Italy vote campaign heats up as 5-Star takes aim at Berlusconi

In this file photo taken on January 18, 2018 in Rome Italian former Prime Minister and leader of center-right party Forza Italia (Go Italy), Silvio Berlusconi arriving to attend the TV show "Quinta Colonna", a programme of Italian channel Rete 4. (AFP)
Updated 10 February 2018
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Italy vote campaign heats up as 5-Star takes aim at Berlusconi

ROME: Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Friday he would sue the leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement for calling him “a traitor to the country,” in an increasingly bitter election campaign.
Surveys show 5-Star is the most popular party ahead of the March 4 vote, but it lags a center-right coalition led by Berlusconi's Forza Italia (Go Italy!) — the bloc with most hope of obtaining a majority in Parliament.
“I have instructed my lawyers to prepare the case,” Berlusconi said in a radio interview after 5-Star's leader Luigi Di Maio accused Forza Italia politicians of contributing to a lucrative “business” involving camps for immigrants.
Such camps have been at the center of criminal investigations for alleged corruption.
More than 600,000 migrants have arrived in Italy from north Africa by sea over the last four years, and the issue has become the main battleground of the election.
With the ruling Democratic Party (PD) lagging in the polls, 5-Star is seen as the main obstacle to a centre-right victory, and Berlusconi and Di Maio have stepped up their attacks on each other while largely ignoring PD leader Matteo Renzi.
“If Di Maio won power it would be a catastrophe, Italy would be internationally isolated and our economy would be devastated by taxes,” said Berlusconi, 81, who cannot personally run for office due to a 2013 conviction for tax fraud.
Di Maio said he was “not worried in the least" by the lawsuit and published a Facebook post listing EU treaties on fiscal and immigration policy signed or backed by Berlusconi, which he said had sold Italy short. The post was titled "Berlusconi, seven times a traitor to the country.”


Philippine President Duterte urges Beijing to ‘temper’ behavior in South China Sea

Updated 15 August 2018
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Philippine President Duterte urges Beijing to ‘temper’ behavior in South China Sea

  • China has alarmed and angered its neighbors by claiming dominion over most of the South China Sea
  • ‘You cannot create an island. It’s man-made and you say that the air above this artificial island is yours’

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has urged China to “temper” its behavior in the South China Sea in a rare criticism of the Asian superpower over its program of island-building in disputed waters.
China has alarmed and angered its neighbors by claiming dominion over most of the South China Sea and building a string of artificial islands and military air bases.
But the outspoken Duterte — keen to court trade and investment from Beijing — has mostly withheld criticism.
In a change of tone, Duterte said in a speech late Tuesday to business entrepreneurs that China had no right to claim airspace above man-made islands.
Philippine officials have claimed military pilots are repeatedly warned off by Beijing as their planes approach Philippine-held Thitu island, which lies beside a Chinese air base built on top of Subi Reef.
“You cannot create an island. It’s man-made and you say that the air above this artificial island is yours,” Duterte said, according to a transcript released by the presidential palace Wednesday.
“That is wrong because those waters are what (one) would consider international sea. And the right of innocent passage is guaranteed,” said Duterte, who did not refer to any specific incident.
He added that he did not want to “quarrel” with China.
The comments follow allegations in May of Chinese harassment of Filipino troops at another South China Sea garrison.
Duterte’s national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon told reporters at the time that the Philippines could go to war “if our people are hurt there.”
There was no immediate response from the Chinese embassy in Manila.
In May China landed several combat aircraft — including the long-range, nuclear-capable H-6K — at another island airfield in the sea for the first time, triggering international concern.
Despite this, it has denied militarizing the area, through which roughly a third of all global maritime trade passes.
An international maritime tribunal ruled early in Duterte’s presidency in 2016 that China’s claims to the area have no legal basis.
The Philippines is a military ally of the US, which says it is not taking sides in the various South China Sea territorial disputes.
However, the US navy has forcefully asserted its right to freedom of navigation in the area, repeatedly sailing close to the man-made islands and drawing Chinese protests.
Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims in the sea.