• World's first academy to train local aid workers launched in London

    AFP News - Tue, Mar 24, 2015

    The world's first academy to train local aid workers and volunteers as first responders to disasters that occur in their own countries was launched in London on Monday. The Humanitarian Leadership Academy aims to set up 10 centres to train 100,000 aid workers, health professionals and volunteers from 50 countries, particularly in areas prone to disaster and conflict. The project could "revolutionise the entire humanitarian sector", according to Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council and chair of the Humanitarian Leadership Academy's board. "Investment in a new and better trained generation of humanitarian workers closer to where we find the greatest needs will bring development and sustainability to many of the world's most fragile communities," Egeland said. More »World's first academy to train local aid workers launched in London

  • Sweden's far-right leader to return to work after burnout

    AFP News - Tue, Mar 24, 2015

    The leader of the far-right Sweden Democrats party will return to work in April after a five-month sick leave for burnout, he said in a television interview on Monday. "I'll be coming back to work after March 31," Jimmie Aakesson said during the taping of a television talk show to be aired Friday on Swedish public broadcaster SVT, excerpts of which were published on SVT's website. Aakesson has lifted Sweden's far-right party from obscurity to a serious parliamentary force, with the dapper 35-year-old seeking to position himself as a kinder, gentler sort of anti-immigration leader. The Sweden Democrats more than doubled their support to 13 percent in Sweden's general elections in September, becoming the third-biggest party in parliament. More »Sweden's far-right leader to return to work after burnout

  • One of most wanted ETA separatists held in France

    AFP News - Tue, Mar 24, 2015

    One of the most wanted members of the armed Basque separatist group ETA was arrested Monday in southwestern France, officials said. Sabin Mendizabal Plazaola, 34, who had been on the run for six years, was held in Saint-Palais in the foothills of the Pyrenees on an international arrest warrant for allegedly injuring a Spanish police officer who had been chasing him, Madrid said. Its interior ministry said he was "on the most wanted list of ETA members" for giving support to one of the group's most active units, "commando Donosti", which operated in the San Sebastian region. He disappeared in 2009 after a Spanish court sentenced him to prison for throwing an explosive device at the headquarters of Spain's ruling Popular Party in the Basque town of Ermua. More »One of most wanted ETA separatists held in France

  • Assange demands rape case files before Sweden questions him

    AFP News - Tue, Mar 24, 2015

    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will agree to be questioned by Swedish prosecutors in London over rape allegations, but only if he is given access to the investigation files, his defence said Monday. "We need to be provided access to the entirety of the proceedings, which for four and half years has been in the hands of the Swedish prosecution and not in the hands of the defence," said Baltasar Garzon, a former Spanish judge who is Assange's lawyer. Swedish prosecutors offered earlier this month to drop their previous demand that Assange come to Sweden for questioning about the 2010 allegations, marking a significant U-turn in the case that has been deadlocked for nearly five years. Sweden issued an arrest warrant for Assange in 2010 following allegations from two women in Sweden, one who claimed rape and another who alleged sexual assault. More »Assange demands rape case files before Sweden questions him

  • Thousands of Britons pay last respects to Richard III

    AFP News - Tue, Mar 24, 2015

    Thousands queued up on Monday to pay their respects to King Richard III of England, whose remains were found in a car park over 500 years after his death and will be reburied this week. Vilified by William Shakespeare and generations of Britons since being killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, Richard's reputation is now being rehabilitated. Visitors queued for up to four hours to see his coffin at Leicester Cathedral in central England. "People are giving him a wonderful, warm reception, I think they've learned more about who he was as opposed to the parody," Wendy Duldig, a distant relative of Richard III, said. More »Thousands of Britons pay last respects to Richard III

  • Bulgarian prison conditions prompt German extradition refusals

    AFP News - Tue, Mar 24, 2015

    German courts have declined to hand over inmates to Bulgaria due to concerns over dire prison conditions in the European Union's poorest country, authorities said Monday. "We have several such cases where courts have refused to extradite Bulgarian nationals to serve out their sentences in prisons in Bulgaria," prison directorate chief Rosen Zhelyazkov told BNT public television. The Regional Court in Oldenburg and the Higher Regional Court in Bremen -- both in Germany -- last week refused to transfer three convicted Bulgarians to serve out their sentences in Bulgaria's second city Varna, citing the inhumane conditions there. More »Bulgarian prison conditions prompt German extradition refusals

  • Majority winner Netanyahu apologises to Arab Israelis

    AFP News - Tue, Mar 24, 2015

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who won majority support Monday from newly-elected MPs to form Israel's next government, apologised for saying Arabs were voting in "droves" in comments that drew US condemnation. The leader of the rightwing Likud party is expected to be tasked this week with forming a new coalition government. "Go to the polling stations! Vote Likud!" Ayman Odeh, deputy leader of the Joint List which groups Israel's main Arab parties and won 13 seats, rejected the apology. "His excuses are not acceptable because not only does Benjamin Netanyahu plan to bring in racist legislation but his words challenged the very right of Arab Israelis to vote for the Knesset," Israel's parliament, he said on television. More »Majority winner Netanyahu apologises to Arab Israelis

  • Russia fines Sakharov rights centre as 'foreign agent'

    AFP News - Tue, Mar 24, 2015

    A Moscow court on Monday fined the prominent Sakharov Centre, a human rights group seeking to preserve the legacy of a Nobel Prize-winning Soviet-era dissident, for failing to declare itself a "foreign agent". The organisation was slapped with a 300,000-ruble ($5,100) fine for not registering under a controversial law signed by President Vladimir Putin in 2012 as part of a broader crackdown on rights activism. The law forces non-governmental groups who receive funding from abroad and carry out political activities to use the "foreign agent" tag on all their paperwork and to undergo more intrusive checks. The term "foreign agent" was used in the Stalin era against the dictator's opponents. More »Russia fines Sakharov rights centre as 'foreign agent'

  • Tunisia PM fires police chiefs over museum attacks

    AFP News - Tue, Mar 24, 2015

    Tunisia's prime minister fired police chiefs in the capital Monday as the country looks to restore faith in its tourism industry after last week's jihadist attack that killed 20 foreigners. Prime Minister Habib Essid sacked the heads of police for Tunis and the area around the National Bardo Museum, site of the assault claimed by the Islamic State group, after finding "several deficiencies" in security. The dismissals came as the museum prepared to reopen in what organisers said was "a message" to the gunmen who killed 20 tourists and a police officer last Wednesday. "It's a challenge but also a message... we want to show that they haven't achieved their goal," museum curator Moncef Ben Moussa said. More »Tunisia PM fires police chiefs over museum attacks

  • Uber drivers assaulted in Belgium

    AFP News - Tue, Mar 24, 2015

    Uber drivers in Belgium were assaulted by fake clients this weekend, including by at least one cabbie angered by the lower cost rival, Belgian police said on Monday. "Four individuals, including employees of the Uber company, were assaulted by four to six people," said a statement from city police in Brussels, the Belgian and European capital. The assailants used the popular taxi app to lure the Uber drivers, the police said. Earlier this month, hundreds of taxi drivers from Belgium and France brought central Brussels to a virtual standstill in a protest against Uber. More »Uber drivers assaulted in Belgium

  • Ted Cruz, heavy on faith, launches White House bid

    AFP News - Tue, Mar 24, 2015

    Ultra-conservative Republican US Senator Ted Cruz launched his White House quest on Monday, invoking his abiding faith in God as he effectively kick-started the 2016 presidential race. The 44-year-old Tea Party favorite from Texas chose Liberty University, the sprawling Christian evangelical bastion founded by Reverend Jerry Falwell, as the site of the official unveiling of his White House ambitions. Cruz is the first candidate to formally join what will be a crowded Republican field vying to be their party's champion in the marathon slog to succeed President Barack Obama. More »Ted Cruz, heavy on faith, launches White House bid

  • Erdogan rift with Turkey government widens as threats fly

    AFP News - Tue, Mar 24, 2015

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dug in his heels Monday in what appears to be a widening rift with his own government over the Kurdish peace process. In a sign of simmering tensions at the top, Erdogan's longtime deputy Bulent Arinc told the president over the weekend to stop interfering and making "emotional" statements about efforts to end the three decades-long insurgency in the southeast. In a series of tweets he accused the Deputy Prime Minister of being a tool of the "parallel state", a reference to the Gulen movement -- once a staunch ally of the Islamic-rooted government -- which Erdogan claims plotted to overthrow him. He acknowledged his "sympathy" for the Gulen movement, but said since a vast corruption probe into the government broke in December 2013 -- which Erdogan blamed on Gulen supporters in the police and judiciary -- "I have been standing by my government and Mr President. More »Erdogan rift with Turkey government widens as threats fly

  • Spain ruling party ran secret slush fund: judge

    AFP News - Tue, Mar 24, 2015

    A judge found Monday that Spain's ruling party ran a secret slush fund for 18 years, reviving a corruption scandal that has embarrassed the government ahead of a general election. Investigating judge Pablo Ruz of the National Court cleared the way for the trial of the lead suspect in the case: the Popular Party's ex-treasurer Luis Barcenas, a former ally of conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Ruz called for Barcenas to stand trial on charges of tax fraud and embezzlement and referred the case to state prosecutors. The Barcenas scandal erupted in 2013 just as Rajoy's government was fighting to drag the eurozone's fourth-biggest economy out of an economic crisis. More »Spain ruling party ran secret slush fund: judge

  • Ex-tennis star Bob Hewitt guilty of raping girls in S.Africa

    AFP News - Tue, Mar 24, 2015

    Australian-born former tennis Grand Slam champion Bob Hewitt was found guilty Monday in South Africa of raping and assaulting young girls he was coaching there in the early 1980s. Judge Bert Bam at the South Gauteng High Court outside Johannesburg described the evidence against Hewitt, best known as a doubles star, as "overwhelming", the SAPA news agency reported. More »Ex-tennis star Bob Hewitt guilty of raping girls in S.Africa

  • Yemen militia sends forces south as UN warns of civil war

    AFP News - Tue, Mar 24, 2015

    Yemen's Shiite militia sent reinforcements south and clashed with local fighters on Monday after the United Nations warned the country is on the brink of a protracted civil war. Security sources said the militiamen, known as Huthis, had sent thousands of troops and clashed with Sunni tribes, with their sights set on the main southern city of Aden, where President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi fled to from the capital last month. The militia on Sunday seized the airport and a nearby military base in Taez, 180 kilometres (110 miles) north of Aden and seen as a strategic entry point to Hadi's southern refuge. Yemen, a long-time US ally which borders Saudi Arabia, is increasingly divided between a north controlled by the Huthis, who are allegedly backed by Iran, and a south dominated by Hadi supporters. More »Yemen militia sends forces south as UN warns of civil war

  • Peru bus pile-up kills 37

    AFP News - Tue, Mar 24, 2015

    At least 37 people were killed when a bus swerved into oncoming traffic in Peru Monday, leading to a multi-vehicle collision involving two other buses and a truck, authorities said. Health Minister Anibal Velasquez, who was on his way to the crash site near the northern city of Huarmey, told local radio the accident also left 70 people injured. The head of the highway police, Orfiles Bravo, said a bus belonging to the Murga Serrano line had swerved into an oncoming lane on the Pan American Highway. The government declared an emergency and ordered more ambulances to the crash site, the head of the council of ministers, Ana Jara, said on Twitter. More »Peru bus pile-up kills 37

  • France's conservatives, far-right lead local polls

    AFP News - Tue, Mar 24, 2015

    The French right was celebrating on Monday after local elections saw a conservative alliance and the far-right National Front triumph over the ruling Socialists in a key test ahead of the 2017 presidential poll. An alliance led by former president Nicolas Sarkozy took first place in Sunday's first-round polling with 29.4 percent of the vote, while the National Front (FN) of Marine Le Pen came second with 25.2 percent, according to latest figures from the interior ministry. The Socialists trailed in third with an estimated 21.9 percent -- another blow for President Francois Hollande who has failed to reduce double-digit unemployment in the eurozone's second-largest economy since taking charge in 2012. Sarkozy described the vote as a "massive shift" back to a "reunited" right-wing, and hailed it as the first step toward mainstream conservatives returning to power that people who cast ballots for the FN should join. More »France's conservatives, far-right lead local polls

  • Son of ousted Ukraine leader said to have drowned in car accident

    AFP News - Tue, Mar 24, 2015

    The 33-year-old son of toppled ex-Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych has died, his former party said Monday, after his car apparently fell through ice on Russia's Lake Baikal. The Party of Regions' official website announced the "tragic death of our colleague and former MP...Victor Yanukovych Jr" alongside a picture of flowers and a candle. Yanukovych Jr served as a deputy in Ukraine's Rada from 2006 but had been living in Russia since his father lost power following pro-European protests last February. On March 9, former lawmaker Stanislav Melnyk, also from Yanukovych's Party of Regions, was found by his wife dead in his bathroom, leaving a suicide note. More »Son of ousted Ukraine leader said to have drowned in car accident

  • Israel's Netanyahu wins clear majority to form next govt

    AFP News - Mon, Mar 23, 2015

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to be tasked with forming the next coalition government this week after winning on Monday a clear majority of support from newly elected MPs. Netanyahu's surprise victory in last week's snap election has paved the way for the likely emergence of a new rightwing religious government that may complicate efforts to resurrect the peace process and pose further challenges for Israel's troubled ties with Washington. The Israeli leader is expected to be formally handed the task of building a coalition government on Wednesday after securing the backing of a solid majority of MPs in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament. Backing for Netanyahu to stay in the post came during two days of talks between President Reuven Rivlin and representatives of the 10 parties elected to parliament who told him whom they would recommend as prime minister. More »Israel's Netanyahu wins clear majority to form next govt

  • Egypt signs up to Ethiopian Nile dam deal, citing trust

    AFP News - Mon, Mar 23, 2015

    Egypt on Monday agreed to a preliminary deal with Ethiopia on a new dam project that Cairo feared would hamper the flow of the Nile, the river on which it depends. The leaders of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan all gathered in Khartoum to sign the agreement of principles on Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance dam project. "I confirm the construction of the Renaissance Dam will not cause any damage to our three states and especially to the Egyptian people," Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said at the signing ceremony. Egypt, heavily reliant for millennia on the Nile for agriculture and drinking water, feared that the Grand Renaissance Dam would decrease its water supply. More »Egypt signs up to Ethiopian Nile dam deal, citing trust

  • Singapore in mourning as first PM Lee Kuan Yew dies

    AFP News - Mon, Mar 23, 2015

    Singapore was plunged into mourning and world leaders united in tribute Monday after the death of Lee Kuan Yew, the iron-fisted politician who transformed a colonial backwater into a world financial centre. His son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, issued a statement before dawn announcing the passing of his 91-year-old father at Singapore General Hospital following a long illness. More »Singapore in mourning as first PM Lee Kuan Yew dies

  • Senegal ex-president's son Karim Wade jailed for graft

    AFP News - Mon, Mar 23, 2015

    Karim Wade, the high-flying son of former Senegal president Abdoulaye Wade bidding to follow his father to the top office, was sentenced Monday to six years in prison in a deeply divisive graft case. - Mistrust and derision - But the younger Wade, whose mother Viviane is French, also inspired mistrust and derision among voters over his long stays in Europe. More »Senegal ex-president's son Karim Wade jailed for graft

  • MSF and WHO trade blame over slow global Ebola response

    AFP News - Mon, Mar 23, 2015

    A war of words broke out Monday between aid agency Doctors Without Borders and the World Health Organization over who was to blame for the slow response to the Ebola epidemic that broke out a year ago. Doctors Without Borders released a scathing report on the global response to the epidemic, which has killed more than 10,000 people and infected nearly 25,000 since it was identified in March 2014, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The aid agency -- known by its French initials MSF -- said "months were wasted and lives were lost" because the UN's World Health Organization, which is charged with leading on global health emergencies, and "possesses the know-how to bring Ebola under control," failed to respond quickly or adequately. More »MSF and WHO trade blame over slow global Ebola response

  • Amanda Knox faces extradition battle if Italy upholds murder conviction

    AFP News - Mon, Mar 23, 2015

    Italy's top court will review American Amanda Knox's conviction Wednesday in the gory murder of a British student, potentially opening the door to a fierce extradition battle in a case that has riveted the world. The court will examine the verdict that found so-called "Foxy Knoxy" and her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito guilty of killing Meredith Kercher in the university city of Perugia in 2007, and will either uphold it or send the case back to the appeals court. More »Amanda Knox faces extradition battle if Italy upholds murder conviction

  • Libya unity govt could get first names this week: UN envoy

    AFP News - Mon, Mar 23, 2015

    The first names for a new Libyan unity government could emerge this week after progress in UN-mediated talks between its warring parties, UN special envoy Bernardino Leon said Monday. Leon was in Brussels for a conference of Libyan mayors after visiting Morocco, where he has been working with representatives of Libya's rival parliaments to reach a deal to end months of fighting. "There is a chance that we can make progress and have the first names for a unity government this week," Leon told reporters. Libya has been in turmoil since the overthrow of Moamer Kadhafi in 2011 by rebels backed by US, French and British air strikes. More »Libya unity govt could get first names this week: UN envoy

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