• Hungary to seek public's views on immigration

    AFP News - 17 hours ago

    Hungary's government said Friday it will seek the public's views on immigration, including on whether asylum-seekers should be made to work, as Prime Minister Viktor Orban called existing EU rules "stupid". "People will be asked (by questionnaire) whether they agree that illegal border-crossers should be taken into custody, or whether they should be deported immediately," government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said. Around eight million people in 10-million-strong Hungary, which receives the second-highest number of asylum applicants by size of population in the EU, will be sent the "public consultation" in May. Since 2013, the central European country -- part of Europe's visa-free Schengen zone -- has seen a sharp rise in numbers of asylum-seekers, most arriving at its southern border with non-EU member Serbia. In January 2015 alone there were 13,000 requests, mostly Kosovo Albanians, according to Hungary's Office of Immigration and Nationality. More »Hungary to seek public's views on immigration

  • Bin Laden allies suspected of Vatican plot arrested in Italy

    AFP News - 17 hours ago

    Italian police said Friday they had dismantled an Islamist network they have linked to Osama bin Laden, one of Pakistan's deadliest attacks and, more loosely, a possible plot to bomb the Vatican. A total of 18 people were ordered arrested following a six-year investigation that began with a probe into an illegal immigration racket allegedly run from the island of Sardinia. Prosecutor Mauro Mura told a press conference in Cagliari, Sardinia that members of the network had been in contact with two potential suicide bombers who came to Italy in 2010 and discussed the possibility of attacking the Vatican. The men left Italy when they became aware they were under surveillance and the arrested suspects are not being investigated further on that score, Mura said. More »Bin Laden allies suspected of Vatican plot arrested in Italy

  • Russian MPs back mass prisoner amnesty for WWII anniversary

    AFP News - 17 hours ago

    Russian lawmakers on Friday backed a mass prisoner amnesty proposed by President Vladimir Putin that could free thousands ahead of next month's World War II victory anniversary. The Duma lower house of parliament approved the amnesty bill -- submitted by Putin as a humanitarian gesture to mark the 70-year commemoration of Soviet victory over Nazi troops on May 9 -- in a unanimous vote. "We think that 60,000 people would be affected by the amnesty and walk out of prison," said senior ruling party lawmaker Pavel Krasheninnikov, after presenting the bill. "It's not an amnesty, it makes a mockery of common sense and of the convicts," said Olga Romanova, who heads Sitting Rus, an organisation that campaigns for prisoners' rights. More »Russian MPs back mass prisoner amnesty for WWII anniversary

  • Poland denies entry to pro-Putin bikers planning WWII victory ride

    AFP News - 18 hours ago

    Poland on Friday said it had denied entry to a Russian biker gang backed by the Kremlin that plans to ride through Europe to celebrate the Soviet Union's role in the World War II victory over Nazi Germany. The planned two-week, 6,000-kilometre (3,728-mile) rally by Russian bikers including the Night Wolves -- a fiercely nationalistic motorcycle club backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin -- had sparked anger in Poland. The bikers planned to pass through Belarus, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria before arriving in Berlin on May 9 for the 70th anniversary of the war's end. Poland's foreign ministry said in a statement on its website that it had informed the Russian embassy in Warsaw of its "refusal to grant entry into Poland to an organised biker group that included members of the Night Wolves club". More »Poland denies entry to pro-Putin bikers planning WWII victory ride

  • Putin calls on Hollande to mend fences amid Ukraine conflict

    AFP News - 19 hours ago

    President Vladimir Putin on Friday called on French leader Francois Hollande to restore ties after a year of tensions over Ukraine as the two leaders met on the sidelines of genocide commemorations in Armenia. "Unfortunately, our ties are not in the best shape, trade turnover is falling including with France which only causes regret," Putin told Hollande in the Armenian capital Yerevan. "The best way to overcome what has hindered us would be to move forward with the application of the Minsk agreement." In February, Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel travelled to Moscow to help broker a peace deal for war-torn Ukraine in a last-ditch effort to stop months of fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Kiev forces. Despite the ceasefire deal, European observers say both sides still exchange fire in eastern Ukraine. More »Putin calls on Hollande to mend fences amid Ukraine conflict

  • Guantanamo ex-inmate granted bail in Canada, May release likely

    AFP News - 19 hours ago

    A Canadian court on Friday granted bail to former Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr, who was 15 when he was captured on an Afghan battlefield in 2002 and sent to the US jail in Cuba. The Canadian government, however, said it would appeal the bail decision. The Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta also found that "the risk to public safety is not such that it is in the public's best interest that he remain in pre-appeal detention in a manner that could render his appeal irrelevant." Now 28, Khadr was sentenced to eight years in 2010 following a US military hearing in which he agreed to plead guilty to murder in violation of the laws of war, attempted murder, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism and spying. He was repatriated to Canada after spending 10 years in the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba following his arrest as a teenager in Afghanistan. More »Guantanamo ex-inmate granted bail in Canada, May release likely

  • Iran ships 'turn back' from Yemen as fighting rages

    AFP News - 20 hours ago

    An Iranian naval convoy suspected of carrying weapons for Shiite rebels in Yemen has turned back, US officials said, as Saudi-led warplanes kept up air strikes on anti-government forces. The conflict has sent tensions soaring between Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, which backs the Huthi rebels, raising fears Yemen could become a new front in a proxy war between Middle East powers. Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin accused Tehran Thursday of trying to break a naval blockade on his country, describing the war as an "Iranian plot implemented by the Huthi militia". A US official said Thursday the nine-ship Iranian convoy that had been heading for Yemen is "no longer on the same course". More »Iran ships 'turn back' from Yemen as fighting rages

  • Warsaw urges Mattel to recall game over 'Nazi Poland' term

    AFP News - 20 hours ago

    Poland on Friday said it has demanded that US toy producer Mattel recall the party game "Apples to Apples" for using the erroneous term "Nazi Poland," as Warsaw had never collaborated with Hitler. Poland was attacked and occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II and was among the hardest hit by the conflict, losing six million of its citizens between 1939 and 1945, including three million Jews in the Holocaust. "We demanded the game be withdrawn and corrected," Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna told reporters. The noun card that spurred Poland's protest is "Schindler's List," featuring a description of the 1993 Steven Spielberg film that says the story took place in "Nazi Poland". More »Warsaw urges Mattel to recall game over 'Nazi Poland' term

  • 'No decision' on Mistral warships, Hollande says after Putin talks

    AFP News - 20 hours ago

    French President Francois Hollande said Friday after talks with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that no decision has been reached on settling a row over the sale of two French warships. More »'No decision' on Mistral warships, Hollande says after Putin talks

  • Russia charges Ukrainian aviator over 'murder' of journalists

    AFP News - 20 hours ago

    Russia on Friday charged Ukrainian airforce officer Nadia Savchenko over the deaths of two Russian journalists in a politically charged case that has become emblematic of tensions between Kiev and Moscow. The 33-year-old helicopter navigator is charged with acting as an accessory in the murder of two Russian journalists "with motives of political hatred." She is also charged with illegally crossing the border into Russia prior to her detention in a Moscow jail nine months ago. Russia portrays the case as a legal matter involving freedom of the press covering the war between Ukraine's government and pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine. More »Russia charges Ukrainian aviator over 'murder' of journalists

  • Holocaust descendants in US sue France's railway over 'genocide'

    AFP News - 21 hours ago

    Descendants of Holocaust victims have filed a US lawsuit claiming France's national railway seized the property of tens of thousands of Jews and others sent to Nazi concentration camps. The class-action suit seeks compensation for the confiscation and sale of personal property and for third-class train fares billed to the Nazis even though the victims were packed into cattle cars. The suit was filed on Thursday, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, in US federal court in Chicago. "SNCF committed, conspired to commit and aided and abetted others who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity," the court document alleged, using the acronym by which the French railway company is known. More »Holocaust descendants in US sue France's railway over 'genocide'

  • US army walks cultural minefield training Ukraine troops

    AFP News - 21 hours ago

    US paratrooper Gregory Crocker is giving a group of Ukrainian soldiers lesson one in dealing with an unexploded bomb: don't touch it until the experts arrive. "It's in the Ukrainian mentality to do just that." The US 173rd Airborne Brigade started on April 20 training troops of the Ukrainian National Guard at this military base in western Ukraine. Among the 300 US paratroopers and 900 members of Ukraine's National Guard in Operation Fearless Guardian, there is laughter and camaraderie -- but also language barriers and mutual cultural bafflement. "Yesterday we had our first day of training and it was really difficult, and now it is (still) difficult," said one of them, Artem Matza, a 19-year-old National Guard cadet. More »US army walks cultural minefield training Ukraine troops

  • Eccentrics camp out in London to await royal birth

    AFP News - 21 hours ago

    Camped outside St Mary's Hospital in London, eccentrics decked out from head to toe in Union Jack colours are counting down to the latest addition to Britain's royal family. "Diana superfan" John Loughrey cannot hide his excitement, dancing a jig and singing on the pavement. "This is what you call Shakespeare, this is theatre!" The same loyal fans all came to the same clinic in 2013 for the birth of Prince George, the first child of Prince William and his wife Kate. Next to him are two beaming William and Kate impersonators, posing for a Japanese television station holding a plastic baby doll. More »Eccentrics camp out in London to await royal birth

  • Saudis seize bombs, accuse IS of killing police

    AFP News - 21 hours ago

    Saudi Arabia said Friday it has foiled a bomb plot by the Islamic State group and blamed the jihadists for shooting dead two policemen in the capital earlier this month. The authorities said three bomb-laden cars had been seized during investigations into the killings. A Saudi man arrested on suspicion of carrying out the shooting has confessed that he was following orders received from IS in Syria, the interior ministry said. He was identified as 23-year-old Yazid bin Mohammed Abdulrahman Abu Niyan. More »Saudis seize bombs, accuse IS of killing police

  • EU clears 19 genetically modified products

    AFP News - 22 hours ago

    The EU has cleared 19 controversial genetically modified products including human food, animal feed and cut flowers, the European Commission said Friday. The new lines are produced by companies including US giants Monsanto and DuPont, and German firms Bayer and BASF. "All the GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) approved today have been proved to be safe before their placing on the EU market," the Commission said in a statement. The ten-year authorisations will be added to the European Union's existing list of 58 GM food and feed products. More »EU clears 19 genetically modified products

  • After Iran deal, world looks to jump-start nuclear disarmament

    AFP News - 22 hours ago

    Nuclear powers join non-nuclear nations on Monday to launch a conference on non-proliferation, buoyed by the Iran deal but alarmed by slow-moving US-Russian disarmament. US Secretary of State John Kerry will address the conference that reviews the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and he may meet on the sidelines to discuss the hard-fought Iran deal with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Work on the framework Iran agreement must be completed by June 30 but it is already earning praise as a potential happy ending to one of the world's most vexing nuclear disputes. Despite applause for the Iran deal, delegates from more than 150 countries are heading into the month-long conference with a sense of gloom over the lack of progress on disarmament and the deadlocked plan for a nuclear weapons-free zone for the Middle East. More »After Iran deal, world looks to jump-start nuclear disarmament

  • Key facts on the disputed Armenian genocide

    AFP News - 23 hours ago

    Armenians around the world mark the centenary of the start of World War I mass killings of their kin by Ottoman Turks in what they insist was a genocide -- a term fiercely rejected by Turkey. Here are the key facts and background on the 1915-1917 massacres and deportations, the focus of the longstanding Turkish-Armenian diplomatic standoff: - Historical background - Following centuries of alternating Ottoman and Persian rule, Armenians by the mid-19th century lived across the Russian and Ottoman empires. Between 1.7 and 2.3 million were living in eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire by 1915, according to estimates of Western scholars. Ottoman authorities had been suspicious about the loyalty of Armenian subjects since the late 19th century when a nationalist movement gained momentum, seeking autonomy from Ottoman rule. More »Key facts on the disputed Armenian genocide

  • Profiles of foreigners on death row in Indonesia

    AFP News - 23 hours ago

    Nine foreign drug convicts are set to be executed in Indonesia after losing all appeals for clemency. Here are brief profiles of some of the inmates, who include two from Australia, one each from Brazil, France and the Philippines. The other condemned prisoners include three Nigerians named by Indonesian authorities as: Sylvester Obiewkwe Nwolise, Okwudili Oyatanze and Raheem Agbaje Salami. The last is Martin Anderson who was previously thought to be from Ghana but Indonesian officials now say he is in fact Nigerian. More »Profiles of foreigners on death row in Indonesia

  • At least 14 migrants killed in Macedonia train horror

    AFP News - 23 hours ago

    At least 14 migrants from Somalia and Afghanistan were killed in central Macedonia when they were hit by an international passenger train, officials said on Friday. The tragedy is the latest loss of life involving migrants seeking a new life in Europe after around 750 people drowned last Sunday when their boat capsized in the Mediterranean. Many managed to escape but 14 were killed," the statement said, adding that the victims were from Afghanistan and Somalia. The accident occurred on a mountainous part of the line passing through a canyon near the central town of Veles, so the migrants could not get out of the away. More »At least 14 migrants killed in Macedonia train horror

  • Pakistan says botched strike highlights dangers of US drone war

    AFP News - Fri, Apr 24, 2015

    Pakistan said Friday the botched US drone attack that killed two foreign hostages showed the risks of the controversial tactic, as details came to light apparently pinpointing the fatal strike. President Barack Obama admitted on Thursday that one American and one Italian hostage were accidentally killed in a counter-terrorism operation in January targeting a suspected Al-Qaeda hideout. Obama said US consultant Warren Weinstein and Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto were killed along with Ahmed Faruq, an American described as a leader of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). More »Pakistan says botched strike highlights dangers of US drone war

  • Yemen clashes rage as Saudi-led air strikes target rebels

    AFP News - Fri, Apr 24, 2015

    Saudi-led coalition air strikes hit a camp housing rebel troops in Yemen's third city Taez on Friday, after a night of clashes and raids throughout the war-hit country, residents said. More »Yemen clashes rage as Saudi-led air strikes target rebels

  • Pride and obscurity: the historic crew of Vietnam's 'Tank 390'

    AFP News - Fri, Apr 24, 2015

    When Tank 390 crashed through the gates of Saigon's presidential palace 40 years ago, it heralded the end of Vietnam's war. On April 30, 1975, the four-man tank team had come under heavy fire and lost contact with their commanders as they entered central Saigon during a lightning-fast offensive by communist forces from the North. Our aim was to quickly occupy the palace and arrest Duong Van Minh's cabinet," he told AFP, referring to South Vietnam's president -- 'Big Minh' -- who would soon surrender. For decades after the war, Vietnam's official account of the victory maintained that Tank 843 -- a Soviet-made T54 that arrived in Vietnam as part of USSR military aid in 1972 -- had broken down the palace gates. More »Pride and obscurity: the historic crew of Vietnam's 'Tank 390'

  • Police out in force for Anzac ceremonies in Australia

    AFP News - Fri, Apr 24, 2015

    Police Friday vowed a heavy security presence as Australia prepares to honour its war dead at Anzac Day commemorations a week after an alleged terror plot was foiled. Victoria state police Deputy Commissioner Lucinda Nolan said while undercover officers would be deployed, most officers would be uniformed. More »Police out in force for Anzac ceremonies in Australia

  • Armenians to mark 100 years since Ottoman massacre

    AFP News - Fri, Apr 24, 2015

    Armenians worldwide will mark the centenary of an Ottoman massacre of up to 1.5 million of their people on Friday, as tensions over Turkey's refusal to recognise the killings as genocide reach boiling point. In a procession to a hilltop memorial in the capital Yerevan, Armenians will carry candles and flowers to lay at an eternal flame, as members of the diaspora that fled as a result of the slaughter commemorate the sombre anniversary in cities thousands of miles away. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Francois Hollande are expected to be among a handful of leaders to travel to Armenia for the commemorations, but others are shying away for fear of upsetting Ankara. In an unusual ceremony on Thursday, the Armenian Church conferred sainthood on those massacred by Ottoman forces a century ago, in what was believed to be the biggest canonisation service in history. More »Armenians to mark 100 years since Ottoman massacre

  • Past and future hang heavy as Japan's PM heads to US

    AFP News - Fri, Apr 24, 2015

    Japan's leader heads to Washington eyeing the potential prize of a huge trade deal that would anchor his "Abenomics" plan for future economic revival, while still dogged by his nation's wartime past. Shinzo Abe will become the first Japanese prime minister to address a joint session of Congress next week, where he will showcase Japan's evolution from sworn enemy to loyal US ally at a time when China is on the march. On the table for White House talks with President Barack Obama is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a US-led initiative to tear down trade barriers covering 40 percent of the world economy that excludes China. A deal between Japan and the United States would push the 12-nation pact much closer to reality after years of talks, beating Beijing's rival bid for a common trade region in east and southeast Asia. More »Past and future hang heavy as Japan's PM heads to US

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