Monday 20 November 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said Monday he was prepared to pull his forces from Iraq, after the Islamic State group lost control over its last urban stronghold in the country.

In a televised address on Monday evening, Nasrallah said the Lebanese movement had deployed "large numbers of our commanders and cadres" to Iraq to fight IS.

"We consider that the mission has been accomplished, but we are waiting for the final, Iraqi announcement of victory," he said.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump on Monday declared North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism, returning Kim Jong-Un's nuclear-armed pariah regime to a short blacklist of targeted US foes.

"Should have happened a long time ago. Should have happened years ago," Trump declared, announcing the designation at the start of a White House cabinet meeting.

North Korea is already under a wide array of United States and United Nations sanctions, and the terror designation will not have much immediate economic impact in itself.

(AFP )

Conflict is likely to once again engulf Gaza if a deal on the return of the Palestinian Authority to the Hamas-controlled enclave fails, the UN envoy for the Middle East warned Monday.

Addressing the Security Council on the eve of talks in Cairo between Palestinian factions, UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov said the Egyptian-led "process must not be allowed to fail."

"If it does, it will most likely result in another devastating conflict," warned Mladenov.

(AFP )

A US mother held hostage by Taliban-linked militants for five years has detailed the violence and sexual assault she endured in captivity, and said her young son was also beaten.

"This was an intolerable situation for a child to be in," Caitlan Coleman Boyle, 31, told ABC News in a television interview broadcast Monday.

Boyle gave birth to three children in captivity. She and her Canadian husband were abducted by the Haqqani network while travelling through a remote area of Afghanistan -- for reasons that remain unclear -- in 2012.

(AFP )

The mayor of Caracas, a staunch opponent of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro who fled to Spain over the weekend, vowed Monday to battle against the president's regime, warning him to "get ready".

Antonio Ledezma, 62, arrived in Madrid on Saturday after escaping house arrest and fleeing to Colombia, saying he would help organise resistance to Maduro's increasingly authoritarian rule which has left millions facing food and medicine shortages.

(AFP )

Billionaire Andrej Babis sought support on Monday for his controversial bid to become Czech prime minister as parliament met for the first time after his populist ANO party won elections last month.

Snubbed by most traditional parties over his murky communist past and recent fraud charges, Babis has been forced to propose a minority administration.

Campaigning on an anti-corruption, anti-euro and anti-migrant ticket, ANO won 78 of 200 seats in parliament ahead of the right-wing eurosceptic ODS, the anti-establishment Pirates, the far-right SPD and five other parties.

(AFP )

Police and security forces killed at least 53 protesters during anti-government demonstrations in the Democratic Republic of Congo between April and October, according to a report released Monday.

The National Episcopal Conference of the Congo (CENCO) report said officers used "disproportionate" force during an outbreak of street protests against the extended rule of President Joseph Kabila.

(AFP )

Argentina's navy revealed Monday that a submarine missing for five days reported a mechanical breakdown in its final communication, and that weekend signals did not come from the vessel, dimming hopes for its 44 crew members.

The nature of the breakdown was not immediately clear. It was the first time the navy indicated it had been aware of a problem.

(AFP )

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday he was horrified by video footage showing migrants sold as slaves in Libya and that these auctions should be investigated as possible crimes against humanity.

US television network CNN aired the footage last week of an apparent live auction in Libya where black men were presented to North African buyers as potential farmhands and sold off for as little as $400.

(AFP )

The EU's foreign policy chief on Monday hailed "extremely encouraging" talks with Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi on the Rohingya crisis, welcoming steps towards the repatriation of Muslims driven into Bangladesh.

Federica Mogherini joined a stream of diplomats to meet Suu Kyi in recent days as efforts intensify to resolve a crisis that has pushed 620,000 members of the Muslim minority into Bangladesh.

(AFP )

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday she was ready to lead her party into snap elections after the collapse of high-stakes coalition talks plunged the EU's top economy into a political crisis.

The veteran leader said she was "very sceptical" about a minority government, stressing that Germany needed a stable government "that does not need to seek a majority for every decision".

Merkel was forced into seeking a coalition with an unlikely group of parties after inconclusive elections in September left her without a clear majority.

(AFP )

A proposal to ban smoking in French films has been met with splutters of indignation in a land raised on images of puffing, pouting silver-screen stars.

The idea was floated last week by a senator from the opposition Socialist Party, Nadine Grelet-Certenais, during a parliamentary debate on how to help the French quit smoking.

Quoting a study that found 70 percent of new French films show at least one character lighting up, the senator accused filmmakers of painting smoking in a positive light.

(AFP )

A Chinese special envoy on Monday ended a four-day trip to North Korea during which the two sides discussed regional concerns but made no direct statements about the nuclear crisis.

Officially, Song Tao was sent by President Xi Jinping to report on the outcome of the Chinese Communist Party's recent congress.

Analysts had expected that Song would press North Korean officials on the nuclear standoff, but did not expect any breakthroughs.

(AFP )

George Soros spoke out Monday for the first time about Hungary's "survey" on the US financier and philanthropist's views and alleged intentions on immigration, accusing Budapest of "distortions and outright lies".

Hungarian-born Soros, 87, said Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government has sought to portray him as "an outside enemy to distract citizens" from "health care and education systems in distress" and "rife" corruption.

(AFP )

French President Emmanuel Macron is hoping for a "strong and stable" German government to emerge, his office said Monday, following the collapse of coalition talks which risks delaying his ambitious EU reform agenda.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been left scrambling for ways to form a government after talks collapsed on Sunday, potentially forcing Europe's top economy into snap elections.

(AFP )

The time has finally come for Ratko Mladic to face justice, victims' families said Monday en route from Sarajevo to The Hague for Wednesday's expected verdict in a UN court against the Bosnian Serb wartime military chief.

"The time has finally come to condemn the criminal and butcher Ratko Mladic," Kada Hotic, member of an association of Srebrenica mothers, told AFP before boarding a plane for the Netherlands to attend the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

(AFP )

Victoria's Secret brings its racy annual fashion show to Shanghai on Monday night, making its debut in China's growing lingerie market in typically brazen style but with added Chinese flair.

English heart-throb Harry Styles headlines the musical acts who will perform as the world's top models strut in skimpy bras and underwear in Shanghai's Mercedes Benz Arena, in what the US lingerie brand dubs the sexiest show on earth.

(AFP )

Japan's "Twitter killer", who is suspected of murdering and dismembering nine people he met on social media, was charged with his first count of homicide on Monday.

Takahiro Shiraishi, 27, is believed to have lured his mostly female victims -- aged between 15 and 26 -- to his apartment near Tokyo, where he killed them and cut up their bodies.

He has admitted murdering all nine, and was Monday charged with the homicide of Aiko Tamura, 23.

(AFP )

Iraq's top court on Monday declared the Kurdish north's independence referendum in September to be unconstitutional, firing a new salvo in the political crisis with the autonomous region.

The legal move marked the latest stage in the dispute between Baghdad and Kurdish regional capital Arbil sparked by the referendum, which resulted in a resounding "yes" vote for independence in the Kurdish area.

(AFP )

Greece's government on Monday announced relief measures for areas hit by flooding as the death toll rose to 20 with two more people missing.

"All households (confirmed to) have sustained damage will receive an emergency benefit of 5,000 euros ($6,000)," government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said in a statement.

The freak flood struck early on Wednesday in the towns of Mandra, Nea Peramos and Megara, some 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Athens.

The death toll rose to 20 on Sunday after a man's body was recovered in Mandra.

(AFP )

More than 5,000 victims of atrocities committed by troops commanded by former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba are calling for individual reparations, rights activists said Monday.

International judges sentenced Bemba in June 2016 to 18 years in jail on five charges of war crimes committed when his troops went on a murderous and violent rampage in neighbouring Central African Republic between October 2002 to March 2003.

(AFP )

Charles Manson, the psychopathic guru who masterminded a savage killing spree in the United States in the late 1960s that shocked the world, has died aged 83, California prison officials said.

Manson "died of natural causes at 8:13 pm (0213 GMT Monday) on Sunday" at a hospital in Kern County, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a brief statement.

Debra Tate -- the sister of Manson's most famous victim, Sharon Tate -- told celebrity website TMZ that she received a call from prison officials notifying her of Manson's death.

(AFP )

India's opposition Congress party will hold leadership elections next month, an official said Monday, amid growing speculation Rahul Gandhi will take over from his mother as its leader.

Rahul, whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather all served as prime minister, was the centre-left party's front man in the last general election. But his 70-year-old mother Sonia remains its president and still calls the shots.

(AFP )

Germany's veteran Chancellor Angela Merkel has survived multiple crises and outlasted a string of world leaders but now faces a battle for her political life after the collapse of talks to forge a coalition government.

After 12 years at the helm of the EU's biggest economy, the leader often called the world's most powerful woman may now have to contest snap elections at a time she is increasingly described as entering the twilight of her reign.

(AFP )

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by The International Criminal Court for genocide and war crimes related to the Darfur conflict, will visit Russia on Thursday, the Kremlin said.

The visit will be the long-time Sudanese leader's first official trip to Moscow.

"We can confirm that (a meeting will take place) on Thursday," news agencies quoted Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov as saying.

He did not say whether the Sudanese leader would be meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin or another senior official.

(AFP )

The EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Monday hailed "extremely encouraging" talks with Aung San Suu Kyi on the Rohingya crisis, welcoming steps towards the repatriation of Muslims driven from Myanmar into Bangladesh.

But her optimistic tone appeared sharply at odds with the realities on the ground in a crisis that has seen 620,000 Rohingya flee rape, murder and arson in Myanmar's Rakhine state since late August.

(AFP )

Indonesia's parliament speaker has been charged in a major graft scandal thought to have cost the state $170 million, after a bizarre drama that involved a failed raid on his palatial estate.

Setya Novanto, who has previously faced allegations of extortion, is among several politicians accused of taking kickbacks from funds for a government project to issue new ID cards.

The scandal, which came to light earlier this year, caused widespread shock even by the standards of one of the world's most corrupt countries.

(AFP )

As one of very few Serbs to fight on the side of the Bosnian Army, Jovan Divjak cannot take ten steps in Sarajevo without being warmly greeted by people who respect the former general for defending the city and its multiculturalism.

But his vision for a cosmopolitan, multiethnic, multi-religious Bosnia seems further away than ever, with the country more divided now than two decades ago.

"Today there is more hatred among young people than there was during the war," Divjak told AFP.

(AFP )

The fight for some of the most prized spoils of Brexit comes to a climax on Monday when 27 EU states pick the new host cities for two London-based regulatory agencies.

In a process only half-jokingly compared to the Eurovision Song Contest, ministers will vote on where to relocate the European Medicines Agency and European Banking Authority.

(AFP )

It's November 22, 2028 and Sarah, a young mother, gives her two children a kiss goodbye before buckling them into the driverless car that will bring them to school.

Sarah doesn't have a car and has no plans to buy one. Living in a suburb, she has run the numbers and the result is clear: It's much cheaper to order a car only when she needs one.

The "robo-taxi" has also made her life easier, but only after such vehicles upended the business models which carmakers had relied on for decades.

(AFP )

In the battle against the car, space-starved Singapore has deployed road tolls, massive spending on public transport, and a licence fee that bumps the cost of an average vehicle to over $80,000.

But urban planners looking for solutions to gridlock may find the draconian measures hard to replicate in other less-compliant cities.

Singapore has gone further than any other major city to avoid the monster jams that have blighted Asian metropolises such as Jakarta or Manila.

(AFP )

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday played down suggestions US President Donald Trump confused her with Canadian leader Justin Trudeau’s wife at a summit in Asia last week.

Trudeau was supposedly making the introductions as Ardern attended her first major forum since taking office last month when Trump mixed-up the 37-year-old with the Canadian leader's partner Sophie.

It was reportedly several minutes before he realised his mistake at the East Asia Summit in Manila.

(AFP )

UN peacekeeping hit a rock-bottom low when blue helmets in Bosnia failed to prevent the Srebrenica massacre in 1995, a year after peacekeepers pulled out of Rwanda as it was convulsed by mass atrocities.

The debacles in Bosnia and Rwanda loom large over UN peace operations to this day and have brought about a shift toward more robust missions focused on protecting civilians.

Two decades later, UN peacekeepers are still tested in their mandate to protect, from South Sudan to Haiti.

- SOUTH SUDAN -

(AFP )

Germany could be forced to hold new elections after high stakes talks for a coalition collapsed Sunday between Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU-CSU alliance, ecologist Greens and pro-business FDP.

Here are some possible scenarios for Europe's biggest economy:

- New round of negotiations? -

Merkel could suggest a cooling off period for the four parties which have been locked in talks for more than a month, before coming together again for a new round of negotiations.

(AFP )

Thousands of people marched, danced and celebrated in Rio de Janeiro's gay pride parade on Sunday, packing Copacabana Beach despite the ultra-conservative mayor's opposition to the event.

With Mayor Marcelo Crivella -- an evangelical Christian -- in office, it was the first time in 22 years that city funds were barred from paying for part of the parade.

Private businesses did chip in to try to keep the march funded, but there were only six floats in the parade, down from 12 last year, when 600,000 people participated.