Wednesday 20 September 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday defended the nuclear deal at the United Nations, saying it was an internationally backed accord that should not be destroyed by "rogue newcomers to the world of politics."

Hitting back at US President Donald Trump's threat to scrap the 2015 deal, Rouhani told the UN General Assembly that the deal had won global support and that its fate could not be decided by "one or two countries".

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump said Wednesday he has reached a decision on whether to recertify Iran's compliance with an international deal to curb its nuclear program.

Without revealing his decision, Trump told journalists "I have decided" ahead of an October 15 deadline to re-up the agreement. "I’ll let you know what the decision is," he said.

Trump has already reapproved sanctions relief for Tehran and is not expected to declare Iran in non-compliance with an Obama-era agreement to scale back uranium enrichment.

(AFP )

Jake LaMotta, the legendary former world middleweight boxing champion whose wild life and times inspired the Oscar-winning movie "Raging Bull," has died at age 95, his family announced Wednesday.

LaMotta, an iconic figure from boxing's 1950s golden age best known for a brutal six-fight rivalry with Sugar Ray Robinson, passed away on Tuesday, the boxer's daughter Christi LaMotta said on Facebook.

LaMotta's seventh wife, Denise Baker, told the TMZ.com website that the fighter died in a nursing home following complications from pneumonia.

(AFP )

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday called for the Iran nuclear deal to be expanded to include measures to restrict ballistic missile development and to prolong its controls on uranium enrichment.

"We have to keep the 2015 agreement because it was a good one with strong monitoring of the current situation, and and we have to add two or three pillars," Macron told reporters on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

(AFP )

Tanzanian President John Magufuli on Wednesday ordered the army to build a wall around the country's tanzanite mines to prevent smuggling and better control exports of the precious gems unique to the East African country.

The deep blue or royal purple stones are mined in the Mererani hills near Mount Kilimanjaro.

Magufuli ordered the army to "start building a wall around this whole area," insisting the work be done as soon as possible. But he did not specify exactly where the wall should be built.

(AFP )

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Wednesday pressed on with a government campaign to collect arms from tribes in war-torn Darfur where a devastating conflict has killed thousands and displaced millions.

Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and war crimes related to the conflict in Darfur, is touring the region ahead of a US decision on October 12 on whether to permanently lift a decades-old trade embargo on Sudan.

(AFP )

A ruling by the European Court of Human Rights criticising Russia’s handling of the Beslan siege which left hundreds dead will not be contested, the justice ministry said Wednesday.

In April the ECHR found "serious failings" in Russia's response to the 2004 school siege in which 330 people died, 186 of them children.

It ordered Russia to pay a total of three million euros ($3.2 million) in compensation to 409 surviving hostages and relatives of the deceased.

(AFP )

Spanish police on Wednesday seized millions of ballot papers in Catalonia due to be used for an independence referendum which has been banned by Madrid, a source close to the case said.

The source, who requested anonymity, told AFP that officers were currently counting them again, but that the number of ballots confiscated in Bigues, about 45 kilometres (28 miles) north of Barcelona, could reach nine million.

(AFP )

A chef in southern France with three Michelin stars says he wants to be stripped of the distinction because of the "huge pressure" to dish up flawless fare each day.

Sebastien Bras's Le Suquet restaurant in the village of Laguiole joined the elite club of French three-star restaurants, which currently number 27, in 1999.

On Wednesday the 46-year-old said he wanted to be dropped from the 2018 edition of the Michelin Guide to "start a new chapter".

(AFP )

The explosive works of Jean-Michel Basquiat, a trailblazer of the New York art scene of the 1970s and 80s, are to be shown in London starting this week in his first major British exhibition.

The former graffiti artist, who died in 1988 at just 27 years old, mined a huge range of influences including jazz, pop culture, abstract and primitive art and old masters in producing his dynamic and distinctive paintings, earning him a devout legion of supporters.

(AFP )

With the North Korean nuclear crisis looming large, 51 countries on Wednesday lined up to sign a new treaty outlawing nuclear weapons that has been fiercely opposed by the United States and other nuclear powers.

The treaty was adopted by 122 countries at the United Nations in July following negotiations led by Austria, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and New Zealand.

None of the nine countries that possess nuclear weapons -- the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel -- took part in the negotiations.

(AFP )

Toshiba said Wednesday it would sell its memory chip business to a group led by US investor Bain Capital, in a deal worth around $18 billion and seen as crucial to keeping the Japanese conglomerate afloat.

The sale to the consortium -- which includes US tech giants Apple and Dell as well as South Korean chipmaker SK Hynix -- caps a months-long saga that saw heated courtroom battles, rival bids and the near-delisting of one of Japan's best-known firms.

(AFP )

Catalonia's leader accused Madrid on Wednesday of imposing a "de facto state of emergency" in the Spanish region, with a series of measures to prevent an illegal independence referendum taking place.

In a speech following the latest move by Madrid -- the detention of 13 regional government officials -- Carles Puigdemont also claimed the Spanish state had implemented a "de facto suspension of Catalonia's self-governance" by for instance tightening control over Catalan finances.

(AFP )

British Prime Minister Theresa May will make an eagerly anticipated Brexit speech in Florence on Friday, seeking to unlock stalled negotiations with Brussels as well as quell divisions in her own cabinet.

Six months after beginning the two-year process of withdrawing Britain from the European Union, the Conservative leader has yet to set out in detail what she wants from the divorce.

The lack of clarity was reinforced when May's foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, laid out his own vision for Brexit in a newspaper article last weekend.

(AFP )

Beijing hit back Wednesday at US President Donald Trump's veiled criticism of its territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea, countering that the United States was a greater threat to sovereignty.

In his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump decried "threats to sovereignty" in Ukraine and the resource-rich South China Sea, without explicitly mentioning Russia or China.

"We must uphold respect for law, respect for borders, and respect for culture, and the peaceful engagement these allow," Trump said.

(AFP )

Three years after Iran-backed rebels swept into Sanaa, a semblance of normality has returned to the Yemeni capital. But across the war-wracked country a humanitarian disaster is unfolding.

The only Arab capital controlled by an armed rebel movement, Sanaa lives under the constant threat of air strikes by a Saudi-led coalition fighting in support of the internationally recognised government.

Displaced people have filled the city, the epicentre of a cholera epidemic, and hunger is rife.

(AFP )

Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico on Wednesday, cutting power on most of the US territory as terrified residents hunkered down in the face of the island's worst storm in living memory.

After leaving a deadly trail of destruction on a string of smaller Caribbean islands, Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico's southeast coast around daybreak, packing winds of around 150 miles per hour (240 kilometers per hour).

(AFP )

US-backed fighters said Wednesday they were in the "final stages" of capturing Raqa from the Islamic State group as waves of air strikes pounded the jihadists' Syrian bastion.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have now seized 90 percent of the extremists' de-facto Syrian capital, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

Their advance is the latest in a string of setbacks for IS in Syria and neighbouring Iraq, where the jihadists were defeated in second city Mosul in July.

(AFP )

Thousands of people took to the streets of Barcelona on Wednesday as police detained 14 Catalan government officials ahead of an independence referendum deemed illegal by Madrid.

Shouting "we will vote" and "no pasaran" (Spanish for "they shall not pass"), the protesters refused to move as the day wore on, further angered by news that police had seized "close to 10 million ballot papers" destined for the October 1 vote.

(AFP )

Billboards featuring a glamourous image of US First Lady Melania Trump and the caption: "Just imagine how far you can go with a little bit of English" were supposed to attract students to a language school in Croatia.

But the five roadside adverts were taken down on Tuesday after just four days on display, following a complaint from Trump's lawyer in her native Slovenia.

(AFP )

Tehran will defend itself on the world stage on Wednesday with President Donald Trump threatening to trigger a new international crisis by pulling out of the Iran nuclear accord.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani is to address the United Nations General Assembly, where worried world leaders are fearful of a new stand-off even as they grapple with the North Korean menace.

After the speech, the parties to the 2015 nuclear deal will meet, providing a venue for a tense first encounter between Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

(AFP )

Looking frail in a wheelchair and breathing with the aid of an oxygen tank, photographer Alan Lee grasps the camera that he used to take pictures of his fellow patients at a Singapore hospice.

The 69-year-old former photojournalist suffers from lung disease and knows he is going to die -- but that has not stopped him pursuing his passion for photography.

He took black and white pictures of other patients at the Assisi Hospice happily involved in various activities, and put 19 of them on display in an exhibition.

(AFP )

Two men were arrested on Wednesday over last week's London Underground terror attack in which 30 people were injured, bringing the total number of people in custody to five, police said.

The men, aged 48 and 30, were arrested under anti-terrorism legislation in Newport in Wales, police said in a statement, after a 25-year-old man was arrested in the same city on Tuesday.

"This continues to be a fast-moving investigation," Dean Haydon, head of counter-terrorism at London's Metropolitan Police, said in the statement.

(AFP )

From telegrams about hunting parties to anguished letters over the Bolshevik takeover, a trove of documents detailing the private lives of Russia's Romanov family has returned home 100 years after the 1917 revolution.

The archive, containing letters, photographs and drawings, was taken to Europe by members of the royal family who fled the chaos and persecutions of the revolution.

In July, the state-owned Russian bank Sberbank bought the archive for 70,000 euros ($84,000) after its owner, who did not want to be identified, put them up for sale.

(AFP )

US-backed fighters have captured 90 percent of the Syrian city of Raqa from the Islamic State group after overrunning five strategic neighbourhoods, a monitor said on Wednesday.

"Because of the heavy (US-led) coalition air strikes, IS withdrew from at least five key neighbourhoods over the past 48 hours," said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights chief Rami Abdel Rahman.

"This allowed the Syrian Democratic Forces to control 90 percent of the city."

IS has pulled out of the north of the city and abandoned its grain silos and mills.

(AFP )

Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has issued a new call for Myanmar to take back the some 420,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled violence in the Buddhist-dominated country.

Hasina, speaking to Bangladeshi activists in New York where she is attending the UN General Assembly, also called for greater international pressure on Myanmar over the new crisis which has unfolded in the past three weeks, media reports said.

(AFP )

An exotic island paradise in French Polynesia bought by Marlon Brando in the sixties is using its Hollywood image to tackle environmental issues -- with a little help from its jet-set visitors.

The tiny, palm-fringed atoll of Tetiaroa was once a favourite holiday spot for Tahitian royalty before the late American movie star fell in love with it while filming "Mutiny on the Bounty" in 1961 on islands close by.

(AFP )

Chancellor Angela Merkel may be on track to win a fourth term in Sunday's election, but exactly what Germany's next government will look like is anyone's guess as thorny coalition talks loom.

Despite having a double-digit poll lead, Merkel's conservative CDU/CSU bloc is expected to fall short of a parliamentary majority and the kingmakers they choose could shake up Berlin's stance on anything from eurozone reforms to refugee policies.

(AFP )

A first wave of refugees will leave remote Pacific detention camps and be resettled in the United States in coming weeks, Australian authorities said Wednesday, under a deal that has rankled President Donald Trump.

Canberra sends asylum-seekers who try to enter the country by boat to processing facilities on Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island, with those found to be refugees barred from resettling in Australia.

They are instead relocated to third countries, or resettled elsewhere in PNG.

(AFP )

A major attack in Australia is "inevitable", one of the nation's top counter-terrorism police officers said Wednesday, warning that "anything can happen at any time".

Australian authorities say they have prevented 13 terror attacks on home soil in the past few years, including an alleged plot in July to bring down a plane using poisonous gas or a crude bomb disguised as a meat mincer.

Canberra also released a national strategy last month to help venue operators prevent vehicle terror attacks carried out in crowded public places following deadly assaults in Europe.

(AFP )

Spain has taken control of Catalonia's finances to prevent funds being used for an independence referendum it deems illegal, a move that limits the region's autonomy and puts in doubt the payment of thousands of public workers' salaries.

"It is a total irresponsibility. They are leading us to an administrative collapse," Catalonia's vice president Oriol Junqueras said Monday, adding the measure was "unprecedented".

(AFP )

President Donald Trump's debut speech at the United Nations featured saber-rattling aplenty, but it also showed glimmers of a Trump doctrine that could transform America's place in the world.

It was described by one observer as a "42-minute tweetstorm" and by another as president George W. Bush's "'axis of evil' speech on steroids."

But in most respects, Trump's first stint before the green marble rostrum was everything you might expect from the truculent, norm-shattering businessman-turned-politician.

(AFP )

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Tuesday urged Palestinians to unite and "be ready to co-exist" in peace with Israelis, in his address to the United Nations.

Speaking a day after a first meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sisi said an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal was a "necessary precondition for the entire region" to enjoy stability.

Egypt has been leading mediation efforts between Palestinian arch-rivals Fatah and Hamas as part of a push to return to the forefront of Middle East diplomacy.

(AFP )

Hurricane Maria slammed into the US Virgin Islands Tuesday, lashing the archipelago with rain as Puerto Rico braced for the Category Five storm's expected landfall on Wednesday.

On St John Island, which was also battered by Hurricane Irma two weeks ago, locals reported seeing trees dramatically swaying in swirling winds, with rain pouring "sideways."

Judi Buckley, former senator for St Croix Island, traveled to St John from her South Carolina home to help with the Irma relief effort -- only to get caught up in Maria.

(AFP )

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort called Tuesday for a federal investigation into leaks after CNN reported he had been wiretapped by the FBI in a national security probe.

In a rare statement while he is under investigation in the sprawling Russia election interference probe, Manafort's spokesman said it was a felony to reveal the existence of orders -- such as the wiretaps -- authorized by the court handling Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests.