TPM World News

ROME (AP) — European Union leaders on Thursday reaffirmed the need to help Libya prevent migrants from being smuggled to Europe, despite renewed opposition from human rights groups that such a policy is “reckless” given Libya’s lawlessness.

Interior ministers meeting in Tallinn, Estonia, also called for aid groups conducting rescue operations in the Mediterranean to follow a code of conduct, after prosecutors in Italy have accused some of complicity with Libyan-based smugglers.

And the ministers vowed to crack down on countries that refuse to take their nationals home when their asylum bids fail in Europe, including imposing limits to visa programs.

“This is an unprecedented initiative,” Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti said.

The ministers met as Italy has increased complaints that it can no longer shoulder the burden of Europe’s migrant crisis alone. Italy has threatened to close its ports to non-Italian flagged rescue ships in hopes of forcing other European countries to take them in.

The interior ministers mentioned “disembarkation,” issues in their final communique, but offered no details or commitments.

Ahead of the meeting, Amnesty International issued a report highly criticizing the EU emphasis on helping Libya better patrol its coasts to prevent migrants from leaving, saying the policy shift risked victimizing desperate migrants even more.

Not only do they face the risk of dying at sea, they risk grave human rights abuses once they are returned to Libya and trapped there, the human rights group said.

More than 2,000 migrants to Europe have died at sea so far this year while over 73,380 have reached Italy. By year’s end, the number of arrivals is expected to match or exceed the 181,400 who made it in 2016, which was more than in the two previous years, the report said.

The European Union has been casting about for solutions, notably looking to Libya, which has two rival governments, for help preventing departures. The EU is focusing in particular on equipping and training the Libyan coast guard and navy to conduct sea rescues and to lead the fight against smuggling and trafficking networks.

Amnesty said it was “deeply problematic” to unconditionally fund and train Libya, where human rights are lacking and the coast guard has been known for violence and even smuggling.

The group cited an August incident off Libya’s coast in which attackers shot at a Doctors Without Borders rescue boat. A U.N panel of experts on Libya later confirmed that two officers from a coast guard faction were involved.

In May, the Libyan coast guard intervened in a search-and-rescue operation another non-governmental organization was performing. The coast guard officers threatened migrants with weapons, took command of their wooden boat and took it back to Libya, Amnesty reported.

“The current situation with the Libyan coast guard is absolutely outrageous,” Iverna McGowan, who leads Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office, said in an interview in Brussels. “It is unconscionable that the EU … would allow certain rescue operations that we know are inadequate and trust that with people’s lives.”

Amnesty is not alone in its concern.

The search-and-rescue director for Save the Children, Rob MacGillivray, said in a statement that rescued migrants have recounted horrors from Libya, including claims of sexual assaults, sales to others for work and whippings and electrical shocks in detention centers.

“Simply pushing desperate people back to Libya, which many describe as hell, is not a solution,” MacGillivray said.

EU Migration Commissioner Dimitri Avramopoulos conceded at a recent news conference in Paris that the EU is drawing on a country in “very precarious conditions.”

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LONDON (AP) — The attacker who bombed an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester wasn’t part of a large network, but other people involved in the crime may still be at large, a senior police officer said Thursday.

Russ Jackson, head of counterterrorism policing for northwest England, said police may make more arrests in the investigation into the attack.

Salman Abedi, a Briton of Libyan heritage, detonated a homemade knapsack bomb as crowds were leaving Manchester Arena on May 22, killing 22 people and himself. More than 200 others were wounded.

In the days after the attack, police arrested 22 people on suspicion of terrorism offenses and said they had rounded up a large part of Abedi’s network. But all the suspects were subsequently released without charge.

“We don’t have evidence of a large network,” Jackson told reporters at an update on the investigation. “We do, however, suspect others were either aware or complicit in the knowledge of this attack.”

Jackson said police have reconstructed Abedi’s movements in the weeks before the attack, as he obtained components and built his deadly device.

On the day of the bombing, Abedi spent several hours carrying the bomb, packed with nuts and bolts, though central Manchester before detonating it in the foyer of the arena as the Grande concert was ending.

Jackson said the investigation “is likely to run on for many more months to come.”

“We are examining all sorts of lines of inquiry and it is possible more arrests and searches will take place,” he said.

Detectives want to question Abedi’s younger brother Hashem, who has been detained in Libya, and are “engaging with” British prosecutors and Libyan authorities, Jackson said.

The violence and political instability that have engulfed the North African country since the 2011 fall of Moammar Gadhafi could complicate efforts to interview the younger Abedi.

A Libyan counterterrorism official has said Hashem Abedi knew that his brother was planning something, and said Salman Abedi had been radicalized in Britain.

British officials have said Abedi had been on the radar of the country’s intelligence services but was considered a peripheral figure.

“We are still working to understand the manner by which he became radicalized,” Jackson said.

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HAMBURG, Germany (AP) — Hamburg police braced themselves Thursday for a major protest by anti-globalization activists as Germany’s second-biggest city started welcoming leaders of the leading Group of 20 industrial and developing economies.

The northern port city is boosting its police force with reinforcements from around the country for the summit, which takes place Friday and Saturday, and has 20,000 officers on hand to patrol the city’s streets, skies and waterways.

Ahead of the summit, a Thursday evening demonstration is planned, which organizers have titled as “G-20: Welcome to Hell.”

While protests so far have been largely calm, city police chief Ralf Martin Meyer told ZDF television: “We are skeptical as to whether this evening and tonight will remain peaceful.”

Demonstrators have promised massive protests against U.S. President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, three of the more controversial leaders of the G-20. A large sign in a shop window near the summit venue featured pictures of the three with the slogan: “We don’t want that!”

A large banner hanging from a building overlooking the congress center where the leaders will meet said: “G20 Members: Respect the rule of law!”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma were among the first to arrive on Thursday, while Trump joined in the late afternoon, flying in from a stop in Warsaw.

More than 100,000 protesters are expected in the city, with some 8,000 considered part of Europe’s violent left-wing scene, according to police.

For the anti-globalization protest Thursday night, organizers said they were “calling on the world to make Hamburg a focal point of the resistance against the old and new capitalist authorities.”

Overnight, ten cars were set ablaze outside a Hamburg Porsche dealership, which police are investigating as possibly summit-related.

Many other groups are calling for peaceful protests, and are pushing the G-20 leaders for action on climate change, to address economic disparities in the world and a wide array of other issues. Some are even calling for the dissolution of the G-20 itself so that the United Nations becomes the platform for such discussions.

In the wake of Trump’s recent decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, the fight against global warming promises to feature prominently in discussions at the summit.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has rejected calls from some to push for a strong “G-19” statement — without the U.S. — on climate change; something that Zhu Guangyao, a Chinese deputy finance minister, told reporters Thursday that Beijing also did not support.

“The policies produced by the G-20 should be by the consensus of all member states,” he said. “No one should be excluded.”

Still, he added, “China will firmly promote its policies taking more measures against climate change.”

Activists are expressing concern, however, that the draft language being worked on for the closing G-20 communique apparently calls for a “global approach” on climate change, which they fear could weaken national responsibilities.

On trade, Putin wrote in a guest article for Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper Thursday that “politically motivated” sanctions were being used as a form of protectionism.

“Limits by one-sided, politically motivated sanctions on investment, trade and particularly technology transfer are becoming its hidden form,” the Russian leader wrote.

The European Union and United States have imposed sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine, and Putin wrote that such sanctions lead nowhere. He said they “contradict the G-20 principles” of working together in the interests of all countries.

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GENEVA (AP) — Los Angeles and Paris have been praised by an International Olympic Committee panel for having “outstanding” plans to host the 2024 Summer Games.

Storytelling skills and cutting-edge technologies from LA, plus “stunning backdrops” in Paris where the modern Olympics was reborn, were anticipated eagerly by an IOC evaluation commission which assessed the bidders in a 180-page dossier and 15-minute video published Wednesday.

“Their candidatures have put the Olympic Movement in a win-win situation, with very little to separate the two projects,” said Patrick Baumann, the panel chairman and an IOC member.

Both cities should get hosting rights for the 2024 or 2028 Olympics on Sept. 13, at the IOC’s annual meeting being held in Lima, Peru. Paris is viewed as favorite for 2024.

The evaluation was prepared for IOC members who will meet bid leaders at a key campaign event on July 11-12 in Lausanne. Members are also now expected to ratify the proposal for a double hosting award, which the IOC executive board formally made last month.

Challenges highlighted for the two cities include public transport and traffic management plans in Los Angeles, and new laws needed to guarantee the Paris project which the IOC wants to review in advance.

LA scored better than Paris in the IOC’s own polling of public support for hosting the Summer Games.

It is always unclear in Olympic bidding contests how much the technical analysis of candidates’ plans affect the choice of more than 85 IOC members eligible to vote.

Still, Los Angeles and Paris have long been viewed as high-class, low-risk options. The IOC has seemed grateful to have them after years of spiraling spending and cost overruns by host cities, and public opposition that ended other bids.

IOC President Thomas Bach has pushed for a double award since December, aiming to seize the chance of stability for the next decade.

Seeking to avoid construction costs and creating white elephant venues, LA and Paris are praised for proposing to use existing and temporary arenas for 97 and 93 percent, respectively, of their Summer Games’ needs.

Plans for an athletes’ village have been a potentially key difference between the bids.

LA proposes to use existing student accommodation at UCLA described by Baumann’s team as “outstanding in all aspects.”

The Paris plan to build a $1.45 billion village near the Stade de France, which would host track and field plus the opening and closing ceremonies, has shaped as the riskiest project in either bid.

However, the IOC panel described its “idyllic waterfront setting” and praised the plan to convert the athletes’ residence into “much-needed housing … in one of the youngest, most diverse areas of the city.”

LA scored better than Paris in the IOC-commissioned polls conducted in February which sought the opinions of 1,800 adults at city, regional and national level.

In the city of LA, 78 percent of residents supported the project and 8 percent were opposed. In Paris, it was 63 percent for and 23 percent against.

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s president says the world should look at tougher sanctions against North Korea after Pyongyang tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile, and insists the problem must be solved in a peaceful manner.

New President Moon Jae-in, speaking through an interpreter, said in Berlin on Wednesday that the test was “a big threat and provocation. North Korea should stop this immediately.” He says there should be consideration of “more intensive possibilities of sanctions.”

Moon was meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel before both attend the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg that starts Friday.

He said: “At the G-20 summit, we will hold talks with various representatives of governments, but at the same time I think that the North Korean question should be solved by peaceful means.”

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BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union and Japan have agreed “in principle” on a free trade deal that will affect an overwhelming majority of commerce between the two economic giants and will be officially endorsed at a summit of their leaders Thursday.

EU Council President Donald Tusk and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet Thursday and will be able to shake hands on the landmark deal, which took four years of negotiations.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in a Tweet that “We’ve reached political agreement” and “now recommend to leaders to confirm this” at their short summit.

The timing of the announcement is important, coming just before a summit of world leaders in Hamburg, Germany. U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to express his discontent with free trade and his desire to renegotiate some deals.

Both the EU and Japan have stressed that their pact is intended as a rejection of the kind of protectionism Trump advocates.

For Abe, it shows Japan remains an important partner in global trade, especially after Trump pulled the plug on a trade deal with Pacific nations. For the EU, it shows that it remains a champion of free trade even if free trade negotiations with the United States are in a rut.

A senior EU official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity ahead of Thursday’s summit, said that the deal with the Japanese “means we have agreed on almost everything of importance to either side.”

Now, legal scrubbing and translations are expected to take several months before the agreement can be formally completed and put to approval to national authorities in the EU and Japan.

The 28-nation EU exports some 86 billion euros in goods and services to Japan every year yet still faces high tariffs and other obstacles in reaching the lucrative market.

A deal would require tweaks to Japan’s protections for its dairy farmers, whose home market is protected by tariffs of up to 40 percent on processed cheese, wine, pasta and chocolate.

The EU official said that the EU food agriculture sector was expected to be “the big winner” out of the negotiations.

Japan is specifically looking for removing import tariffs on cars and car parts.

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CAIRO (AP) — Foreign ministers from four Arab nations seeking to isolate Qatar over its alleged support for extremist groups met on Wednesday in the Egyptian capital, just hours after they said they had received Doha’s response to their demands for ending the diplomatic crisis roiling the Persian Gulf.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain said in a joint statement earlier that they would respond “in a timely manner” to Qatar’s reply.

They did not elaborate on what steps they could take, though a major credit rating agency warned it had changed Qatar’s economic outlook to negative over the turmoil.

The four countries cut ties to the FIFA 2022 World Cup host early last month over its alleged support for extremist groups and ties with Shiite power Iran. Qatar denies supporting extremists and has defended its warm relations with Iran; the two countries share a massive undersea natural gas field.

The four Arab nations issued a 13-point list of demands on June 22, giving Qatar 10 days to comply. They later extended the deadline by another 48 hours at the request of Kuwait, which has acted as a mediator to resolve the crisis. That deadline expired early Wednesday morning.

There was no word yet on what went on during the Cairo meeting but a news conference was due later in the day. On Tuesday, intelligence chiefs from the four Arab countries also met in Cairo, likely to discuss the crisis, according to Egypt’s state MENA news agency.

What Qatar said in response to the demands remains unclear. It already had called the demands — which include shutting down its Al-Jazeera satellite news network, expelling Turkish military forces based in the country and paying restitution — an affront to its sovereignty.

The crisis has become a global concern as neither side appears to be backing down.

Qatar, the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, hosts some 10,000 American troops at its sprawling al-Udeid Air Base. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been trying to ease tensions, while President Donald Trump’s comments on Qatar funding extremist groups back the Saudi-led countries’ position.

The nations could impose financial sanctions or force Qatar out of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional body known as the GCC that serves as a counterbalance to Iran.

Some Arab media outlets have suggested a military confrontation or a change of leadership in Qatar could be in the offing, but officials have said those options are not on the table.

On Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel visited officials in both the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. He said Germany supported the UAE’s efforts at confronting those who fund extremists.

“We now have this opportunity to reach good results for the benefit of the whole region. The matter is not related only to the sovereignty of Qatar,” Gabriel said. “We have to come back to common work at the GCC and for the Europeans this is a very important matter. For us, the GCC is the guarantor of stability and security in the region.”

Meanwhile, Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan kept up the pressure on Qatar.

“To defeat terrorism, we must confront extremism, we must confront hate speech, we must confront the harboring and sheltering of extremists and terrorists, and funding them,” Sheikh Abdullah said. “Unfortunately, we in this region see that our sister nation of Qatar has allowed and harbored and encouraged all of this.”

Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, criticized the four Arab nations for trying to isolate Qatar “under the banner of fighting terrorism.”

Though Qatar Airways’ routes over its neighbors have been closed, along with the country’s sole land border with Saudi Arabia, Doha has been able to import food and goods from other countries. Its economy, fueled by its natural gas exports, seems to be weathering the crisis though there has been pressure on its stock market and currency.

The credit ratings agency Moody’s warned early Wednesday that it had set Qatar’s economic outlook to negative over the crisis.

“Public exchanges between the various parties in recent weeks and previous periods of heightened tensions between Qatar and other GCC countries suggest that a quick resolution is unlikely and that the stalemate may continue for some time,” Moody’s said. “Depending on the duration and potential further escalation of tensions, the dispute could negatively affect Qatar’s economic and fiscal strength. Absent a swift resolution, economic activity will likely be hampered by the measures imposed so far.”

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russian strategic bombers on Wednesday struck the Islamic State group in Syria with cruise missiles, the military said.

The Defense Ministry said that Tu-95 bombers launched Kh-101 cruise missiles on IS facilities in the area along the boundary between the Syrian provinces of Hama and Homs. The ministry said three ammunition depots and a command facility near the town of Aqirbat were destroyed.

It said the bombers flew from their base in southwestern Russia and launched the missiles at a distance of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from the target.

Russia has waged an air campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad since September 2015. The Russian military has used the campaign to test its latest weapons, including long-range cruise missiles, in combat for the first time.

Meanwhile, a two-day round of Syria cease-fire talks in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, ended without conclusive results. The Syrian government and the opposition blamed each other for the failure to reach agreement.

The negotiations, brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran, were to finalize specifics related to so-called de-escalation zones, including their boundaries and monitoring mechanisms. But the talks failed to produce a deal, with the parties agreeing only to set up a working group to continue discussions.

“We so far have failed to agree on de-escalation zones, but we will continue efforts to achieve that goal,” Russian envoy Alexander Lavrentyev said after the talks, according to Russian news reports.

Lavrentyev said that Russia plans to deploy its military police to help monitor de-escalation zones and called on Kazakhstan and other ex-Soviet nations to also send monitors. He said police will have light arms to protect themselves.

Lavrentyev also noted that the involvement of the United States and Jordan would be essential for setting up a de-escalation zone in southern Syria near the border with Jordan.

Syria’s warring sides have held four previous rounds of talks in Kazakhstan since January, in parallel to the U.N.-brokered peace talks in Geneva. Neither process has made much progress. A cease-fire declared in May, has been repeatedly violated.

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HELSINKI (AP) — Volvo will begin producing electric motors on all its cars from 2019, becoming the first major automaker to forgo traditional engines that rely exclusively on internal combustion.

The Swedish company, which has been making cars since 1927 and in recent decades became famous for its station wagons and safety features, said Wednesday that the decision was prompted by the wishes of customers, describing it as “one of the most significant moves by any car maker.”

CEO Hakan Samuelsson said the shift to electric motors would “strengthen our brand image, which is a lot about protecting what is important for you (customers).”

Volvo Cars said it aims to reach its target of selling 1 million electrified cars by 2025, with a range of models, including fully electric vehicles and hybrid cars.

“This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car,” Samuelsson said. “People increasingly demand electrified cars and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs.”

Volvo said its long range models could travel 500 kilometers (310 miles) on a single charge using current technology, but it is looking for suppliers for new and better batteries.

“We are looking at more suppliers in the market today and that will be a key part of being competitive going forward — to always stick with the most successful and innovative supplier” at the time, said Henrik Green, senior vice president in research and development.

Samuelsson, who acknowledged that the company had been skeptical about electrification only two years ago, said things had changed. “Things have moved faster; customer demand is increasing. This is an attractive car people want to have,” he said.

He also saw Volvo’s announcement as “an invitation to anybody that’s interested in investing in battery manufacturing … and of course also to anybody interested in investing in charging infrastructure.”

“I think that’s good, they can now count on Volvo as customers,” Samuelsson said. “We need new players, we need more competition.”

Volvo, which since 2010 has been owned by Chinese firm Geely, will launch five fully electric cars between 2019 and 2021. Three of them will be Volvo models and two will be electrified cars from Polestar, Volvo Cars’ performance car arm. It also plans to supplement them with a range of gasoline and diesel plug-in hybrid and mild hybrid, or 48-volt, options on all models, which the company said would be one of the “broadest electrified car offerings of any car maker.”

Volvo Cars has said it is committed to help improve the environment and make cities cleaner by reducing carbon emissions, aiming to have climate neutral manufacturing operations by 2025.

Last year, the company sold 534,332 cars in 100 countries, up more than 6 percent from 2015.

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KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov says that authorities have avoided a second cyberattack. The announcement suggests that the effort to wreak electronic havoc across Ukraine is ongoing.

Ukraine is still trying to find its feet after scores or even hundreds of businesses and government agencies were hit by an explosion of data-scrambling software on June 27.

Avakov said in a statement posted to his Facebook page that what he described as the second stage of that malware attack had been timed to hit its peak at 4 p.m. Ukraine time on Tuesday.

Avakov said that, like the first attack, Tuesday’s originated from the Ukrainian tax firm M.E. Doc.

Wednesday’s announcement adds clarity to Cyberpolice’s midnight announcement that they had raided M.E. Doc and seized the company’s servers.

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