In the world | Africatime
Tuesday 21 February 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Ecuadoran officials denied claims of attempted fraud in a tightly-fought election as the last votes were counted Tuesday with the ruling socialists looking likely to face a hard-to-win runoff vote.

With just over 95 percent of ballots counted from Sunday's election, leftist ruling party candidate Lenin Moreno had 39.21 percent of the vote, according to the National Electoral Council.

That was just short of the 40 percent needed to avoid a runoff on April 2 against his conservative rival Guillermo Lasso, who was on 28.35 percent.

(AFP )

A former doctor will stand trial in Madrid for allegedly stealing a newborn from her mother and giving her to another woman, a practice thought to have affected thousands of families during Spain's dictatorship.

In a court document obtained by AFP on Tuesday, a judge gave the green light for the trial of Eduardo Vela to go ahead -- the first in the dock over the "stolen babies" scandal that shook Spain when it eventually came to light in 2010.

(AFP )

Four Moroccan cities, led by Marrakesh, ranked among the top 10 African cities for quality of life in a new survey published Tuesday.

Marrakesh, nicknamed the Ochre City for the walls surrounding its old medina district, clinched the top ranking, with three other Moroccan cities -- Casablanca, Rabat and Fez -- in the top 10.

"They are cities that are not huge, where real work has been done to improve infrastructure, people's quality of life (and) housing in a stable political context," said Swiss urban sociologist Jerome Chenal, who directed the survey.

(AFP )

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and King Abdullah II of Jordan agreed Tuesday there could be no concessions on establishing a Palestinian state, the presidency said after talks in Cairo.

The meeting between the leaders of the two Arab countries that have signed peace treaties with Israel came after US President Donald Trump's administration suggested it would not insist on a Palestinian state for a Middle East peace agreement.

(AFP )

The Vatican and Rome's Jewish community on Monday presented an ambitious exhibition on the menorah which will bring together 130 works featuring the iconic Jewish candelabrum, an ancient symbol of the faith.

The show on the seven-candle Hebrew lamp will run simultaneously from May 15 to July 23 at the Vatican museums and the synagogue complex in a city which once housed one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world.

The artifacts are being loaned by nearly 20 museums around the world, including London's National Gallery and the Louvre in Paris.

(AFP )

US Ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday said the United States is ready to improve ties with Russia but will not compromise on its support for NATO and the European Union.

Haley told a Security Council debate on conflicts in Europe that "Russia's attempts to destabilize Ukraine" were among the most serious challenges facing the continent.

"The United States thinks it's possible to have a better relationship with Russia - after all, we confront many of the same threats," Haley said.

(AFP )

A Turkish court on Tuesday ordered the co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas to serve five months in jail, in the latest legal blow to the politician.

Demirtas has been held in jail since November on charges of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and making terror propaganda on their behalf.

If found guilty in that case, he risks up to 142 years in jail.

(AFP )

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir vowed Tuesday that government would ensure aid could reach areas hit by famine after three years of war that has restricted access for humanitarian workers.

The world's youngest nation on Monday declared famine in parts of the northern Greater Unity state where 100,000 people were facing starvation and another one million were on the brink of famine. A total of nearly five million are going hungry.

(AFP )

Burkina Faso's Diebedo Francis Kere will be the first African architect to design a temporary pavilion in London's Hyde Park, a prestigious assignment given to a world-famous architect every year.

Kere's design is inspired by a tree in his hometown of Gando that serves as "a central meeting point for life", the Serpentine Galleries said in a statement.

"An expansive roof, supported by a central steel framework, mimics a tree's canopy, allowing air to circulate freely while offering shelter against London rain and summer heat," it read.

(AFP )

After avoiding the subject for several days, President Donald Trump on Tuesday decried a spate of anti-Semitic threats against Jewish community centers across America as "horrible" and "painful."

Seizing the moment during his first visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, formally inaugurated just six months ago by his predecessor Barack Obama, Trump called for an end to "hatred in all of its very ugly forms."

(AFP )

A probe into whether Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ran a death squad is making progress following crucial whistleblower testimony this week, the head of the country's rights watchdog said Tuesday.

Philippine Commission on Human Rights chief Jose Gascon, who is investigating allegations that Duterte orchestrated murders while mayor of the southern city of Davao, said new evidence from a retired policeman had removed "murkiness" about events in the president's past.

(AFP )

A new blockbuster Vermeer exhibition which opens Wednesday aims to smash the myth that the Dutch master was a solitary genius who worked alone at home cut off from the world.

The Louvre in Paris has gathered a third of the 17th-century painter's canvasses for the show -- the most ever shown in one place since his death -- where they will hang alongside nearly 60 painting by his friends, rivals and contemporaries.

(AFP )

Milo Yiannopoulos, a firebrand editor of right-wing news site Breitbart, will face the media Tuesday after losing a book deal and a speaking engagement over comments in which he seems to condone pedophilia.

The 33-year-old Briton caused a stir when a video was leaked on Twitter over the weekend in which he defends men having sex with children as young as 13.

"No, no, no. You're misunderstanding what pedophilia means," Yiannopoulos says in the tape, speaking to radio hosts in a video chat.

(AFP )

Austria detained Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash on Tuesday over alleged links to organised crime in Spain, shortly after a Vienna court approved his extradition to the US on separate corruption charges.

Police took the gas magnate into custody as he left the packed courtroom surrounded by his lawyers and bodyguards.

The dramatic arrest of one of Ukraine's richest men took place just after the appeals court in Vienna unexpectedly ruled that he should be handed over US authorities.

(AFP )

Spanish police opened fire Tuesday on a truck loaded with gas cylinders that was speeding the wrong way down a Barcelona road, managing to halt it and detain the Swedish driver.

The 32-year-old man was unarmed and was taken to a hospital for a check-up, regional police chief Joan Carles Molinero told a news conference.

Writing on his Twitter account, Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said the driver had "a history of psychiatric problems."

"It was not a terrorist act," he added.

(AFP )

Romanian MPs voted Tuesday to definitively shelve a controversial decree that had sought to water down anti-corruption legislation but ended up unleashing the nation's biggest protests in a quarter-century.

The left-leaning government had already revoked the decree earlier this month but it still needed to be repealed through a parliamentary vote.

"This decree's saga has finally come to an end. The government's unfair and nontransparent move has been corrected," said the head of the centre-right opposition, Raluca Turcan.

(AFP )

French police on Tuesday arrested three men suspected of planning a terror attack in raids in the Paris area, Marseille and the central city of Clermont-Ferrand, legal sources said.

In Clermont-Ferrand, a bomb-disposal operation was called in to sweep the home of a 37-year-old suspect for explosives, a source said.

"The suspects had a plot that was sufficiently advanced for the police to decide to arrest them," another source said.

The raids were ordered by anti-terrorism prosecutors in Paris, according to a judicial source.

(AFP )

France's far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen sparked controversy Tuesday during her brief visit to Lebanon when she refused to wear a veil to meet the country's top Sunni Muslim cleric.

On her last day in the small Mediterranean country, Le Pen arrived at Sheikh Abdellatif Deryan's office in Beirut and was offered a white shawl to cover her blonde hair.

The National Front candidate promptly refused and made a brief statement to journalists before leaving.

(AFP )

Western governments need to step up their efforts to combat corruption if they are to defeat jihadists such as the Islamic State group and Boko Haram, Transparency International warned Tuesday.

Corrupt practices in states such as Nigeria, Libya and Iraq are providing fertile ground for extremists, the NGO's British branch said in a report.

"Corruption is the most powerful weapon in the armoury of violent extremism," it said in a 44-page report entitled "The Big Spin".

(AFP )

An Israeli military court on Tuesday sentenced a soldier to 18 months in prison for shooting dead a wounded Palestinian assailant who lay on the ground, sparking criticism from rights groups.

Defence lawyers announced an appeal and right-wing Israeli ministers immediately called for a pardon, while the Palestinian government and the victim's family condemned the sentence as too lenient.

(AFP )

On the edge of the village of Al-Buseif, captured overnight from the Islamic State group by Iraqi forces advancing on western Mosul, a federal policeman signalled to fleeing civilians.

The small group of villagers, some carrying makeshift white flags, walked slowly along a dirt road in the valley below, metres (yards) from the western bank of the Tigris river.

They were the first civilians to approach Al-Buseif since it was captured late Monday, and the mood among security forces hovered between welcome and suspicion as the group walked closer.

(AFP )

The leader of Germany's Social Democrats, Martin Schulz, is seen beating Chancellor Angela Merkel in September elections according to several recent polls, thanks to an unapologetically leftist programme that has earned him accusations of veering toward populism.

After years of languishing in Merkel's shadow, Germany's traditional workers' party is almost giddy with excitement these days, hoping their new leader can end the decade-long reign of the "queen of Europe".

(AFP )

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on Tuesday for the "complete liberation" of Palestine from the "tumour" of Israel, renewing his regime's refusal to recognise Israel's right to exist.

Khamenei was speaking at the sixth international conference in support of Palestinian intifada (uprising), one of a number of showcase events the Tehran authorities organise in solidarity with the Palestinians.

(AFP )

The head of Italy's anti-discrimination office has resigned following revelations that government funds for combating sexual discrimination had been allocated to clubs offering gay prostitution services.

Francesco Spano's resignation late Monday followed a report by popular television show Le Iene ("The Hyenas") that set off a media storm, claiming the National Office against Racial Discrimination (UNAR) had been funding "cultural" associations which hosted gay sex parties.

(AFP )

Diplomatic tensions escalated between Turkey and Iran on Tuesday as the regional powers traded accusations over their roles in the Syria conflict and the Middle East.

The pair have been rivals for centuries but have sought to forge a pragmatic relationship in recent years, with the Islamic Republic strongly supporting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after last year's failed coup.

(AFP )

Influential American Senator John McCain, a critic of President Donald Trump, held talks with Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Tuesday, official media said.

McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, arrived in Riyadh after talks on Syria with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Saudi Press Agency gave no details of McCain's meeting at Salman's office, except to say that the friendly ties between their two countries were discussed.

(AFP )

At least seven people were killed when multiple Taliban suicide bombers attacked a court complex in northern Pakistan Tuesday, the latest in a series of assaults which have raised fears militants are regrouping.

One bomber was briefly on the loose inside the busy complex in the Tangi area of Charsadda district but was killed by police some 20 minutes after the attack began, officials said.

A second bomber was shot dead by security forces and a third died when he detonated his vest outside the main gates of the facility in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, according to police.

(AFP )

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is a "serial killer" who should be forced out of office, one of his chief critics said Tuesday, as she faced arrest on drug charges which she insisted were meant to silence her.

Senator Leila de Lima invoked the famous "People Power" revolution that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos three decades ago, in her strongest comments yet against Duterte and his war on drugs that has claimed thousands of lives.

(AFP )

French President Francois Hollande called Tuesday on Britain to "accept its responsibility" to take in stranded under-age migrants stuck in France who wish to join up with family in the UK.

The issue has been a constant irritant between the two countries, made worse by Britain's decision this month to end an arrangement to take in up to 3,000 unaccompanied minors from Europe.

The scrapping of the so-called "Dubs agreement" by Britain's conservative government has sparked criticism from opposition MPs in London and led to anger in France.

(AFP )

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Tuesday appointed his wife as first vice president, the latest move seen as tightening the family's iron grip on the oil-rich Caspian nation.

"Mehriban Arif Gyzy Aliyeva is appointed the first vice president of the Republic of Azerbaijan," Aliyev said in a decree published on his website.

Aliyeva, 52, has been a prominent ruling Yeni Azerbaijan party lawmaker since 2005 and head of the influential Heydar Aliyev Foundation -- named after her father-in-law and former president.

(AFP )

A seasoned diplomat, a cardiologist and a lawyer will represent Syria's two sides at UN-brokered peace talks that begin Thursday in Geneva aimed at ending six years of brutal warfare.

The diplomat, Bashar al-Jaafari, is the Syrian government's veteran envoy at the United Nations: he will square off against opposition figures Nasr al-Hariri, a cardiologist, and lawyer Mohammad Sabra.

Here are mini-profiles of the three men:

- Jaafari: worldly-wise diplomat -

(AFP )

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is a "serial killer" who should be forced out of office, one of his chief critics said Tuesday, as she faced arrest on drug charges she insisted were meant to silence her.

Senator Leila de Lima invoked a famous "People Power" revolution that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos three decades ago, in her strongest comments yet against Duterte and his drug war that has claimed thousands of lives.

(AFP )

Uber has hired former attorney general Eric Holder to review workplace conditions after a ex-employee alleged sexual harassment and sexism at the firm.

Susan Fowler, an engineer who worked at the rideshare company until the end of last year, said in a blog post Sunday that her manager made sexual advances shortly after she joined the company at the end of 2015.

She said she complained to more senior managers and the company's human resources department, but was told that it was the man's "first offense" and that they wouldn't feel comfortable punishing a "high performer."

(AFP )

Ex-drug addict Fernando Rivera lived through hell as a youth from a poor and violent suburb of Mexico City -- until art saved him.

Now, aged 24, he smiles as he shows the mask with a skull design that he wears when he creates paintings with a spray-can.

After spending time in a rehab clinic, he ended up at the Arts and Crafts Factory (FARO), a network of municipal centers that have saved thousands like him from lives of drugs and violence.

"It is like being shipwrecked and then finding a place of refuge," he tells AFP.

- Changing lives -

(AFP )

A knife-edge by-election in the biggest Brexit-backing city will be make-or-break for UKIP and Labour, with both parties struggling to find their role as Britain quits the European Union.

Paul Nuttall, the new leader of the UK Independence Party, is himself standing in the battle for Stoke-on-Trent Central constituency, a stronghold for Labour -- currently the main opposition party -- since its creation in 1950.