Εμφάνιση αναρτήσεων με ετικέτα France. Εμφάνιση όλων των αναρτήσεων
Εμφάνιση αναρτήσεων με ετικέτα France. Εμφάνιση όλων των αναρτήσεων

Δευτέρα, Ιανουαρίου 12, 2015

France deploys police, soldiers: 15,000 security personnel protect ‘sensitive’ sites

France is deploying 15,000 police and security forces to bolster security around "sensitive" sites and Jewish schools in the country, in the wake of Islamist attacks that left 17 dead, authorities said Monday.

Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that 10,000 soldiers would be called up from Tuesday to protect "sensitive sites in the whole country from tomorrow (Tuesday) evening," given the "scale of threats" to France.

The troop deployment would come on top of 5,000 police and security forces already mobilized Monday to protect some 717 schools and Jewish sites in the country.

The Jewish community has been particularly shaken by Friday's attack on the kosher supermarket in eastern Paris, which came just two days after two other gunmen -Said Kouachi and his brother Cherif Kouachi - stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly, slaughtering 12 people.

Le Drian unveiled the fresh measures after an emergency meeting called by President Francois Hollande as attention turned to preventing a repeat of France's bloodiest attacks in half a century.

"This is the first time that our troops have been mobilized to such an extent on our own soil," the minister said, adding that he would prefer not to list the sites which are deemed sensitive.

Ahead of the meeting, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said one of the attackers, Amedy Coulibaly, who gunned down a policewoman and four Jewish shoppers at a kosher supermarket, likely received help from others.

"I don't want to say more, but investigations are continuing into these attacks, this barbaric terrorist acts. We think there are in fact probably accomplices," Valls told French radio. "The hunt will go on."

Valls admitted there were "clear failings" after it emerged that the Kouachi brothers had been on a US terror watch list "for years."

Said was known to have travelled to Yemen in 2011, where he received weapons training from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, while Cherif was a known jihadist who was convicted in 2008 for involvement in a network sending fighters to Iraq.

France turns its attention Monday to plugging security holes blamed for failing to prevent the deadliest terrorist attack on the country in half a century, after millions united in historic rallies.

As it emerged that Cherif met Coulibaly in prison, Valls said France would move to isolate Islamist detainees from the rest of the prisoner population, so as to prevent jails from being used as a breeding ground for radicals. This measure "must become widespread" but "it must be done discerningly and intelligently," he said.

AFP - globaltimes.cn


Σάββατο, Ιανουαρίου 10, 2015

Massive rallies across France in memory of terrorist victims (video YT)

An estimated 700,000 took to the streets in cities across France Saturday to hold silent marches in memory of the 17 people who died in several terrorist attacks during one of the most traumatic and emotional weeks for the country in living memory.

According to local officials in the southern city of Nice, 30,000 people marched along the famous Promenade des Anglais on the beachfront, holding placards reading the now familiar message: “Je Suis Charlie”.

“Make the most of this silent march because we are a people who will never stay quiet,” another sign read.

There were similar scenes a few hundred kilometers west in Toulouse, where around 120,000 people took to the streets, according to police figures, in a city of 440,000 residents.

In Pau, in the southwest, some 30,000 people turned out to march – almost half the town’s population of 80,000.

Around 75,000 marched in Nantes in western France behind a banner reading “Living together, free, equal and united”, and in Orleans (population: 113,000), 22,000 took part in another silent vigil.

Demonstrations also took place in Lyon, Marseille, Lille, Lyon and numerous other towns and cities across the country.

In total, around 700,000 people took part in the marches across the country, said Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

Saturday’s marches were just a small taste of what is to come with a vast demonstration set to be held in the capital Paris on Sunday. More than a million people are expected to attend, including President François Hollande and several other heads of state from around the world.

‘An exceptional moment’

The marches are a chance for French people to come together in both grief and determination following one of the darkest weeks in the country’s recent history that started with the murder of 12 people at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday.

The two gunmen in that attack were killed in a dramatic end to a hostage siege near Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport Friday.

Seconds later, police stormed a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris where a gunman held several people captive. The gunman was killed, but four hostages also lost their lives in the siege.

But though the worst may now be over, fears remained acute and security levels were kept at France's highest level Saturday, the fact that the girlfriend of the gunman killed in the supermarket siege remained at large a cause for particular concern.

Hundreds of extra troops were deployed around Paris, beefing up security on the eve of Sunday’s march.

But those who took to the streets were keen to show they would not be cowed.

“I’m in my ninth month of pregnancy and, being pregnant, it’s even more important to defend our values of liberty, equality and fraternity, said one woman at the march in Nice, 29-year-old Piérine. “I want my child to be born into a better world.”

“I never demonstrate “, added Emmanuell, 48. “It is an important and exceptional moment – to defend certain right and to pay our respects to the French citizens who have died."


Τρίτη, Δεκεμβρίου 23, 2014

France deploys extra army patrols in wake of attacks

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday said France had deployed 300 extra troops to patrol public areas over the Christmas period following a spate of attacks on police officers and shoppers.

In an announcement broadcast on live TV, Valls said he appreciated that the “deeply shocking” events had “understandably created great concerns”, but insisted that “each event must be treated separately”.

In a separate statement Tuesday, French President François Hollande urged citizens “not to panic” in the wake of the attacks.

The latest incident on Monday evening in the western city of Nantes saw a driver plough into a Christmas market, injuring 10 people before stabbing himself repeatedly. One person later died of injuries sustained during the attack, Hollande announced on Tuesday.

The incident came a day after a similar attack in Dijon, eastern France, which saw 13 pedestrians hurt.

And on Saturday, a man was shot dead after walking into a police station in the central town of Joue-les-Tours and attacking three officers with a knife, two of whom were seriously injured.

The man, a Burundian convert to Islam, reportedly shouted "Allahu Akbar" ("God is greatest") during the assault and had recently posted a flag of the Islamic State group on his Facebook page, prompting concerns that the attack was motivated by Islamic extremism.

Attackers had ‘psychological problems’

In his live broadcast, Valls said that there were “concerns of copycat incidents” and that “mentally deranged people may be influenced by propaganda messages”.

Valls announced that “up to 300” extra soldiers would be deployed on anti-terrorist “Vigipirate” patrols in busy areas, adding to the large number of troops, policemen and gendarmes already involved in active operations across France.

Earlier on Tuesday, Valls told Europe 1 radio that there was "no link" between the incidents and that both car rampages appeared to have been committed by people with psychological problems.

"The best response is to continue to live peacefully with the necessary vigilance of course," he added.

‘Fear over Christmas’

While the motives behind the incidents remain unclear, the violence has jarred nerves after repeated jihadist calls for "lone wolf" action in France over its fight against Islamic extremism.

"Fear over Christmas" titled local daily Le Parisien, while Le Figaro newspaper wrote a front-page editorial headlined "enemies within”.

In September, the radical Islamic State group that controls swathes of Iraq and Syria urged Muslims around the world to kill "in any manner" those from countries involved in a coalition fighting its jihadists, singling out the French.

Among instructions detailing how to kill civilians or military personnel was to "run him over with your car”.

But while the probe into Saturday's knife attack is veering towards extremism the two car rampages appear to have been committed by "unbalanced" people.

Both prosecutors in charge of probing the driving incidents insisted they were not "terrorist acts".

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)


Παρασκευή, Δεκεμβρίου 05, 2014

France, US strike deal to pay $60 mln for Holocaust victims deported by SNCF

France said today it had agreed to put $60 million into a fund managed by the United States to compensate Holocaust victims deported by French state rail firm SNCF to Nazi death camps, a deal that protects it from future US litigation.
About 76,000 Jews were arrested in France during World War Two and transported in appalling conditions in railway boxcars to concentration camps such as Auschwitz, where most died.

In 1995 France's then-president, Jacques Chirac, officially acknowledged for the first time French complicity in the wartime deportations. But it was only in 2009 that France's highest court recognised the state's responsibility.
Several state legislatures in the United States, including Maryland and New York, have previously threatened to pass legislation that would block the SNCF from bidding in rail projects unless it paid compensation to US victims.
The compensation deal, which will be signed in Washington on Dec. 8, is open to people from all countries with the exception of Britain, Poland, Belgium and the Czech Republic, which already have bilateral agreements with France, said Patrizianna Sparacino, who negotiated the accord for Paris.
Several hundred people including survivors and family members have already been identified for compensation, initially from the United States and Israel.
The total number of those compensated will run into the thousands, Sparacino said.
"For now the objective is that those survivors from the deportations would get roughly $100,000 (each)," Sparacino said, adding the United States would manage and allocate the funds.
Washington will also undertake to handle any future Holocaust-era claims against France or any of its entities, meaning that SNCF will no longer be directly targeted or threatened from exclusion in tender processes.
"The US will defend France and its entities as a counterparty to this agreement," Sparacino said.
The talks, launched in February, were initially bilateral between Paris and Washington but were widened to include all nationalities that had not been compensated by France.
US federal authorities took over the dossier saying that efforts by state legislatures to penalise SNCF were an obstacle to securing a global accord.
The state of Maryland removed its threat to bar SNCF from bidding for a 4.5 billion euro contract to build and operate a 25 km train line. SNCF, through its local Keolis subsidiary, has since bid for the project.
Although SNCF has acknowledged guilt, it says it was a "cog in the Nazi extermination machine" and forced to obey the orders of the government and the German occupiers.
Lawyers for French families say SNCF acted out of greed, pointing to evidence it charged French authorities the price of a third-class rail ticket for each person it transported.
Washington has been pushing European governments and firms with links to the Nazi era to compensate Holocaust victims since the 1990s.
Germany agreed in 1999 to create a fund offering some 10 billion marks compensation to Nazi-era forced labourers.
The fund was launched by about 65 leading German companies, many of which had faced legal action over their past role. They included blue chip firms such as Siemens and Volkswagen.
The US government pledged to protect them from future litigation over their Nazi past in return for the fund.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who authored the Holocaust Rail Justice Act to allow victims living in the United States to sue SNCF, hailed the accord as "a breakthrough in a decades-long struggle for justice waged by Holocaust survivors."

Σάββατο, Οκτωβρίου 11, 2014

French parliament votes to cut nuclear energy reliance

Lawmakers in France, the world's most nuclear-dependent country, on Oct. 10 voted to cut reliance on the energy source from more than 75 percent to 50 percent within a decade.
The vote comes as part of an ambitious makeover of France's energy use promised by President Francois Hollande during his 2012 election campaign.
The measure calls for renewables to increase in the energy mix for electricity production, rising from 23 percent in 2020 to 32 percent in 2030.
Use of fossil fuels should drop to around 30 percent.

The measure also sets a goal for a reduction of 40 percent in greenhouse gas emissions from the 1990 levels by 2030 and a 75 percent reduction in 2050.
It also targets a 20-percent reduction in energy consumation by 2030, in line with a draft project EU leaders are set to consider at an October 23-24 summit in Brussels.
France's conservative opposition sharply criticised Hollande's anti-nuclear stance as "ideological" and driven by a need to satisfy green parties which helped get him elected.

 AFP - hurriyetdailynews.com

Τετάρτη, Αυγούστου 27, 2014

IMF chief charged with ‘negligence’ over graft case

Case relates to handling of $527-million state payout to disgraced tycoon.... 

IMF chief Christine Lagarde, one of the world's most powerful women, announced Wednesday she had been charged with "negligence" over a multi-million-euro graft case relating to her time as French finance minister.

The shock announcement came a day after she was grilled for more than 15 hours by a special court in Paris that probes ministerial misconduct, the fourth time she has been questioned in a case that has long weighed upon her position as managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

"The investigating commission of the court of justice of the French Republic has decided to place me under formal investigation," she said in exclusive comments to AFP.

In France, being placed under formal investigation is the nearest equivalent to being charged, and happens when an examining magistrate has decided there is a case to be answered.

It does not, however, always lead to a trial.

Asked whether she intended to resign from the IMF, she responded: "No." But her fate now hangs on what the IMF board of directors will decide.

"I have instructed my lawyer to appeal this decision which I consider totally without merit," said Lagarde, who replaced Dominique Strauss-Kahn as IMF chief in 2011 after he became embroiled in a New York sex scandal involving a hotel maid.

"I return back to Washington where I will indeed brief my board," she added.

The case relates to her handling of a 400-million-euro ($527-million) state payout to disgraced French tycoon Bernard Tapie in 2008, which investigating judges suspect may have been doled out in return for his support of ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2007 election.

The payout to Tapie was connected to a dispute between the businessman and partly state-owned bank Credit Lyonnais over his 1993 sale of sportswear group Adidas.

Tapie claimed Credit Lyonnais had defrauded him by intentionally undervaluing Adidas at the time of the sale and that the state, as the bank's principal shareholder, should compensate him.

Lagarde referred the dispute to a three-member arbitration panel that ruled in favor of Tapie and ordered the payout, which included 45 million euros in moral damages.

Investigating judges are seeking to determine whether the arbitration was a "sham" organized to reward Tapie for his support of Sarkozy.

The IMF chief has always denied having acted on the former president's orders. After a third grilling in March, she had said she "always acted in the interest of the country and in accordance with the law."

"After three years of procedure the only surviving allegation is that through inattention I may have failed to block the arbitration that put an end to the long standing Tapie litigation," Lagarde told AFP Wednesday.

She had until now avoided formal charges that could have forced her to quit as head of the IMF, and had instead been placed under a special witness status that forced her to come back for questioning when asked by the court.

Five people have also been charged in the case, including Stephane Richard, then Lagarde's chief of staff, now boss of telecoms giant Orange.

Questioning has in the past revolved around a signature stamp used in a letter dated from October 2007 that investigators think is crucial in determining who took the decision to resort to an arbitration panel.

Lagarde says she was unaware of the contents of the letter and has told judges it was stamped with her signature in her absence.

In France, those found guilty of "negligence" can be sentenced to a year in prison and a 15,000-euro fine.

Sources: AFP - globaltimes.cn

Σάββατο, Ιουλίου 26, 2014

Les USA fourniront du gaz en France.

On apprend que le 17 juillet une filiale du groupe d'énergie « Cheniere » a signe avec EDF un contrat pour la livraison de gaz naturel liquéfié, 770 000 tonnes par an, et ce pour la durée de 20 ans.

Donc, la question se pose: en France, on ne permet pas l’extraction du gaz de schiste par la méthode de coups hydrauliques, mais, derrière, on signe un contrat avec les Etats-Unis qui ont proposé leurs services aux pays européens.

Comment peut-on alors considérer cette décision de la compagnie nationale énergétique française? Nous adressons cette question à Henry Hude, écrivain et philosophe.

Henry Hude. Nous avons la même chose entre la France et l’Allemagne : l’Allemagne a banni le nucléaire et, en même temps, ils importent de l’électricité française qui est produite en grande partie par des centrales nucléaires. Il y a dans tout cela une part d’hypocrisie et peut-être aussi de nécessité politique. Mais il ne faut pas exagérer. J’ai regardé les chiffres : pour EDF, c’est un petit contrat. Cela représente 1,5% de notre consommation dans 2 ou 3 ans et 0,5% aujourd’hui, en supposant qu’on puisse importer cette énergie. Cela reste relativement marginal.

La Voix de la Russie. Je comprends très bien. Mais ce n’est pas seulement la quantité qui est importante. Ce qui compte, c’est le geste. La France est beaucoup critiquée pour être à la merci ou à l’écoute des Etats-Unis, même si c’est difficile à mesurer. Ne pensez-vous donc pas que c’est un geste qui pourrait déclencher une avalanche de critiques vis-à-vis de la France et de ses relations avec les Etats-Unis ?

Henry Hude. Ecoutez, je pense qui y a déjà un problème interne à la France au départ, à l’intérieur de la majorité gouvernementale, un désaccord entre les écologistes et les autres, car la France ne permet pas l’exploitation des gaz de schiste. Mais ce geste s’inscrit aussi a l’intérieur de la politique internationale, c’est certain. EDF est contrôlé par l’Etat à 85% donc ce sont des décisions d’Etat. Il y a l’affaire du Mistral, l’affaire des « sanctions », l’affaire BNP, l’affaire de la Deutsche Bank, … La France comme l’Allemagne est sous pression américaine pour durcir ses positions face à la Russie… Il est possible que cette affaire de gaz soit une concession qui ne coûte pas trop cher. C’est comme ça que je le vois, mais je n’ai pas les moyens de le prouver.

Ces contrats interviennent à un moment ou le PDG d’EDF a des problèmes fiscaux à cause de sa très jeune femme. Je vous passe les détails, mais il faudrait être journaliste d’investigation pour savoir quels sont exactement les tenants et aboutissants de cette affaire.

LVdlR. Faut-il systématiquement rattacher un problème quelconque économique (et là, on parle de fourniture d’électricité ou d’énergie tout simplement) à un aspect politique ? Par exemple, il y a beaucoup de reproches vis-à-vis des Verts qui disent « Il ne faut pas utiliser le gaz de schiste. Il ne fait pas utiliser l’énergie nucléaire. Il ne faut pas ceci, pas cela… » Je sais qu’il y a des voix qui disent : dans la conjoncture actuelle de difficulté économique, il faut essayer par tous les moyens de produire l’énergie, d’être indépendant dans cette production et il faut qu’ils comprennent. En France, a votre avis, où est le futur de ces productions d’énergie entre les éoliennes, la production atomique, les barrages d’EDF dans les Alpes ?

Henry Hude. Vous posez la question à un philosophe, donc ce ne sont pas des questions sur lesquelles je peu avoir un avis. Tout ce que je peux dire, d’un point de vue moral, c’est que l’exploitation du gaz de schiste semble avoir des conséquences sur l’environnement, potentiellement sur la santé publique, qui sont très importantes et qui n ont pas été explorées suffisamment. Aux Etats Unis, il est pratiquement impossible d’avoir des études objectives sur le sujet. Par contre, je pense qu’il est urgent d’attendre, et si d’autres pays veulent faire des expériences, tant mieux ou tant pis pour eux, nous verrons bien après. En tout cas c’est ma position. Par ailleurs il y a pour l’instant le nucléaire ou dans des pays comme la France, qui ne sont pas sismiques, parait être une solution dont de toute façon on ne peut pas se passer dans l’immédiat. Apres, on peut imaginer des révolutions énergétiques, mais je ne sais pas…

LVdlR. Je vous pose cette question, car justement ce qui m’intéresse, c’est le point de vue d’un philosophe. Dans les années 70, vous mentionnez une foule de ces romans fantastiques dans lesquels on disait qu’en l’an 2000 on vivrait un communisme ou une autre organisation planétaire qui serait toujours pour l’homme et qui le rendrait heureux, qu’on volerait sur d’autres planètes, etc. Au lieu de ça on se retrouve avec des petites guerres d’énergie entre les pays qui avaient des relations tout à fait fiables à l’époque.

  • Henry Hude. Oui. De toute façon, l’Europe a joui de paix pendant longtemps parce que l’Union Soviétique et les Etats-Unis étaient décidés à ce qu’il n’y ait pas de guerre en Europe et nous n’avions de toute façon pas la liberté de prendre des décisions de ce type la. C’est pour cela que la situation européenne (si on exclue la Russie de l’Europe) est extrêmement préoccupante car cette tension entre la Russie et le Etats-Unis est très contrariante pour nous et très dangereuse à terme.

. Espérons que la raison triomphe.

Henry Hude. Elle peut en effet triompher.


Τρίτη, Ιουλίου 22, 2014

MH17 crash: MEPs call for solidarity with Ukraine and sanctions against Russia.

EU sanctions against Russia must be stepped up, the Ukrainian border closed to halt arms flows from Russia, and the bodies of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash victims returned, MEPs insisted in today’s debate with Ukraine’s foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin. Mr Klimkin called on the EU to show its solidarity now, as Ukraine is “being punished for its EU aspirations”. The debate opened with a minute’s silence for victims of the 17 July crash.

Mr Klimkin stressed that the MH17 crash was not just an incident but a “vicious narrative” for the whole of Europe. “Before we were talking about self-defence of inhabitants of eastern Ukraine, whereas now it’s clear that we are dealing with Russian-backed terrorists”, he said. The Ukraine government is ready to engage in discussion with “the real people of Donetsk”, but “the Russian terrorists have to go back to Russia”, he added.
  • The EU must send a clear message of solidarity with and support for Ukraine, which he said was now “being punished for its EU aspirations”, and strengthen the EU presence on the ground by deploying a Common Security and Defence Policy mission, he urged.
  • “Ukraine’s security services should have full control over the border to ensure that the flow of arms from Russia can be dried up” said Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Elmar Brok (EPP, DE). He added that the actions of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin left open no “possibility of finding a political solution” and that the EU should therefore proceed with much stronger sanctions against Russia.
  • MEPs called for a united line between EU member states on tougher sanctions towards Russia, not as a consequence of the plane crash, but in reaction to the Russian authorities' unwillingness to control the flow of arms and heavy weapons across the border to the eastern regions of Ukraine.
Some also criticized France for training Russian solidiers, given that hundreds of Dutch people had lost their lives in the plane crash. “My government will not stop until justice is done”, said Dutch Ambassador Peter De Gooijer, who also spoke at the meeting. He stressed that his government’s first priority was to have the victims’ bodies returned home and then to conduct an independent investigation. He deplored the disrespectful way in which the bodies of the victims had been treated and said that this would not be forgotten by the Dutch people.

Πέμπτη, Ιουνίου 05, 2014

Obama warns Putin to work with Ukraine or face new sanctions

BRUSSELS - President Barack Obama said on Thursday Russian President Vladimir Putin must recognize and work with Ukraine's new government and stop "provocations" along its border, or face tougher sanctions from members of the G7 group of nations.
"We will have a chance to see what Mr. Putin does over the next two, three, four weeks, and if he remains on the current course then we’ve already indicated the kinds of actions that we’re prepared to take," Obama told at a news conference at the end of a G7 summit.

The president added that he would have preferred it if France had held back on the sale of Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia. REUTERS


Δευτέρα, Μαΐου 26, 2014

Eurosceptic parties cause 'earthquake' at EU polls

BRUSELS: France's far-right National Front and Britain's UKIP led a eurosceptic "earthquake" in EU parliamentary polls, sending shockwaves across Europe and beyond.

The EU Parliament's own projections on Monday morning showed the extent of the anti-EU breakthrough, with eurosceptic parties set to win around 140 seats in the 751-seat assembly.

The most emphatic results from the four days of polling across the 28-nation bloc, which ended on Sunday, came on both sides of the British Channel.

In France the far-right National Front (FN) won just over 25 per cent of the vote, according to official figures, securing 24 of France's 74 seats on the EU parliament, with nearly all results in.

The anti-EU mood also swept Britain where the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) looked set to score a historic election victory.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage hailed "the most extraordinary result in British politics for 100 years" as his party secured over 27 percent of the vote with results from 10 of the 12 British regions declared.

"We have hit very hard," he added, talking of a political "earthquake".

The anti-EU Danish People's Party was also victorious, while far right groups had strong showings in Hungary and Greece.

In Austria the right-wing Freedom Party also made big gains, coming in third with almost 20 percent of the vote.

  • Projections for the European Parliament as a whole showed the centre-right umbrella group, the European People's Party, holding on to its top spot with 212 seats, though it looks to have lost 63 in the process.
The Socialists were second with 187 seats, down from 196. The ALDE Liberals group would be third with 72 seats, ahead of the Greens at 55 and the left GUE/NGL with 43.

If confirmed, the FN victory in France would be the highest ever national vote garnered by the anti-immigration, anti-EU party led by Marine Le Pen who has promised to shake up the country and the EU. 


Σάββατο, Μαΐου 17, 2014

Security fears mount over Ukraine vote

Electoral commission calls for more security, saying 2 million people in east may be unable to vote because of violence....

Ukraine's electoral body has voiced fears that it may be impossible to hold next weekend's presidential poll in the east, where a pro-Moscow insurgency is threatening to plunge the country into a civil war.
The Central Election Commission said on Saturday it could not prepare for the vote in the region because of threats and "illegal actions" by separatists who have overrun more than a dozen towns and cities since early April, the news agency, AFP, reported.
It called for the authorities in Kiev to take urgent action to ensure security, saying that violence could prevent almost two million people from voting on May 25, when some 36 million overall will be called to the polls.
The warning came as Ukraine's embattled government held a second round of "national unity" dialogue under a Western-backed plan to try to defuse the crisis, but failed to report any progress.
Russia said Kiev must first halt its month-long offensive against the rebels, questioning the legitimacy of an election held under "the thunder of guns".

Separatist leaders 'not invited'
While Saturday's talks in the eastern city of Kharkiv included a broad spectrum of Ukrainian politicians, including pro-Russians, no separatist leaders were invited.
"Round tables are beautiful things but they won't solve anything," said Aleksandr Borodai, "prime minister" of the rebels' self-declared People's Republic of Donetsk, one of the rebel-held areas in the east.
The West sees next Sunday's election as crucial to defusing the crisis and preventing the recession-hit country from disintegrating further after Russia's annexation of Crimea.
Despite a month-long offensive, the Ukrainian military has failed to wrest back control of the main industrial regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, where rebels have declared their own independent republics in defiance of Kiev and the West.
"Can elections held amid the thunder of guns really meet the democratic norms of the electoral process?" Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement, urging Kiev to immediately halt "punitive action against its own citizens".
Moscow said Kiev was using the unity talks "as a cover for aggressive action" and urged Western nations to tell Kiev to "launch real and not phony work towards national reconciliation".

West warnings
  • At Saturday's round-table, interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said the government was in favour of giving eastern Ukraine more financial autonomy but again ruled out the idea of federalism - a policy favoured by Russia.
"Ukrainians, please, use words not weapons," pleaded Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)-appointed mediator Wolfgang Ischinger.
The West has kept up the pressure on Moscow to allow the election to go ahead.
  • In a phone call on Friday, US President Barack Obama and French counterpart Francois Hollande "underscored that Russia will face significant additional costs if it continues its provocative and destabilising behaviour".
Obama has already drafted an executive order for sanctions across key sectors such as banking, energy, defence and mining, adding to punitive measures already imposed by Washington and Brussels.
The election is expected to deliver victory to billionaire chocolate baron Petro Poroshenko, who enjoys a huge lead over former prime minister Yulia Tymoschenko.
AFP,  aljazeera.com

Σάββατο, Μαΐου 10, 2014

Ukraine president warns of 'step into abyss'

As two of the most tense regions in eastern Ukraine prepare to vote on declaring sovereignty, the country's acting president has warned them against self-destruction.
Ukrainian acting president Oleksandr Turchynov, in comments posted on the presidential website on Saturday, said the pro-Russian supporters of independence for the Donetsk and Luhansk regions "don't understand that this would be a complete destruction of the economy, social programs and general life for the majority of the population".
"This is a step into the abyss for the regions," Turchynov said.

Sunday's ballots will seek approval for declaring so-called sovereign people's republics in Donetsk and Luhansk, where pro-Russians have seized government buildings and clashed with police and Ukrainian troops.
The referenda, in 53 locations across the regions, are being conducted by the pro-Russian movements and are not regarded as legitimate by Kiev or the West.

Early voting reports

The elections chief of the independence movement in Donetsk, Roman Lyagin, was quoted by news agencies as saying voting in the city of Mariupol and one other district had begun early because of rising tensions there, but this has not been confirmed by Al Jazeera.
At least seven people died on Friday in clashes in Mariupol. The city remained on edge on Saturday, with barricades of tyres blocking some streets in the city centre.
The hastily arranged referenda are similar to the March referendum in Crimea that approved secession from Ukraine. Crimea was formally annexed by Russia days later.
But organisers of the eastern vote have said that only later will a decision be made on whether they would use their nominal sovereignty to seek full independence, absorption by Russia or to stay part of Ukraine but with expanded power for the regions.
News agency Reuters reported that election officials in the eastern Ukrainian town of Slaviansk were checking voter registration lists and loading boxes full of ballots on Saturday.
"The main problem would be if we are attacked tomorrow, that would be the main problem. Otherwise now we already have ballots. Ballot boxes as you can see are being loaded in (trucks), we have places (to hold the vote)," Slaviansk election official Anatoly Khmelevoy said.
Of course in order to organise everything in a normal way and according to the law local polling stations get three weeks, but we have only three to four days. So, obviously there will be some minor problems, but the will of people to take part in the vote is overwhelming," Khmelevoy said.
Ballot papers have been printed for more than three million eligible participants in the vote. The voting was initially supposed to run between 8am and 10pm (0500-1900 GMT), when counting will begin.
Reuters was also reporting that the list of voters was two years old and there would be no minimum turnout required for the result to stand. Nor have any outside observers been invited to the area which pro-Russian rebels have declared a "People's Republic".
"Do you support the act of self-rule of the People's Republic of Donetsk?" the ballot paper asks, using a vague term which could also mean sovereignty.
Except for a small illustration at either end of the ballot paper, the black-and-white printed page contained no special markings that might prevent it from being duplicated, Reuters said.

Russia warned on poll

Meanwhile, France and Germany warned Russia on Saturday of possibly expanding sanctions if Moscow continued to sow unrest ahead of the official Ukrainian elections later this month, on the eve of the "illegal" referenda.
In a joint statement, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also urged Ukraine's security forces to stop their offensive on rebel-held positions ahead of the planned May 25 presidential election.
"We consider the referendum scheduled for Sunday illegitimate and are focusing on the election on May 25 in the entire Ukraine. If that is not happening that would lead unavoidably to further destabilisation of the country. And then the measure adopted by the European Council comes into play. And we are ready to take further sanctions against Russia," Merkel said.

  • Paris and Berlin also said that "proportionate" force should be used to protect people and buildings as Kiev battled to wrest back control of rebel-held areas.

However, they stressed that "the Ukrainian security services should refrain from offensive actions before the election".
Al Jazeera's Paul Brennan, reporting from Donetsk, described the mood around Mariupol as "tense".
"On the view of the security, the chairman said the polling stations were going to be manned and staffed and guarded by volunteers. Now, the volunteers we very often see in the streets here and in Luhansk are armed with pistols and rifles and wear balaclavas," our reporter said.
"It's hardly a reassuring volunteering presence, put it that way."

Σάββατο, Απριλίου 12, 2014

France sends first foreign minister to Cuba in 30 years

 HAVANA: France's foreign minister was expected to arrive in Cuba on Saturday for a brief but historic visit, the first by such a high-ranking French official in 30 years and a sign of the quickening pace of improving ties between the European Union and Havana.

Foreign minister Laurent Fabius was scheduled to have a working lunch with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez before meeting with Cardinal Jaime Ortega and then French businessmen.

Rodriguez met with Laurent in Paris last month.

"We expect him to discuss the start of a political dialogue that will include human rights, and business opportunities provided by economic reforms on the island," a French diplomat said, adding that no agreements would be signed.

Since Fabius took office in 2012 he has tried to shift more of France's diplomatic focus toward winning contracts in markets where French firms are traditionally weak, as Paris looks to find growth opportunities overseas.

France is looking to expand its business ties with Latin America and sees Cuba as an important player in the region, given that it hosted a regional summit earlier this year and both Brazil and Mexico are increasing their presence in the country.

  • Fabius was scheduled to return to France Saturday evening, having been in Mexico before stopping in Havana.

Bilateral trade last year was $388 million (280 million Euros), according to the French government, mainly wheat exports to the communist-run Caribbean island.

Construction and engineering firm Bouygues, beverage maker Pernod-Ricard, the Accor tourism corporation and energy company Total, all have investments in Cuba and are among 60 French firms operating in the country.

France has also been leading efforts by the Paris Club of creditor nations to resume debt negotiations with Havana, broken off in 2000.

  • In February, the EU agreed to begin negotiations with Cuba to increase trade, investment and dialogue on human rights in its most significant diplomatic shift since it lifted sanctions on the country in 2008.

The talks are scheduled to begin April 29 in Havana, according to European diplomats.

  • Cuba has been subject to a U.S. embargo for five decades. It is eager to eliminate the EU's "common position," enacted in December 1996, which links human rights and democracy conditions to improved economic relations.

To do so, the two sides will have to reach a new accord that is agreeable to all 28 member states, including Poland and the Czech Republic, which have taken a harder line on Cuba given their own communist pasts.

Κυριακή, Μαρτίου 16, 2014

France limits vehicle use in Paris amid pollution

PARIS, March 15 (Xinhua) -- The French government on Saturday decided to limit vehicle use in Paris and suburbs on next Monday after air pollution reached high levels in several regions in France.
In a statement posted on Matignon website, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault decided to set a system of "alternating traffic" in Paris and suburbs in March 17 from 5:30 a.m. (0430 GMT) as pollution was expected to continue unabated through the weekend.
"We forecast an improvement in the situation tomorrow. However, the forecasts show a rise in pollution from Sunday night and on Monday and Tuesday," Ayrault's office said.

The prime minister said limiting vehicles' use was "necessary" to deal with the new peak of air pollution despite the "difficulties that this measure may cause to the everyday lives of Parisians."
Following recurring spikes in French air pollution, the government offered free public transport over the weekend while Parisians were called to use Velib and Autolib, public sharing services of bicycle and electric cars.
Adding to that, officials recommended to reduce driving speeds, avoid intense physical activity and outdoor walks with children under six years old, and a prohibition against lighting fires outside.
According to Ecology Minister Philippe Martin, France would implement a plan of atmosphere protection in the next few months.
"By the summer, the most affected areas will be the subject of atmosphere protection plan that will provide appropriate measures: reducing emissions from construction sites, transfer of companies and administrations and reducing traffic speeds on certain sections of high-traffic," the minister told the daily Liberation.
On Saturday, the Airparif Association, an environmental body responsible for monitoring air quality of Ile-de-France, expected the pollution index to be high for the fifth consecutive day at 90 due to increased pollutant of PM10.
The increase in pollution level was caused by searing temperatures heating up traffic and industrial pollutants and the hot air re-circulating slowly across densely populated north France and the capital. 

Πέμπτη, Ιανουαρίου 30, 2014

US ‘Deeply Concerned’ Over Syrian Chemical Arms Delay/France: concern over delay in Syria's chemical destruction

WASHINGTON, January 30 (RIA Novosti) – US officials said Thursday that they are “concerned” about delays by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government in handing over its chemical weapons to be destroyed under a deal brokered by Russia and the United States.
“It is the Assad regime’s responsibility to transport those chemicals safely to facilitate removal. We expect them to meet their obligation to do so,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One.

The US ambassador to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is tasked with overseeing the destruction process, said Thursday that Syria’s efforts to move its chemical stockpile to the port of Latakia have “seriously languished and stalled.”
So far the Syrian government has removed only 4 percent of its most dangerous chemicals, including nerve agents such as mustard gas, and “roughly the same small percentage” of its declared toxic materials that can be used to make chemical weapons, Ambassador Robert P. Mikulak said.
“The United States is deeply concerned about the failure of the Government of Syria to transport to Latakia all of the chemical agent and precursors as mandated by OPCW Executive Council decisions,” Mikulak said in a statement to the Hague-based organization.......................http://en.ria.ru/world/20140131/187058725/US-Deeply-Concerned-Over-Syrian-Chemical-Arms-Delay.html
  • France calls for world to take notice of delay in Syria's chemical weapon transfer
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has called on the international community to pay attention to the delay in the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons.
Fabius said: "It seems that the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons lags behind the schedule, the international community should pay attention to whether the promises given are kept or not." 
The UN Security Council decided on the deadline of December 31, 2013, for the transfer of Syria's chemical stockpile out of the country for destruction.
  • UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called for the Syria regime to accelerate the transfer process and criticized it for the unexcused delay in a statement he delivered on January 27.

Πέμπτη, Ιανουαρίου 09, 2014

German charged over infamous French WWII massacre

An 88-year-old German former soldier was charged Wednesday for his part in the infamous 1944 Oradour-sur-Glane massacre - one of the worst Nazi atrocities to take place on French soil during the Second World War.

The former member of a Nazi armored division was charged with 25 counts of murder for his role in the slaughter, in which 642 men, women and children were killed in reprisal for the French Resistance's kidnapping of a German soldier.

Cologne’s state court said that Werner C, whose last name was not given in accordance with German privacy laws, was also charged with hundreds of counts of accessory to murder in connection with the massacre.
The suspect is believed to have belonged to a unit that attacked the tiny village in western France, around 25 kilometres (15 miles) northwest of Limoges, on June 10, 1944.

"The prosecutor's office in Dortmund has charged an 88-year-old pensioner from Cologne in connection with the murder of 25 people committed by a group, and with aiding and abetting the murder of several hundred people," a court statement said.

The Oradour massacre, as it is known, left a deep scar in France that lasted long after the war had finished.

Virtually the entire population of the village was wiped out in the atrocity, which began when close to 200 German soldiers of the SS “Das Reich” division encircled the town and rounded up its population in what residents thought was a routine identity check.

Church and barn set ablaze

First the men were separated and moved to barns, while the women and children were forced inside the town’s church.

German soldiers then set the church ablaze and used machine guns to mow down anyone that tried to escape.

At the same time, the SS fired their machine guns at the men crowded in the barns, deliberately firing at their legs so that they were wounded but not dead. The soldiers then doused the barns with petrol and set them on fire.

Of the 642 people killed, 246 were women and 207 children. Only six survived.

The village has been a ghost town ever since the atrocity, deliberately preserved in that state as a memorial to those who died on one of the darkest days for France during World War II.

The presidents of Germany and France travelled to the village last September and joined hands with a survivor in a moment of reconciliation.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

Παρασκευή, Νοεμβρίου 01, 2013

Antarctique: nouvel échec des négociations sur les sanctuaires marins...

AFP - Les négociations sur la création de sanctuaires marins en Antarctique se sont de nouveau conclues sur un échec vendredi en Australie, Chine et Russie faisant obstacle à la protection de ce fragile écosystème menacé par la pêche et la navigation.
Réunis à Hobart sur l'île de Tasmanie, les membres de la Convention sur la conservation de la faune et de la flore marines de l'Antarctique (CCAMLR) se sont séparés en rendant feuille blanche.
Il s'agit du troisième échec depuis 2012 pour la CCAMLR, l'instance créée en 1982 pour gérer les ressources marines du continent de glace et qui regroupe 24 Etats plus l'Union européenne.

Les eaux de l'océan Austral autour de l'Antarctique abritent des écosystèmes exceptionnels en bonne partie préservés des activités humaines mais désormais menacés par le développement de la pêche et la navigation.
Deux projets de sanctuaires ont été mis sur la table aux fins de créer une vaste réserve marine couvrant l'équivalent du territoire indien, potentiellement la plus étendue au monde, peuplée de cétacés, mammifères marins et manchots --pas moins de 16.000 espèces.
Les Etats-Unis et la Nouvelle-Zélande proposaient de sanctuariser une aire de 1,25 million de km2 en mer de Ross, une immense baie, côté Pacifique, sous juridiction néo-zélandaise.
La France, l'Australie et l'Allemagne recommandaient de leur côté la création de sept aires marines protégées (AMP) côté océan indien, sur une étendue de 1,6 million de km2.
Mais la Russie et la Chine s'y sont opposées, repoussant à l'automne 2014 --sauf réunion exceptionnelle-- de nouvelles consultations puisque la CCAMLR se réunit une fois par an et que toute décision en son sein est adoptée par consensus.
"La communauté internationale s'était rassemblée à Hobart pour protéger des zones essentielles de l'océan Antarctique --un des derniers écosystèmes inviolés de la planète-- et la Russie a choisi de faire obstacle", a déploré Joshua Reichert, vice-président exécutif de l'organisation américaine de défense de l'environnement Pew Charitable Trusts dont un représentant participait aux négociations.
"Un jour noir pour les océans du monde entier"
Une rencontre exceptionnelle au mois de juillet en Allemagne avait déjà achoppé en raison, selon les ONG, de l'opposition de la Russie qui craint de voir trop fortement se réduire ses zones de pêche.
La Russie, avec le soutien de l'Ukraine, avait alors soulevé des questions juridiques sur le fait de savoir si la CCAMLR avait le droit d'instaurer ces aires, selon l'Alliance pour l'océan antarctique (AOA), une coalition d'une trentaine d'ONG.
Avant le sommet de Hobart, la Nouvelle-Zélande avait revue sa copie et considérablement diminué la surface devant être sanctuarisée. En vain.
"C'est triste", a déclaré à l'AFP le chef de la délégation suédoise, Bo Fernholm, à l'issue de la réunion vendredi.
"Il reste des points de discorde sur des sujets importants comme la période pendant laquelle une zone marine doit rester protégée, il y avait aussi des objections sur la superficie de ces zones", a expliqué M. Fernholm.
Selon un membre des délégations officielles, la Chine n'était pas défavorable à la proposition américaine mais s'est opposée à l'initiative australo-européenne.
"Les pourparlers ont échoué. La Russie et la Chine voulaient des précisions, plus de temps. C'est très décevant", a déclaré ce délégué qui a requis l'anonymat.
"C'est un jour noir pas seulement pour l'Antarctique mais pour les océans du monde entier", s'est exclamée Andrea Kavanagh, responsable de projets marins de Pew Charitable Trusts.
"Les fondements scientifiques justifiant la création de ces réserves sont incontestables. L'égoïsme têtu de quelques uns ne devrait pas se substituer à la volonté de la majorité des pays à travers le monde", a-t-elle ajouté.
Pour Farah Obaidullah, de Greenpace, l'échec de la réunion de Hobart "entache la réputation de la CCAMLR" et témoigne de l'interférence "des intérêts économiques et politiques dans la protection des océans pour le bien des générations futures".
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