Saturday 18 November 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Colombian authorities have seized more than two tonnes of cocaine belonging to a splinter group from the now-disarmed FARC guerrilla organization, the military said Saturday.

A coordinated operation of air and ground troops destroyed a coca laboratory in the restive border municipality of Tumaco, the military statement said.

The operation netted 2,341 kilograms of cocaine, 450 kilograms of chopped coca leaf and 10 kilograms of cocaine in process, it added.

(AFP )

Around 600 African migrants were rescued off the coast of Spain in 24 hours, a sea rescue patrol said Saturday.

The Guardia Civil and Salvamento Maritimo rescue service added that operations to recover further migrants were still under way.

Spain is the third busiest gateway for migrants arriving in Europe, but far behind Italy and Greece. However, the number of people arriving by sea in Spain has nearly tripled over the last year to 17,687.

(AFP )

The Palestinians will freeze their ties with the US if it follows through on a threat to close the Palestine Liberation Organisation's office in Washington, a senior PLO official warned Saturday.

The surprise American move and Palestinian backlash came as US President Donald Trump seeks bargaining chips in his bid to broker an elusive Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Trump has a 90-day window to avert the closure if he deems progress has been made.

(AFP )

The Vatican has opened a new investigation into possible sexual abuse committed before 2013 at a private school in Rome for children destined for the priesthood, the Holy See announced Saturday.

The probe will be centred on "a former student of the pre-seminary Saint Pius X", who later became a priest, according to a statement.

"Following several reports, anonymous or not, investigations were conducted from 2013 on several occasions, both by the superiors of the pre-seminary and the Bishop of Como (north)", the diocese where the teachers are attached, the statement said.

(AFP )

Argentina's military pushed forward Saturday with the hunt for a submarine that has been missing with 44 crew aboard for days, but said that bad weather has hampered the search.

There has been no contact with the ARA San Juan since Wednesday morning, according to the navy, prompting Buenos Aires to launch an air and sea search for the missing vessel.

"Nearly 50 percent" of the search area has been scoured by ships and aircraft so far, Argentine navy spokesman Enrique Balbi told a news conference.

(AFP )

Veteran French rocker Johnny Hallyday, who has been battling lung cancer for several months, returned home Saturday after being hospitalised for days with breathing problems, a family member said.

France's answer to Elvis Presley checked into a private hospital in western Paris early Monday morning.

A musical icon known simply as "Johnny" at home, Hallyday has sold more than 100 million records in his decades-long career.

The 74-year-old announced in March that he was being treated for cancer but said his life was not in danger.

(AFP )

A colour drawing of Tintin and his faithful canine companion Snowy sold at a Paris auction on Saturday for more than half a million euros.

The India ink and watercolour image, which went under the hammer for 505,000 euros ($595,000), shows the intrepid pair in the company of a butler in a royal palace.

It was drawn by the Belgian cartoonist known as Herge as the cover illustration for the 1939 newspaper serialisation of "King Ottokar's Sceptre".

(AFP )

An Indian medical student was crowned Miss World at a glitzy event in a Chinese resort on Saturday, making her country the joint-most successful in the beauty pageant's history.

Manushi Chhillar is the sixth Indian winner of the long-running contest, following in the footsteps of Bollywood actresses Priyanka Chopra and Aishwarya Rai.

Her win brings India level with Venezuela as the countries with most victories in the history of the pageant, now in its 67th edition.

(AFP )

Six suspected rebels and an air force commando were killed Saturday in a fierce gunfight in Indian-administered Kashmir which also injured another soldier, the Indian army said.

The shootout began when soldiers cordoned off a neighbourhood in the northern area of Hajin after a tip-off that armed militants were hiding there, said army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia.

"Six terrorists have been killed in the encounter," Kalia told AFP.

"One IAF (India Air Force) soldier was martyred and another army soldier was injured."

(AFP )

Greek police and emergency workers rescued three bodies in flood-hit areas west of Athens on Saturday, bringing the death toll since Wednesday to 19.

"The bodies of three men discovered on Saturday, aged 28, 58, and 35, have been identified by their families," Nikos Papaefstathiou, head of the National Health Operations Centre, told AFP.

"We are still searching for at least three people reported missing," he added.

Two of the bodies found Saturday were fished out of the gulf of Eleusis, near the town of Mandra west of Athens, by port police.

(AFP )

Syrian troops and allied fighters advanced Saturday to capture most of Albu Kamal, a monitor said, in a tug-of-war over the Islamic State group's last urban stronghold in the country.

The town in Syria's oil-rich Deir Ezzor province has changed hands several times, with government troops announcing its capture but losing it to a blistering IS counter-attack a week ago.

Syria's army and Lebanese, Iranian and Iraqi loyalists re-entered Albu Kamal two days ago and by Saturday had taken most of it from IS, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

(AFP )

Jailed and exiled figures from Catalonia's separatist movement feature prominently in party lists unveiled by the region's pro-independence factions, ahead of elections called for December 21.

Of the 14 members of the Catalan government who were dismissed by the central government in October, 12 are on the two main separatist lists, the "Together for Catalonia" group of sacked president Carles Puigdemont and the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), led by his vice president Oriol Junqueras.

(AFP )

French-Tunisian designer Azzedine Alaia, whose timeless gowns won an army of devotees around the world, has died at the age of 77, France's fashion federation said Saturday.

Alaia, who rose to fame in the 1980s, refused to march to the beat of international fashion weeks, releasing his collections in his own time with scant concern for publicity.

"We have lost a designer of great talent. It is very sad news," fellow creator Pierre Cardin told AFP.

(AFP )

Emmanuel Macron's party named a new leader Saturday as the French president faces the first rebellious grumblings in the 19-month-old movement that swept him to power.

Christophe Castaner, a smooth-talking, ultra-loyal government spokesman, takes the helm of Republic on the Move (LREM) six months after Macron won the presidency in a sensational upset for French politics.

Macron's handpicked favourite, Castaner is a former Socialist MP who joined the 39-year-old's centrist, pro-European campaign early in his run for presidency.

(AFP )

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed Saad Hariri for talks Saturday, an AFP reporter said, hours after the Lebanese premier arrived from Saudi Arabia in the midst of a political crisis.

Hariri, who made a shock resignation announcement on November 4 and has since fended off claims he was being held in Saudi Arabia against his will, was also due to have lunch with Macron.

The Lebanese leader's wife and elder son were to join them for the meal after the talks, but the couple's two younger children remain in Riyadh "for their school exams", a source close to Hariri said.

(AFP )

The former mayor of Caracas, a staunch opponent of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, arrived in Madrid early Saturday after escaping house arrest and fleeing to Colombia.

Antonio Ledezma, 62, managed to cross the border on Friday, saying he would now help organise resistance to Maduro's increasingly authoritarian rule which has left millions facing food and medicine shortages.

From Bogota, he flew to the Spanish capital where he was met by his wife and his two daughters as well as former Colombian president Andres Pastrana.

(AFP )

Two Cambodian journalists were charged on Saturday with spying over news reports they allegedly filed to US-based Radio Free Asia, amid a sweeping government crackdown on dissent that has tipped the country's democracy into crisis.

The reporters were detained on Tuesday night, days before Cambodia's main opposition party was dissolved over accusations it conspired with the US in a treason plot.

(AFP )

Its "caliphate" has imploded, its de facto capitals in Iraq and Syria have fallen, and hundreds of its fighters have either surrendered or fled.

The Islamic State jihadist group may not be dead yet but its dream of statehood has already been buried, analysts say.

No one in IS "will now think of imposing 'the territory of the caliphate'," said Hisham al-Hashemi, an Iraqi specialist on extremist movements.

(AFP )

France under President Emmanuel Macron has played a leading role in trying to avert a fresh crisis in Lebanon following the surprise resignation of its prime minister Saad Hariri.

Hariri arrived in Paris on Saturday on Macron's invitation, after the premier once again dismissed rumours that he had been held against his will in Saudi Arabia since announcing his resignation there on November 4.

As Macron holds talks with Hariri, AFP explains France's role in working to defuse the situation.

- Why is France involved?

(AFP )

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who has not returned to Beirut since his surprise resignation two weeks ago, will be home for Independence Day on Wednesday, the president's office said.

Hariri telephoned President Michel Aoun after arriving in France from Saudi Arabia on Saturday morning, the presidency said in a statement.

"PM Hariri told the president that he would be in Lebanon to take part in Independence Day celebrations, especially the military parade marking the occasion, on Wednesday," it said.

(AFP )

A senior Chinese envoy discussed regional concerns with officials in Pyongyang on Saturday, North Korean state media said, as the US presses China to help ease the standoff over the North's nuclear weapons.

The visit by Song Tao, described by Pyongyang as a special envoy of President Xi Jinping, is the first by a senior Chinese envoy for more than a year.

Relations are severely stressed over Pyongyang's nuclear sabre-rattling and Beijing's support for tough UN sanctions on its neighbour.

(AFP )

The head of Puerto Rico's power authority has resigned amid a scandal over efforts to restore electricity to the hurricane-hit island, its governor announced Friday.

Governor Ricardo Rossello told a news conference that Ricardo Ramos had resigned as executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to avoid "distractions."

Rossello defended Ramos' management but suggested that his resignation was necessary in the midst of the controversy. He did not say whether or not he had asked for his resignation.

(AFP )

He's been dead for 11 years, but Augusto Pinochet still casts a long shadow over Sunday's presidential election in conservative Chile, where the right is set to reclaim power.

Despite his iron-fisted regime being responsible for some 3,200 dead or missing, 12 percent of Chileans still consider the military dictator one of the "best leaders" in the country's history, according to a recent poll.

(AFP )

There was a telling moment at the 23rd edition of UN climate talks that underscored both the life-and-death stakes in the fight against global warming, and how hard it is for this belaboured forum to rise to the challenge.

Twelve-year-old Timoci Naulusala from Fiji, a nation disappearing under rising seas, was delivering a testimonial to ministers and heads of state with crisp English and irresistible charm.

Suddenly, describing the devastation wrought by Cyclone Winston last year, his words became measured, his voice hushed.

(AFP )

Five months after he was appointed to lead UN peace efforts in Libya, Ghassan Salame says he is focused on building institutions as a way to unite the country.

The 66-year-old Lebanese-born academic told AFP in an interview that if state institutions can begin to work, Libya will finally change course after years of chaos since the fall of Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

"The key to my approach is institutions," Salame said. "If in a year or two, we can began to reunite, revive and liberate institutions, then the country will be on a different path."

(AFP )

Shanghai police have ruled out foul play and cast doubt on allegations that overwork contributed to the death of a 14-year-old Russian model after she took part in Shanghai Fashion Week last month.

The death of Vlada Dzyuba in a Shanghai hospital on October 27 threw a spotlight on the murky world of foreign models in China -- many from the former Soviet Union -- and raised questions over why a minor was working abroad without a proper guardian.

(AFP )

German Chancellor Angela Merkel resumed complex coalition talks Saturday in a last-ditch effort to forge a government and avert a political crisis in Europe's biggest economy.

The veteran leader, in power since 2005, won a September 24 vote without a clear majority for her conservative CDU/CSU bloc, largely because of the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), and must now build an unlikely alliance with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and left-leaning Greens.

(AFP )

Northern Ireland's Gerry Adams, who is expected on Saturday to announce plans to step down as leader of Sinn Fein, went from being the political voice of the Irish Republican Army to an instrumental peacemaker.

Leader of the party since 1983, Adams has more recently become an anti-austerity figurehead in the Republic of Ireland and cultivated a more kindly image with a series of whimsical Twitter comments.

(AFP )

Gerry Adams is expected to announce at his Sinn Fein party's annual conference in Dublin on Saturday his plans to step down after 34 years as the dominant figurehead of Irish republicanism.

At 69, Adams is standing for a new term as party president but is widely reported to be planning to use his congress speech to outline a timetable for his succession.

"I will be setting out the process of generational change, including my own future intentions," he said earlier this year.

(AFP )

Emmanuel Macron's political party is to name a new leader on Saturday as the French president faces the first rebellious grumblings in the movement he founded in April last year.

Six months after coming to power in a sensational upset for French politics, Macron's Republic on the Move (LREM) will hold its party congress in the western city of Lyon, where Christophe Castaner is expected to be selected as leader.

(AFP )

American civil rights leader Jesse Jackson announced Friday that he has the degenerative neurological disease Parkinson's.

The 76-year-old Baptist minister, who once worked with Martin Luther King Jr for the cause of equal rights for African Americans, and currently heads a Chicago non-profit organization, said it has become "increasingly difficult to perform routine tasks."

"My family and I began to notice changes about three years ago. For a while, I resisted interrupting my work to visit a doctor," Jackson said in a statement.

(AFP )

The latest US and Russian bid to find enough common ground on which to build some hope for Syria is in trouble, just days ahead of talks that could make or break the peace process.

A United Nations mediator has called on Bashar al-Assad's regime and a beleaguered opposition coalition to send envoys to Geneva on November 28 to resolve the seven-year-old civil war.

This comes less than a week after Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin issued a joint statement agreeing that there is "no military solution" to the conflict.

(AFP )

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Saturday left Saudi Arabia for France, a television channel owned by his family said, two weeks after his shock resignation.

"Mr Hariri left Riyadh airport on his private jet with his wife and is headed for Le Bourget airport", north-east of Paris, announced Future TV around 1:20 am (2320 GMT).

A source close to Hariri confirmed the departure of the former prime minister to AFP, adding that the flight would take six and a half hours.

(AFP )

A top Chinese envoy landed in North Korea on Friday in 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 is visiting 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.

He is the first major Chinese envoy to visit Pyongyang in more than a year with ties severely strained between the two countries.

(AFP )

Mexican drug cartels are forcing indigenous children and teens to join their ranks, torturing or killing those who refuse, the United Nations warned Friday.

The UN's special rapporteur on indigenous rights, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, said she is "particularly worried" about violence against minors after speaking with indigenous communities around Mexico during a 10-day tour.