In the world | Africatime
Tuesday 28 March 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Italian police said they caught a criminal gang Tuesday that had been plotting to steal the body of Formula One racing pioneer Enzo Ferrari for ransom.

Detectives in Sardinia said they had stumbled across the plot while investigating a group of 30 or so crooks who were involved in drug and arms trafficking on the Italian island but were exploring other cash-making ideas.

(AFP )

Poland will withdraw from the Eurocorps military group by 2020, a spokesman for the Strasbourg-based intergovernmental body said Tuesday.

The withdrawal of NATO member Poland, which has "associate nation" status in Eurocorps, is a "decision of the Polish government," Colonel Vicente Dalmau told AFP.

Warsaw's eurosceptic government has reversed an earlier pledge to become a full Eurocorps member this year, Dalmau said, adding that the decision was made "several months ago".

(AFP )

Leaders from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland rejected on Tuesday what they called Brussels' use of "blackmail and diktat" over planned resettlements of migrants across the EU.

Long opposed to sharing the burden of hosting mainly Syrian refugees, the four eastern EU states ruled out any links between accepting them and future disbursements of EU funds.

Eastern EU states "will never accept blackmail and diktat" on migration policy, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said at a press conference in Warsaw with her Czech, Hungarian and Slovak counterparts.

(AFP )

Russia signed Tuesday a string of bilateral agreements with Iran as President Vladimir Putin hosted his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani for his first official visit to Moscow.

The meeting between Putin and Rouhani, who have grown closer through their mutual support of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, mostly focused on flourishing economic ties in the fields of energy and industry.

Putin said in televised comments after the meeting that trade between the countries had "grown more than 70 percent" last year.

(AFP )

The World Health Organization warned Tuesday of large measles outbreaks in countries where immunisation has dropped, after more than 500 cases of the highly contagious disease were reported across Europe in January.

"With steady progress towards elimination over the past two years, it is of particular concern that measles cases are climbing in Europe," the agency's regional director for Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab, said in a statement.

"Today's travel patterns put no person or country beyond the reach of the measles virus," she said.

(AFP )

Two foreign UN experts who were kidnapped in DR Congo have been found dead, one of them decapitated, the government said Tuesday, as spiralling violence in the vast country sparked international condemnation.

The bodies of the two -- American Michael Sharp and Swedish national Zahida Catalan -- were found as the UN Security Council prepares to vote on Wednesday on extending its peacekeeping mission in the country.

(AFP )

Zambia opened public consultations this week on the government's plan to leave the International Criminal Court, as several other African countries re-assess their membership.

South Africa recently revoked its planned departure from the ICC, based in The Hague, and The Gambia's new president, Adama Barrow, reversed his predecessor's decision to withdraw.

Zambian justice minister Given Lubinda announced the consultation, which will run until Friday, in a speech to parliament last week.

(AFP )

Nigeria could avoid playing friendlies in London from now on because of problems obtaining visas for staff and players, coach Gernot Rohr has said.

The Super Eagles played Senegal at non-league Barnet's ground in north London last Friday, drawing 1-1, but a second scheduled match against Burkina Faso on Monday had to be called off.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) said seven Burkinabe players failed to secure British entry visas.

(AFP )

Celebrated South African anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada, one of Nelson Mandela's closest colleagues in the struggle against white rule and a fellow Robben Island prisoner, died Tuesday aged 87.

Kathrada was among those tried and jailed alongside Mandela in the 1964 Rivonia trial, which drew worldwide attention to the brutalities of the apartheid regime.

He died in hospital in Johannesburg after a short illness following brain surgery, his charity foundation said.

(AFP )

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy pledged Tuesday to invest 4.2 billion euros ($4.6 billion) in Catalonia by 2020 as a battle for hearts and minds rages between Madrid and regional authorities that want independence.

At loggerheads with the separatist government in the northeastern region, which plans to hold a Scotland-style independence referendum against Madrid's will, Rajoy has launched a so-called "operation dialogue" in a bid to ease tensions and win over public opinion.

(AFP )

A political deal to end the Syrian conflict is not possible without a strong US role, the opposition's chief negotiator told AFP, warning that Washington's absence was threatening ongoing peace talks.

Lead negotiator for the main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC), Mohamad Sabra, said in an interview late Monday that the UN-backed talks in Geneva remained "stalled".

"There can be no real and viable political solution without the presence of the Americans," he said.

(AFP )

NATO ambassadors will meet the Russian envoy on Thursday in a new bid to ease tensions on the eve of the alliance's first talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The ambassadors will discuss the crisis in Ukraine as well as Afghanistan's security, and terrorism in the region, a NATO official said.

"Following consultations with the members of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC), I have invited them to a meeting at ambassadorial level," NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.

(AFP )

Conservationists on Tuesday hailed the discovery of a new breeding population of tigers in Thailand as a "miraculous" victory for a sub-species nearly wiped out by poaching.

Images of some tigers including six cubs, captured by camera traps in an eastern Thai jungle throughout 2016, confirm the presence of what is only the world's second known breeding population of the endangered Indochinese tiger.

(AFP )

French Socialist presidential candidate Benoit Hamon took his call to broaden decision-making in the eurozone to Berlin Tuesday in talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

During a one-day visit, Hamon met the German leader, who has said she would speak with any of the mainstream candidates in the French race ahead of next month's first round -- excluding far-right contender Marine Le Pen.

Hamon also met Merkel's Social Democratic (SPD) challenger in Germany's September general election, Martin Schulz, who offered his backing.

(AFP )

Clashes raged around a key northern Syrian town on Tuesday after the Islamic State group launched a counter-attack to fend off a US-backed advance near the jihadists' stronghold Raqa.

Backed by air power from the international coalition bombing IS, the Syrian Democratic Forces are laying the groundwork for an assault on the heart of the jihadists' so-called "caliphate".

A key part of the campaign is the battle for the IS-held town of Tabqa on the Euphrates River, as well as the adjacent dam and military airport.

(AFP )

Scotland's parliament voted Tuesday to back First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's call for a second independence referendum, another headache for Prime Minister Theresa May as she battles to keep the country united just a day before triggering Brexit.

The vote by lawmakers in Edinburgh was 69 in favour and 59 against despite May's last-minute appeals.

"I hope the UK government will respect the will of this parliament, and if it does so I will enter discussion in good faith and with a willingness to compromise," Sturgeon said.

(AFP )

Britain's new £1 coin with the symbols of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland goes into circulation from Tuesday on the eve of the launch of a Brexit process that has put national unity in doubt.

The 12-sided coin is the first change to the shape of the £1 coin since its introduction in 1983. Britain's finance ministry said the new coin would be "the most secure of its kind in the world" to prevent a rise in counterfeits.

About three percent of the current round-shaped coins are fakes.

(AFP )

China on Tuesday called on France to protect its citizens after police in Paris killed a Chinese father of five, sparking violent protests in which 35 people were arrested.

Paris police said around 150 "members of the Asian community" gathered late Monday outside a police station in the northeast of the capital and clashes broke out.

Three officers were slightly injured in the confrontation and one police vehicle was damaged by an incendiary device.

The angry demonstrators were protesting after a police officer shot and killed the Chinese man on Sunday night.

(AFP )

Britain's Daily Mail newspaper faced a backlash Tuesday for comparing the legs on show when British Prime Minister Theresa May and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon held talks.

While the two leaders clashed over Brexit, which May is set to trigger Wednesday, and Sturgeon's push for another Scottish independence referendum, the Mail spun it as a battle of the legs and focused on what could be read into their outfits and body language.

(AFP )

A British court on Tuesday cut a soldier's sentence for killing an injured Taliban fighter to seven years after his murder conviction was reduced to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Veterans hugged, cheered and waved flags bearing former Royal Marine Alexander Blackman's image outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London after the ruling, which means he could be released within weeks.

(AFP )

German prosecutors announced an investigation Tuesday into claims that Turkish agents are spying on alleged followers of exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen in Germany.

The probe came as a German state minister accused Turkey of the "unacceptable" espionage against supporters of Gulen, blamed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for a failed coup attempt last year.

The claims open a new front in the diplomatic row between NATO allies Germany and Turkey, whose relationship has been strained by a series of disputes centred on human rights issues.

(AFP )

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo said he would restore a moratorium on the death penalty if he won the backing of the people, after a spate of executions that drew international condemnation.

Widodo declared an anti-drugs campaign soon after coming to power in 2014 and refused all requests for pardons from death-row drug convicts, ending a four-year moratorium.

But in recent months he has softened his position.

Asked in an interview with AFP on Monday whether he would consider a moratorium, Widodo said: "Why not? But I must ask my people.

(AFP )

David Beckham has scored an own goal on Facebook after upsetting Hong Kongers by lumping their city in with China -- then annoyed mainlanders when he tried to fix his mess.

The former England star planted his foot firmly in his mouth after a visit to the semi-autonomous city last week, telling followers on the social networking site he had enjoyed a "great 48 hours in China".

(AFP )

Self-styled revolutionary Carlos the Jackal, already serving two life sentences for murder, awaited a French court's verdict Tuesday over a deadly 1974 grenade attack in a Paris shopping arcade.

French prosecutors are seeking a third life sentence for the 67-year-old Venezuela native who has described himself as an "officer of the Palestinian resistance".

The verdict is expected around 3:00 pm (1300 GMT).

(AFP )

Russia's Sberbank, the largest in the country, on Tuesday announced it had sold its Ukraine division, where operations have been complicated since Moscow's annexation of Crimea.

Sberbank, whose controlling stake is owned by the Russian state, said in a statement Tuesday that it had signed a deal with a "consortium of investors" including Latvia's Norvik Banka and a Belarusian private company.

"The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2017," the statement said.

(AFP )

A civil rights group is suing the US state of Georgia because it will not let a couple give their toddler daughter "Allah" as her last name.

Parents Elizabeth Handy and Bilal Walk want to name their 22-month-old daughter ZalyKha Graceful Lorraina Allah.

But state officials at the Department of Public Health said that under Georgia law, the child's last name should either be Handy, Walk or a combination of the two, according to the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper.

(AFP )

As a Foreign Office diplomat, Crispin Tickell helped Britain join the European Union in 1973. Now 86, he reflects on missed opportunities and his deep disappointment at the Brexit vote.

"I think it's a disaster. I think it's a failure of foreign policy," he told AFP in his book-filled, top-floor flat overlooking London's Regent's Canal.

"British foreign policy has been subjected to the vote of people who know nothing whatsoever about all this, and probably have a sneaking dislike of foreigners."

(AFP )

Bone fragments recovered from the wreck of South Korea's Sewol ferry are from an animal and not human remains, the maritime ministry said Tuesday, dashing hopes of the relatives of missing victims.

Authorities had earlier announced the pieces were human -- raising the prospect of closure for families of at least some of the nine passengers whose bodies were never found after the 2014 maritime disaster.

(AFP )

French police said Tuesday they had arrested 35 people after a demonstration by the capital's Asian community over the killing of a Chinese man by a policeman turned violent.

The Paris police force said that around 150 "members of the Asian community" gathered late Monday outside a police station in the northeast of the capital.

Three officers were slightly injured in the running clashes and one police vehicle was damaged by an incendiary device.

The angry demonstrators were protesting against police violence after an officer shot dead a Chinese man on Sunday night.

(AFP )

Six weeks after the airport assassination of Kim Jong-Nam, Malaysia on Tuesday said it was still waiting for family to claim the body, denying rumours it had been sent back to Pyongyang.

The half-brother of North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un was poisoned with the lethal nerve agent VX in a brazen Cold War-style assassination on February 13 in Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

"There have been a lot of rumours that the body was cremated but we would not do this without the responsible parties giving us directives or agreement," Health Minister S. Subramaniam told reporters.

(AFP )

A white US Army veteran faced terror and racism charges as he was indicted for fatally stabbing a 66-year-old black man.

James Jackson, 28, "prowled the streets of New York for three days in search of a black person to assassinate in order to launch a campaign of terrorism against our Manhattan community and the values we celebrate," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement.

(AFP )

Filmmaker Huang Hui-chen felt bound by labels while growing up in Taiwan -- impoverished, a school dropout and daughter of a lesbian Taoist priestess who she yearned to understand.

Her award-winning directorial debut "Small Talk" is the culmination of two decades of filming their fraught relationship and was named best documentary last month at the Berlin International Film Festival, winning the LGBT-focused Teddy Award.

Set to hit the big screen in Taiwan in April, it comes as the island's parliament prepares to vote on a final bill to legalise same-sex marriage.

(AFP )

Former Royal Air Force airman Paul Hughes never imagined saying it, but he admits that he was almost "ashamed of my fellow countrymen" when Britons voted to leave the EU last June.

"I was devastated," he tells AFP.

Since the fateful referendum last summer, 34-year-old Hughes -- along with a growing fraction of the roughly 106,000 British citizens in Germany -- has taken the unexpected step of applying for German citizenship.

(AFP )

Having a flutter on the horses in his local bar, Eric Belouet picks his favourites without hesitation. But when it comes to France's presidential election, he can't make up his mind.

"Really, I can't," said the 59-year-old, his eyes on the TV screen broadcasting the races. "I'm on the right. But for Francois Fillon, it's over."

(AFP )

Donald Trump's attorney general warned US cities that turning a blind eye to illegal migrants could jeopardize billions in federal funding, as the administration doubled down on tough immigration policies Monday.

Jeff Sessions demanded so-called "sanctuary cities" -- from Boston to Chicago to Los Angeles -- do more to turn illegal immigrants over to the federal authorities for deportation.

"The Department of Justice has a duty to enforce our nation's laws, including our immigration laws," he said from the White House.