France battles raging fires on Cote d’Azur

A firefighter runs with a hose as he tries to put out a fire in Biguglia, on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 25 July 2017
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France battles raging fires on Cote d’Azur

MARSEILLE, France: Thousands of firefighters battled forest fires in large areas of southeast France Tuesday, with one “extremely virulent” inferno raging near the jetset resort of Saint-Tropez, emergency services said.
The blazes have consumed 3,000 hectares (11 sq. miles) of land along the Mediterranean coast, in the mountainous hinterland and on the island of Corsica — at the height of the region’s holiday season.
Over 2,000 firefighters and 19 aircraft, including 10 Canadair water bombers, have been mobilized to quench the flames.
With strong winds and tinder dry conditions spelling danger for a second day, the government has asked its European Union partners to send two extra air tankers.
A fire in La Croix-Valmer near Saint-Tropez, a favorite resort with the rich and famous, was still “extremely virulent and difficult to control,” the regional head of security Stephane Bouillon told Europe 1 radio on Tuesday morning.
The blaze had already gutted 400 hectares of coastal forest in an area dotted with homes, he said.
In Corsica, scores of firefighters worked through the night to tamp down a wall of flames that threatened homes in the town of Biguglia in the northeast.
The blaze, which consumed 1,500 hectares of forest, engulfed a sawmill and burned several vehicles.
“It’s the apocalypse!” a local resident told AFPTV.
By Tuesday morning, the wind had abated and the situation had been brought under control.
In the Luberon, an area of hilltop villages and lavender fields in Provence, fires consumed around 800 hectares around the village of Mirabeau and a neighboring hamlet.
Around 100 homes had to be evacuated, according to officials, but by Tuesday firefighters had managed to secure residential areas.
Another blaze in Carros, north of Nice, burned a house, three vehicles and a warehouse and led to some homes being evacuated, according to regional authorities.
Speaking to France Info radio, Mayor Charles Scibetta described waking up to a “lunar landscape” and said the inhabitants had had a lucky escape.
“All of France is mobilized,” the head of the fire service in southeast France, Col. Gregory Allione told France Info, adding that extra firefighters had been drafted in from the north.
Southeast France is experiencing an exceptionally hot, dry summer that have made it especially vulnerable to fires.
In mid-July, a blaze believed to have been ignited by a cigarette butt tossed out of a car ripped through 800 hectares of land near Aix-en-Provence.


Report raises fresh doubts over Trump’s NATO commitment

Updated 16 January 2019
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Report raises fresh doubts over Trump’s NATO commitment

  • Last year, Trump repeatedly told senior officials that he did not see the point of NATO
  • Before taking office, Trump called NATO “obsolete”

WASHINGTON: Fresh doubts surfaced Tuesday over President Donald Trump’s commitment to NATO, after he was reported to have discussed a desire to pull out of the trans-Atlantic military alliance.
Last year, Trump repeatedly told senior officials that he did not see the point of NATO — the historic alliance that forms the backbone of the West’s post-World War II security order — and that he wanted to withdraw, The New York Times reported.
He has often blasted members of the 29-nation partnership for not paying more into their national defense budgets.
Before taking office, Trump called NATO “obsolete” and soon after a tumultuous summit in July, he questioned whether the US would honor the alliance’s founding principle of mutual defense for newest member Montenegro.
Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman, said the US remains “100 percent” committed to NATO.
At the summit the president said the US “commitment to NATO is very strong” and “tremendous progress has been made” by allies and partners.
“That has not changed,” Pahon said in a statement.
“NATO remains the cornerstone of transatlantic security.”
In Brussels, a NATO official also highlighted Trump’s comments from the July summit.
“The United States is strongly committed to NATO and to transatlantic security,” the official told AFP.
“The US has significantly boosted its commitment to the defense of Europe, including with increased troop commitments.”
Turning 70 this year, NATO has underpinned Western security in Europe for decades, first countering the Soviet Union and then Russian expansionism.
A US withdrawal from NATO would be a strategic gift of epic proportions to Russia, which is accused of meddling in the 2016 presidential elections to help Trump win.
Former defense secretary Jim Mattis was a staunch proponent of NATO and repeatedly visited its Brussels headquarters, where he sought to reassure allies about America’s commitment to the alliance.
But Mattis quit last month, and observers see a shrinking coterie of advisers around Trump willing to push back against him.
The US Congress, including Trump’s own Republican Party, would likely push back against any effort to withdraw from NATO.
The only country to have ever invoke Article 5, NATO’s collective defense principle, was America following the September 11, 2001 attacks.