In the world | Africatime
Sunday 30 April 2017

In the world

(AFP )

South Korea and the United States wrapped up their annual large-scale military drills on Sunday, but continued a separate joint naval exercise that has triggered dire threats from nuclear-armed North Korea.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been running sky-high for weeks, with signs that the North might be preparing a long-range missile launch or a sixth nuclear test -- and with Washington refusing to rule out a military strike in response.

(AFP )

Swiss climber Ueli Steck, one of the most feted mountaineers of his generation and famed for his speed ascents of iconic Alpine routes, has died on Everest, officials said.

"Today morning, he had an accident on the Nuptse wall and died. It seems he slipped," Ang Tsering Sherpa, head of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, told AFP.

Steck, 40, was on Everest to acclimatise before attempting to summit the world's tallest peak in May, using a never before climbed route.

(AFP )

Donald Trump thinks Chinese President Xi Jinping is "putting pressure" on North Korea, the US president said in an interview to air Sunday, as tensions mount over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs.

If North Korea carries out a nuclear test "I would not be happy," Trump told the CBS television network's "Face the Nation" program.

"And I can tell you also, I don't believe that the president of China, who is a very respected man, will be happy either," Trump said in excerpts of the interview released Saturday.

(AFP )

A US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance is advancing against the Islamic State group in the key town of Tabqa near the jihadist bastion of Raqa in northern Syria, a monitor said Sunday.

The Syrian Democratic Forces now control over half the town of Tabqa, including most of its heart, the Old City, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said fighting was continuing in the town on Sunday morning.

(AFP )

China has launched perhaps its most concerted push yet to clean up a toxic brew of unregulated and risky lending increasingly viewed as a threat to global financial stability, but do authorities really mean business this time?

Analysts don't think so.

China's addiction to debt-fuelled growth powers the steady economic expansion that the ruling Communist Party craves, and it won't go cold turkey, they said.

(AFP )

Ukraine is still suffering from the trauma of the world's worst civil nuclear accident at Chernobyl but has nonetheless turned the hazardous fuel into the backbone of its energy portfolio.

The crisis-torn country now uses atomic power for more than half of its electricity needs as it struggles through a coal shortage sparked by a three-year war against Russian-backed insurgents in the separatist east.

(AFP )

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte failed to condemn China's push to control most of the disputed South China Sea on Sunday after hosting a regional summit, handing Beijing a political victory.

A day after taking centre stage as host of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders' meeting, Duterte released a bland chairman's statement that ignored last year's international ruling outlawing China's sweeping claims to the key waterway.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump invited his Philippine counterpart Rodrigo Duterte to Washington in a "friendly" call in which the leaders discussed the "threat" of North Korea, the White House said.

The announcement comes amid rising tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs following its latest test-fire, as well international criticism of Duterte's drug crackdown that has claimed thousands of lives.

(AFP )

The unbeaten Canterbury Crusaders won a ninth Super Rugby game this weekend, but the result was soured by an injury to All Blacks skipper Kieran Read.

The rampaging Crusaders squashed the threatened South African team Central Cheetahs 48-21 in Bloemfontein to stretch their lead in the New Zealand conference to four points, but they could be without the influential Read for up to six weeks.

(AFP )

Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who go head-to-head in the second round of France's presidential election on May 7, are diametrically opposed on issues ranging from immigration to Europe to gay marriage.

Here is where they stand on the key questions:

- Europe -

Le Pen has insisted on the need for France to drop the euro single currency and leave Europe's Schengen visa-free travel zone.

(AFP )

Pro-EU centrist Emmanuel Macron will take on far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the second-round run-off of France's presidential election on May 7.

The pair topped the polls in the first round of voting on April 23.

- Why is the election important? -

France is the eurozone's second-biggest economy as well as a global military and diplomatic heavyweight, with veto power as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

(AFP )

The battle to become France's next president boils down to a sharp clash of contrasting visions.

In one corner is centrist Emmanuel Macron, with his pro-globalisation, pro-EU world view.

In the other, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who champions "nationalism" and a "France-first" approach.

"The country Mr Macron wants is no longer France, it's a space, a wasteland, a trading room where there are only consumers and producers," Le Pen told thousands of supporters in Nice on Thursday.

(AFP )

Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi is poised to win the leadership of Italy's ruling Democratic Party (PD) in a primary election Sunday, propelling him back to the forefront of the national political scene.

Renzi, 42, resigned as prime minister in December after Italians overwhelmingly rejected a constitutional referendum.

A centrepiece of his political platform, the reform had aimed to streamline Italy's parliamentary system.

(AFP )

Donald Trump hailed a "very productive" first 100 days as America's president, telling a roaring crowd of supporters other "great battles" ahead would be won.

In an hour-long speech Trump lambasted the media and predecessor Barack Obama, boasted of his support for US industry and the military, and vaunted his foreign policy positions including on confronting North Korea, earning cheers from the crowd in Pennsylvania.

(AFP )

A top Venezuelan opposition figure called on Saturday for more marches aimed at taking back the courts and the National Electoral Council that he said had been "hijacked" by President Nicolas Maduro.

Freddy Guevara urged people to protest on Monday -- May 1 or May Day, a traditional workers' holiday -- with marches to the Supreme Court and the National Electoral Council's offices.

"We want to summon all Venezuelans, across the country's 24 states, to hit the dictatorship with a one-two punch," Guevara said, evoking simultaneous peaceful marches in the two locations.

(AFP )

A plane crash in western Cuba on Saturday killed eight military personnel, the ministry in charge of the island's armed forces said.

The Russian-made AN-26 transport aircraft crashed in a mountainous region of western Artemisa province, killing all eight on board including the plane's crew, the Revolutionary Armed Forces ministry said in a statement carried by state media.

The plane, which can carry up to 40 people, had taken off from Playa Baracoa airport just outside the capital Havana. It crashed into a mountain, Loma de la Pimienta, 35 miles (55 kilometers) distant.

(AFP )

The family firm of President Mauricio Macri allegedly tried to empty the accounts of Argentina's postal service, which it ran years ago, the justice ministry said on Saturday.

The accusation by a prosecutor handling commercial matters, Gabriela Bouquin, stems from a contract the Macri Group had to manage Correo Argentina between 1997 and 2003, before the illiquid service was re-nationalized.

She said that there were transfers of nearly $300,000 from Correo Argentina's accounts in 2016, mostly to firms controlled by Macri family-owned company.

(AFP )

Pope Francis on Saturday called for negotiations to resolve tensions surrounding North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Speaking on board the papal plane on his way back from a two-day visit to Egypt, the pontiff said there was a need for "negotiations with a view to a diplomatic solution".

"There are plenty of mediators in the world who are putting themselves forward. Norway, for example which is ready to help," he said.

(AFP )

Pope Francis on Saturday said the Vatican was ready to intervene as a mediator to try and end Venezuela's deadly political crisis under "clear conditions".

Speaking on a plane bringing him back from Egypt to Rome, the pontiff said: "I believe that that must be done under conditions. Very clear conditions."

"There was an intervention by the Holy See following strong pressure" by four former leaders of Spain, the Dominican Republic, Panama and Colombia, he said.

(AFP )

Teenage fly-half Curwin Bosch kicked 18 points as Coastal Sharks of South Africa won 33-25 at Jaguares of Argentina Saturday in a key Super Rugby match.

Success gave the Sharks an eight-point advantage in the standings over the Jaguares with six rounds left as the teams battle for a quarter-finals place.

It was a much improved show by the visitors after coach Robert du Preez told his players to refund spectators following a woeful home draw with the Melbourne Rebels last weekend.

(AFP )

An exhibition in Milan is offering through the lens of 65 photographers an original look at the topic of immigration and the migrant crisis.

The Restless Earth, organised by the Nicola Trussardi foundation, is being presented by the Visual Arts Program of Milan's Triennale (www.triennale.org), the title alluding to works by Caribbean poet Edouard Glissant on how different cultures can live together.

(AFP )

Police detained over 100 activists in Saint Petersburg on Saturday as hundreds of Russian opposition supporters turned out to protest against President Vladimir Putin's expected candidacy in elections next year.

Protests in several cities were called by the Open Russia movement founded by arch-Putin foe and former oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

They were held under the slogan "We're sick of him" -- a reference to Putin.

(AFP )

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban insisted Saturday that no agreement had been reached over a controversial higher education law that could close down a Budapest university founded by US billionaire George Soros.

His comments came despite claims by allies in the EU's powerful centre-right political group that he would soon yield to EU pressure.

The European People's Party (EPP) said after a meeting in Brussels between its top officials and Orban that he agreed to quickly meet EU rights demands over the education law.

(AFP )

Brazilian authorities were working Saturday to clear away the remains of barricades, burned-out buses and trash strewn about the streets during a general strike the previous day that saw violent clashes between protesters and police.

The demonstrations shut down transportation, schools and shops, with small groups smashing bank windows, hurling rocks and setting fires. Police responded with rubber bullets and tear gas.

(AFP )

Turkey on Saturday blocked all access to Wikipedia and banned television dating shows, adding to fears of a crackdown after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's victory in a referendum on enhancing his powers.

The government also dismissed almost 4,000 public officials in the latest wave of the purge under the over nine-month state of emergency that has followed last July's failed coup.

(AFP )

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Saturday said his government was "on target" for a May 22 fiscal deal with its creditors to enable the country to meet July loan payments.

"I think the general picture is that we are on target to have a conclusion on May 22," Tsipras said in Brussels, referring to a scheduled meeting of eurozone finance ministers needed to approve the deal.

Greece's creditors -- the European Commission, European Central Bank and the IMF -- on Tuesday resumed a long-delayed audit that is required for any agreement.

(AFP )

A 72-year-old Italian medieval art expert was on Saturday elected to head the Order of Malta, the world's oldest chivalric order.

Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto takes the reins for one year after Pope Francis ordered the resignation in January of the Order's Grand Master, Britain's Matthew Festing, following a power struggle.

A centuries-old lay religious mission, the order provides humanitarian aid in crisis zones around the world.

(AFP )

The EU's top officials will seek a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a NATO summit next month amid mounting tensions with Ankara, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday.

EU President Donald Tusk made the announcement to 27 European Union leaders holding a special meeting -- without Britain -- on Brexit, Merkel told reporters.

She said Tusk "told us today that he was going to ask for a meeting with President Erdogan, along with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, during the NATO summit" in Brussels on May 25.

(AFP )

Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano on Saturday said he "agreed 100 percent" with a prosecutor's repeated suggestions that some charity boats rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean are colluding with traffickers in Libya.

Sicily-based prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro sparked a row last week after claims in La Stampa daily that some aid groups battling Europe's worst migrant crisis since World War II may be in league with people smugglers.

(AFP )

The United Nations on Saturday called for a halt to fighting in South Sudan after the government launched a new offensive earlier this week.

South Sudanese government forces targeted a town in the north on Wednesday, displacing civilians the UN said may be headed toward the border with Sudan.

"We are disturbed by the escalation of violence and subsequent suffering of civilians in South Sudan as a result of the recent government offensive," Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said in a statement.

(AFP )

A federal judge has ordered the Arkansas authorities to conduct an autopsy on the body of an executed inmate whose lawyer described his death as "horrifying," including jerking and convulsions during his lethal injection.

Judge Kristine Baker of the US Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas issued the order late Friday, less than 24 hours after the state executed the 38-year-old convicted multiple murderer Kenneth Williams.

He was the last of four inmates put to death in a week -- the first executions by the conservative southern state since 2005.

(AFP )

A landslide engulfed part of a village in Kyrgyzstan on Saturday, killing 24 people, including nine children, the emergencies ministry said.

The earth slip entombed the inhabitants of six houses when it hit the village of Ayu in the Osh region of the mountainous Central Asian country at around 6:40 am (0040 GMT), the emergencies ministry said in a statement.

"All 24 citizens of Kyrgzystan, nine of them children, died under the landslide in the south of the country," ministry spokeswoman Elmira Sheripova told AFP.

(AFP )

Hundreds of Indians gather daily at a 500-year-old Hindu temple in southern India where they pray for a single wish -- an increasingly elusive US visa.

The Chilkur Balaji temple dedicated to Lord Balaji -- a re-incarnation of Hindu god Vishnu -- on the outskirts of Hyderabad city, has long been a one-stop solution for prospective Indian immigrants seeking US visas, earning it the sobriquet of 'visa temple'.

(AFP )

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was briefly hospitalised after a fall, the mayor of a Tuscan town where he was due to attend a meeting of his political party Forza Italia said Saturday.

"He slipped, he was injured and briefly hospitalised and will not join us this afternoon," said Massimo Mallegni, mayor of Pietrasanta.

The 80-year-old media tycoon tripped on cobblestones Friday night, falling head first and cutting his upper lip while leaving a restaurant in the chic tourist town of Portofino near Genoa, according to local media reports.

(AFP )

For a minority devastated by a series of church bombings that killed dozens of Christians, it was a chance for a rare joyous respite.

Despite fears of another jihadist attack, thousands of Catholics waited for hours on Saturday to enter a heavily guarded stadium in the Egyptian capital to pray with Pope Francis.

It was, said Coptic Catholic engineer Maged Francis, a "historic occasion".

"It's unlikely it will ever happen again," he said.

"Today joy has eclipsed the sadness of the last few weeks."