G8 Leaders Agree to End Ransom Payments to Terrorists
Leaders from the G8 nations have agreed to end ransom payments to terrorists holding hostages, but struggled to reach a consensus on how to deal with the two-year Syrian conflict.
As the G8 heads of state neared the end of their two-day summit in Northern Ireland, British Prime Minister David Cameron won agreement to stop making payments for the release of hostages. Hostage-taking has increased in West Africa, especially in Nigeria, where Western oil companies have prominent operations.
The G8 leaders also agreed to fight the "scourge" of tax evasion to ensure that multinational companies cannot hide their profits in overseas tax shelters.
But the leaders were struggling to reach common ground on how to deal with the deadly warfare in Syria between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebels opposed to his government. There were sharp divisions between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the other leaders.
Mr. Putin, who is shipping more weapons to the Syrian government, and U.S. President Barack Obama, who has agreed to arm the rebels, met for two hours Monday, but only agreed that the conflict must end.
Later, the Russian leader acknowledged, "Of course our opinions do not converge," while Mr. Obama said the two men had "different perspectives."
Obama Defends NSA Spying Programs
U.S. President Barack Obama is defending the government's top-secret surveillance programs, while acknowledging widespread concerns the efforts are violating the privacy rights of ordinary Americans.
In a television interview broadcast late Monday on PBS, Mr. Obama insisted the National Security Agency is operating its phone and Internet monitoring efforts within the law.
He said, "What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls, and the NSA cannot target your emails. And have not. They cannot and have not, by law and by rule, and unless they - and usually it would not be they, it would be the FBI - go to a court and obtain a warrant."
The president has been under fire since last week's revelations of the NSA programs by the British newspaper The Guardian and The Washington Post. He says he has ordered intelligence officials to release as much information as possible "without further compromising the program."
Mr. Obama also said he has created a privacy and civil liberties oversight board to review the NSA efforts.
Earlier Monday, a report published in The Guardian said documents obtained from former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, the man who exposed the NSA programs, show that Britain spied on diplomats attending the 2009 Group of 20 summit in London.