In the world | Africatime
Thursday 27 April 2017

In the world

(AFP )

El Salvador on Thursday became the first country in the world to ban the mining of metals in what campaigners called a landmark move for environmental protection.

The law bans "prospection, exploration, exploitation, extraction or processing of metallic minerals in El Salvador," according to the text published Thursday in the official journal.

"This is more than just a novelty," the president of the Salvadoran Ecological Unit, Mauricio Sermeno, told AFP.

(AFP )

EU leaders will discuss at a summit this weekend whether to back automatic membership for Northern Ireland after Brexit if it ever reunifies with Ireland, sources said on Friday.

Ireland is expected to ask the 27 European Union leaders to endorse the idea when they meet in Brussels on Saturday without Britain to adopt guidelines for Brexit negotiations.

(AFP )

The US prosecution of the massive corruption scandal rocking world soccer scalped a new head on Thursday: the football chief on the tiny Pacific island of Guam.

Richard Lai, a 55-year-old US citizen, pleaded guilty Thursday in a federal court in New York to accepting nearly $1 million in bribes from 2009-2014, US prosecutors announced.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts, and agreed to pay $1.1 million in fines and forfeiture.

(AFP )

German lawmakers on Thursday approved a partial ban on the full-face burqa Islamic veil and a package of security measures aimed at preventing extremist attacks.

The new laws follow several jihadist attacks, including a truck rampage through a Berlin Christmas market that claimed 12 lives, and come ahead of September elections.

The new law on facial coverings falls short of a total ban in public places demanded by right-wing parties, like that in effect in neighbouring France since 2011.

(AFP )

The UN Security Council on Thursday postponed voting on a draft resolution on the Western Sahara conflict amid signs the Polisario Front independence movement was preparing a pullback from a tense zone of the contested territory, a council diplomat said.

The US-drafted text included a strong appeal to the Polisario Front to immediately withdraw from the Guerguerat strip, which has become a potential flashpoint between the independence fighters and Moroccan troops.

(AFP )

Arkansas was set to execute another inmate on Thursday, the last in a series of lethal injections that the state has squeezed into a compressed timeline, even as the daughter of one of his victims appealed for clemency.

A plan by the conservative southern state to execute eight prisoners in 11 days -- before its stock of a drug used in legal injections expires -- set off a huge legal battle.

It was challenged not only by lawyers for the condemned men but also pharmaceutical companies opposed to their products being used to put people to death.

(AFP )

Russian President Vladimir Putin's principal opponent Alexei Navalny was briefly hospitalised Thursday after being hit in the eye by green dye that he said had damaged his cornea.

"Shrek 2: now one-eyed," he wrote on his blog alongside a picture showing his face spattered and one eye half-shut.

"At the hospital they wrote: 'Chemical burn to the right eye" + it's pretty unpleasant: it's hard to anaesthetise, my eye burns from the fire of hell and I cannot open it," Navalny added.

(AFP )

Macedonia's opposition leader was among at least 10 people injured in parliament Thursday after protesters stormed the building following an allegedly unfair vote for a parliamentary speaker, witnesses and local media reported.

An AFP reporter saw Zoran Zaev, who leads the main opposition Social Democrats, with blood on his face in the chaos, while Macedonian media quoting hospital sources said ten people were injured, including two deputies.

(AFP )

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Thursday demanded that his billionaire Finance Minister Andrej Babis, a leading candidate in October elections, explain past business activities amid media speculation he could be axed.

"I'm worried by the way the finance minister has reacted to doubts raised in connection with his business dealings," Social Democrats (CSSD) leader Sobotka told reporters in Prague.

"I'm waiting for his explanation by the end of April, then I'll take my decision," Sobotka said.

(AFP )

Hundreds of thousands of Dutch citizens on Thursday celebrated the 50th birthday of King Willem-Alexander with shows, parties and street sales with many sporting quirky outfits and hats in the national colour orange.

The beaming monarch spent the day with his family in the southern city of Tilburg where he was feted by 50 pianists and a colourful dance performance.

About 150,000 orange-clad revellers joined the celebrations in Tilburg, the Dutch news agency ANP said, quoting the local municipality.

(AFP )

Italian authorities on Thursday placed six people, including senior local officials, under criminal investigation over the avalanche that engulfed the Rigopiano hotel in January, killing 29 people.

Among those informed they could face charges are the local mayor Ilario Lacchetta, the president of the province of Pescara, Antonio Di Marco, and Bruno Di Tommaso, the manager of the hotel, located in the Abruzzo region of central Italy.

The suspects are being investigated for "negligence, imprudence and recklessness" in relation to the disaster, according to local media.

(AFP )

Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday accused the other 27 EU countries of lining up to oppose Britain over Brexit after Germany's Angela Merkel said the UK should have no "illusions" over the exit process.

EU nation leaders have stressed a united stance as they plan to meet Saturday to set down the bloc's "red lines" -- although the talks will not begin until June, after a snap British election called by May to strengthen her negotiating hand.

(AFP )

US Ambassador Nikki Haley urged the UN Security Council on Thursday to ratchet up pressure on Russia to end sieges in Syria and help advance peace talks.

"All eyes and all pressure now need to go to Russia, because they are the ones who could stop this if they wanted to," Haley told a council meeting on the worsening humanitarian crisis in Syria.

Haley argued that years of appeals to Bashar al-Assad to allow aid deliveries to reach civilians in besieged areas had failed and that the focus must now squarely be on the Syrian president's main ally.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump said Thursday he was saddened by the crisis in Venezuela, where waves of anti-government unrest has claimed the lives of 29 people.

"Venezuela is a mess," Trump said in response to a reporter's question as he received Argentine President Mauricio Macri to the White House.

"I'm very sad for Venezuela, very sad to see what's happened in Venezuela," he said. "Venezuela is a very sad situation."

(AFP )

Facebook said Thursday it is stepping up its security to counter efforts by governments and others to spread misinformation or manipulate discussions for political reasons.

The new effort expands Facebook's security efforts beyond "abusive" actions such as hacking and financial scams to "more subtle and insidious forms of misuse, including attempts to manipulate civic discourse and deceive people," according to a white paper released by the world's leading social network.

(AFP )

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday agreed to start flights for former residents to visit a disputed island chain as he and Japanese premier Shinzo Abe again struggled to make progress on a decades-old territorial dispute.

Russia and Japan have been blocked from signing a formal treaty to end World War II hostilities for seven decades over the island disagreement, hampering closer ties.

The Soviet Union seized the islands off Japan's northern coast -- called the Southern Kurils by Moscow and the Northern Territories by Tokyo -- in 1945 in the closing days of the war.

(AFP )

The Pentagon said Thursday it is investigating President Donald Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn over payments he received from Russian government-linked firms.

The Department of Defense said it was probing whether the retired lieutenant general failed to obtain required prior approval before accepting money from foreign governments.

Flynn was specifically warned when he retired in 2014 that he had to get advance permission before accepting consulting fees, salaries, gifts, or travel expenses from a foreign government.

(AFP )

Prosecutors on Thursday requested a 28-year prison term for a one-eyed, far-right extremist who was the alleged kingpin of a mafia gang that preyed on Rome's City Hall.

The request came during summing up for the prosecution in the final stages of what has been an 18-month trial held in a high-security prison.

Known as "Mafia Capitale", the case has exposed how organised crime infiltrated Rome's corridors of power and, for years, used extortion, fraud and inside accomplices to steal millions of euros destined for public services.

(AFP )

Police swooped on a man armed with knives metres away from the Houses of Parliament in London on Thursday, arresting him on suspicion of preparing "acts of terrorism".

The 27-year-old man was pinned to the ground in the middle of the road close to the Treasury and entrances to Westminster station on the London Underground train network.

The area has been on a state of heightened alert since a deadly attack on March 22 perpetrated by Khalid Masood, a 52-year-old convert to Islam.

(AFP )

Venezuela defied international pressure over its deadly political crisis Thursday as European lawmakers accused its government of "brutal repression" and US President Donald Trump called the country "a mess."

Nearly a month of clashes at anti-government protests have left 28 people dead, according to prosecutors.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday raised the ante in his row with foreign powers that he accuses of plotting to overthrow him.

(AFP )

A French court on Thursday rejected a request by Serbia to extradite Kosovo's former prime minister Ramush Haradinaj, whom Belgrade accuses of committing war crimes during the 1998-1999 Kosovo conflict.

Haradinaj, 48, was arrested by French police on January 4 when he flew into the Franco-Swiss airport of Basel-Mulhouse, but he is free to return home following Thursday's decision by the court in Colmar, eastern France.

(AFP )

Brigitte Macron, as the 64-year-old wife of the man tipped to become France's youngest-ever president, is getting used to being in the media spotlight.

But the elegant blonde is also having to endure unwelcome scrutiny from a foreign press fascinated by the age gap between her and Emmanuel Macron, the talented student she first met when he was 15 and she a married mother of three.

"A cougar at the Elysee?" asked Britain's Times newspaper as Macron, 39, ramped up his campaign against far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

(AFP )

Russian police on Thursday searched the offices of the Open Russia movement of former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, which has called a protest against President Vladimir Putin at the weekend.

The search came as three other Khodorkovsky-associated groups were put on the register of banned "undesirable" organisations for allegedly stirring unrest and undermining state security.

(AFP )

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen hopped onto a fishing boat at dawn on Thursday as she pursued a guerrilla-style campaign that has upstaged frontrunner Emmanuel Macron.

It was still dark when Le Pen boarded a trawler at the small southern port of Grau-du-Roi for a four-hour trip out to sea, seeking to portray herself as the protector of small-time producers against the man she says embodies "unbridled globalisation".

(AFP )

An unmanned NASA spacecraft has survived its plunge between the rings of Saturn and, after briefly going dark for the flyby, is communicating again with Earth, the US space agency said Thursday.

Cassini skimmed closer than any previous spacecraft to the sixth planet from the Sun, and lived to tell the tale, sending back a signal that arrived early Thursday at 0656 GMT, about 20 hours after the crossing took place.

(AFP )

A German soldier who led a "double life" pretending to be a Syrian refugee has been arrested on suspicion he planned a gun attack with racist motives, prosecutors said Thursday.

The 28-year-old suspect, who was not identified, was thought to have a "xenophobic background", they said.

The Die Welt daily reported he may have plotted to pin the blame for an attack on foreigners.

The case involved a joint police operation across Germany, France and Austria with raids on 16 locations, prosecutors in Frankfurt said in a statement.

(AFP )

An Italian court on Thursday acquitted a humanitarian activist who had faced a possible prison term for trying to help a family of Sudanese migrants cross from Italy into France.

Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of three years and four months and a 50,000-euro fine to be imposed on French national Felix Croft, 28, following his arrest in July last year near the border town of Ventimiglia.

The acquittal verdict was greeted by cheers from dozens of Croft's supporters who had attended Thursday's hearing at a court in nearby Imperia.

(AFP )

Sweden on Thursday announced tougher measures against illegal immigration, weeks after the main suspect behind the deadly Stockholm attack was identified as an Uzbek who had ignored a deportation order.

Slammed for having failed to expel 39-year-old Rakhmat Akilov, who had gone underground after being denied a residency permit in 2016, the government vowed to take action.

The proposal, which is likely to pass in the parliament, will allow police to carry out surprise inspections at workplaces and double the amount of fines for hiring illegal immigrants.

(AFP )

Female Islamic clerics in Indonesia declared a series of fatwas Thursday, including one to tackle child marriage, a rare example of women taking a leading religious role in the Muslim-majority country.

The fatwas -- religious edicts that have no legal force but are influential -- were issued at the end of a three-day congress of female clerics in the country with the world's biggest Muslim population.

(AFP )

Southeast Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, blamed for major attacks including the 2002 Bali bombings, has regained strength in Indonesia and could spawn a new generation of extremists, a leading security think-tank warned Thursday.

Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) does not pose an immediate threat and its leadership has for some years rejected violence to achieve its goal of forming an Islamic state, said the report from Jakarta group the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC).

(AFP )

Iraqi forces on Thursday retook the town of Hatra, southwest of Mosul, on the third day of an operation that saw them wrest back a nearby UNESCO-listed ancient city, a statement said.

Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) paramilitary forces said they had flushed the Islamic State group out of Hatra, which lies 120 kilometres (80 miles) from Mosul.

(AFP )

A Russian naval spy ship on Thursday sank in the Black Sea off Turkey's coast after hitting a Togo-flagged vessel packed with livestock but all of its 78 crew were rescued by Turkish coastguards.

The Russian military said the Liman -- a former research ship re-fitted as an intelligence vessel -- had a hole ripped out of its hull in the collision with the Youzarsif H.

(AFP )

The UN said Thursday it had enlisted Yusra Mardini, the teenage Olympic swimmer who braved a Mediterranean crossing in a leaky dinghy fleeing war-torn Syria, to help raise awareness about the plight of refugees.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said it had appointed Mardini as its newest Goodwill Ambassador, a role long famously held by US movie star Angelina Jolie.

(AFP )

EU lawmakers on Thursday overwhelmingly condemned "brutal repression" in Venezuela, where anti-government unrest has left 28 people dead this month.

In a resolution, the European Parliament said it "strongly condemns the brutal repression exercised by the Venezuelan security forces, as well as irregular armed groups, against the peaceful protests".

MEPs also urged the Venezuelan government to investigate all the deaths and bring those responsible to justice, as well as guaranteeing the right to peaceful further protests.

(AFP )

A Taiwanese trekker is recovering in hospital after rescuers found him and his dead girlfriend on a mountainside in Nepal where they were stranded for 47 days, surviving on only water and salt after their food ran out.

Liu Chen-chun, 18,​ died just three days before the rescue team located the couple in northwest Nepal, but her boyfriend managed to survive despite losing 30 kilos (66 pounds) during the ordeal.

A severely malnourished Liang Sheng-yueh, 20, was being treated in hospital in Kathmandu, where he was airlifted after being rescued from the remote region.