BBC news 2011-07-01

BBC News with David Austin

The United Nations tribunal investigating the murder of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 has delivered a sealed indictment to the Lebanese authorities. The suspects have not been named, but Lebanese officials say several of them are members of the Shia organisation Hezbollah. The group has strongly denied any involvement in the attack. A member of Saad Hariri's Future Movement party, Atef Majdalani, welcomed the action taken by the UN tribunal.

"We consider the release of the indictment today is part of our martyrs' rights, and this indictment is the first step towards establishing the truth and achieving justice in order to bring stability to Lebanon."

One of two French hostages set free on Wednesday by the Taliban in Afghanistan has told the BBC he believed that a deal had been arranged in exchange for their liberty and that of their Afghan interpreter. The Taliban rebels said earlier that several of their members had been released from jail. The Afghan government in Kabul denied that any prisoner exchange had taken place. France earlier denied that any ransom was paid for its journalists. The former hostage, television reporter Herve Ghesquiere, told the BBC why he'd come to this conclusion.

"I don't have any proof. You know, officially there is no ransom. But of course it's not for chocolates."

"You mean you were freed for a reason."

"For money and for at least two prisoners' release."

Members of the Greek parliament have passed a second austerity bill securing continuing financial support from international creditors. A majority of MPs approved the measures that include an introduction of income tax for low-paid workers and pay cuts for civil servants. The European Union said Greece had now met the conditions to receive the latest tranche of last year's bailout loan and paved the way for a second assistance package.

A meeting of the African Union has started in Equatorial Guinea with a speech by the head of the AU Commission saying that the problems of African youth are one of the causes for the recent uprisings in North African countries. The Libyan issue is dominating the conference with the host, President Obiang Nguema, strongly criticising Western interference. Thomas Fessy has this report.

The African Union Commission chief Jean Ping said in his opening speech that deliberations of the Libyan crisis were the most anticipated at the summit. He said the committee set up to discuss the conflict was considering all possible options in favour of a political solution. According to Mr Ping, the Libyan demonstrations, which then became a civil war, revealed a number of challenges, such as the African governments' inability to understand the people's legitimate aspirations. Concrete measures, he said, must be taken to better take care of young people's needs.

Thomas Fessy reporting

World News from the BBC

Twenty civilians in Afghanistan have been killed when a bus they were travelling in hit a landmine. Women and children are among the victims. It's not known yet how many people were on board. The explosion happened on the main road linking the city of Kandahar to the southwestern province of Nimroz.

French police have detained a man who'd grabbed President Nicolas Sarkozy and nearly knocked him to the ground when he was shaking hands in a crowd. The incident happened in the town of Brax in the southwest of France. Reports said the attacker, a local caretaker and receptionist, was not armed. Mr Sarkozy's approval ratings have been low in recent months, and he's been heckled on several occasions, but this is the first time he's been physically attacked.

Official figures show that Britain has experienced its highest rate of population growth in almost half a century. The population rose to 62.25 million last year, up almost 0.5 million on 2009. The rise has been caused by an increase in the birth rate and greater longevity. Mark Easton has the details.

The Office for National Statistics says the main reason population is rising faster than at any time since Harold Wilson was prime minister is the sheer number of babies being born, an additional 370 extra every day, compared to eight years before. Some are hailing this as good news, a way of defusing the demographic time bomb of a shrinking young working population and a rapidly increasing elderly population. And with the global population predicted to hit seven billion in the near future, there are those who link rising birth rates to potential disaster.

The newly married British Prince William and his wife Kate have arrived in Canada at the start of their first official overseas visit. They are in the capital Ottawa, where they had laid a wreath at the National War Memorial before greeting thousands of cheering well-wishers. The couple will also visit other Canadian provinces before travelling south to California.

And that's the BBC News.