Monday, the first family viewed archives documenting the president’s Irish family tree. President Obama’s great-great-great grandfather was born in the village of Moneygall, where some of his distant relatives still live today.
The president and first lady visited the village in 2011, where the president met his eighth cousin, Henry Healy, who has since become known as “Henry the Eighth.”
“We knew he was my cousin because his ears flapped out just like mine,” Obama joked earlier Monday, as he recalled their visit.
It appears Healy had another opportunity to bond with his famous relatives Monday. “Just met with @FLOTUS & Malia & Sasha,” Healy tweeted from Dublin. “I presented Malia & Sasha with a Cert of Irish Heritage earlier! Great reaction from Sasha ‘I can prove I'm more Irish than my friends now.’”
Healy has been embraced by the first family. He spent St. Patrick’s Day at the White House last year and accompanied the president for a pint at a popular local pub in Washington, D.C.
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images(LONDON) -- An eight-months-pregnant Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton was glowing and sporting a baby bump at her last public appearance Friday before her maternity sequester begins.
The duchess, 31, stood out in a pale, baby-pink coat and hat alongside her husband, Prince William, and brother-in-law, Prince Harry, both dressed in formal military wear.
For close royal watchers who looked to the duchess’s clothing color as a cheeky nod, or slight hint, to the unannounced sex of the couple’s baby, her grandmother-in-law, the queen, was dressed in a blue coat and hat, leaving bettors still at odds over whether the royal heir would be a boy or girl when it arrives in mid-July.
The duchess and the princes joined the rest of Britain’s royal family Friday for Trooping the Color, the annual celebration held to mark the queen’s official birthday, which was April 21.
The celebration included more than 1,000 soldiers, horses and musicians participating in the parade for the 87-year-old queen, who just marked her 60th year on the throne.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry were joined at the event by their father, Prince Charles, and his wife, Camilla, as well as Prince Andrew and his daughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex with their 9-year-old daughter, Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor.
Noticeably absent from the festivities was the queen’s husband, Prince Philip, who was hospitalized June 6 for exploratory abdominal surgery and discharged Monday. The queen’s cousin, the Duke of Kent, accompanied her in the royal glass coach in Philip’s absence.
Now the attention of royal watchers is back on Duchess Kate and her highly anticipated delivery. The duchess made her last solo public engagement June 13 when she christened the 3,600-passenger Royal Princess cruise ship.
Now the duchess will be “playing the waiting game,” just like any other expectant mom, according to royal experts.
“She’s not going to be running around with a bump that size so I think she’ll be putting her feet up, relaxing, spending time with her family and spending time with William,” ABC News’ royal consultant Victoria Murphy said of the duchess after the cruise ship christening.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock(PYONGYANG, North Korea) -- After months of threats, North Korea is seemingly turning to diplomacy to end disputes with its neighbors and the West.
The latest instance of this supposedly new tact from Pyongyang came Sunday as a government agency suggested bilateral talks with Washington about possibly ending its nuclear ambitions in the future.
North Korea's National Defense Commission, which is run by leader Kim Jong-un, said as long as the U.S. sets no preconditions for talks, it could select the venue and date for a meeting.
Washington views such overtures with a cautious eye since Pyongyang has offered olive branches in the past, only to pull them away just as suddenly.
In talks with North Korea last year, the U.S. promised 240,000 tons of food aid if Pyongyang suspended its weapons programs. However, the launch of a long-range missile just a few months later ended the agreement.
More recently, North Korea and Japan have instigated talks with China about rebooting discussions regarding its nuclear programs. However, talks with South Korea fell apart when the two sides couldn't agree on the seniority of delegations.
What ultimately might kill off any meeting between Washington and Pyongyang before it begins is the National Defense Commission's insistence that any dismantling of its nuclear programs must be linked to a similar nuclear weapons reduction in the entire region.
Meanwhile, a National Security Council spokeswoman says that the U.S. hopes to have "credible negotiations" with North Korea.
Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- Former South African President Nelson Mandela remains hospitalized for a recurring lung infection after 10 days, but doctors have been encouraged by the 94-year-old's ability to recover from yet another health setback.
While Mandela remains in serious condition, President Jacob Zuma reports that the civil rights leader "continues to engage with family" as doctors report "sustained" improvements in his overall health.
Mandela has been susceptible to respiratory problems since he contracted tuberculosis during his 27-year imprisonment. Since last December, he has been hospitalized four times.
Several years after his release from prison, Mandela was elected South Africa's first black president in 1994, essentially ending the system of apartheid.
President Obama plans to travel to South Africa later this month and hopes to meet with Mandela -- his first opportunity to do so as commander-in-chief.
Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft claims there's no ring of truth to how Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin supposedly obtained a ring from the team's victory in Super Bowl 39.
In what is rapidly turning into an international incident, Kraft is disavowing a story from 2005 in which he allegedly gave the $25,000 memento to the Russian leader as a gesture of goodwill.
Kraft is now saying the White House forced him to put out that version and alleges the real story is far more insidious.
According to the Pats owner, after showing the 4.94-carat ring to Putin, the Russian prime minister put it on his finger, quipped, "I can kill someone with this ring," and then pocketed it. Kraft charges he had no chance to get his ring back after three KGB agents surrounded Putin as he walked away.
Responding to Kraft's accusation, a Putin spokesman said, "What Mr. Kraft is saying now is weird. I was standing 20 centimeters away from him and Mr. Putin and saw and heard how Mr. Kraft gave this ring as a gift."
The Super Bowl 39 ring currently sits in the Kremlin Library.
Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- In what could be a surprising message of change, Hassan Rouhani was elected as the new president of Iran on Saturday.
Rouhani, considered the most moderate candidate on a ballot full of conservatives, will take over for former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was not allowed to run for another term after leading Iran for the last eight years.
By winning 50.8 percent of the vote, Rouhani avoided a second-round run-off election. He gained much attention after indicating during his campaign that he would pursue a less-confrontational foreign policy and would enact a "civil rights charter" in Iran.
In Washington, a White House spokesman said President Obama hopes "the Iranian government will heed the will of the Iranian people and make responsible choices that create a better future for all Iranians."
The administration expressed some measure of optimism that with this change in leadership, a diplomatic solution to ending Iran's rogue nuclear program can be reached.
But while a more moderate president would make Iran potentially easier to deal with, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cautioned his allies that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei remains the real source of power in the theocratic government.
Netanyahu, who has hinted at preemptive strikes against Iran to stop the development of nuclear weapons, said on Sunday that the international community must not remove crippling economic and political sanctions against Tehran.
If anything, the Israeli leader said that sanctions should be stepped up now because "the more pressure increases on Iran so will the chance of ending Iran's nuclear program which remains the biggest threat to world peace."
Yuval Steinitz, Israel's minister of intelligence and strategic affairs, agrees with Netanyahu, saying, "As long as we don't see a change it's better to be wary and not celebrate prematurely."
Kazuhiro Ibuki - Pool/Getty Images(ISTANBUL) -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rallied supporters in Istanbul Sunday, hours after riot police were brought in from all over the country to keep protesters at bay, often with tear gas and water cannons.
The speech came after demonstrators were cleared from Taksim Square Saturday night, where they had been encamped since protests over the redevelopment of Gezi Park began on May 31.
However, clashes between police and demonstrators continued throughout the day and night as thousands of people also gathered in the capital, Ankara, to show their support for anti-Erdogan forces.
During his speech, Erdogan defended his tough actions, saying they were necessary to regain order in Turkey and ensure the rule of law, which is part of his duty as prime minister.
Meanwhile, the Confederation of Public Workers' Unions called for workers to engage in a nationwide strike on Monday.
Late last week, Erdogan's regime abided by a court decision to suspend the demolition of Gezi Park, which could lead to a referendum on the issue.
The controversy touched off two weeks of full-blown civil unrest throughout Turkey as Erdogan’s opponents accused him and his AKP party of rolling back civil rights in the secular Muslim country.
Erdogan's opponents have accused riot police of using unnecessary violence that led to four deaths and more than 5,000 people injured.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) -- At least 30 people were killed Sunday in southern Iraq by a series of bombings that were allegedly triggered by militants linked to the country's main al Qaeda group, although no claim of responsibility was issued.
Since nearly all the victims were Shiite, it appears to have been yet another attempt to stir up sectarian warfare similar to the height of the Iraq war during 2006-2008.
Among the attacks were two car bomb blasts in the southeastern city of Kut that left five dead and 26 wounded, and an explosion in the oil-rich southern city of Basra, killing six there.
Meanwhile, a bombing at a produce market in the Shiite holy city of Najaf left eight people dead and more than a dozen injured.
Iraqi authorities also reported fatalities from bombings in Nasiriyah and the town of Mahmoudiya.
Since April, well over 2,000 people have been killed by insurgent violence in Iraq, the worst surge of violence since 2008.
FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- On the eve of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in London Sunday to discuss the Syrian crisis.
Though Cameron and Putin both readily admit that they have disagreements over Syria, the two leaders said they both want to see an end to the conflict.
“We have a common goal and a common desire to provide conditions for the settlement of that conflict,” Putin said. “I can agree with the prime minister that it can, it should be done as soon as possible.”
“We can overcome these differences if we recognize that we share some fundamental aims: to end the conflict, to stop Syria breaking apart, to let the Syrian people choose who governs them, and to take the fight to the extremists and defeat them,” said Cameron, speaking to reporters after the meeting.
The two discussed how best to use the G8 Summit to help bring an end to the bloodshed in the embattled Middle East country. Cameron said they agreed that the G8 must back the work of Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
“The challenge for the G8 and for this process,” Cameron said, “is to try and put aside some of the differences and to focus on the common ground, where we both want to see a peace process, a transition, take place.”
Though they agreed upon the need to work to overcome their differences, Putin did make a point to defend Russia’s support of the Assad Regime.
“Russia supplies to the legitimate government of Syria in full compliance with the norms of international law,” he said. “We're not breaching anything.”
Stockbyte/Thinkstock(COUNTY FERMANAGH, Northern Ireland) -- The civil war in Syria is expected to dominate much of the discussion as President Obama sits down Monday with the Group of Eight leaders in Northern Ireland, just days after the White House confirmed the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
“They’ll clearly discuss the situation in Syria, to include the most recent chemical weapons assessment that we’ve provided, the efforts that are underway to support both the opposition but also a political settlement in the country,” Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes told reporters Friday.
The Obama administration has said it will provide more “direct support” to the Syrian opposition now that the president’s “red line” has been crossed. The U.S., he added, has “steadily increased both the size and scope of our assistance” to the Supreme Military Council, the armed wing of the Syrian opposition.
“At the same time, you know, this is a fluid situation. So it’s necessary for [the president] to consult with all the leaders at the G-8 about both our chemical weapons assessment and the types of support we’re providing to the opposition,” he added.
The president will also, however, have to sway Assad’s allies, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. Obama and Putin will meet face-to-face at the G-8 summit for the first time in a year.
Russia has publicly questioned American evidence that Assad used chemical weapons and does not agree that Assad must step down from power for a political settlement to be successful.
“What Russia has articulated to us, and publicly, is that they don’t want to see a downward spiral,” Rhodes said. “They don’t want to see a chaotic and unstable situation in the region. They don’t want to see extremist elements gaining a foothold in Syria. And the point that we’ve made to Russia is that the current course in which Assad is not being appropriately pressured to step down from power by those who continue to support him in the international community is bringing about those very outcomes.”
“We still continue to discuss with the Russians whether there’s a way to bring together elements of the regime and the opposition to achieve a political settlement. We have no illusions that that’s going to be easy,” he added.
While the Syrian crisis will overshadow much of the summit agenda, there are many other topics up for discussion, including economic reform, trade and the fight against terrorism.
Obama is expected to defend his administration’s phone and internet surveillance programs as vital counterterrorism tools. “He’ll be able to discuss with the other leaders the importance of these programs in terms of our counterterrorism efforts in particular, the constraints and safeguards that we place on these programs so that they have oversight against potential abuses,” Rhodes said.
“And all of these countries at the G-8 are important counterterrorism partners. And together we’ve worked with them on an intelligence and security relationship to foil terrorist attacks in the United States and in Europe, and of course Russia shares a significant counterterrorism interest with us as well,” he said.
In addition to participating in a series of high-level meetings, the president will also deliver a major address in Northern Ireland at the Belfast Waterfront Convention Center. This will be the president’s first opportunity to address at length the support that the U.S. has provided to the peace process in Northern Ireland and to the development of its economy.
After two days of summit meetings, the president will travel to Berlin, where he will meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck, and deliver a major address at the historic Brandenburg Gate.
The short three-day trip to Europe will be also a family affair for the president. The first lady and daughters Sasha and Malia will be joining him.
Mrs. Obama and her daughters will attend the president’s speech in Belfast and then break off to travel to Dublin, while the president is busy with summit meetings. There, they will tour Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest university and “explore the archives that they’ve gathered to document the Obamas’ Irish ancestry,” Rhodes explained.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock(PRESTWICK, Scotland) -- An Egypt Air flight bound for New York City had to make an emergency landing in Scotland after a passenger found a note in the bathroom saying that a passenger planned to set fire to the plane.
BBC News reports that a BBC producer was on the plane and found a note in the plane's toilet that read "I'll set this plane on fire." The note also contained a seat number – seat 46D. The producer immediately alerted the cabin crew, and the flight was escorted by a Royal Air Force interceptor to Glasgow Prestwick Airport in Scotland.
The plane’s 326 passengers were initially kept on board while authorities worked to determine the credibility of the threat. A SWAT team surrounded the aircraft with their guns drawn while bomb experts conducted a search before removing each passenger from the plane one-by-one.
Glasgow Prestwick Airport remained open during the incident.
Police officers tell ABC News that they are continuing to investigate the circumstances of the incident which they are treating as a criminal offense rather than a terrorist related one. All of the passengers who were on the flight were interviewed but police have not been able to determine who was responsible for this note yet or if it was a hoax.
The flight landed at its final destination, New York City’s JFK Airport, on Sunday morning, a full 14 hours late.
(TEHRAN, Iran) -- In a surprising message of change, Hassan Rouhani was elected as the new president of Iran on Saturday.
Rouhani, considered the most moderate candidate on a ballot full of conservatives, will take over for former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was not allowed to run for another term after leading the country for the last eight years.
By winning 50.8 percent of the vote, Rouhani avoided a second round run-off election. He gained a much attention after indicating during his campaign that he would pursue a less confrontational foreign policy and would enact a "civil rights charter" in Iran.