Friday 17 November 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was on Friday preparing to leave Saudi Arabia for France, a move aimed at defusing political turmoil sparked by his shock resignation in Riyadh.

The Lebanese premier and his family are due to meet French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Saturday after allegations from Hariri's political rivals back home that he was essentially being held hostage by the Saudi authorities.

(AFP )

As the unofficial capital of France's Burgundy region, Beaune is a town that thrives on wine -- and now even its cows are going to taste like grapes.

This weekend will see luminaries of the wine-making world descend on the ancient eastern town for its huge annual Hospices de Beaune charity auction.

The 157-year-old sale, run by Christie's, sees millions of dollars exchange hands and is considered a barometer for global demand for Burgundy, considered one of France's most prestigious wine areas.

(AFP )

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister on Friday accused Hezbollah, which Riyadh blames for the shock resignation of Lebanese premier Saad Hariri, of holding Lebanon hostage and using its banks to launder money.

Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Madrid that the Shiite group was destabilising Lebanon by maintaining its arsenal and fighters in the Mediterranean nation.

"You cannnot have a militia with a military force that operates outside the scope of the government," he told reporters after talks with Spanish counterpart Alfonso Dastis.

(AFP )

Argentina's navy said Friday it has launched a search operation for one of its submarines with a crew of 44 which has been reported missing off the south coast.

The navy said it had not had contact with the submarine, the San Juan, for 48 hours.

"We have not been able to find, or have visual or radar communication with the submarine," navy spokesman Enrique Balbi told a news conference.

(AFP )

A collapse of exploratory talks on forming a new German government under Chancellor Angela Merkel would likely trigger snap elections, a prospect fraught with risk for Europe's top economic power.

The inconclusive September 24 general election left Merkel seeking new partners as she attempts to embark on a fourth term.

However a failure of her conservatives to find enough common ground with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the ecologist Greens to embark on formal coalition talks would leave the country in political limbo.

(AFP )

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday that the people of Zimbabwe must be allowed to choose their own government through democratic elections, after the military took power.

"We all should work together for a quick return to a civilian rule in that country in accordance with their constitution," he said, ahead of talks with African foreign ministers.

Earlier in the day, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe made a defiant appearance at a university graduation, but power in Harare has clearly shifted into the hands of the army.

(AFP )

Three of 12 North Korean fishermen missing after their boat capsized in high seas were found dead on Friday, Japan's coastguard said, adding that four separate bodies were found in another overturned vessel nearby.

The coastguard found the three bodies inside the upset boat in waters 360 kilometres (225 miles) northwest of the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture.

Japanese patrol boats and aircraft were searching for the missing seamen after they rescued three fishermen clinging to the hull of the boat who said they were part of a crew of 15.

(AFP )

The former driver of a Filipino politician was jailed for life Friday over the assassination of a rival congressman in a bombing a decade ago, officials said.

Ikram Indama was found guilty of the November 13, 2007 murders of House of Representatives member Wahab Akbar and three other people in a motorcycle bomb attack, which wounded seven more including two other legislators.

Indama had worked as a driver for Gerry Salapuddin, a former congressman and Akbar's bitter political rival in the mainly-Muslim southern Philippine island of Basilan.

(AFP )

Panama and China agreed Friday to study the possibility of reaching a free trade agreement after the Central American nation ditched Taiwan and recognised Beijing.

The memorandum of understanding was among 19 cooperation agreements signed by the two countries as Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela met Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing.

The two nations also reached agreements related to agriculture, civil aviation and maritime transport, as well as tourism to facilitate visits by Chinese tour groups to Panama.

(AFP )

Belgian prosecutors asked a judge Friday to extradite axed Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont to Spain to face sedition charges over his region's independence drive, with the court setting a date of December 4 for the next hearing.

Madrid issued a European arrest warrant for Puigdemont and four of his former ministers after they fled to Brussels last month and ignored a summons to appear before a Spanish judge, claiming they would not get a fair trial.

(AFP )

Six people were still missing in Greece Friday after a flash flood killed 16 others near the capital, with local communities facing food and medicine shortages and the full scope of the damage still unclear.

"We need rapid solutions... mainly on food distribution for those who have lost their homes, their documents, their medicine," said Ioanna Kriekouki, the mayor of Mandra, the town hardest hit by the inundation.

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

(AFP )

The head of NATO apologised Friday over a training exercise in Norway after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan withdrew troops in protest at an incident he deemed offensive.

Erdogan said he had ordered the 40 troops to be removed from the exercise -- a desktop drill not involving boots on the ground -- after an image of the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and his own name were included as "targets".

(AFP )

The speaker of Indonesia's parliament, implicated in a $170 million corruption case, was in hospital Friday after a bizarre drama in which he claimed to have been injured in a car crash shortly after a failed raid on his palatial estate.

The story has dominated headlines and news broadcasts this week in the graft-riddled southeast Asian nation, where images showed a grim-faced Setya Novanto laying in a Jakarta hospital bed with medical tubes in his nose.

(AFP )

Three men were found guilty of possessing and conspiring to make explosives ahead of a contentious 2015 vote on political reform by a Hong Kong court Friday.

The trio were arrested along with two others at a time of heightened political tension in Hong Kong, following the failure of mass "Umbrella Movement" rallies to win democratic reform for the semi-autonomous city.

(AFP )

Hussein Faleh has only one dream: to return to his home in the ravaged Old City of Iraq's Mosul.

But, more than four months after government forces declared victory in their operation to push the Islamic State group out of its largest stronghold, moving back into his house remains a distant prospect.

"I would love to go back and rebuild my house, but the security forces don't allow it," the unemployed father-of-three, 29, told AFP.

(AFP )

With Mafia king Toto Riina's death, and heir Matteo Messina Denaro on the run, is it game over for Sicily's once all-powerful Cosa Nostra?

"Boss of bosses" Riina, who was nicknamed "The Beast" because of his cruelty, led a reign of terror including the brutal daylight assassinations of anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

He died Friday aged 87, just months after being caught on wiretaps in jail boasting afresh about his bloody crimes.

"Riina will go down in history as the man who destroyed Cosa Nostra," Mafia expert Attilio Bolzoni said.

(AFP )

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said Ankara had pulled out 40 Turkish troops from a NATO exercise in Norway, in a new outburst of tensions with its Western allies.

Erdogan said in a televised speech to ruling party members he had ordered the troops to be removed from the exercise after an incident on Thursday deemed offensive to himself and the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

(AFP )

An Islamist plot to bomb a Manila shopping mall as US President Donald Trump and other world leaders arrived in the city for a summit has been foiled, Philippine police said Friday.

Three alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf militant group were arrested on November 10, authorities said, a day before leaders began descending on the capital for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit and other meetings.

(AFP )

China dispatched a special envoy to North Korea on Friday, a trip hailed as a "big move" by US President Donald Trump, who has urged Beijing to pile pressure on its nuclear-armed ally.

Diplomat Song Tao was travelling to the North on behalf of President Xi Jinping to brief officials on the recent Chinese Communist Party congress and other "issues of mutual interest", foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

(AFP )

Elderly criminals in Japan are more likely to be sent back to jail than younger cons, a government report said Friday, with ageing crooks increasingly likely to reoffend.

Almost one quarter (23.2 percent) of elderly inmates found themselves back behind bars within two years of being released, up 2.8 percent year-on-year, the justice ministry said.

Most over-65s who fall foul of the criminal justice system are fingered for petty crime such as shoplifting and theft, with experts putting the rise down to increased economic hardship.

(AFP )

Airbnb's offices in Japan have been raided by anti-monopoly officials, the homesharing giant said Friday, denying any wrongdoing and pledging cooperation.

Japan's Fair Trade Commission reportedly carried out the raids over suspicions Airbnb was requiring users to sign exclusively with its site and cut ties with other agencies.

"Airbnb Japan received an on-site inspection by the Japan Fair Trade Commission and we are cooperating with the Commission's ongoing investigation," the company said in a statement.

(AFP )

A Russian law that could force international media outlets to register as "foreign agents" in response to US pressure on Kremlin-backed TV channel RT is an attack on free speech, Human Rights watch said Friday.

The legislation, which won unanimous backing from Russia's lower house this week and is set to be voted on in the Senate, would allow Moscow to target foreign media in a similar way it has punished NGOs with international funding.

(AFP )

Cambodia on Friday hit back at critics of its ban on the country's main opposition, calling the United States "ringleaders" of an alleged coup plot by the party and threatening to build closer ties with Russia and China.

The row emerged after Cambodia's Supreme Court, effectively controlled by strongman premier Hun Sen, outlawed the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and banned more than 100 of its politicians Thursday, accusing the party of attempting to overthrow the government.

(AFP )

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Friday called on Brussels to move on to post-Brexit trade talks to solve the Irish border issue, despite a warning from the EU that London still had work to do.

"The issues of the Northern Irish border and how it works are intellectually, intimately bound up with the questions of the customs union, the single market, Britain's relationship with those.

(AFP )

The Iraqi army retook the last town in the country still held by the Islamic State group on Friday as the jihadists' self-proclaimed "caliphate" faced collapse on both sides of the border with Syria.

The lightning recapture of the small Euphrates valley town of Rawa in an offensive launched at dawn came as the jihadists were also under attack for a second day in the last town they still hold in Syria, Albu Kamal just over the border.

(AFP )

A fire swept through the main building of Cameroon's parliament in Yaounde overnight, causing substantial damage but no injuries.

The apparently accidental blaze broke out in the administrative part on the rear facade of the building, the government said, but the debating chamber is believed to have been spared.

The fire was completely out by dawn on Friday, an AFP photographer saw.

(AFP )

The United States on Thursday demanded Cambodia reverse its ban on the country's main opposition as it warned the dissolution of the party would strip 2018 elections of legitimacy.

Washington hit out after Cambodia's Supreme Court -- effectively controlled by strongman premier Hun Sen -- outlawed the Cambodia National Rescue Party and banned more than 100 of its politicians in a ruling blasted by a rights groups as the "death" of the nation's democracy.

(AFP )

European Union leaders warned British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday that the "clock is ticking" to make Brexit concessions and it is increasingly likely talks will fail to move on to the next phase in December.

Britain's impending split threatened to overshadow an EU summit in the Swedish port city of Gothenburg that was meant to focus on improving social standards and seeing off the threat of populism in the post-Brexit future.

(AFP )

Widowed and alone 21-year-old Umme Kulthum had hoped for a fresh start in Bangladesh, but was forced into prostitution instead, falling victim to what aid groups and officials say is a growing trafficking scourge targeting refugees.

Women and children make up the majority of the more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled violence in Myanmar for neighbouring Bangladesh, many escaping with only the clothes on their back and desperate to survive any way they can.

(AFP )

Former "boss of bosses" Toto Riina, one of the most feared Godfathers in the history of the Sicilian Mafia, died early Friday after battling cancer, Italian media reported.

Riina, who had been serving 26 life sentences and is thought to have ordered more than 150 murders, had been in a medically-induced coma after his health deteriorated following two operations.

The mobster, who turned 87 on Thursday, died in the prisoners' wing of a hospital in Parma in northern Italy just before 4am (0300 GMT), according to the country's main dailies and ANSA news agency.

(AFP )

Philippine troops detained and tortured civilians trying to flee a besieged southern city during a five-month battle with militants loyal to the Islamic State group, Amnesty International alleged Friday.

The US-backed military campaign to retake Marawi claimed the lives of more than 1,100 people including around 900 militants, displaced 400,000 residents and reduced large parts of the city to rubble.

(AFP )

Iran said on Friday that "biased" French policy was stoking crises in the Middle East after Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian accused it of "hegemonic" ambitions in the region.

"Unfortunately it seems that France has a biased and partisan approach to the crises in the region and this approach, whether intentionally or not, is even contributing to turning potential crises into real ones," foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi said.

(AFP )

A Palestinian rammed his car into two Israeli civilians in the occupied West Bank Friday before trying to stab soldiers and being shot, the Israeli army said.

In a statement the army said the attacker drove his car into the two Israelis near the Gush Etzion junction in the southern West Bank, leaving them both injured.

"The assailant proceeded by exiting the vehicle, armed with a knife, and attempted to stab (Israeli) soldiers," it added, saying he was shot and "severely injured" before harming anyone.

(AFP )

Floods caused by two days of torrential rains have left five people dead in Haiti and more than 10,000 homes inundated, authorities said Thursday.

Among the victims was a woman in her fifties and a three-year-old girl who were swept away as they tried to cross a rain-swollen river in Port-de-Paix in the northwest.

The body of a man in his sixties also was recovered in the same region, the civil protection agency said in a statement giving a preliminary summary of the toll.

(AFP )

The United States Thursday demanded Cambodia reverse its ban on the country's main opposition as it warned the dissolution of the party would strip 2018 elections of legitimacy.

Washington hit out after Cambodia's Supreme Court -- effectively controlled by strongman premier Hun Sen -- outlawed the Cambodia National Rescue Party and banned more than 100 of its politicians in a ruling blasted by a rights groups as the "death" of the nation's democracy.