In the world | Africatime
Tuesday 28 March 2017

In the world

(AFP )

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday signed the historic letter that will launch Brexit when it is delivered to Brussels on Wednesday, a photo released by her office showed.

Sitting in front of a lone Union Jack national flag and a portrait of Britain's first prime minister, Robert Walpole, a serene-looking May signed the letter to begin the country's departure from the European Union.

(AFP )

The wife of France's conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon was charged Tuesday with complicity in the abuse of public funds in a scandal that has engulfed her husband's campaign.

He has already been charged in the case involving allegedly fictitious jobs as a parliamentary aide for which the Welsh-born Penelope Fillon was paid hundreds of thousands of euros.

The 61-year-old Penelope was also charged over a salary she received from a literary magazine owned by a billionaire friend of her husband's, Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere.

(AFP )

An Ivory Coast jury on Tuesday acquitted former first lady Simone Gbagbo of crimes against humanity during the 2010-11 post-election crisis in a stunning verdict after the prosecution had sought to jail her for life.

"A majority of the jury declared Simone Gbagbo not guilty of the crimes of which she has been accused, pronounced her acquittal and ordered that she be immediately freed if she is not being held for other reasons, " said the head of the country's top criminal court, judge Kouadjo Boiqui.

(AFP )

The White House announced Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will make an "official visit" to Washington on April 3, ending years in which the Egyptian president had been kept at arm's length amid rights concerns.

"President Trump and President Al-Sisi will use the visit to build on the positive momentum they have built for the United States-Egypt relationship," the White House said in a statement Tuesday.

Sisi's visit to Washington would be the first to the White House since the former army chief became president in 2014.

(AFP )

Penelope Fillon, wife of France's conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon, was charged Tuesday with complicity in the abuse of public funds in a scandal that has engulfed her husband's campaign, a judicial source said.

Francois Fillon has already been charged in the case involving allegedly fictitious jobs as a parliamentary aide for which his Welsh-born wife Penelope was paid hundreds of thousands of euros.

(AFP )

FIFA said Tuesday it had launched an investigation into incidents which led to the abandonment of a friendly match between Ivory Coast and Senegal in Paris following a series of pitch invasions.

The sides were level at 1-1 late Monday when French referee Tony Chapron called off the match in the 88th minute as fans from both sides flooded onto the pitch.

Images showed rowdy supporters chasing across the pitch after climbing over fences while one fan was seen tackling a player in the middle of the pitch.

(AFP )

New African football chief Ahmad Ahmad gave his backing on Tuesday to a potential bid from Morocco to host the 2026 World Cup.

The north African country has bid to host the global showpiece on four previous occasions but missed out on the 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010 editions.

"We are convinced that Morocco could organise this competition just as was done by South Africa in 2010," said Ahmad, who was elected president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) earlier this month to replace Issa Hayatou, at a press conference in Marrakesh.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump declared the end of a "war on coal" Tuesday, as he moved to curb rules that underpin American emissions targets and a major global climate accord.

Following through on an election promise, Trump signed an order to review some of his predecessor Barack Obama's climate legacy, declaring an end to "job-killing regulations."

In a maiden trip to the Environmental Protection Agency, he ordered a review of emission limits for coal-fired power plants and eased up restrictions on federal leasing for coal production.

(AFP )

Major beef market Hong Kong on Tuesday ended a blanket ban imposed on Brazilian meat imports in a scandal over tainted products, Brazil's government said.

It said the move means all the major markets for Brazil's key meat exports have relaxed their bans on meat from the recession-hit South American nation, the world's top beef and poultry exporter.

"Brazil is satisfied to have received the news that Hong Kong has reopened its market to Brazilian meat" except for products from 21 companies investigated in the food scare, it said in a statement.

(AFP )

Less than a month to the first round of the French presidential election, Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon found support in Germany and far-right contender Marine Le Pen said the EU was "crumbling".

Here are three things that happened in the campaign on Tuesday:

- Hamon meets Merkel, wins Schulz backing -

(AFP )

The US-led anti-jihadist coalition said Tuesday it "probably" played a role in civilian casualties in west Mosul, as the UN and Amnesty International called for greater efforts to protect civilians.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians are still inside west Mosul, caught up in deadly fighting between the Islamic State group and Iraqi forces who are backed by coalition air strikes in the battle to retake the area from the jihadists.

(AFP )

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned London Tuesday on the eve of its Brexit launch that the bloc would be "firm" on the rights of European citizens living in Britain.

"#Brexit made EU citizens worry about their future in EU27 and UK. EU will be firm on their rights @The3Million #citizensfirst," former French minister Barnier tweeted in English.

Brussels insists that Britain's divorce, including issues such as the rights of more than three million EU nationals in the UK, must be dealt with before any future trade relationship.

(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 its contingent from the Eurocorps military group by 2020, a spokesman for the Strasbourg-based intergovernmental body said Tuesday.

"The Polish soldiers will leave as their individual contracts end, within three years at the latest," Colonel Vicente Dalmau told AFP, adding the the Polish government had made the decision "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 )

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.