Iran Presidential Election — Iranian authorities have banned two potentially powerful candidates from next month’s presidential election, according to Reuters, to ensure that the race is contested among hardliners who remain loyal to the clerical Supreme Leader Ayatullah Ali Khamenei. The Guardian Council of clerics and jurists denied former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and current presidential chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie a place on the Jun. 14 ballot. The supreme leader could overrule the Guardian Council but analysts believe he is determined to avoid a repeat of the protests that followed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‘s re-election in 2009, notes Reuters.
French Manufacturing Recovery — Economists said that France‘s plan to make the economy more competitive and robust is not working, according to the AP. Expensive labor costs, Europe’s highest payroll and capital taxes and reluctance to outsource lower-level manufacturing jobs have hurt France’s industrial power and business owners say government regulations and bureaucracy have been a hindrance as well. In essence, writes the AP, French manufacturers are paying workers too much to make products that cost too little.
Bear Bile Farming — The New York Times examines the growing animal rights movement in China, where activists blocked the country’s largest producer of bear bile extract Guizhentang Pharmaceutical from filing an initial public offering at the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. Although advocates have yet to persuade Beijing to create animal welfare laws, they have been raising awareness to end cruelty against animals. Meanwhile, according to the paper, “industry supporters have mounted their own pro-bile public relations campaign, stressing China’s history of traditional medicine and suggesting that animal rights advocates are doing the bidding of foreign drug companies out to promote Western medicine at the expense of homegrown remedies.”
Terrorism in Europe – Britain has asked the European Union to add the military wing of Lebanese Islamist group Hezbollah to its list of terrorist organizations, reports Reuters. The request comes after an attack on Israelis in Bulgaria last year, which Bulgaria has blamed on Hezbollah, and Britain also cited a four-year jail term handed down by a Cypriot court in March to a Hezbollah member who was accused of plotting to attack Israeli interests on the island. Currently, the Netherlands is the only country in Europe to list Hezbollah as a terrorist group. Britain already blacklists its military wing. A British foreign office spokesman said that adding Hezbollah’s military arm to the E.U. terror list would make it harder for the group to operate and carry out attacks on European soil. Britain’s request will be discussed by a special E.U. working group in early June, but it will likely prove difficult for Britain to achieve unanimity for the proposal from all the E.U. member states, as many European governments argue that imposing sanctions on Hezbollah could fuel tensions in the Middle East, notes Reuters.
Afghan Wish List – Afghan President Hamid Karzai has requested a “wish list” of weapons from India in a bid to maintain military power when Western forces withdraw from Afghanistan next year, reports the Independent. India currently has a $2 billion cooperation program with Afghanistan, which supports programs such as the building of roads and hospitals, but Karzai has said he hopes to further “broaden” support from India, with which Afghanistan signed a defense agreement in 2011. Karzai has not given further details of the weapons he requested during his two-day visit to India. The latest move is likely to further stretch Afghanistan’s already tense relationship with neighboring Pakistan, notes the daily.
Coalition Politics – British Prime Minister David Cameron has spoken out against rumors of the ruling coalition splitting, insisting the current government will survive until the general election in 2015, the BBC reports. Contentious issues such as same-sex marriage and the U.K.’s relationship with Europe have caused divisions within both parties, as well as the added pressure of the recent success of the Euroskeptic U.K. Independence Party (UKIP). Cameron is quoted by the BBC as saying: “To anyone who doubts the life the life left in the coalition, I would argue there is more to come.” In a speech at Westminster, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg stated that he and Cameron were “absolutely committed” to the coalition.