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Top of the Agenda: UN Finds Evidence of Chemical Use in Syria

A United Nations human rights team announced on Tuesday that it had "reasonable grounds" to believe that limited amounts of chemical weapons had been used in Syria (Reuters), but that more evidence was needed to determine definitive proof of which agent was used and who the perpetrators were. The commission examined four reported toxic attacks in March and April. The report comes as the international community struggles to set a date for a peace conference on Syria, where the conflict is believed to have killed at least eighty thousand people. U.S. President Barack Obama has stated that Syria's use of chemical weapons would cross a "red line" (AP).


"Facing public pressure to stop the violence, Washington may soon embark on an incremental intervention that would gradually deepen American involvement without producing a decisive outcome. But such half measures won't impress Iran's hardened rulers, who are engaged in a fundamental struggle for the future of the Middle East," writes CFR's Ray Takeyh for the New York Times.

"The aim isn't to help the rebels win soon; that's beyond our capabilities. Instead, it's to keep the war within manageable bounds. That means helping the opposition get organized and funneling military aid from other donors to the moderate Brig. Gen. Salim Idriss instead of Al Nusra," writes Doyle McManus for the Los Angeles Times.

"The Geneva Conference 2 may represent hope for Syria and the Syrians. It may also represent an epic failure if it is held amidst the current circumstances and if there is an absence of the desire to address what the Iranian-Russian alliance is doing on the ground," writes Khairallah Khairallah for al-Arabiya.



Hong Kong Marks Tiananmen Anniversary With Vigil

More than 100,000 protestors are expected to attend the annual Tiananmen Square vigil (SCMP) in Hong Kong's Victoria Park on Tuesday night. Commemorations of the crackdown are forbidden anywhere else in China, with Chinese censors taking several measures to prevent public remembrance of June 4, 1989.

CHINA: A fire in a poultry factory on Monday in the northeastern province of Jilin killed at least 119 people and injured dozens more (LAT). President Xi Jinping, currently touring Latin America, ordered an investigation into the cause of the disaster.



Afghan Army Colonel Arrested

An Afghan army colonel was arrested for illegally transferring prisoners (Reuters) to a man working with the U.S. special forces who was accused of torture and killings. The arrest of a senior military officer is rare and underscores Afghan efforts to distance itself from Western forces ahead of the 2014 drawdown.

CFR's Max Boot looks ahead to Afghanistan's 2014 presidential election and what it means for the country in this op-ed.

INDIA: A senior lawmaker from the ruling Indian National Congress party called Monday for a change of attitude in his country's stance toward Pakistan (AFP), saying Islamabad's historic animosity was fading.



Turkey Braces for More Protests

Unions in Turkey are preparing to join the nationwide anti-government protests (WSJ) after another night of violence that left a second man dead. With Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on a state visit to North Africa, President Abdullah Gul met with Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc on Tuesday to discuss the government's response to the crisis.

Turkey's surging popular discontent has shed light on the country's anti-democratic turn, which has escaped much outside notice, write Michael Koplow and CFR's Steven A. Cook in this op-ed.



U.S. Offers Bounty for Armed African Group Leaders

The U.S. State Department has offered up to $23 million in rewards for aid in tracking down five leaders of armed groups in West Africa (al-Jazeera), with the highest bounty on Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau. The unprecedented program also targeted al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

This CFR Backgrounder outlines the history and momentum of the AQIM movement.

ZIMBABWE: Zimbabwe is preparing for elections, which are bound by a court ruling to be held by the end of July (DeutscheWelle), despite a shortage of funds and unfinished reforms.



Troika Returns to Athens

Experts from the EU, IMF, and ECB are due to begin their latest review of the Greek fiscal adjustment program on Tuesday (Ekathimerini), with the issue of overhauling the country's civil service likely to dominate the agenda over the next few weeks.

BELGIUM: Defense ministers from NATO's twenty-eight member states are set to meet on Tuesday in Brussels to discuss the growing threat of cyber intrusions (AFP).



Chile Progresses on U.S. Visa Waiver

Chilean president Sebastian PiƱera, who is scheduled to meet U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday, announced Chile's inclusion in the U.S. visa waiver program (MercoPress), which would grant Chileans permission to visit the United States for up to ninety days without a visa.

COSTA RICA: Chinese President Xi Jinping, on a visit to Costa Rica, signed nine bilateral pacts (LAHT) with the Central American country focused on infrastructure financing and increased trade.



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