In the world | Africatime
Wednesday 22 March 2017

In the world

(AFP )

A Luxembourg court on Wednesday denied a demand by Tehran to repatriate $1.6 billion of Iranian assets claimed by the US as compensation for the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The judge ruled that the assets could remain frozen in the small EU nation for now, awaiting a separate judgment on the details of the case.

In 2012, a New York judge ordered Iran to pay $7 billion in damages to the families and estates of victims from the attacks, arguing that the country had aided Al-Qaeda by allowing the group's members to travel through its territory.

(AFP )

Three French pupils on a school trip were among those hurt in Wednesday's deadly car ramming attack near the British parliament in London, two seriously.

French foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said three students were hurt in the assault that claimed three lives and left around 20 others injured.

Local officials in the western region of Brittany, where the French students are from, said two of them were in serious condition.

French President Francois Hollande sent a message of "solidarity" and "support" for Britons and Prime Minister Theresa May.

(AFP )

Britain must reach a deal on what it owes the EU and on the fate of European citizens post-Brexit before talks can start on a future trade deal, EU negotiator Michel Barnier said Wednesday.

Frenchman Barnier's comments were the first major statement of intent from Brussels since Britain announced on Monday that it will trigger the two-year divorce process on March 29.

He set out what he said were the key areas including the exit bill, the rights of 4.5 million EU nationals living in Britain and vice versa, and what will happen to the border in Northern Ireland.

(AFP )

Austria said on Wednesday it would double the amount of money paid to migrants who voluntarily return home, as part of a campaign to speed up the repatriation of around 50,000 asylum seekers.

They would be offered 1,000 euros ($1,080) instead of 500 euros, Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said.

The scheme, run in collaboration with pro-refugee groups, is primarily aimed at "those who are not likely to be granted the right to long-term residence", he told a press conference in Vienna.

(AFP )

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres travels to Jordan next week to attend an Arab summit following a row over the release of a UN report accusing Israel of being an apartheid state.

Guterres arrives in Amman on Monday for talks with King Abdullah II and to visit a refugee camp ahead of the Arab League's annual summit near the Dead Sea on Wednesday, said a UN spokesman on Wednesday.

Last week, Jordanian diplomat Rima Khalaf resigned in protest after Guterres asked her to withdraw a report accusing Israel of imposing apartheid on the Palestinians.

(AFP )

A lengthy strike at the world's largest copper mine, BHP Billiton's Escondida in Chile, forced the Anglo-Australian mining giant to suspend plans Wednesday for two major investments there.

BHP Billiton, which owns a 57.5 percent stake in the mine, said its plans to build new desalination and concentration plants there were on hold because of the strike.

The company said in a statement the strike had made it impossible for contractors to resume work on the two facilities.

(AFP )

Travellers across the Middle East expressed frustration Wednesday at a ban on large electronic devices for flights to the United States and Britain that has sparked confusion and speculation.

From Saturday, passengers on flights to the United States and Britain from major hubs in Turkey and the Arab world will have to check in any device larger than a smartphone, including laptops and tablets.

The United States and Britain have cited intelligence indicating passenger jets could be targeted via explosives planted in electronic devices.

(AFP )

Seven people were injured Wednesday when a train travelling from the Italian city of Milan to Basel in Switzerland derailed, police and railway officials said.

The Eurocity train, which was carrying 160 passengers and was operated by Trenitalia, had just left the station when several carriages overturned and fell across the track near the central Swiss city of Lucerne.

"Five of the injured have been taken to hospital," a Lucerne police spokesman said.

(AFP )

Three people were killed and 20 injured in a "terrorist" attack outside the British parliament Wednesday when a man mowed down pedestrians, then stabbed a police officer before being shot dead.

The car struck pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, a popular spot with tourists because of its views of Big Ben, before crashing into the railings outside the heavily guarded parliament building in the heart of the British capital.

(AFP )

While their American and European peers twisted and shouted to The Beatles in the 1960s, in Cuba childhood sweethearts Gisela and Hector kept their Beatlemania a naughty secret.

Now, still Beatles-crazy after all these years, but with the communist island's Cold War-era censorship of rock music a thing of the past, they are making up for lost time.

"We are very happy that Cuba is becoming reconciled to the Beatles," says Gisela, 64.

She and Hector, 65, have decorated their home with pictures, posters and souvenirs dedicated to the British band.

(AFP )

Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem on Wednesday expressed "regret" over his comments that southern European countries blew their money on "drinks and women", but rejected calls to resign.

Dijsselbloem faced a media firestorm over his "racist" comments with Portugal's prime minister and former Italian premier Matteo Renzi calling for his immediate departure.

(AFP )

Senior diplomats from the 68-strong US-led coalition against the Islamic State group vowed to seek a quick and lasting victory against the jihadists Wednesday at a major meeting.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson welcomed his counterparts from the mainly Western and Arab alliance to Washington with a vow to hunt down IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Envoys were keen to hear details of US President Donald Trump's promised tough new strategy to build on coalition battlefield successes -- despite concerns about civilian deaths.

(AFP )

Salvage operators began raising South Korea's sunken Sewol ferry Wednesday, officials said, nearly three years after the disaster killed more than 300 people and dealt a crippling blow to now-ousted president Park Geun-Hye.

Emotional parents of victims -- the vast majority of the dead in the country's worst-ever maritime tragedy were schoolchildren -- urged people to pray for a successful recovery.

(AFP )

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine spread to the Eurovision Song Contest on Wednesday after Kiev banned a Russian contestant from entering the country over a past performance in Moscow-annexed Crimea.

Ukrainian security service (SBU) spokeswoman Olena Gitlyanska told AFP that Yuliya Samoilova had been banned from entry "for three years" for being "in violation of Ukrainian legislation."

The move infuriated Moscow, which rebuked Kiev for banning the 27-year-old singer, who uses a wheelchair.

(AFP )

Approximately one in four children worldwide will live in regions with extremely scarce water resources by 2040, UNICEF said in a report Wednesday.

In research released on World Water Day, the United Nations children's agency warned that in just over two decades nearly 600 million children will be living in areas with severely limited safe water sources, as population growth and surging demand for water clash with the effects of climate change.

(AFP )

A Singaporean woman inseminated with a stranger's sperm in a startling in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) mistake cannot be compensated in full for raising the child, the city-state's top court ruled Wednesday.

Allowing the woman compensation would go against public policy on one's obligations as a parent, the Court of Appeal said, adding that the expenses incurred in raising the child should not be considered as a loss.

(AFP )

China Wednesday denied plans to build an environmental monitoring station on a disputed shoal near the Philippines' coastline, after a local official last week announced the plan.

"As we have learned from relevant authorities, the report on establishing an environmental monitoring station is false. This is not true at all," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a regular briefing in Beijing.

(AFP )

The Scottish parliamentwas expected to vote on Wednesday for a second independence referendum -- amid dire warnings about the damage that constitutional wrangling was having on Scotland's economy.

Lawmakers were set to back First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's call for a second referendum when they vote following a two-day debate in the semi-autonomous assembly in Edinburgh.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has suggested she will rebuff Sturgeon's demand for a referendum re-match before Britain leaves the European Union.

(AFP )

A US-led coalition strike is reported to have killed 33 civilians in northern Syria, as the Pentagon on Wednesday announced reinforcements to allies battling the Islamic State group in Raqa.

The suspected coalition air raid hit a school being used as a temporary shelter for displaced families between IS's main stronghold in Raqa city and Tabqa, a key town it controls further west.

(AFP )

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Wednesday that Europeans risk being unsafe on the world's streets, as a crisis between Ankara and the EU showed no signs of abating.

"If you continue to behave like this, tomorrow in no part of the world, no European, no Westerner will be able to take steps on the street safely and peacefully," Erdogan said during a speech in Ankara.

Erdogan did not expand on what he meant by his comments but appeared to imply that Europeans risked receiving the same treatment that, he says, is endured by Turks and Muslims in Europe.

(AFP )

Hong Kong's richest man Li Ka-shing said Wednesday he would vote for the candidate who is willing to cooperate with Chinese authorities in the city's upcoming leadership vote.

Li, 88, was speaking after his flagship CK Hutchison Holdings posted a net profit of HK$33.01 billion (US$4.25 billion) for 2016, six percent up year-on-year, despite global economic and political uncertainty.

(AFP )

The German government Wednesday approved plans to quash the convictions of 50,000 men sentenced for homosexuality under a Nazi-era law which remained in force after the war, and offer compensation.

The measure marks a triumph for activists after a decades-long struggle to clear the names of gay men who lived with a criminal record under Article 175 of the penal code.

An estimated 5,000 of those found guilty are still alive.

(AFP )

German powerhouse Bayern Munich opened a Shanghai office Wednesday in a bid to capitalise on China's vast fan base and voracious hunger for top-flight football training.

Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge announced the opening of its office in the German Centre, a complex in Shanghai's Pudong district, with support from the China Football Association and Shanghai’s soccer and education authorities.

"China is a massive market," Rummenigge said through a translator.

(AFP )

A new North Korean missile test failed on Wednesday, the South and US said, two weeks after Pyongyang launched four rockets in what it called a drill for an attack on American bases in Japan.

The nuclear-armed North is under several sets of United Nations sanctions over its atomic and ballistic missile programmes.

It is on a quest to develop a long-range missile capable of hitting the US mainland with an atomic warhead, and staged two nuclear tests and multiple missile launches last year.

(AFP )

Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has won over voters in many parts of France, and on the southern Riviera coast there is little doubt in many minds that she can become president in May.

The 48-year-old daughter of the National Front's pugnacious founder Jean-Marie Le Pen has surged to the top of the poll ratings since conservative Francois Fillon lost his frontrunner status in a morass of scandals.

(AFP )

Fritz Schmehling was just a teenager when he was convicted in 1957 under a Nazi-era law against gays that remained on the books for decades after the war.

Now, as Germany plans to wipe the criminal records of thousands of men and offer them compensation for their suffering, Schmehling and other victims look back on a life led for too long in the shadows.

"Back then, you lived with one foot in prison," Schmehling, now 74, told AFP at his modest top-floor apartment in Berlin.

(AFP )

The Philippines's tourism secretary urged the media Wednesday to "tone down" coverage of President Rodrigo Duterte's deadly drug war, complaining that reports on extrajudicial killings were scaring away foreigners.

On a trip to Thailand accompanying Duterte, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo insisted the Philippines was a safe destination but said journalists were making the country a hard sell because of their focus on the killings.

(AFP )

At least 33 people were killed in a US-led coalition strike on a school used as a centre for displaced people near a jihadist-held Syrian town, a monitor said Wednesday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strike south of Al-Mansoura, a town held by the Islamic State group in the northern province of Raqa, "took place in the early hours of Tuesday."

"We can now confirm that 33 people were killed, and they were displaced civilians from Raqa, Aleppo and Homs," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

(AFP )

The White House confirmed that President Donald Trump will join fellow NATO leaders for a key May summit in Brussels, as the US administration seeks to quash questions about Trump's support for the alliance.

The Trump administration has been scrambling to reaffirm its commitment to Washington's military alliances -- including NATO -- after the Republican billionaire called into question their usefulness during the presidential race.

(AFP )

Belgium fell silent Wednesday to mark the first anniversary of the Islamic State suicide attacks in Brussels that killed 32 people, on a day of emotional ceremonies aimed at showing the heart of Europe is still beating.

A sombre King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, along with Prime Minister Charles Michel, led ceremonies at Zavantem airport and Maalbeek metro station to commemorate the victims at the exact moments the bombers struck.

(AFP )

A fifth round of UN-backed Syria peace talks begins Thursday in Geneva with scant hope of a breakthrough against a backdrop of fighting in Damascus and no sign of compromise.

The last session in February may have produced a "clear agenda", according to UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, but the regime and rebels oppose each other on all its points.

The talks aim to find a solution to end a six-year conflict that has killed more than 320,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with protests against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

(AFP )

As the EU turns 60 amid a divorce from Britain and other mid-life crises, the question is increasingly not how it can bounce back, but how it can survive.

Today's European Union is the product of efforts led by France and Germany in the wake of World War II to bring peace to a continent that had seen centuries of war.

But the political and economic union ushered in by the March 1957 Treaty of Rome that leaders will celebrate this week is in many ways less united than ever.

(AFP )

The European Union celebrates its 60th birthday on Saturday, the anniversary of its six founder members signing the Treaty of Rome which gave birth to the European Economic Community.

Ahead of the ceremonies, AFP talked to Brigid Laffan, an Irish expert on European integration who is currently director of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies and the Global Governance Programme at the European Institute in Florence.

(AFP )

Nine women are believed to have died in the United States from a rare cancer linked to breast implants, US health officials said Tuesday, with more than 350 cases of the disease recorded nationwide.

A possible association between breast implants and anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (ALCL) was first identified in 2011 but at the time few cases had been recorded.

Now the US Food and Drug Administration says it has received 359 reports of ALCL linked to implants, including nine fatalities.

(AFP )

The newly restored shrine surrounding what is believed to be Jesus's tomb was unveiled at a ceremony in Jerusalem Wednesday following months of delicate work and in time for crowds of Easter visitors.

Religious leaders in traditional robes addressed a ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built at the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried.

They stood in front of the ornate 19th-century edicule surrounding the tomb, its onion-shaped dome above, as hymns were sung.