By Sabine Siebold and Susan Heavey
BERLIN/WASHINGTON - Germany signalled on Tuesday that it could halt the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia if Moscow invades Ukraine, and Western nations rallied behind Kyiv over a Russian troop buildup that has stoked fears of war.
Stepping up diplomacy after talks with Russia ended in stalemate last week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken https://www..com/world/europe/uss-blinken-visit-ukraine-following-russia-talks-2022-01-18 will visit Kyiv on Wednesday before heading to Berlin to discuss "joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine" with German, British and French officials.
As fears of conflict rose, Britain said this week it had begun supplying Ukraine with anti-tank weapons https://www..com/world/uk/uk-says-supplying-ukraine-with-weapons-system-defend-against-russia-2022-01-17, Canada's foreign minister visited Ukraine and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock held...
By Prak Chan Thul
PHNOM PENH - Cambodia is set to resume the treason trial on Wednesday of banned opposition party leader Kem Sokha after a two-year delay due to the pandemic, in a case condemned by the United States as politically motivated.
Kem Sokha was arrested in 2017 and his opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was banned ahead of a 2018 election that was swept by the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
CNRP has since been decimated https://reut.rs/3FFbMI7, with many of its members arrested or fleeing into exile in what activists say is a sweeping crackdown designed to thwart challenges to CPP's power monopoly.
"He will go to court to fight the charges," Kem Sokha's lawyer Pheng Heng told , confirming his attendance.
Kem Sokha was freed from house arrest in 2019 but remains banned from political activities.
His daughter urged the court to drop the charg...
By Pavel Polityuk and Matthias Williams
KYIV - Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly condemned Russia massing troops near Ukraine's borders on Tuesday and said Ottawa would take a decision at the appropriate time on supplying military hardware to Ukraine.
Speaking alongside Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba at a briefing during a visit to Kyiv, Joly said any new offensive by Russia would incur serious consequences.
Ukraine and its NATO allies have sounded the alarm as Russia massed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine's borders in recent weeks in preparation for a possible new military offensive.
Russia has denied such plans but pressed the West for security guarantees, including a block on Ukraine joining the NATO alliance. Washington described some of Moscow's demands as non-starters, while Ukraine has sought reassurances from allies that nothing would be decided without its input.
Canada, with a siz...
GUATEMALA CITY - Taiwan has paid for a lobbying contract to promote Guatemala with U.S. officials, Guatemala's government said late on Monday, just as Beijing's efforts to strengthen its diplomatic foothold in Central America are advancing.
"Guatemala thanks Taiwan for the support that will allow us to enhance the country's position in the United States," the Guatemalan government said in a statement.
Taiwan's embassy in Guatemala did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the contract, which Guatemala said aims to bolster investment, tourism and promote small businesses.
The lobbying contract is with Ballard Partners, a firm headed by Brian Ballard, who the company's website said was a backer of former U.S. President Donald Trump.
According to recent public filings in the United States, the contract is worth $900,000 and should provide consulting and advocacy "related to the United States government, including in...
TUNIS - President Kais Saied on Tuesday extended Tunisia's state of emergency by a month until Feb. 18, the official gazette said.
The North African nation has been under a state of emergency since 2015 after an attack in which several presidential guards were killed.
(Reporting By Tarek Amara; Editing by Gareth Jones)...
MOGADISHU - At least four people were killed and 10 others injured in Somalia's capital Mogadishu on Tuesday after a suicide bomber blew himself up in a tea shop just outside a military base, the state-run SONNA news agency and residents said.
Patrons, who included both soldiers and civilians, were sipping tea when the bomber blew himself up, the residents said.
One resident, Ahmed Ismail, told he heard the blast but that when he ran towards the scene to find out what had happened he was blocked by soldiers.
The Nacnac base outside which the blast occurred is located near a Turkish military garrison which helps to train Somali troops.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast but the Islamist group al Shabaab frequently carries out bombings and gun assaults in Mogadishu and elsewhere in Somalia.
The group wants to topple Somalia's central government and establish its own rule based on its...
WASHINGTON - The International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday that public and private creditors need to finalize a debt restructuring plan with Chad by the end of March to restore durable growth amid worsening conditions in the African country.
In a statement following a mission to the country's capital N'Djamena last week, the IMF said Chad's economic and financial situation and medium-term prospects have worsened due to continuing shocks since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Debt treatment under the G20 Common Framework and significant donor support are key for restoring debt sustainability and (to) promote durable inclusive growth," the IMF said. "In this respect, finalization of a debt treatment with both public and private creditors by end-March will be critical."
IMF mission chief Edward Gemayel said in a statement that Chad's real GDP in 2021 is estimated to have contracted by 1.1%, driven by a reduction in oil production, whil...
By Alexandra Valencia
QUITO - Ecuador will ask its citizens to vote in a 2023 consultation to reform its justice system, President Guillermo Lasso said on Tuesday, amid accusations that decisions by judges are holding back efforts to fight crime.
Violence and crime, including within the prison system, soared in Ecuador late last year. The government has blamed the violence on drug gangs who use the country as a transit point for narcotics headed to the United States and Europe.
"I don't think anyone is happy with justice in Ecuador," Lasso said in a interview broadcast on his social media channels. "We are working on the issue of a popular consultation and we could make it coincide with regional elections in 2023."
Conservative Lasso had declared a state of emergency, which ended in mid-December, and deployed hundreds of soldiers in violent areas, though citizens and analysts say boots on the ground fail to confront the pov...
By Tom Balmforth
MOSCOW - Joint military exercises https://www..com/world/europe/russia-belarus-plan-joint-military-drills-february-lukashenko-2022-01-17 between Russia and Belarus in the coming weeks will provide Russian President Vladimir Putin with new options if he decides to attack Ukraine and will further stretch that country's defences, military analysts say.
The "Allied Resolve" manoeuvres will take place near Belarus' western border with NATO members Poland and Lithuania and its southern border with Ukraine. Russia already has tens of thousands of troops to the north, east and south of Ukraine, although it denies any intention to invade.
NEW FRONT, NEW THREATS
The deployment of Russian forces in Belarus creates a new potential front line for Ukrainian army planners to worry about, said Konrad Muzyka, director of the Poland-based Rochan consultancy. Reinforcing that area will mean spreading troops thinner elsewher...
WASHINGTON - The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on three businessmen with ties to Hezbollah, saying their activity as financial facilitators for the Iran-backed group was exploiting Lebanon's economic resources at a time of crisis for that country.
The Treasury Department has added Adel Diab, Ali Mohamad Daoun, Jihad Salem Alame, and their company Dar Al Salam for Travel & Tourism, to its sanctions list, the department said in a statement.
"Through businessmen like those designated today, Hezbollah gains access to material and financial support through the legitimate commercial sector to fund its acts of terrorism and attempts to destabilize Lebanon's political institutions," the U.S. Treasury said in the statement.
Lebanon's economy has been in crisis since 2019 when it collapsed under a mountain of debt. Its currency plunged to a new low last week, and swathes of the nation have been driven into poverty.
By Clement Uwiringiyimana
KIGALI - A Rwandan court ruled on Tuesday that an appeal by prosecutors in a case involving Paul Rusesabagina, who was portrayed in the movie 'Hotel Rwanda' sheltering hundreds of people during the 1994 genocide, could proceed in his absence.
Rusesabagina, 67, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being found guilty in September of eight terrorism charges related to the activities of an organisation opposed to President Paul Kagame's rule.
He refused to take part in his trial, which was denounced by his supporters as a politically motivated sham.
Public prosecutors had asked for a life sentence and had announced after the trial that they would appeal.
They have not said what they are seeking from the appeal, which also concerns 20 other defendants who were tried at the same time as Rusesabagina. His family have said the prosecutors were seeking to have his sentence converted to l...
ANKARA -Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he was pleased with the lower volatility of the lira and that the government was working on steps to increase interest in the currency, state media reported on Tuesday.
"Slowly, in a gradual way and without haste, the lira will get firmer, interest rates will fall in the same way, and 2022 will be our brightest year," the state-owned Anadolu news agency and other media reported him as telling reporters during his visit to Albania on Monday.
The lira has mostly stabilised this month after plunging 44% against the dollar last year. It was 1.6% weaker at 13.65 against the dollar at 1535 GMT on Tuesday, slightly extending losses after Erdogan's comments.
"We are quite pleased with the lessening volatility in the exchange rate," he said. "Our additional work is continuing on maintaining stability in financial markets and boosting interest in the lira."
"I take the view that interest rates...
By Gavin Jones and Angelo Amante
ROME - Silvio Berlusconi's campaign to become Italian president is making little progress and he would be wise to withdraw his candidacy, the right-hand man of the former prime minister said on Tuesday.
Vittorio Sgarbi, a lower house deputy who has been trying to persuade undecided lawmakers to back the 85-year-old Berlusconi, said he had suspended his efforts because it was proving "a desperate task".
Berlusconi has led four governments as prime minister, but his bid to become president has always looked unlikely due to a record that includes a conviction for tax fraud and the scandal over his notorious "bunga bunga" sex parties while he was last in office.
He is currently on trial on charges of bribing witnesses in a previous case involving alleged underage prostitution, of which he was acquitted. He denies all wrongdoing.
Sgarbi said in an interview with RAI state radio that...
JERUSALEM - Israel has offered security and intelligence support to the United Arab Emirates against further drone attacks after a deadly strike by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group, according to a letter released on Tuesday by Israel's leader.
Three people were killed and six wounded on Monday when three tanker trucks exploded in Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital. A Houthi military spokesman said the group fired "a large number" of drones and five ballistic missiles in the attack.
On Twitter, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett condemned what he described as a "terrorist drone attack".
His spokesman attached a copy of a condolence letter he sent on Monday to the UAE's de facto leader, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
"We stand ready to offer you security and intelligence support in order to help you protect your citizens from similar attacks," Bennett wrote. "I have ordered the Israeli security establishment to provide their counterparts in the UAE with any ass...
ZURICH - Rebuilding cohesion between workers, employers and state governments will last years after the coronavirus pandemic brutally exposed societal rifts and inequalities, a senior labour leader warned on Tuesday.
"It will take a least a decade and that's only then if the solutions that generate a new social contract are in place and its inclusive of everybody," Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), told the World Economic Forum's online Davos Agenda conference.
"The big challenge is indeed to rebuild trust, because what is at risk here is...the trust that democracies then can put in place that social contract."
The panel discussion came days after the International Labour Organization found the global job market would take longer to recover than first thought, with unemployment set to remain above pre-COVID-19 levels until at least 2023.
Nicolas Schmit, European Commissio...
By Brian Ellsworth
- Barbados on Wednesday will hold general elections called by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, the Caribbean nation's first vote since it became a republic last year by removing the British Queen as its sovereign.
Mottley, whose Barbados Labor Party now controls 29 of the legislature's 30 seats, in December said the vote would help promote unity in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, which has heavily hit the country's tourism-focused economy.
Barbados in November removed Queen Elizabeth as head of state and replaced her with President Sandra Mason in a ceremony coinciding with its independence day that included the presence of Britain's Prince Charles.
Mottley in a campaign speech in the community of Pie Corner on the northeast end of the island on Monday made little mention of the pandemic, focusing instead on public works carried out under her party and berating rivals' lack of leadership.
MADRID - The Spanish government will pay 250 euros ($284) a month to low-income youths to help them cut the cord in a country where more and more young adults live with their parents because they cannot afford to rent.
Housing Minister Raquel Sanchez told a news conference after the weekly Cabinet meeting on Tuesday that starting this month, Spaniards under the age of 35 and with an annual income below 24,318 euros can request the monthly subsidy to rent an apartment for two years.
The subsidy "is an important element so that housing (prices) stop being such a hurdle for youth emancipation," she said.
Spain has one of the highest shares of young people living with their parents in Europe, as many as 55% of 25-29 year-olds in 2020, according to the latest official data, up by 6.5 percentage points since 2013.
That number strongly correlates with endemically high youth unemployment in Spain, where 29% of people under 25 regis...
SKOPJE - The new premiers of Bulgaria and North Macedonia agreed on Tuesday to try to overcome problems that prompted Sofia to block the start of accession talks between the European Union and Skopje.
Dimitar Kovacevski, who was sworn in as North Macedonia's prime minister on Monday, said he and Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov had agreed at talks in Skopje to try to improve relations between their countries.
Petkov, who took office last month, said he was "a big optimist" about the chances of them achieving results.
Bulgaria refused in 2020 to approve the EU’s membership negotiation framework for North Macedonia because of disputes over history and language, but faces pressure from its Western allies in the EU https://www..com/world/europe/eu-states-reassert-membership-promise-six-balkan-states-2021-12-14 to be more flexible.
"I start my first working day as the prime minister with one of the most important issues for...
KHARTOUM - Protesters erected barricades across roads in Sudan's capital Khartoum on Tuesday and some shops and offices were shut as a two-day general strike and civil disobedience campaign began in response to demonstrators' deaths.
Neighbourhood resistance committees and political parties called the strike after seven people were killed in Khartoum on Monday in one of the deadliest days to date in a series of demonstrations against a military takeover on Oct. 25.
Protesters are demanding the military, which had been sharing power with civilian groups before the coup, quit politics completely.
"It is our duty to resist them until we are victorious or they rule an empty country after they have killed us all," the Khartoum State resistance committees said in a statement.
Police confirmed the seven deaths on Tuesday, saying they used minimum force and had faced "systematic aggression". Military leader General Abdel Fattah a...
MOSCOW - The mayor of Moscow said on Tuesday he was extending COVID-19 home-working rules and guidance to protect elderly people until April 1 as the city braces for a sharp rise in infections with the Omicron variant.
"Given the rapid and wide spread of Omicron, it is clear that the workload of outpatient clinics will increase sharply," Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.
"For clinics to cope with their increased work load, more doctors have been put on duty... We have a few difficult weeks ahead of us."
Moscow imposed rules from late October to the end of February requiring people over 60 to stay at home unless they were vaccinated or had recovered from COVID, and obliging businesses to move at least 30% of staff to remote work.
Sobyanin said he was extending the restrictions to April 1.
Omicron has pushed COVID-19 case figures to record highs in parts of western Europe and the United States but the variant has been...