In the world | Africatime
Sunday 30 April 2017

In the world

(AFP )

President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday welcomed an offer by Pope Francis for Vatican mediation in crisis-torn Venezuela but opposition leaders rebuffed the overture.

The pope's call for a "negotiated solution" came in response to waves of protests by Venezuelans demanding new elections to pull the country out of a downward spiral.

At least 28 people have died in protests since they began April, and hundreds have been arrested.

(AFP )

Eike Batista, once considered the richest man in Brazil, was released from prison Sunday and moved to house arrest, authorities in Rio de Janeiro state said.

Accused of corruption in a case related to the massive bribery and kickback scandal at state oil giant Petrobras, Batista was approved for release on Friday from Bangu prison by Brazil's supreme court.

"He left the prison this morning, without incident, and continues under house arrest," an adviser to the state's secretary of penitentiary affairs said.

(AFP )

After what he called a "very productive" first 100 days, President Donald Trump is vowing to roll out a new health plan and to completely renegotiate the NAFTA continental trade pact.

His remarks, in a CBS interview broadcast Sunday, touched on daunting challenges domestic and foreign, from his vexed effort at health-care reform to a controversial new tax-cut plan to the rising threat from North Korea.

But they followed his assurance at a raucous rally Saturday in Pennsylvania that the "great battles" ahead would be won.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump offered some backhanded praise for North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, calling him "a pretty smart cookie" in a television interview that aired Sunday.

Trump's almost admiring remarks came amid soaring tensions with North Korea over its missile and nuclear programs, with an alarmed Washington looking to China for help in reining in Kim.

Trump said he had "no idea" whether Kim was sane or not, but said the North Korean leader had faced a formidable challenge in taking over the country at a reported age of 27 after his father's death in 2011.

(AFP )

Germany's defence minister on Sunday vowed zero tolerance for far-right extremists in the military amid a widening scandal over a soldier who allegedly plotted an attack which he planned to blame on refugees.

"We can tolerate many things, but not political extremism, right-wing or religiously motivated extremism," the minister, Ursula von der Leyen, told public broadcaster ZDF.

She was reacting to the strange case of a 28-year-old army lieutenant, named by German media as Franco A., who led what prosecutors called a "double life" pretending to be a Syrian refugee.

(AFP )

Ghana's Sulley Muntari dramatically walked off the pitch while playing for Pescara at Cagliari on Sunday after his complaints of alleged racist abuse were met with a yellow card.

The former AC Milan and Inter midfielder also angrily confronted Cagliari fans, shouting at them: "This is my colour."

Muntari could now face disciplinary measures after deciding, voluntarily, to leave the field seconds before full-time -- a decision that earned him a second yellow card, and then a red, in the 96th minute of the game that his team lost 1-0.

(AFP )

Sri Lanka's coastguard Sunday detained an Indian boat which had illegally entered the island's territorial waters and rescued 30 Rohingya refugees including 16 children who were on board, an official said.

The dhow operated by two Indians had entered Sri Lanka's northern waters after crossing the sea border, said navy spokesman Chaminda Walakuluge.

"The coastguard noticed that there were very small children on board and escorted the dhow to a port and provided them with emergency assistance," Walakuluge told AFP.

(AFP )

Elon Musk paused while chatting about his series of potentially world-changing endeavors to say he isn't in it to provide salvation.

It was during a talk on Friday at a prestigious TED Conference in Vancouver, where the tech entrepreneur was discussing his ventures building electric cars and trucks, rockets, a newly launched tunnel-boring company and even dabbling with super-fast mass transit.

"I'm not trying to be anyone's savior," Musk said while discussing colonizing Mars and other dreams. "I am just trying to think about the future and not be sad."

(AFP )

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said Ankara was "seriously saddened" by footage showing American military vehicles operating close to the border with Syrian Kurdish fighters Turkey sees as a terror group.

The Syrian Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) are seen by Washington as the most effective fighting force in the battle against jihadists in Syria.

Ankara says the fighters of the YPG are merely the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), who have waged an insurgency since 1984 inside Turkey that has left tens of thousands dead.

(AFP )

With a week to go before France's presidential election runoff, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen stayed on the offensive against frontrunner Emmanuel Macron on Sunday, trying to close a 19-point gap in the polls.

After a surprise visit to a controversial aluminium plant in the southern town of Gardanne, the 48-year-old Le Pen went on to lay a wreath at a World War II monument in the nearby port of Marseille.

(AFP )

As US-backed fighters advance on the Islamic State group's de facto Syrian stronghold Raqa, a waterway "corridor" has become a key supply line, and an escape route for displaced civilians.

An AFP team accompanied fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-Arab alliance that is fighting to capture the strategic town of Tabqa, some 55 kilometres (35 miles) west of Raqa.

Their direct land route from the territory they hold in the north is blocked by the Tabqa dam, which remains under IS control.

(AFP )

South Korea and the United States wrapped up their annual large-scale military drills on Sunday, but continued a separate joint naval exercise that has triggered dire threats from nuclear-armed North Korea.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been running sky-high for weeks, with signs that the North might be preparing a long-range missile launch or a sixth nuclear test -- and with Washington refusing to rule out a military strike in response.

(AFP )

Swiss climber Ueli Steck, one of the most feted mountaineers of his generation and famed for his speed ascents of iconic Alpine routes, died on Mount Everest on Sunday, officials said.

"Today morning, he had an accident on the Nuptse wall and died. It seems he slipped," Ang Tsering Sherpa, head of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, told AFP.

Steck, 40, was on Everest to acclimatise before attempting in May to summit the world's tallest peak followed by neighbouring Lhotse, connecting a series of ridges to design a never before climbed route.

(AFP )

Donald Trump thinks Chinese President Xi Jinping is "putting pressure" on North Korea, the US president said in an interview to air Sunday, as tensions mount over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs.

If North Korea carries out a nuclear test "I would not be happy," Trump told the CBS television network's "Face the Nation" program.

"And I can tell you also, I don't believe that the president of China, who is a very respected man, will be happy either," Trump said in excerpts of the interview released Saturday.

(AFP )

A US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance is advancing against the Islamic State group in the key town of Tabqa near the jihadist bastion of Raqa in northern Syria, a monitor said Sunday.

The Syrian Democratic Forces now control over half the town of Tabqa, including most of its heart, the Old City, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said fighting was continuing in the town on Sunday morning.

(AFP )

China has launched perhaps its most concerted push yet to clean up a toxic brew of unregulated and risky lending increasingly viewed as a threat to global financial stability, but do authorities really mean business this time?

Analysts don't think so.

China's addiction to debt-fuelled growth powers the steady economic expansion that the ruling Communist Party craves, and it won't go cold turkey, they said.

(AFP )

Ukraine is still suffering from the trauma of the world's worst civil nuclear accident at Chernobyl but has nonetheless turned the hazardous fuel into the backbone of its energy portfolio.

The crisis-torn country now uses atomic power for more than half of its electricity needs as it struggles through a coal shortage sparked by a three-year war against Russian-backed insurgents in the separatist east.

(AFP )

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte failed to condemn China's push to control most of the disputed South China Sea on Sunday after hosting a regional summit, handing Beijing a political victory.

A day after taking centre stage as host of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders' meeting, Duterte released a bland chairman's statement that ignored last year's international ruling outlawing China's sweeping claims to the key waterway.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump invited his Philippine counterpart Rodrigo Duterte to Washington in a "friendly" call in which the leaders discussed the "threat" of North Korea, the White House said.

The announcement comes amid rising tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs following its latest test-fire, as well international criticism of Duterte's drug crackdown that has claimed thousands of lives.

(AFP )

The unbeaten Canterbury Crusaders won a ninth Super Rugby game this weekend, but the result was soured by an injury to All Blacks skipper Kieran Read.

The rampaging Crusaders squashed the threatened South African team Central Cheetahs 48-21 in Bloemfontein to stretch their lead in the New Zealand conference to four points, but they could be without the influential Read for up to six weeks.

(AFP )

Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who go head-to-head in the second round of France's presidential election on May 7, are diametrically opposed on issues ranging from immigration to Europe to gay marriage.

Here is where they stand on the key questions:

- Europe -

Le Pen has insisted on the need for France to drop the euro single currency and leave Europe's Schengen visa-free travel zone.

(AFP )

Pro-EU centrist Emmanuel Macron will take on far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the second-round run-off of France's presidential election on May 7.

The pair topped the polls in the first round of voting on April 23.

- Why is the election important? -

France is the eurozone's second-biggest economy as well as a global military and diplomatic heavyweight, with veto power as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

(AFP )

The battle to become France's next president boils down to a sharp clash of contrasting visions.

In one corner is centrist Emmanuel Macron, with his pro-globalisation, pro-EU world view.

In the other, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who champions "nationalism" and a "France-first" approach.

"The country Mr Macron wants is no longer France, it's a space, a wasteland, a trading room where there are only consumers and producers," Le Pen told thousands of supporters in Nice on Thursday.

(AFP )

Former prime minister Matteo Renzi was poised to win the leadership of Italy's ruling Democratic Party (PD) in a primary election Sunday, propelling him back to the forefront of the national political scene.

Renzi, 42, resigned as prime minister in December after Italians overwhelmingly rejected a constitutional referendum aimed at streamlining the parliamentary system.

(AFP )

Donald Trump hailed a "very productive" first 100 days as America's president, telling a roaring crowd of supporters other "great battles" ahead would be won.

In an hour-long speech Trump lambasted the media and predecessor Barack Obama, boasted of his support for US industry and the military, and vaunted his foreign policy positions including on confronting North Korea, earning cheers from the crowd in Pennsylvania.

(AFP )

A top Venezuelan opposition figure called on Saturday for more marches aimed at taking back the courts and the National Electoral Council that he said had been "hijacked" by President Nicolas Maduro.

Freddy Guevara urged people to protest on Monday -- May 1 or May Day, a traditional workers' holiday -- with marches to the Supreme Court and the National Electoral Council's offices.

"We want to summon all Venezuelans, across the country's 24 states, to hit the dictatorship with a one-two punch," Guevara said, evoking simultaneous peaceful marches in the two locations.

(AFP )

A plane crash in western Cuba on Saturday killed eight military personnel, the ministry in charge of the island's armed forces said.

The Russian-made AN-26 transport aircraft crashed in a mountainous region of western Artemisa province, killing all eight on board including the plane's crew, the Revolutionary Armed Forces ministry said in a statement carried by state media.

The plane, which can carry up to 40 people, had taken off from Playa Baracoa airport just outside the capital Havana. It crashed into a mountain, Loma de la Pimienta, 35 miles (55 kilometers) distant.

(AFP )

The family firm of President Mauricio Macri allegedly tried to empty the accounts of Argentina's postal service, which it ran years ago, the justice ministry said on Saturday.

The accusation by a prosecutor handling commercial matters, Gabriela Bouquin, stems from a contract the Macri Group had to manage Correo Argentina between 1997 and 2003, before the illiquid service was re-nationalized.

She said that there were transfers of nearly $300,000 from Correo Argentina's accounts in 2016, mostly to firms controlled by Macri family-owned company.

(AFP )

Pope Francis on Saturday called for negotiations to resolve tensions surrounding North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Speaking on board the papal plane on his way back from a two-day visit to Egypt, the pontiff said there was a need for "negotiations with a view to a diplomatic solution".

"There are plenty of mediators in the world who are putting themselves forward. Norway, for example which is ready to help," he said.

(AFP )

Pope Francis on Saturday said the Vatican was ready to intervene as a mediator to try and end Venezuela's deadly political crisis under "clear conditions".

Speaking on a plane bringing him back from Egypt to Rome, the pontiff said: "I believe that that must be done under conditions. Very clear conditions."

"There was an intervention by the Holy See following strong pressure" by four former leaders of Spain, the Dominican Republic, Panama and Colombia, he said.

(AFP )

Teenage fly-half Curwin Bosch kicked 18 points as Coastal Sharks of South Africa won 33-25 at Jaguares of Argentina Saturday in a key Super Rugby match.

Success gave the Sharks an eight-point advantage in the standings over the Jaguares with six rounds left as the teams battle for a quarter-finals place.

It was a much improved show by the visitors after coach Robert du Preez told his players to refund spectators following a woeful home draw with the Melbourne Rebels last weekend.

(AFP )

An exhibition in Milan is offering through the lens of 65 photographers an original look at the topic of immigration and the migrant crisis.

The Restless Earth, organised by the Nicola Trussardi foundation, is being presented by the Visual Arts Program of Milan's Triennale (, the title alluding to works by Caribbean poet Edouard Glissant on how different cultures can live together.

(AFP )

Police detained over 100 activists in Saint Petersburg on Saturday as hundreds of Russian opposition supporters turned out to protest against President Vladimir Putin's expected candidacy in elections next year.

Protests in several cities were called by the Open Russia movement founded by arch-Putin foe and former oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

They were held under the slogan "We're sick of him" -- a reference to Putin.

(AFP )

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban insisted Saturday that no agreement had been reached over a controversial higher education law that could close down a Budapest university founded by US billionaire George Soros.

His comments came despite claims by allies in the EU's powerful centre-right political group that he would soon yield to EU pressure.

The European People's Party (EPP) said after a meeting in Brussels between its top officials and Orban that he agreed to quickly meet EU rights demands over the education law.

(AFP )

Brazilian authorities were working Saturday to clear away the remains of barricades, burned-out buses and trash strewn about the streets during a general strike the previous day that saw violent clashes between protesters and police.

The demonstrations shut down transportation, schools and shops, with small groups smashing bank windows, hurling rocks and setting fires. Police responded with rubber bullets and tear gas.