In the world | Africatime
Thursday 23 February 2017

In the world

(AFP )

The UN's Syria envoy launched consultations Thursday with rival sides in the six-year conflict, but hopes of breakthrough are clouded by persistent violence and deadlock over the country's political future.

Staffan de Mistura began separate meetings with Syrian regime and opposition delegates in Geneva, notably to discuss the agenda and the format for the negotiations proper -- the first UN-hosted peace talks in 10 months.

The opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) said Wednesday that it wants direct negotiations with the regime, but both sides would have to agree.

(AFP )

Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito has suggested he is ready to take on the duties of emperor from his father as the country prepares for its expected first imperial abdication in two centuries.

Emperor Akihito, now 83, said in August that his advancing age and weakening health mean he may no longer be able to carry out his duties.

While abdications are far from unknown in Japanese history, the last one was in 1817 and there is no mechanism under current law for an emperor to give up the ancient Chrysanthemum Throne.

(AFP )

A British national has been arrested at a London airport on suspicion of staging a cyber attack on Deutsche Telekom last year that knocked around a million German households offline, officials in both countries said Thursday.

The 29-year-old, who was subject to a European arrest warrant, was detained on Wednesday by officers from Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA), German federal police and prosecutors said in a statement.

"The Briton stands accused of attempted computer sabotage in a particularly serious case," they said.

(AFP )

Several hundred pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrated in Sydney on Thursday against the first visit to Australia by an Israeli prime minister, branding Benjamin Netanyahu a "war criminal".

A police helicopter hovered over the city as speakers slammed Canberra's strong support of Netanyahu and his government.

"We are here to oppose Australia's support for Israel, for a racist apartheid nation," pro-Palestinian author and Australian lawyer Randa Abdel-Fattah told AFP.

(AFP )

Emmanuel Macron has emerged as undisputed king of the French centre ground, but shifting sentiment and alliances make predicting this year's presidential election as difficult as ever.

Macron, a 39-year-old former economy minister, was given little chance when he launched a new political movement "En Marche" last year ahead of a vote that was billed as a fight between conservatives and the far-right.

(AFP )

Die-hard fans of Haruki Murakami, the Japanese author perennially pegged as a contender for the Nobel literature prize, will flock to bookstores Thursday night when his new novel hits shelves.

Major bookstores are hosting late-night events and staying open through the early hours to celebrate the release at midnight (1500 GMT) of the hotly anticipated "Killing Commendatore".

Translated into some 40 languages, Murakami's books conjure up a fantastical world where giant frogs challenge salarymen in battle and mackerel rain down from the sky.

(AFP )

Two Germans have been kidnapped while working at an archaeological site in northern Nigeria, police said on Thursday.

"I can confirm to you the abduction of two Germans at Jenjela village in southern Kaduna on Wednesday," state police spokesman Usman Aliyu told AFP.

Aliyu said the men had been working at the site in Kaduna state for more than 10 years and had been assigned security personnel because of a spate of kidnappings in the area.

But he said they had instead used local villagers as escorts.

(AFP )

At least six people were killed and 30 injured after a bomb ripped through the Pakistani city of Lahore Thursday, officials said, the tenth attack in just under a fortnight pointing to a resurgence in Islamist violence.

The blast, the second to hit the provincial capital this month, crumpled cars and sent panic rippling through the city after the wave of attacks across Pakistan killed more than 130 people.

(AFP )

Iraqi forces on Thursday entered Mosul airport, which lies on the southern edge of the city, for the first time since the Islamic State group overran the region in 2014.

Backed by jets, gunships and drones, forces blitzed their way across open areas south of Mosul and entered the airport compound, apparently meeting limited resistance but strafing the area for suspected snipers.

The interior ministry's Rapid Response units, followed by federal police forces, entered the airport compound from the southwest after pushing north from the village of Al-Buseif.

(AFP )

A British journalist with the BBC faces up to five years in a Thai jail after a lawyer brought a criminal defamation case against him over an investigation into fraud on a popular tourist island.

Rights groups say the case exposes how Thailand's defamation and computer crime laws scupper investigative journalism and make it difficult to expose wrongdoing in an endemically corrupt country.

The prosecution was sparked by a 2015 report by Jonathan Head, the BBC's Southeast Asia correspondent, looking at how two foreign retirees were scammed out of their properties in Phuket.

(AFP )

A Japanese court on Thursday awarded record compensation for thousands of residents near a US military base over aircraft noise, but rejected their demand to suspend flights at odd hours.

An Okinawa court ordered the Japanese government to pay 30.19 billion yen ($266 million) in damages to about 22,000 residents near Kadena Air Base -- more than three times the highest previous award over military noise.

Presiding Judge Tetsuya Fujikura rapped the government, saying the noise burden on residents had continued despite a separate 2009 ruling calling for improvement.

(AFP )

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has a message for US President Donald Trump, Europe's populist right and those who would shut their national borders to migrants and refugees.

"A refugee could be anybody. It could be you or me," he said, pointing at past wars and an increasingly uncertain world order. "The so-called refugee crisis is a human crisis."

Over the past 12 months, Ai and his film crews have visited migrant and refugee hotspots across 22 countries, from the US-Mexican border badlands to the Turkish-Syrian frontier and crowded holding camps on Greek islands.

(AFP )

France is committed to a two-state solution for the Middle East conflict, President Francois Hollande said, a week after Donald Trump broke with international consensus by stepping back from the goal.

The French leader, addressing an event hosted by the CRIF umbrella grouping of Jewish organisations, said a two-state solution was the only guarantee for Israel to remain a "pluralist and democratic society".

His comments follow the US president's shift away from an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

(AFP )

Brazil's Foreign Minister Jose Serra resigned citing health concerns, in a new blow to Michel Temer's administration.

Serra, 74, said health problems made him unable to keep up with the rhythm of leading the foreign ministry of Latin America's biggest nation.

He did not disclose what medical problems he is addressing. A government source said it was related to his spine on which he has had surgery in the past.

Serra was a highly experienced official and former presidential candidate.

(AFP )

The Vietnamese suspect in the killing of Kim Jong-Un's half-brother was renowned for her fashion, funky hairstyles and foreign boyfriends, say family members shocked at the link between their poor rice-farming village and a crime that has gripped the world.

Doan Thi Huong gained notoriety last week after Malaysian police shared CCTV images of the 28-year-old at a Kuala Lumpur airport -- wearing a top emblazoned with "LOL" -- shortly after the February 13 assassination of Kim Jong-Nam.

(AFP )

North Korea’s state media broke a 10-day silence Thursday on the murder of Kim Jong-Un’s half brother, launching a ferocious assault on Malaysia for “immoral” handling of the case and for playing politics with the corpse.

In its first comments on the airport assassination of Kim Jong-Nam, KCNA said Malaysia bore responsibility for the death, and accused it of conspiring with South Korea.

(AFP )

About 90 percent of Poland's top military brass have been replaced in an overhaul launched by the rightwing government, the defence ministry said Wednesday.

Several leading generals had already resigned over the past year as Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz pushes to consolidate the government's control of the armed forces.

Macierewicz has also said he wants to stamp out all traces of the communist era, by blocking promotions of servicemen who joined before the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, especially those who attended military schools in the Soviet Union.

(AFP )

Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski will meet with US President Donald Trump at the White House on Friday, the Peruvian government announced Wednesday.

"President Kuczynski will be the first Latin American leader welcomed by Trump" as president, according to his chief of staff, Fernando Zavala.

The two conservative leaders plan to discuss bilateral cooperation and the fight against drug trafficking, Zavala said.

(AFP )

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with Mexican leaders on Thursday to try to calm a row over President Donald Trump's trade and immigration policies.

Trump has outraged Mexico by vowing to build a wall along the border to keep out migrants, whom he branded rapists and criminals during his presidential campaign.

His government on Tuesday issued new orders to the authorities to begin arresting and deporting illegal immigrants, many of them Mexicans.

(AFP )

The United States is not carrying out mass roundups or deportations under its tough crackdown on undocumented migrants, but it is determined to "gain control" of its southern border, its domestic security chief said Wednesday.

"We are not going out and doing mass deportations," Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told a news conference in Guatemala, after talks with that country's president.

(AFP )

About 730 migrants were rescued off the Libyan coast on Wednesday after seven rescue operations mounted by the Italian coast guard and the SOS Mediterranee aid group.

The migrants were mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, said the coast guard, which is coordinating rescue operations in the central Mediterranean.

SOS Mediterranee, which operates in the region said its ship Aquarius had recovered 394 people, including a group of 75 Bangladeshis.

(AFP )

For the first time in Africa, researchers said Wednesday they have detected a malaria parasite that is partially resistant to the top anti-malaria drug, artemisinin, raising concern about efforts to fight a disease that sickens hundreds of millions of people each year.

The discovery means that Africa now joins southeast Asia in hosting such drug-resistant forms of the mosquito-borne disease.

Malaria infected more than 200 million people and killed some 438,000 people worldwide in 2015, most of them children in Africa.

(AFP )

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa admitted Wednesday that his leftist ally Lenin Moreno will have to win a runoff vote to succeed him after a tightly-fought first-round election.

Moreno had hoped to clinch victory outright Sunday in the first round of an election that could instead see the South American oil exporter shift to the right.

But the electoral authorities said Moreno fell short of the necessary lead with nearly all ballots counted on Wednesday.

He will face a runoff on April 2 against his conservative rival Guillermo Lasso.

(AFP )

Brazil's Senate on Wednesday appointed an ally of President Michel Temer to the post of Supreme Court judge to replace one who died in a plane crash while investigating corruption.

The court is hearing cases involving top suspects in a vast corruption scandal linked to state oil firm Petrobras, which has snared numerous politicians including allies of Temer.

A new judge had to be found after the death of Teori Zavascki, who was helping lead investigations into politicians implicated in the scandal.

(AFP )

UN aid agencies need $4.4 billion in emergency funding to address famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday.

More than 20 million people face starvation in the four countries and action is needed now to avert a humanitarian disaster, Guterres told a news conference at UN headquarters.

"We need $4.4 billion by the end of March to avert a catastrophe," he said.

So far, the United Nations has raised $90 million to fund a global response to the four famine alerts, which are unprecedented in recent decades.

(AFP )

Emmanuel Macron is a former investment banker and economy minister who hopes his meteoric rise will propel him to the French presidency aged just 39.

The reform-minded pro-EU candidate got a potential boost Wednesday when the veteran Francois Bayrou joined him in a centrist alliance that Macron hailed as a "turning point" in the campaign.

(AFP )

A Cuban dissident group awarded a prize to the head of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, who was denied a visa to accept it in person.

The Cuban authorities denied visas to Almagro and other foreign dignitaries invited to witness him receive the Oswaldo Paya prize, named after a dissident who died in 2012 in a car crash under mysterious circumstances.

But some 50 people, including opposition activists, journalists and diplomats, crowded into the Havana home of the dissident's daughter to award Almagro the prize in his absence.

(AFP )

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron won the support of a key centrist, hailing it as a turning point in his campaign, as an aide to his far-right rival Marine Le Pen was charged in a fake jobs scandal.

With two months to go before France's increasingly unpredictable election, centrist veteran Francois Bayrou announced an alliance with Macron to counter the "major threat" posed by the far-right.

(AFP )

Researchers announced Wednesday the stunning discovery of seven Earth-like planets orbiting a small star in our galaxy, opening up the most promising hunting ground so far for life beyond the Solar System.

All seven roughly match the size and mass of our own planet and are almost certainly rocky, and three are perfectly perched to harbour life-nurturing oceans of water, they reported in the journal Nature.

(AFP )

Polish prosecutors on Wednesday began investigating a theatre play that drops hints about murdering a top politician and has a scene simulating oral sex on a statue of the late pope Saint John Paul II.

Poland's powerful Roman Catholic church has slammed "The Curse", a play directed by Croat Oliver Frljic, as being "blasphemous" for this and other sex scenes involving crosses.

(AFP )

The personal assistant of French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen was charged Wednesday in a scandal over "fake jobs" at the European Parliament, a judicial source said.

Catherine Griset, Le Pen's office chief, was charged with breach of trust in a probe into allegations the candidate's National Front (FN) party defrauded the European Parliament of about 340,000 euros ($360,000).

Griset and Le Pen's bodyguard Thierry Legier were interviewed by anti-corruption police on Wednesday, but Legier has not been charged.

(AFP )

A Russian couple have been robbed of jewellery and luxury goods worth some 100,000 euros on a stretch of Parisian motorway that is growing notorious for robberies of the wealthy.

The couple were robbed on the A1 motorway north of the French capital on Tuesday night, a police source said, just after they landed at Paris' Le Bourget airport which is used by private jets.

Le Parisien newspaper reported that their chauffeur-driven car was pushed towards the motorway exit by another vehicle.

(AFP )

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron told AFP Wednesday he accepted the offer of an "alliance" with veteran centrist Francois Bayrou and said it was a "turning point" in the campaign.

Macron said the alliance proposed by Bayrou reflected the same "values and ideas" as his own En Marche (On the Move) movement which he formed in April as a vehicle to launch a bid for the presidency.

Macron said Bayrou's offer "fully reflects the process of renewal and coming together that we have supported since the start. That is why I accept it."

(AFP )

A security scare over the safety of outspoken far-right Dutch MP Geert Wilders emerged Wednesday just three weeks before a knife-edge election, after a police agent was arrested for leaking information about him to a Moroccan gang.

Wilders, who has courted controversy with his hardline anti-Islam, anti-immigrant stance and his incendiary insults against Moroccans and Turks, has long been under 24-hour police protection.

(AFP )

Russia has called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stop his bombing campaign while peace talks take place this week, but a political breakthrough on the six-year war remains unlikely, the UN's envoy said Wednesday.

Staffan de Mistura's comments came on the eve of a new round of talks in Geneva between negotiators from Syria's regime and the opposition after a 10-month hiatus.

Persistent violence and deadlock over the country's political future, notably that of Assad, remain major hurdles.