10 August 2017

Week In Brief: INTERNATIONAL NEWS

UN Flag to denote International news Week In Brief International

Europe

BELGIUM:  A large number of eggs produced in Belgium and exported to France and the Netherlands have been found to be contaminated with fipronil, a toxic pesticide.

FRANCE:  President Macron faced stiff opposition to his proposal to make the resources and position traditionally but unofficially granted to the first lady transparent, accountable and official.

GERMANY:  400 asylum seekers were returned to Greece, as Germany reinstated the Dublin Rules which require seekers to register for asylum in the first EU country they enter.

ITALY:  A migrant-rescuing ship operated by a German charity has been seized by the authorities, after coastguards accused it of colluding with people smugglers.

Authorities prevented a ship operated by Médecins Sans Frontières from entering the port of Lampedusa because MSF has not signed Italian interior minister’s code of conduct.  It objects to the condition allowing armed Italian police to be on board.

15 volunteer firemen in Sicily were charged with starting fires and making false emergency calls so they could claim call-out fees.  Wild fires are blazing across many parts of southern Europe hit by a heat wave dubbed ‘Lucifer’.

RUSSIA:  Eight workers are missing after water flooded a huge diamond mine operated by the state-controlled company Alrosa.

Middle East and Africa

ISRAEL:  The government is proposing to close down Al Jazeera’s operations in Israel.

LEBANON:  Police raids on a warehouse in Baalbek and on trucks in eastern Beirut have confirmed that Lebanon is a major manufacturer and supplier of Captagon (an amphetamine-type drug banned in most countries) which is used by fighters in the Syrian civil war to maintain stamina and aggression.

The army is about to launch a campaign against Isis on the border with Syria.  It will operate with Hezbollah and the Assad regime.

KENYA:  President Kenyatta appears to be on course for victory as votes are counted in this week’s presidential, parliamentary and local elections.  There was a high turnout and voting was largely peaceful, though the opposition coalition claims that there were ‘serious flaws’ in the voting. The opposition also claimed that a gang of 30 masked and armed men raided party offices, threatened staff and seized equipment before the election.

RWANDA:  The presidential election this week appears to have resulted in a landslide victory for President Kigale.  Only two other candidates were cleared to stand, and they were not allowed to put up campaign posters and were allowed only limited use of social media.

SOUTH AFRICA:  President Zuma narrowly survived a vote of no confidence, the sixth such vote but the first to be operated as a secret ballot.  There were 198 votes for him and 177 against (with 9 abstentions).  As many as 30 of his ANC MPs are believed to have voted against him, which represents a humiliation for the president and leaves him weakened.

SYRIA:  The Syrian Observation For Human Rights reported that Isis has been driven from its stronghold at al-Sukhuna by Assad government forces backed by the Russian airforce.

YEMEN:  US Special Forces are backing Yemen government troops in the fight against al-Qaeda in southern Yemen.

Far East, Asia and Pacific

AFGHANISTAN:  A Taliban suicide bomber killed two American soldiers in an attack on a convoy near Kandahar airport.

CHINA: A 6.5 magnitude earthquake hit Sichuan province, near the tourist destination of the Jiuzhaigou nature reserve.  As many as 100 people are thought to have died, scores were injured and thousands of homes were damaged.

KOREA, NORTH:  The UN Security Council agreed on sanctions against North Korea, including a total ban on coal exports from the country.  The sanctions were supported by China and Russia.

PAKISTAN:  A bomb in Lahore killed one person and wounded another 30, the day before Nawaz Sharif, who was recently removed as prime minister, was due to hold a rally there.

PHILIPPINES:  US secretary of state Rex Tillerson met President Duterte in Manila.  The US is considering drone strikes against Isis-linked militants entrenched in the Mindanao region.

America

USA:  A grand jury (23 members of the public) was convened by Robert Mueller, the special council who is investigating allegations of collusion with Russian interference in the presidential elections.

VENEZUELA:  President Maduro was accused of election fraud by the chief executive of the manufacturer of the country’s voting machines, who claims that the turnout figures were inflated and a million votes were fabricated in last Sunday’s elections for the all-powerful new constituent assembly.  The head of the Organisation of American States, Luis Almagro, described it as “the biggest electoral fraud in the history of Latin America”.

The attorney general Luisa Ortega (previously a Maduro loyalist but a critic of the regime since last March who now claims that the president is “overseeing state terrorism”) said she would investigate these allegations of irregularities, but she was removed from office by the new assembly (one of its first acts) which has frozen her assets and forbidden her to leave the country.

The Pope appealed to the government to suspend the new assembly.

The army claims to have put down an anti-Maduro uprising among troops at Paramacy Fort.

The new assembly has begun to order the arrest and imprisonment of opposition figures, i.e. mayors critical of the regime, and judges sworn in by the legitimate parliament.

 

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