In the world | Africatime
Friday 24 March 2017

In the world

(AFP )

The team of health inspectors strode into the Rio supermarket Friday and before long had two trolleys filled to the brim -- except they weren't shopping.

"That will all be destroyed," a member of the team said.

Since federal investigators stunned Brazil -- and its worldwide trade partners -- a week ago by announcing they were investigating meatpackers for selling rotten produce with faked certificates, health police have been on the warpath.

(AFP )

Syrian rivals will tackle all agenda items at peace talks this week, including political transition, the United Nations mediator Staffan de Mistura said Friday, warning not to expect "miracles."

The fifth round of stalled UN-backed negotiations have started in Geneva, with a mandate to discuss governance, drafting a new constitution, elections and combating terrorism in the war-ravaged country.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's delegation has sought to keep terrorism as the focus, accusing the main opposition High Negotiations Committee of partnering with extremists.

(AFP )

Eleven Syrian refugees drowned after a migrant boat sank off Turkey's Aegean coast on Friday, the coast guard command said, with local media reporting that five children were among the dead.

The bodies of the migrants, including two women, were discovered in the western province of Aydin, the private Dogan news agency reported.

"Nine migrants were rescued while 11 migrants' bodies were taken from the sea," the coast guard said in a statement on its website.

(AFP )

Syrian government troops on Friday recaptured all points taken by rebels in a surprise offensive launched late last week in the east of the capital Damascus, state media said.

"The army has retaken all the areas infiltrated by the terrorists in the area between the Jobar and Qabun neighbourhoods... after intensive military operations," the official SANA news agency reported.

State television showed a reporter greeting cheering soldiers near Abbasid Square, which had been emptied of its usual traffic at the beginning of the rebel assault on Sunday.

(AFP )

A new Hungarian law on the systematic detention of all asylum seekers could expose migrant children to sexual exploitation, said Europe's top rights watchdog Friday, adding its voice to criticism of the measure from human rights groups.

In a letter addressed to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban published Friday, the Council of Europe expressed concern that, under the new law, unaccompanied children would be treated as adult asylum applicants.

(AFP )

One in five youths in several North African countries and Lebanon would like to emigrate in search of better prospects, including those with university degrees, according to a survey conducted for the European Commission.

The survey of 10,000 people in Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia found a deep sense of "frustration and social exclusion", according to Elena Sanchez-Montijano at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB), who coordinated the study.

(AFP )

Six Russian soldiers were killed in Chechnya Friday when gunmen tried to storm their base in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group.

The base belongs to Russia's National Guard, a branch established last year to defend borders and counter extremism.

It is subordinate directly to President Vladimir Putin and has bases in the country's volatile North Caucasus regions, including Chechnya.

(AFP )

Pope Francis on Friday warned European Union leaders the bloc risks dying without a new vision of the future based on the principles of solidarity on which it was founded.

In a hard-hitting message on the eve of the troubled EU's 60th anniversary celebrations in Rome, the Argentine pontiff spelled out the many problems facing a Union soon to lose Britain from its ranks.

And while he said problems such as the economic and migration crises and the rise of populism could be overcome by the remaining 27 members, he said they could prove fatal if not treated.

(AFP )

With 30 days to go before the first round of France's two-stage presidential election, the incumbent Francois Hollande made a rare sortie into the campaign after conservative candidate Francois Fillon accused him of orchestrating a smear campaign.

Here are three things that happened in the campaign on Friday:

- Hollande slams 'smear' charge -

President Hollande lashed out at Fillon, saying the 63-year-old rightwinger had exceeded the bounds of "dignity and responsibility" with his claims.

(AFP )

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet with members of the NATO alliance next week, after initially planning to skip ministerial talks, a spokesman said Friday.

The State Department was unable to confirm whether the new March 31 meeting in Brussels will replace a planned foreign ministers' meeting that Tillerson will not attend on April 5 and 6.

Earlier this week, Tillerson caused dismay among Washington's European allies when his office announced that he would not be able to attend the meeting of the 28-member alliance.

(AFP )

In its first such decision, the International Criminal Court on Friday awarded $250 dollars as "symbolic" damages to each victim of a former Congolese warlord, a sum swiftly dismissed as meaningless by those who lost homes and loved ones in a militia attack on their village 14 years ago.

The order was a landmark step for the tribunal, set up in 2002 to prosecute the world's worst atrocities, marking the first time it has awarded individual reparations and placed monetary values on the harm caused by such crimes.

(AFP )

Swiss prosecutors said Friday they had opened an investigation into alleged spying on members of the Turkish community in Switzerland by an unspecified "intelligence service".

The Office of the Attorney General told AFP it had "concrete suspicions (of espionage) against the Turkish community in Switzerland (by) a political intelligence service," and said it had opened its probe on March 16, after receiving a green light from the Swiss government.

(AFP )

Eleven men and women in their twenties on Friday slaughtered a sheep and took their clothes off at the former Nazi German death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, according to police and the museum at the site in southern Poland.

The individuals aged 20 to 27, whose identities and motives are unknown, then chained themselves together in front of the camp's infamous "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work makes you free") gate, the museum said in a statement.

(AFP )

Bulgarian nationalists blocked for several hours Friday the three main crossing points with Turkey to prevent coaches bringing in thousands of Turks with Bulgarian passports to vote in Sunday's elections, organisers said.

The protests marked a further escalation of a spat between EU member Bulgaria and its neighbour Turkey over Ankara's open support for a new party representing Bulgaria's Turkish minority.

(AFP )

Khalid Masood's criminal past is a common marker for recent jihadists, but the London attacker's age of 52 is unusual and there was little in his profile that could have given an early warning, experts said.

"There aren't any surprises," said Brooke Rogers, a terrorism researcher at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at King's College London.

"The link to past criminality, we have seen that before," she told AFP, adding that if his reported stints in prison were confirmed, they could have been "a potential entry point for radicalisation".

(AFP )

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said Friday the election of Ahmad Ahmad as Confederation of African Football chief was "a vote for change" after almost 30 years under Cameroonian Issa Hayatou.

Ahmad, head of Madagascar's football federation, won the election in the Ethiopian capital this month by 34 votes to Hayatou's 20.

"The African confederation needed to decide what it wanted for the future and Africans voted for change," Infantino told journalists on the sidelines of a football congress organised at Estoril, near Lisbon.

(AFP )

Two years to the day after the deadly Germanwings crash in the French Alps, the father of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz spoke out publicly Friday to dispute that his son deliberately downed the plane.

Both the message and the timing of the first public appearance by a member of Lubitz's close family since the 2015 disaster that claimed 150 lives were criticised by victims' families, who held their own sombre events to mark the tragedy.

(AFP )

South Sudan's famine is a disaster created by its leaders, say analysts who argue that while food may save some lives now it is only peace that can bring lasting relief.

But peace is as distant as ever with an international community that appears paralysed, while the men ruling over the country's misery are unmoved by pleas for them to lay down their weapons.

There is no catastrophic drought in South Sudan, no natural driver for the famine afflicting 100,000 and threatening a million others.

(AFP )

Bilal Abduljabbar clambers onto the back of an Iraqi army truck with his two teenage children to start the final stage of their escape from war-torn west Mosul.

"Where we came from, there was no water and no food, just fighting," the 43-year-old says. "And where we're going, there's no future."

A rumble of mortar fire resonates in the distance as hundreds of people trudge up a rain-drenched street under a heavy grey sky of smoke and clouds.

(AFP )

The UN rights council agreed Friday to "urgently" launch an investigation into violations against Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims, including torture, murder and rapes allegedly committed by troops.

The Geneva-based body decided to "dispatch urgently an independent international fact-finding mission" to Myanmar, particularly focused in northern Rahkine state, in a resolution adopted by consensus.

The mission must provide an oral update in September and a full report by this time next year, said the resolution backed by the European Union.

(AFP )

South Korea's sunken Sewol ferry was sailed away from its watery grave Friday, beginning its final journey nearly three years after it went down with the loss of more than 300 lives.

A flotilla of powerful tugs towed the wreck, lying on its side on a platform between two giant salvage barges, towards a semi-submersible that will finally bring it into port.

The 145-metre ship was brought to the surface in a complex salvage operation believed to be among the largest recoveries ever of a wreck in one piece, a key demand of the families of the dead.

(AFP )

A Tunisian man has been charged with terror offences after being arrested for driving at high speed into a crowded shopping area in the Belgian port city of Antwerp, prosecutors said Friday as his motives remained unclear.

The 39-year-old suspect identified only as Mohamed R. was charged with "an attempt to murder in a terrorist manner, an attempt to hit and wound in a terrorist manner and arms infractions," the federal prosecutor's office said.

(AFP )

President Vladimir Putin met French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen as she visited Moscow on Friday, with the Russian leader stressing that the Kremlin does not meddle in France's politics.

Le Pen's meeting with Putin -- their first, according to Moscow -- comes a month before the first round of the French presidential vote and as she tries to boost her international status by meeting with world leaders.

(AFP )

A pro-Russian lawmaker accused of involvement in an alleged coup attempt in Montenegro that authorities say was meant to hobble the country's bid to join NATO has denounced the claims as invented.

Opposition leader Andrija Mandic is among 25 suspects said to have been seeking to seize parliament and assassinate the country's then prime minister during an election last year.

Parliament lifted the immunity of Mandic and another pro-Russian MP last month so they could potentially face charges in a case with echoes of Moscow's alleged interference in the US election.

(AFP )

The international coalition battling the Islamic State group will begin a final push on the jihadists' Syrian stronghold Raqa in the coming days, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Friday.

But on the ground, the US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance spearheading the fight for the jihadist group's de facto Syrian capital expressed caution about how soon the battle for Raqa would begin.

IS has come under growing pressure from twin US-backed ground offensives targeting Raqa and their other main stronghold, Mosul in Iraq.

(AFP )

Ukraine on Friday said one person has died as a result of a fire that broke out at an arms depot in the country's east, sparking explosions and forcing a mass evacuation.

Ukrainian authorities have blamed Thursday's fire on an "act of sabotage" and opened investigations into possible "diversion" or negligence of military personnel.

"The body of a woman born in 1951 was recovered from under the debris of a collapsed house," the head of Ukraine's emergency service, Mykola Chechotkin, said Friday, Interfax Ukraine news agency reported.

(AFP )

The Italian capital was preparing Friday for a high-security lockdown as 27 heads of state or government head to Rome for the European Union's 60th anniversary celebrations.

Snipers will be positioned on rooftops, drones in the skies, and 3,000 police officers on the streets around the centre of the Eternal City Saturday as Italy takes no risks following an attack this week in London claimed by the so-called Islamic State (IS).

(AFP )

France's leader on Friday lashed out at presidential candidate Francois Fillon, saying the rightwinger lacked "dignity" after claiming the state had orchestrated a campaign to smear him.

Fillon, who has slid from frontrunner to third in the race following "fake jobs" allegations, told French TV late Thursday that President Francois Hollande had headed a "secret cell" that was responsible for leaks against him.

It was a "scandal involving the state", said the 63-year-old former prime minister.

(AFP )

Royal Dutch Shell has sold its onshore oil and gas interests in the central African nation of Gabon for $587 million to private equity firm Carlyle Group, it said Friday.

The Anglo-Dutch energy giant announced in a statement that it has sold the assets to Carlyle for the equivalent of 544 million euros in a deal expected to complete in mid-2017.

Carlyle will also take on debt of $285 million as part of the deal. It will make extra payments up to a maximum of $150 million depending on production performance and commodity prices.

(AFP )

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday called on EU leaders, who are among his country's creditors, to protect labour rights amid tough talks on the debt-hit nation's economy.

"An array of achievements under our common European acquis have been (curtailed), chief of them the acquis of social rights, specifically...labour rights and collective bargaining," Tsipras said in the letter to EU leaders seen by AFP.

"In my country, this right is restricted."

(AFP )

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with his Swiss counterpart Thursday after having to call off a campaign appearance amongst diaspora voters, in a bitter row between Ankara and Europe.

Relations between Turkey and Europe have been severely strained since several Turkish ministers were blocked from campaigning on the continent for a 'yes' vote in next month's referendum on boosting the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

(AFP )

Judges at the International Criminal Court are expected on Friday to unveil the first compensation awards to victims of war crimes, with lawyers estimating a 2003 attack on a Congolese village caused $16.4 million in damage.

Friday's order for reparations for 304 victims of former Congolese warlord Germain Katanga is set to be a landmark step for the tribunal, set up in 2002 to prosecute the world's worst crimes.

(AFP )

A French and an American astronaut are scheduled to float outside the International Space Station Friday for a spacewalk aimed at upgrading the orbiting outpost for the arrival of future space crews.

The spacewalk by France's Thomas Pesquet, 39, and American Shane Kimbrough, 49, will be the latest in a series of outings to install new docking ports for the next generation of commercial spacecraft.

The new crew spaceships, currently under design by SpaceX and Boeing, should begin flying astronauts to the station in the coming years, as early as 2018.

(AFP )

European Union leaders will receive guidance from Pope Francis Friday, on the eve of the troubled bloc's 60th anniversary celebrations in Rome.

On past form, the Argentine pontiff is unlikely to pull his punches in a Friday evening audience with 27 heads of state or government tasked with charting a "common future" for a union soon to lose Britain from its ranks.

(AFP )

Bulgaria's Socialists hope Sunday to win power and end years of dominance by karate-kicking former premier Boyko Borisov, in elections that could tilt the EU and NATO member more towards Russia.

The third election in four years in the European Union's poorest country could also see the nationalist United Patriots emerge as the third-biggest party and kingmaker in tough coalition talks.

Opinion polls put the centre-right GERB party of ex-firefighter Borisov neck-and-neck with the Socialist Party (BSP) on between 25 and 31 percent.