In the world | Africatime
Sunday 26 March 2017

In the world

(AFP )

French Guiana came to a standstill Sunday on the eve of a major strike which has elbowed its way into France's presidential campaign.

Air France cancelled all flights to the South American territory for Sunday and Monday, when 37 labour unions were to launch a general strike demanding a "Marshall Plan" to improve public services and security.

Barricades have been erected on roads since last week, and the US State Department has warned travellers to stay away, citing the risk of violence.

(AFP )

Boyko Borisov, who scored yet another comeback in snap elections Sunday, has long dominated the Bulgarian political scene in a manner befitting his imposing physical presence.

Born in 1959 in communist Bulgaria, the son of a policeman and a teacher, Borisov graduated from the Sofia police academy and worked as a firefighter before setting up his own security company in 1991.

He provided protection for Bulgaria's communist dictator Todor Zhivkov after he was pushed from power in 1989, and in the mid-1990s for former king Simeon Saxe Coburg after he returned from exile.

(AFP )

President Omar al-Bashir will attend an Arab League summit in Amman this week, Sudan's foreign minister said Sunday, despite a top rights group urging Jordan to deny him entry.

Bashir is wanted by The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged genocide and war crimes related to the conflict in war-torn Darfur.

"President Omar al-Bashir will participate in the Arab summit in spite of his hectic schedule," Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour told the official SUNA news agency.

(AFP )

Donald Trump on Sunday squarely blamed his Republican party's ultra-conservative wing for the most stinging defeat of his young presidency, holding it responsible for the failed attempt to repeal Obamacare in a way that may signal bruising battles ahead over taxes and spending.

In a Twitter message, the US president not only faulted the hardline Freedom Caucus and two other influential conservative groups for the stunning setback, he suggested they had weakened efforts to curb abortions, a touchstone conservative cause.

(AFP )

Boyko Borisov, the karate-chopping comeback specialist of Bulgarian politics, appeared to have pulled it off again Sunday with the two-time premier's pro-EU centre-right party coming first in a snap election.

Borisov's Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party won 33 percent of the vote, projections from polling institutes showed.

The Socialist Party (BSP), seen as closer to Russia, garnered 28 percent. Official results were expected from Monday.

(AFP )

Turkey summoned the Swiss ambassador on Sunday to protest at a Kurdish rally in Bern which Ankara dubbed a "terrorist gathering", a diplomatic source said.

"Walter Haffner has been summoned to our (foreign) ministry where he has been made aware of our displeasure... The ambassador has been told those responsable must face justice," the source said.

Several thousand people attended Saturday's rally called by Kurdish associations and Swiss political parties in Bern.

(AFP )

Four weeks to the day before France goes to the polls for the first round of a presidential election that is being watched around the world, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen savaged the EU.

Here are two things that happened in the campaign on Sunday:

- Fillon camp makes wiretap claims -

Conservative candidate Francois Fillon's team expanded on his claims that President Francois Hollande had conducted a smear campaign against him, saying it was possible that the government had tapped his phones.

(AFP )

British police investigating a deadly attack on parliament made a new arrest Sunday as officials set their sights on accessing WhatsApp, the heavily-encrypted messaging service that was used by the killer.

The arrest came four days after the lightening assault that unfolded in the shadow of the Houses of Parliament, in which an apparently lone attacker killed four people and wounded 50 before being shot dead by armed police.

(AFP )

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame became the first African leader to address Washington's biggest pro-Israel forum Sunday, hailing the Jewish state as an inspiration for his own country's rebirth after genocide.

Kagame was commander of the rebel force that put an end to the 1994 slaughter of Rwandan Tutsis by Hutu extremists and has led the country since 2000, as it recovers from the conflict and becomes a regional economic success story.

(AFP )

Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance, on Sunday seized a military airport from the Islamic State jihadist group in northern Syria, a spokesman said.

The capture of Tabqa airbase comes as the alliance prepares an attack on IS's de facto Syrian capital Raqa, seeking to effectively surround the city before launching its assault.

SDF forces are also battling for the nearby Tabqa dam, held by IS, which was forced out of service on Sunday after its power station was damaged, a technical source there told AFP.

(AFP )

The race for the leadership of Spain's main opposition Socialists heated up Sunday as the president of the southern Andalusia region launched her bid to head the deeply-divided party.

At a rally of some 6,000 party faithful in Madrid, among them former prime ministers Felipe Gonzalez and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, 42-year-old career politician Susana Diaz said she would stand in the May primaries.

(AFP )

Brazilians furious at corruption demonstrated Sunday in support of a politically explosive probe into high-level embezzlement and bribery, but turnout was significantly lower than at previous protests.

The long-planned day of nationwide demonstrations kicked off in the capital Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro, before shifting to the nation's biggest city Sao Paulo.

Protesters, many wearing the yellow shirts of the country's beloved football team or draping themselves in the Brazilian flag, said a huge investigation known as Operation Car Wash must not let up in intensity.

(AFP )

Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in Yemen's rebel-held capital on Sunday in a show of support for the insurgents, two years after a Gulf coalition intervened against the rebels.

The Iran-backed Huthi rebels staged a show of force over the weekend with the mass rally in Sanaa and a symbolic court ruling against Yemen's embattled president, whose troops are supported by the Saudi-led Gulf coalition.

Crowds converged on Sabeen Square in Sanaa, raising banners in protest against the Saudi-led intervention and chanting a vow to "resist to the end".

(AFP )

Bulgaria's parliamentary election on Sunday is tipped to be a close race between the Socialists, seen as closer to Russia, and the centre-right.

A new grouping of nationalist "patriots" is forecast to come third.

Forming a government after the third election in four years in the European Union's poorest country will be tough. And the resulting coalition may be short-lived, experts say.

Here is a look at the main people to watch:

- Left-wing live-wire -

(AFP )

Thousands of Ethiopians with family members in Israel have again had attempts to join them delayed, this time by a paperwork logjam, Israeli officials said on Sunday.

Threatened by a revolt on the issue within the ruling Likud party, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government pledged in April that 1,300 Ethiopians would be admitted within 12 months out of a possible 9,000 set to arrive over five years.

(AFP )

Hundreds of people including top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny were arrested on Sunday as thousands of Russians defied bans to stage protests across the country against corruption.

Navalny had called for the marches after publishing a detailed report this month accusing Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of controlling a property empire through a shadowy network of nonprofit organisations.

The report has been viewed over 11 million times on YouTube, but so far Medvedev has made no comment on the claims.

(AFP )

Iran's central bank said Sunday it will appeal Luxembourg's decision to freeze $1.6 billion of its assets, which the US is claiming as compensation for victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The bank also said it would take steps to curb its remaining transactions in dollars, which it still receives particularly for oil sales.

In response to fresh US sanctions announced since last month, "Iran has sought to limit its dependence on the dollar... this policy will continue," the bank said in a statement published by state media.

(AFP )

The British government said Sunday that its security services must have access to encrypted messaging applications such as WhatsApp, revealing it was used by the killer behind the parliament attack.

Khalid Masood, the 52-year-old Briton who killed four people before being shot dead in a rampage in Westminster on Wednesday, reportedly used the Facebook-owned service moments before the assault.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd told Sky News it was "completely unacceptable" that police and security services had not been able to crack the heavily encrypted service.

(AFP )

The euro -- and her fervent wish to withdraw from it -- is a central theme of every stump speech by French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, topping her list of 144 election pledges.

Le Pen calls the single European currency a "a knife that you stick in a country's ribs to force it to do what its people don't want to do".

The leader of the National Front (FN) blames the euro for driving up prices, hurting exports and adding to France's already colossal trade deficit.

(AFP )

Gunfire erupted in a crowded Ohio nightclub early Sunday after a personal dispute boiled over, killing one person and wounding at least 15 as partygoers scattered into the night, authorities said.

The gunmen remained at large following the shooting at the Cameo nightclub in Cincinnati that Police Chief Eliot Isaac said was packed with revelers.

"Several local men got into some type of dispute inside the bar and it escalated into shots being fired from several individuals," Isaac told reporters.

(AFP )

Hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Yemen's rebel-held capital Sunday in a show of support for the insurgents, two years after a Gulf coalition intervened against the rebels.

The Yemen conflict pits the Shiite Huthi rebels and their allies against government troops supported since March 2015 by a Saudi-led coalition.

The Iran-backed rebels staged a show of force over the weekend with the mass rally in Sanaa and a symbolic court ruling against Yemen's embattled president.

(AFP )

Iraqi civil defence forces and volunteers removed bodies from the rubble of houses on Sunday in a west Mosul area where air strikes reportedly took a devastating toll on civilians.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians are still trapped, caught between advancing Iraqi forces and the Islamic State group jihadists that they are fighting to defeat.

Iraqi officials and witnesses said air strikes killed civilians in the Mosul al-Jadida area in recent days, but the number of victims -- said by some to number in the hundreds -- could not be independently confirmed.

(AFP )

Hong Kong's new leader Carrie Lam, seen as tough and capable by supporters but hated by the pro-democracy camp, faces a difficult task in calming political tensions in the divided city.

Voted in as chief executive Sunday by a committee weighted towards Beijing, critics say she will only further polarise a society riven by protests two years ago that centred on fears of China's growing influence.

Lam, who will be the first woman to run Hong Kong, rose through the ranks as a career civil servant before taking public office.

(AFP )

When South Korea's Sewol ferry sank three years ago killing more than 300 people, it also devastated businesses close to the wreck site. Now owners hope its salvage will herald a change in their fortunes.

The ship went down in an archipelago off southwestern South Korea, whose 1,700 islands make up the Dadohaehaesang national park, the country's largest.

Rocky outcrops dot the waters, while bigger ones offer beautiful beaches, hiking trails, and accommodation with scenic ocean views, along with temples and seasonal festivals.

(AFP )

Hamas shut the crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel on Sunday after blaming the Jewish state for the assassination of one of its officials in the Palestinian enclave.

A statement from the interior ministry in Gaza, run by Islamist movement Hamas, said it was shutting the Erez crossing for an indefinite period as it investigates the murder on Friday.

Hamas officials have blamed Israeli intelligence agency Mossad for the killing of Mazen Faqha, 38, who was shot dead by unknown gunmen in the Gaza Strip on Friday.

Israel has not commented on the shooting.

(AFP )

A social worker in the drab eastern German city of Frankfurt an der Oder admits she feels isolated at work whenever talk turns to the country's record influx of refugees.

"I have to say that my colleagues are not very friendly towards foreigners and I am almost alone in my opinion," Elisabeth, who gave just her first name, told AFP.

Foreigners are rarely seen in the former communist city about 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of Berlin, but as in much of eastern Germany, there is deep suspicion toward migrants.

(AFP )

The Pentagon under President Donald Trump is enjoying greater freedom to run its wars the way it wants -- and not constantly seek White House approval on important decisions.

Many in the military appreciate this increased autonomy, but critics charge it is raising civilian death rates, puts the lives of US troops at greater risk and leads to a lack of oversight of America's conflicts.

(AFP )

Uber has grounded its fleet of self-driving cars pending an investigation into the crash of an Uber autonomous vehicle in Arizona, a spokesperson for the car-hailing service said Sunday.

No one was seriously injured in the accident which occurred Friday in Tempe, Arizona while the vehicle -- a Volvo SUV -- was in self-driving mode, the company said.

"We are continuing to look into this incident and can confirm we had no backseat passengers in the vehicle," the Uber spokesperson said.

(AFP )

The target is behind a slope, the advance is unprotected: crawl, fire! Italian instructors in western Afghanistan have been using the relatively quiet winter to bolster Afghan troops against the Taliban.

The war-torn country's security forces are being killed in horrific numbers as they grapple with a militant resurgence, raising questions about how much more they can endure.

But under the banner of NATO's Resolute Support mission, Italian forces at Camp Arena in Herat province are racing the coming spring to give their Afghan counterparts a fighting chance.

(AFP )

Wood fashioned into lace and sculpted into evening dresses: the Hanae Mori Manuscrit label led the way this Tokyo Fashion Week in showing the world the original craftmanship that helps set Japan apart from the crowd.

Dresses of persimmon wood lace paired with soft falling black fabric were the star of the show at designer Yu Amatsu's autumn/winter 2017 collection for the brand that left fashionistas giddy with excitement.

(AFP )

Britain will take an unprecedented step into the unknown on Wednesday with the first formal move towards leaving the European Union, starting a two-year process that has already divided the country.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of London on Saturday to protest against Brexit, and Scotland's parliament on Tuesday is set to vote in favour of holding an independence referendum.

(AFP )

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party easily won a regional election Sunday, dealing an early blow to centre-left hopes of ending her more than decade-long reign.

In the Saarland state vote held six months before a general election, Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) won 40 percent against 30 percent for the Social Democrats (SPD), according to early results by public broadcasters.

(AFP )

Bulgarian voters went to the polls Sunday in a tightly fought election pitting Socialists seen as closer to Russia against two-time centre-right premier Boyko Borisov, who is seeking another comeback.

Opinion polls ahead of the vote in the European Union's poorest country, where the average monthly salary is just 500 euros ($540) and corruption is rife, also indicated a strong showing by nationalists.

(AFP )

Brexit challenges Britain's global image of openness and tolerance, but Cool Britannia has what it takes to avoid being suddenly rebranded as uncool just because it quits the EU, advertising professionals say.

From music to film and fashion, Britain has for decades enhanced its image as a modern and dynamic culture. The ease of immigrating and working in Britain helped it build a reputation as a welcoming and hospitable society.

But the vote to leave the European Union last June sent a troubling message of tighter border controls and an exit from the EU's single market.

(AFP )

A quarter of a century after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia is finally set to pay off all the foreign debt it inherited from the vanished Communist empire.

Keen to establish a reputation of a reliable borrower -- despite Western financial sanctions over the Ukraine conflict -- Moscow announced last week it would pay off $125.2 million in Soviet-era debt to Bosnia-Herzegovina within 45 days.

The payment "completes the settlement of the external public debt of the former USSR, which is a historic event," said Russia's deputy finance minister Sergei Storchak.