english news

Saudis in talks over alliance to rebuild Iraq and ‘return it to the Arab fold’

saudis

Iraq and Saudi Arabia are negotiating a new alliance that would give Riyadh a leading role in rebuilding Iraq’s war-torn towns and cities, while bolstering Baghdad’s credentials across the region.

Meetings between senior officials on both sides over the past six months have focused on shepherding Iraq away from its powerful neighbour and Saudi Arabia’s long-time rival, Iran, whose influence over Iraqi affairs has grown sharply since the 2003 ousting of Saddam Hussein. Iraq and Saudi Arabia have long been considered opponents in the region, but a visit by the Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to Riyadh last week and a follow-up trip to the UAE further thawed relations which had already been much improved by high-profile visits between the two countries.

The arrival in the Saudi capital of Sadr – a protagonist in the sectarian war that ravaged Iraq from 2004-08 and who has enduring ties to Iran – highlights a new level of engagement which could see Riyadh play a significant role in the reconstruction of the predominantly Sunni cities of Mosul, Fallujah, Ramadi and Tikrit.(theguardian)…[+]

Heather Heyer’s mother: I have ‘no interest’ in speaking with Donald Trump

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Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old paralegal killed when a car rammed into counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, last Saturday, has said she has “no interest” in speaking with Donald Trump.

“I understand that President Trump wants to speak with me, I’ve heard from his press secretary and a few other people, and it’s not that I’m trying to be callous, it’s that I have no interest in speaking to politicians just to hear them say, ‘I’m sorry,’” Bro told ABC’s Good Morning America. “If I felt like that’s all they wanted to say, that would be different, but I feel like I’m wanted to be used for political agendas and I’m resistant to that.”

Bro had initially thanked Trump for his “words of comfort”, but changed her mind following the memorial service for Heyer on Wednesday, after Bro said she saw “an actual clip of him at a press conference equating the protesters … with the KKK and the white supremacists.” The ABC host, Robin Roberts, asked Bro whether she had spoken directly with the president.(theguardian)…[+]

Seven-year-old Australian-British boy missing after Barcelona attack

boy

An urgent search is underway for a child with dual British nationality who is believed to be among the missing after the terror attacks in Spain, the UK prime minister has said. Theresa May spoke after a British man living in Australia appealed for information about his seven-year-old grandson, Julian Alessandro Cadman, who became separated from his mother, Jom, during the chaos.

“Julian is seven years old and was out with Jom when they were separated, due to the recent terrorist activity. Please share if you have family or friends in Barcelona,” said Tony Cadman, whose Facebook profile says he lives in Australia and is originally from Dorset. May told Sky News that Britain was “urgently looking into reports of a child believed missing, who is a British dual national.” She did not name him. It has been reported that the child and his mother previously lived in Kent, and Tony Cadman posted a picture of Julian wearing a uniform from a British nursery school.(theguardian)…[+]

Human rights group slams Philippines president Duterte’s threat to kill them

duterte

Human Rights Watch has denounced a call by Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte for police to shoot rights activists who get in the way of his bloody drug war.

Duterte should immediately withdraw his statement or be investigated for possibly instigating or inciting violence against Philippine rights advocates, the New York-based advocacy group said. The body’s deputy Asia director, Phelim Kine, said the threat “is like painting a target on the backs of courageous people working to protect the rights and upholding the dignity of all Filipinos”.

Duterte “should retract his reprehensible remarks immediately before there is more blood on his hands”, he added. Speaking following the bloodiest night of his one-year tenure in high office, Duterte said he would investigate human rights defenders criticising him, or order officers to kill them. “One of these days, you human rights groups, I will also investigate you. That’s the truth. For conspiracy,” Duterte said. “If they are obstructing justice, you shoot them,” he said. “So they can really see the kind of human rights.”(theguardian)…[+]

Brigitte Macron will have public role despite row over first lady status

france first lady

Brigitte Macron has said she will have a clear role at the Élysée Palace despite public opposition to her taking the official title of France’s first lady. In her first interview since her husband Emmanuel was elected president in May, she also said she could not understand the fuss over their relationship and the 25-year age gap.

Her comments came after the president, whose popularity has plummeted, abandoned plans to create an official title for his wife after public disapproval. During his campaign, Emmanuel Macron had pledged to create an “official first lady status”. But after his arrival at the Élysée, a petition opposing such a move received 314,000 signatures. Presidential advisers have said a “communication” regarding her status will be released soon. In an interview with French Elle magazine, Brigitte Macron said her role would be “determined not by a law but by a transparency charter” informing the French public of the number of staff assigned to her and the cost.(Theguardian)…[+]

Spain lacks capacity to handle migration surge, says UN refugee agency

spain

Spain lacks the resources and capacity to protect the rising number of refugees and migrants reaching it by sea, the UN refugee agency has said. The warning from UNHCR comes as the Spanish coastguard said it rescued 593 people in a day from 15 small paddle boats, including 35 children and a baby, after they attempted to cross the seven-mile Strait of Gibraltar.

The number of refugees and migrants risking the sea journey between Morocco and Spain has been rising sharply, with the one-day figure the largest since August 2014, when about 1,300 people landed on the Spanish coast in a 24-hour period.

About 9,300 migrants have arrived in Spain by sea so far this year, while a further 3,500 have made it to two Spanish enclaves in north Africa, Ceuta and Melilla, the EU’s only land borders with Africa.

María Jesús Vega, a spokeswoman for UNHCR Spain, said police were badly under-resourced and there was a lack of interpreters and a shortage of accommodation for the new arrivals. “The state isn’t prepared and there aren’t even the resources and the means to deal with the usual flow of people arriving by sea,” she said.(theguardian)…[+]

Sierra Leone: fears of second mudslide as week of national mourning begins

sierra leone

Hundreds have queued outside a mortuary in Freetown to search for their loved ones, following a mudslide on Monday that has claimed at least 400 lives. A further 600 people are still unaccounted for, according to the Red Cross, which has continued to search for bodies buried in the debris. Recovery efforts have been hampered by the country’s dangerous terrain, a lack of equipment and the sheer scale of the tragedy.A week of national mourning commenced on Wednesday, with a minute’s silence held at midday in memory of the victims. A national emergency has been declared and the country’s security level has been moved to three, the highest status. The deputy health minister, Madina Rahman, said Freetown was now facing a possible cholera outbreak, as a result of the contaminated water pooling in the streets and bodies lying in the open.The UN is also assessing the threat of another mudslide or further flooding. Linnea Van Wagenen, working for the UN in Sierra Leone, said on Tuesday: “We have the mountains and very steep hillsides. [It’s very hard to] access these areas, where it’s muddy, it’s slippery – there’s a risk of a second landslide. We’re not sure how this massive landslide has affected the ground around it.”(theguardian)…[+]

Lebanon repeals law that allowed rapists to escape justice by marrying victim

lebanon

Lebanon has joined a number of other Arab states in scrapping a law that allowed rapists to escape punishment by marrying their victims. Lawmakers voted on Wednesday to repeal an article of the Lebanese penal code that deals with rape, assault, kidnapping and forced marriage. Jordan and Tunisia banned similar laws this year. Article 522 includes a provision that allows rapists to avoid criminal prosecution if they marry their victim. Its abolition follows a lengthy campaign by activists.

“Congratulations to women in Lebanon,” the NGO Abaad wrote on its Facebook page. “Today’s win is a victory for the dignity of women. It is no longer possible to escape punishment for rape and sexual acts carried out by force and coercion.” Abaad campaigned against article 522 for more than a year. It posted billboards of women in bloodied and torn wedding gowns with the caption: “A white dress does not cover the rape.” In April, campaigners hung wedding dresses from nooses at a Beirut seafront.(theguardian)…[+]

Grace Mugabe: Zimbabwe asks for diplomatic immunity after alleged assault

muabe

Zimbabwe has requested diplomatic immunity for the first lady, Grace Mugabe, after she was accused of assaulting a model at a hotel in Johannesburg, according to a statement from South Africa’s police ministry. The suspect’s lawyers “and her government representatives made verbal representations … that the suspect wished to invoke diplomatic immunity cover”, it said. The statement also confirmed that the wife of the 93-year-old Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe remains in South Africa, despite reports that she had returned home after failing to turn herself in to face charges of assault. Mugabe is accused of attacking 20-year-old Gabriella Engels with an electrical extension cord after the model went to see the Mugabes’ sons Robert and Chatunga at the Capital 20 West Hotel in Johannesburg’s upmarket Sandton district on Sunday.(theguardian)…[+]

Saudi Arabia: new details of dissident princes’ abductions emerge

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New details have emerged about the abductions of three dissident Saudi princes in what appears to be a systematic state-run Saudi government programme to kidnap defectors and dissidents. The three, all members of the Saudi regime before they became involved in peaceful political activities against the government in Riyadh, were kidnapped and taken against their will to Saudi Arabia between September 2015 and February 2016. Their story, which was originally reported by the Guardian in March 2016, is the subject of a BBC Arabic documentary to be broadcast this week called Kidnapped! Saudi Arabia’s Missing Princes. The most senior of the princes, Prince Sultan bin Turki, was kidnapped by the Saudis on 1 February 2016 together with about 20 members of his entourage, many from western countries. In the documentary, two westerners in the prince’s entourage describe the moment they realised the plane they were travelling on was not landing in Cairo as planned, but had instead been diverted to Riyadh.The westerners describe Prince Sultan screaming and fighting with the Saudi flight attendants, who produced concealed weapons in order to subdue him and control the other passengers as the plane touched down.(theguardian)…[+]