Friday 20 April 2018

In the world

(AFP )

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared Saturday that Pyongyang would halt nuclear tests and intercontinental missile launches, five months after its last ICBM launch amid a rapid diplomatic thaw.

Here are the key steps in the development of the regime's banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes:

- The beginnings, 1970s -

North Korea starts working in the late 1970s on a version of the Soviet Scud-B missile with a range of around 300 kilometres (around 200 miles), carrying out a first test in 1984.

(AFP )

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has declared an end to the nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests that sent tensions soaring on the peninsula, in the region, and beyond.

The move, enshrined in a decision by the ruling Workers' Party, comes ahead of a summit with the South's President Moon Jae-in next week, and with a much-anticipated meeting with US President Donald Trump due later.

But it is only one step in a complicated sequence of moves that has a long way to play out. Here are some questions and answers on the latest developments.

(AFP )

Kim Jong Un has halted North Korea's nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches, as diplomatic efforts to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula gather pace.

Here are the key quotes from the North Korean leader's announcement, made at a meeting of the central committee of the ruling Workers' Party, as reported by the official KCNA news agency.

- 'Brilliant victory' -

Kim described building North Korea's nuclear force as a "miraculous victory".

(AFP )

Nguyen was nine when he boarded a boat alone to escape the communist regime in Vietnam for the United States. Some 40 years later, he returned in shackles, deported from the only country he really knows to one he can scarcely remember.​

With conspiracy and fraud convictions under his belt, he was expelled in line with a Trump administration push to remove immigrants with criminal records for convictions ranging from traffic offenses to drug-related crimes and murder.

(AFP )

The UN Security Council is meeting in a secluded farmhouse on the southern tip of Sweden on Saturday in a bid to overcome deep divisions over how to end the war in Syria.

In a first for the council, which normally holds its annual brainstorming session in upstate New York, the 15 ambassadors and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have this year been invited to hold its informal meeting in Backakra by Sweden, a non-permanent member of the body.

The presence of the UN's special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, was not yet confirmed.

(AFP )

They talk regularly, have shared memorable handshakes and supposedly have an "unbreakable" friendship. When US President Donald Trump and France's Emmanuel Macron meet next week, there will be more back-slapping -- but also major differences.

The Trump-Macron relationship has been one of the few stable elements in recent American foreign policy, with the French leader emerging as the privileged European partner for the White House.

(AFP )

Saudi Arabia hosted its first public film screening in over 35 years on Friday, two days after US movie giant AMC unveiled the kingdom's debut theatre in Riyadh.

Clutching prized tickets for what AMC said was a sold-out showing of Hollywood blockbuster action film "Black Panther", men and women walked into the movie hall with tubs of popcorn and fizzy drinks.

Families huddled around movie posters to take selfies, soaking up an experience that is mundane in most parts of the world but a novelty in the ultra-conservative desert kingdom.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump's secretary of State pick Mike Pompeo is likely to be rejected by a Senate panel after all its Democrats opposed his nomination, but he may still win final confirmation next week.

Senator Chris Coons on Friday became the last Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to announce his position.

The panel has 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

(AFP )

Two German tourists died and 12 other people were injured Friday when their minibus fell into a ravine on an Andean road in southern Peru, police said.

The vehicle, which carried 12 German tourists along with their Peruvian driver and another Peruvian, fell about 20 meters (65 feet) while traveling from the city of Arequipa to the town of Chivay around 3:00 pm (2000 GMT).

The surviving 10 German tourists and their two Peruvian crewmembers were taken to hospital in Arequipa, a police official in Chivay said.

(AFP )

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he would halt nuclear tests and intercontinental missile launches, in a Saturday announcement welcomed by US President Donald Trump ahead of a much-anticipated summit between the two men.

Pyongyang's declaration, long sought by Washington, will be seen as a crucial step in the fast diplomatic dance on and around the Korean peninsula.

(AFP )

The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday ordered emergency inspections of jet engines like the one that ruptured during a recent Southwest Airlines flight, leaving one passenger dead.

"Fan blade failure due to cracking, if not addressed, could result in an engine in-flight shutdown (IFSD), uncontained release of debris, damage to the engine, damage to the airplane and possible airplane decompression," the regulatory authority said.

(AFP )

The maker of a jet engine that ruptured during a recent Southwest Airlines flight, leaving one passenger dead, called Friday for rapid inspections of all of its engines powering Boeing 737 aircraft.

CFM International, a joint venture between America's GE Aviation and France's Safran Aircraft Engines, said it "recommends ultrasonic inspections within the next 20 days to fan blades of CFM56-7B engines with more than 30,000 cycles since new."

(AFP )

French President Emmanuel Macron hopes an oak sapling that he will give his American counterpart Donald Trump next week will be planted at the White House as a symbol of lasting friendship, he told Fox News on Friday.

Macron, who arrives in Washington Monday for a state visit while transatlantic tensions persist over trade, Syria and Iran, said he was mindful of how France was the first international ally of American revolutionaries during their war for independence.

(AFP )

The death Friday of 28-year-old Avicii, one of the world's most successful DJs, stunned his fans and the music world.

Here are some of the key reactions to the death of Avicii, a Swede whose real name is Tim Bergling and who was found dead in Oman.

"So sad. So Tragic. Good Bye Dear Sweet Tim. Gone too Soon." -- Madonna, who hired Avicii as a producer on her last album, on Instagram

"We had the honor to have known him and admired him both as an artist and the beautiful person that he was." -- Sweden's Prince Carl Philip and his wife Sofia

(AFP )

Peruvian ex-president Alberto Fujimori, just four months out of prison under a controversial pardon, was in court Friday facing charges linked to the killing of seven farmers in 1992.

Fujimori, president from 1990-2000, had been serving a 25-year prison sentence for crimes that included commanding death squads that killed suspected civilian sympathizers of leftwing guerrillas his regime was fighting.

The ex-president was pardoned on December 24 by then-president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski on humanitarian grounds because of ill health.

(AFP )

The US-led air strikes against the Syrian regime also sent a message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ahead of talks with President Donald Trump, Japan's defense minister said Friday.

Observers have suggested the strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could strengthen Trump's hand in talks, as they showed Kim that the West has the political will to back up its rhetoric -- as well as the capability for precise strikes launched from afar.

(AFP )

Osman Morote, the ex-deputy leader of Peru's once feared Shining Path guerrillas, was moved from prison to house arrest Friday after 30 years behind bars, his attorney said.

The 73 year-old Morote left the Piedras Gordas prison just north of Lima in a personal vehicle under heavy police protection.

He drove to the home of a relative in Chaclacayo, 30 kilometers (20 miles) east of Lima, his attorney Manuel Fajardo told AFP.

The Maoist Shining Path waged a bloody guerrilla campaign against the Peruvian government between 1980 and 2000.

(AFP )

Venezuela's economic collapse ranks as one of the worst in modern history, an International Monetary Fund official said on Friday.

With an expected contraction of 15 percent this year, and 45 percent over the last five years, the collapse ranks among the most extreme of the past half-century, said Alejandro Werner, director of the IMF's Western Hemisphere Department.

"It is one of the worst economic crises we have seen in modern economic history," Werner told reporters.

(AFP )

Two protesters and a policeman were killed in Nicaragua's capital Managua after demonstrations over pension reform turned violent in the most significant protests in President Daniel Ortega's 11 years in office, officials said Friday.

The demonstrations rocked the capital and nearby cities for a third day in a row with marches against a new law, which increases employer and employee contributions but decreases the overall pension amount by five percent.

(AFP )

Czech social democrats said Friday they would return to coalition talks with the ANO movement of billionaire Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis who is struggling to clinch a parliamentary majority.

ANO (YES) won 78 out of 200 seats in last October's general election campaigning on an anti-corruption ticket, but Babis, who has been charged with EU subsidy fraud, has so far failed to form a coalition.

(AFP )

France criticized Washington's trade tactics on Friday, demanding Europe be permanently exempt from US steel tariffs, while refusing to be drawn into a "vain and pointless" trade fight with China.

"We will not be satisfied with a provisional exemption," French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said on the sidelines of the spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

"The increased tariffs cannot weigh like a sword of Damocles on trade relations among states," he said, warning that France would not "enter a battle with China."

(AFP )

The United States and its allies "bombed" UN-backed peace talks aimed at ending the war in Syria when they ordered strikes on the country this month, Russia's foreign minister said Friday.

The US, France and Britain "on 14 April bombed not only made-up chemical sites in Syria, but also bombed the (UN-backed peace) talks in Geneva," Sergei Lavrov said following a meeting in Moscow with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura.

"We came very close to a relaunching of the Geneva process with a real dialogue between Syrians, mainly on the question of constitutional reform," Lavrov added.

(AFP )

Avicii, one of the world's most successful DJs who helped usher in the global boom in electronic music but struggled to cope with the hard-partying lifestyle, died Friday in Oman, his representative said. He was 28.

Two years after his unusually early retirement from touring, the Swedish DJ was found dead in the Gulf sultanate's capital Muscat.

"It is with profound sorrow that we announce the loss of Tim Bergling, also known as Avicii," his management said in a statement, without specifying the cause of death.

(AFP )

Donald Trump lashed out Friday after memos of his meetings with the FBI's then chief James Comey depicted the president as obsessed with the Russia probe and a smutty video allegedly showing him with two prostitutes.

But the memos were just the latest twist a week of difficult headlines for Trump: from the release of a bestselling book in which Comey labels him "morally unfit," to a courtroom circus featuring his embattled personal lawyer and a porn star who alleges a tryst with him.

(AFP )

The United States branded strategic rivals China and Russia "forces of instability" on Friday, grouping them with Iran and North Korea as countries whose rights abuses amount to a global threat.

The charge was made by acting secretary of state John Sullivan as he launched Washington's annual global human rights report, which this year is focused on destabilizing abuses by state actors.

Human rights groups were quick to criticize the report, noting that it had been stripped of much of the reporting on women's and reproductive rights that it had contained in recent years.

(AFP )

Bells rang across the Czech capital Prague on Friday marking the arrival of the remains of a Catholic cardinal, persecuted by both the Nazis and the Communists, for reburial at home after he died in exile at the Vatican decades ago.

Josef Beran, who survived two Nazi camps during World War II and 15 years of internment by the communist regime, is widely respected by Czechs, despite the high proportion of atheists and agnostics in the EU country of 10.6 million people.

(AFP )

The Democratic Party filed a lawsuit Friday alleging that Russia, WikiLeaks and top officials from Donald Trump's campaign conspired to tilt the 2016 US presidential election in the Republican's favor.

The civil complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan by the Democratic National Committee alleges that Russia informed Trump's campaign that it had conducted a cyber attack on the DNC, leading to the release of information damaging to Trump's rival Hillary Clinton.

(AFP )

A row erupted Friday between Romania's government and President Klaus Iohannis over a proposal to move the country's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The foreign ministry announced that "a process of analysis and evaluation with the aim of transferring the embassy has been launched".

Prime Minister Viorica Dancila of the left-wing Social Democratic Party confirmed Friday the government had adopted a memorandum on moving the embassy but added that other steps needed to be taken before a final decision.

(AFP )

France, the United States and Britain have amended a draft resolution on Syria, seeking UN Security Council support for a political and humanitarian response to the conflict that has so far met resistance from Russia.

The original draft, which failed to get the support of Russia, expressed outrage and condemnation of the April 7 chemical attack in the town of Douma, where more than 40 people were killed.

The latest version, which was obtained by AFP, also condemns the attack but was amended to read "the reported use of chemical weapons."

(AFP )

The is no current risk to Spain's solid economic growth from the separatist crisis in the country's Catalonia province, a senior International Monetary Fund official said Friday.

The Catalan dispute "is a political issue," which could potentially create a drag on growth, but there are none currently apparent, said Poul Thomsen, head of the IMF's European Department.

"I am not concerned about risks being on the downside in the near term," he told reporters during the IMF spring meetings, which go through Saturday.

(AFP )

The United States branded strategic rivals China and Russia "forces of instability" on Friday, grouping them with Iran and North Korea as countries whose rights abuses amount to a global threat.

The charge was made by acting secretary of state John Sullivan as he launched Washington's annual global human rights report, which this year is focused on destabilizing abuses by state actors.

(AFP )

France is set to back Morocco in the north African country's bid to host the 2026 World Cup, the president of the French Football Association said on Friday.

"FIFA are visiting Morocco this week to check if the pitches are ready and whether, on a technical level, Morocco can be a candidate. If Morocco is retained (as a candidate), the French Football Federation will support it," Noel Le Graet said at a sponsorship event on Friday.

Morocco is the only alternative to a united bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico to host the 2026 tournament.

(AFP )

France on Friday deported an influential Islamic preacher whose mosque in the southern city of Marseille was shut down last year over accusations of hate speech.

The expulsion of Algeria-born El Hadi Doudi back to his home country came after his appeal with the European Court of Human Rights was rejected earlier this week.

Doudi, 63, had long been on the radar of Marseille police, who considered him an "authority" on Salafist interpretations of Islam, a Sunni branch which demands a strict conservative lifestyle.

(AFP )

Thousands protested along the Gaza Strip's border with Israel in a fourth straight Friday of mass demonstrations and clashes, with four Palestinians shot dead by Israeli forces.

Gazans also flew dozens of kites near the border fence, in some cases carrying Molotov cocktails and one with a swastika painted on it, in a new tactic that sparked at least two small fires in Israeli territory this week.

(AFP )

Cuba's president may no longer be named Castro, but the communist system that Fidel and Raul cemented over the course of decades is not going anywhere, at least not soon.

Raul Castro, 86, and his new successor as president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, 57, will ensure that it survives even if more pro-market reforms are badly needed.

Indeed, his relinquishing the presidency after 60 years of Castro rule, while important, is not expected to shake up Cuba in any major way, at least over the short term.