Sunday 24 September 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Iran's test launch of new medium-range missile calls into question a landmark nuclear deal with the United States and other world powers, President Donald Trump said Saturday, while also accusing the Islamic republic of colluding with North Korea.

"Iran just test-fired a Ballistic Missile capable of reaching Israel.They are also working with North Korea.Not much of an agreement we have!" Trump tweeted.

The nose cone of the missile has a range of 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) and can carry multiple warheads.

(AFP )

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday promised to help raise more than $1 billion in new funding for education in the developing world, calling schools vital in countering extremism.

The French leader made the pledge in a video to thousands of music fans at the Global Citizen Festival, a concert in New York's Central Park headlined by Stevie Wonder and Green Day that aims to build support for international development aid.

(AFP )

Both of New Zealand's major political parties moved to open coalition negotiations with maverick MP Winston Peters Sunday after the country's general election stalemate left him in the position of kingmaker.

However, conservative Prime Minister Bill English appeared to be in the driving seat to form government due to tensions among the opposition parties that would need to unite to unseat him.

English's National Party performed strongly in Saturday's election to claim 46.0 percent of the vote or 58 seats, three short of the 61 needed to win.

(AFP )

Whether wearing white lab coats, red rescue worker vests or dressed as clowns, the psychologists standing by as Mexico picks through the rubble of this week's earthquakes are ready to help a shaken nation deal with its trauma.

Whole brigades of volunteer psychologists have deployed to the collapsed buildings in Mexico City where anguished families are clinging to the fading hope that their loved ones are alive inside.

(AFP )

Italy's populist 5-Star Movement (M5S) unveiled its candidate for prime minister Saturday as it braces to attempt a revolutionary shift from protest to ruling party.

Political darling Luigi di Maio, 31, considered the reassuring face of Italy's anti-establishment insurgency, pocketed 30,936 of the 37,442 ballots cast.

"I'll start work tomorrow on putting together a team for government... one the people will be proud of," he said in an emotional speech in the sea-side town of Rimini as his victory was announced.

(AFP )

To his admirers, Luigi Di Maio, the man anointed Saturday as the 5-Star Movement's candidate for prime minister, is the reassuring face of Italy's populist political insurgency.

Detractors portray him as a lightweight opportunist ready to say whatever it takes to secure the keys to the Palazzo Chigi, the Italian premier's Renaissance residence in central Rome.

A sharp-suited 31-year-old who whizzes around the capital in an LPG-powered Mini, Di Maio comes across like the ideal son-in-law, a camera-friendly combination of impeccable grooming and manners.

(AFP )

North Korea's foreign minister assailed US President Donald Trump at the United Nations on Saturday, deriding him as a "mentally deranged" leader whose threats had increased the chances of military confrontation.

Ri Yong-ho told the General Assembly that Trump's vow to "totally destroy" his country if necessary had made "our rockets' visit to the entire US mainland all the more inevitable."

(AFP )

US bombers and fighter escorts flew off the coast of North Korea Saturday in a show of force against its nuclear weapons program, escalating already sky-high tensions.

The hermit state's foreign minister, meanwhile, assailed US President Donald Trump at the United Nations, deriding him as a "mentally deranged" leader whose threats had increased the chances of military confrontation.

(AFP )

Prince Harry met with staff and patients at a Toronto mental health facility also visited by his late mother Diana, hours before the opening ceremony of the third Invictus Games Saturday.

The British royal was scheduled to officially open the games -- for disabled or wounded soldiers and veterans -- alongside US First Lady Melania Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau late Saturday.

"The Invictus Games are a unique and powerful way to honor those who have sacrificed so much on behalf of their country," Prime Minister Trudeau said.

(AFP )

The Turkish parliament on Saturday approved a one-year extension of a mandate to use troops abroad in Syria and Iraq, two days before Iraq's Kurdish region is due to hold a controversial independence referendum.

The bill was overwhelmingly passed. Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli said the extension was intended to protect Turkey from "threats", adding that the Kurdish Regional Government's planned vote on Monday was a "threat to national security".

The mandate had been due to run out on October 30.

(AFP )

It's been less than a week since Hurricane Maria largely destroyed the Caribbean island of Dominica -- but despite cut-off supplies and extreme conditions, its inhabitants remain optimistic in the face of devastation.

Maria killed 15 people when it tore through the "Nature Island" -- population 72,000 -- as a Category Five storm, leaving its once-luscious green mountains stripped to dirt.

(AFP )

A new earthquake sowed panic in Mexico City on Saturday, forcing a brief pause in rescue operations to free survivors from the more powerful tremor this week that devastated parts of the capital.

The new quake, with a magnitude of 6.1, was smaller and farther to the south than the 7.1-magnitude one that struck on Tuesday, killing more than 300 people and toppling 39 buildings in the capital.

But as an alarm sounded, hundreds of residents raced out into the street, some barefoot, some carrying children.

Trauma from the previous quake was evident.

(AFP )

Syria's foreign minister told the United Nations on Saturday that a military victory in the six-year war was "now within reach" following a series of battleground gains by government forces.

"The liberation of Aleppo and Palmyra, the lifting of the siege of Deir Ezzor and the eradication of terrorism from many parts of Syria prove that victory is now within reach," Walid al-Muallem told the General Assembly.

(AFP )

Security officials said the giant Rocinha favela in Rio de Janeiro was back under control Saturday after hundreds of soldiers and police were sent to battle heavily armed drug traffickers.

Five suspected gang members were arrested overnight, while a gang leader in another favela was arrested, along with a haul of semi-automatic rifles, police said.

Although shooting was reported in the early hours of Saturday in Rocinha -- for the seventh day running -- officials said that Friday's deployment of 950 soldiers to reinforce police had brought the crisis under control.

(AFP )

A strong 6.2-magnitude quake shook Mexico on Saturday, causing panic in traumatized Mexico City, where rescuers trying to free people trapped from this week's earlier earthquake had to suspend work.

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties from the new quake, which was smaller and with its epicenter farther to the south than Tuesday's devastating 7.1-magnitude earthquake that killed nearly 300 people.

However it sparked concern that it could have caused heavy rubble on top of survivors awaiting rescue in Mexico City to shift.

(AFP )

Catalonia's executive accused Madrid of taking control of its regional police force on Saturday after prosecutors tasked the interior ministry with coordinating all operations aimed at stopping an outlawed independence referendum.

The row is likely to further raise tensions between the central government and Catalonia, a northeast region deeply divided over independence with its separatist leaders seeking to hold a vote on October 1 despite Madrid's refusal and a court ban.

(AFP )

With iconic buildings bathed in green light and planned cultural shows, concerts and fireworks, Saudi Arabia geared up to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the kingdom on Saturday.

Car stereos blared patriotic songs as citizens began racing through the streets of the capital Riyadh at midnight in cars bedecked with the national flag to mark the annual event in the kingdom, founded in the 1930s.

(AFP )

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila told the United Nations on Saturday that his country is moving towards holding elections but vowed to resist "foreign diktats" on setting a date for the historic vote.

Addressing the General Assembly, Kabila appealed for support from his "true friends" as his country confronts what he described as major logistical and security challenges to organize the vote.

(AFP )

Tens of thousands of Pyongyang residents were gathered in the capital's Kim Il-Sung Square Saturday to laud leader Kim Jong-Un's denunciation of US President Donald Trump.

Such set-piece rallies, organised by the authorities, are a regular feature of political life in Pyongyang, and are intended as a physical demonstration of popular support for the leadership.

Students in white shirts and red ties held up the red flag of the ruling Workers' Party, with a yellow ink brush representing intellectuals, a hammer for the workers, and a sickle for the peasantry.

(AFP )

For decades New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has been known as "The Kingmaker" -- a role the populist anti-immigration campaigner is set to play again after the country's general election ended in a stalemate.

New Zealand's complex proportional voting system means minor parties usually hold the balance of power, allowing Peters to carve out a parliamentary niche as the man in the middle of the major parties.

Both the incumbent National Party and the centre-left Labour opposition need the 72-year-old to form government.

(AFP )

An international maritime tribunal Saturday backed Ghana in a dispute with Ivory Coast over a contested boundary that cuts through lucrative offshore oil fields.

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea found that "Ghana did not violate the sovereign rights" of Ivory Coast by drilling for oil in the region.

The Hamburg-based court precisely mapped the maritime border and backed Ghana on the principle that the boundary line be based on equidistance.

(AFP )

A shallow 3.5-magnitude earthquake which hit North Korea near the country's nuclear test site Saturday was likely an aftershock from the hermit state's missile test on September 3, a nuclear test ban watchdog and other experts said.

Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), tweeted the quake was "unlikely Man-made! Similar to 'collapse' event 8.5 mins after DPRK6", a reference to the second tremor that followed the September 3 test.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump gave a stark warning Saturday that cast growing uncertainty over whether a nuclear deal clinched with Iran would survive after the Islamic republic tested a new medium-range missile.

State television carried footage of the launch of the Khoramshahr missile, which was first displayed at a high-profile military parade in Tehran on Friday.

It also carried in-flight video from the nose cone of the missile, which has a range of 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) and can carry multiple warheads.

(AFP )

New Zealand's cliffhanger election ended in a stalemate Saturday, leaving maverick populist Winston Peters of the New Zealand First (NZF) party to decide whether conservative Prime Minister Bill English or his youthful challenger Jacinda Ardern forms government.

English delivered an unexpectedly strong performance to claim 46 percent of the vote, while the much-hyped "Jacinda-mania" surrounding Ardern fell short as she finished on 36.

(AFP )

The flood of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh has come to a virtual halt, Dhaka officials said Saturday, almost a month after violence erupted in Myanmar's Rakhine State and sent nearly 430,000 people fleeing across the border.

Officials gave no reason for the dramatically reduced numbers. But Rohingya Muslim leaders said it could be because villages located near the border in Myanmar's Rakhine state were now empty.

Bangladesh Border Guard commanders said hardly any refugees are now seen crossing on boats coming from Myanmar or trying to get over the land border.

(AFP )

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani on Saturday delayed a scheduled news conference on a controversial independence referendum he has called for next week as international pressure mounts for a postponement.

There has been uncertainty about whether the vote will go ahead on Monday as Iraq's key allies the United States and Iran, as well as powerful neighbour Turkey, have stepped up their opposition.

"The news conference will take place on Sunday and the time and venue will be announced later," Barzani's office said without elaborating.

(AFP )

Myanmar's army chief on Saturday blamed Rohinyga militants for an explosion outside a mosque in Rakhine state, as a rights group accused the military of starting fires in the region to prevent refugees from returning.

The unrest comes days after Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi declared troops had ceased "clearance operations" in the border area that have forced more than 430,000 Rohingya refugees to flee for Bangladesh in under a month.

(AFP )

Voting has closed in New Zealand's general election Saturday where pre-election polls indicated it was too close to call between the centre-right National Party of Prime Minister Bill English and the centre-left Labour Party of Jacinda Ardern.

Under strict election day laws New Zealand does not allow exit polls during voting, which opened at 9am (2100 GMT Friday) and closed at 7pm (0700 GMT).

However, a firm indication of the outcome is expected within about three-and-a-half hours after the end of voting.

(AFP )

Syria's war has taken a new turn with the expected recapture of Raqa from the Islamic State, but world leaders gathered at the United Nations this week seem to be paying little attention.

Once the focal point of a myriad of high-powered meetings during the UN General Assembly, Syria this year dropped off the diplomatic agenda, dwarfed by the crises over North Korea and the Iran nuclear deal.

(AFP )

Iran said on Saturday that it had successfully tested a new medium-range missile in defiance of warnings from Washington that it was ready to ditch a landmark nuclear deal over the issue.

State television carried footage of the launch of the Khoramshahr missile, which was first displayed at a high-profile military parade in Tehran on Friday.

It also carried in-flight video from the nose cone.

The broadcaster gave no date for the test although officials had said on Friday that it would be tested "soon".

(AFP )

Sergio Lopez spends his days inspecting buildings at risk of collapse in Mexico City following Tuesday's quake. And he still can't believe that a school where 19 children and six adults died collapsed like a house of cards.

"It just should have stood up. It shouldn't have come down," he says angrily.

Lopez is a structural engineer and he knows the ins and outs of earthquake-resistant construction code improvements as well as anyone.

Those improvements were developed after a 1985 earthquake that killed more than 10,000 people in the capital.

(AFP )

Coach Michael Cheika says he is working on the mental obstacles as the Wallabies chase a rare win over the Springboks on South Africa's Highveld in the Rugby Championship.

The Wallabies left for the republic on Saturday with Cheika aiming to break Australia's struggles against the Springboks in Tests at high altitude.

The Wallabies tackle the Springboks at Bloemfontein on September 30 at the venue where they last won at high altitude seven years ago.

(AFP )

North Korea has become "more opaque" to the outside world following a decision by YouTube to silence an official propaganda channel, a monitoring group has warned, as new sanctions over Pyongyang's nuclear programme begin to bite.

Observers have long relied on state-run news for glimpses into Pyongyang's shadowy regime and weapons programme, but one such source -- the Uriminzokkiri channel -- went dark earlier this month.

(AFP )

Thailand's deputy junta leader has accused three police officers of helping sneak ex-prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra out of the country last month, a vanishing act that stunned the kingdom.

Yingluck, whose government was toppled by the military in 2014, has not been seen since August 25, when she failed to turn up for a court verdict in her criminal negligence trial.

Thailand's junta says it was unaware she was planning to escape -- something many Thais have found difficult to believe given the round-the-clock surveillance Yingluck frequently complained of.

(AFP )

Policeman Ahmad regrets the day he detained a motorist at a checkpoint for possession of a gun without a licence, bringing the weight of Iraqi tribal customs down on his head.

Faced with threats and the reality that state law in Iraq cannot stand muster with tribes and their customs, the police captain gathered his family and fled Baghdad to take refuge in the south of the country.

He had been posted at a checkpoint in an eastern district of the capital when he discovered the gun in a car.