Tensions flare as world leaders fly to G20 forum

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US President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs for travel to the G20 summit in Argentina from the White House in Washington on November 29, 2018. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
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Demonstrators play drums and shout slogans, ahead of the Group 20 summit, in Buenos Aires, Argentina on November 29, 2018. (REUTERS/Pilar Olivares)
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Demonstrators pose for a photograph ahead of the Group 20 summit, in Buenos Aires, Argentina on November 29, 2018. (REUTERS/Pilar Olivares)
Updated 30 November 2018

Tensions flare as world leaders fly to G20 forum

BUENOS AIRES: Global trade and geopolitical tensions grew at the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires even as world leaders flew into the Argentine capital for the annual summit of the biggest nations.

US President Donald Trump, en route to the summit, tweeted that he would not hold planned talks with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, as a result of the continuing confrontation between Russia and Ukraine.

“I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting,” he wrote from US Air Force One on the way to Argentina. “I look forward to a meaningful summit again as soon as this situation is resolved.”

However, Trump did nothing to tone down the rhetoric in the confrontation looming at G20 between the US and China over tariffs imposed by the two countries on each other’s products.

“Billions of dollars are pouring into the coffers of the US because of the tariffs being charged to China, and there is a long way to go,” he tweeted.

That dashed earlier reports that Trump was “very close” to a deal with China on trade, and that US officials were preparing to delay the introduction of tariffs.

Trump is due to meet with President Xi Jinping of China over dinner in Buenos Aires. Trade and finance dominated the day before official meetings begin between the 20 leaders and their invitees today. 

Marisa Bircher, Argentina’s international trade secretary, said that her country was committed to free and open trade, and would do all it could to facilitate dialogue between the US and China at the summit.

Away from the main summit center, the World Bank organized an investment forum to discuss financial issues and cross-border investment flows. Several big companies from Saudi Arabia are believed to have taken part in the event, which was held behind closed doors.

Security concerns continued to dog the summit in the buildup to the opening day. Patricia Bullrich, the Argentine security minister, said in the first of what are expected to be daily briefings that she had held talks with the leaders of social opposition groups who had been planning demonstrations, and that the security situation was under control.

Scores dead in bomb attacks across Sri Lankan capital

Updated 9 min 26 sec ago

Scores dead in bomb attacks across Sri Lankan capital

  • Attacks happened as Christians attended Easter Sunday services
  • Sri Lankan police chief warned of planned attacks by radical Muslim group on ‘prominent churches’ 10 days before deadly blasts

COLOMBO: At least 137 people, including nine foreigners, were killed in Sri Lanka on Sunday, when a string of blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches as worshippers attended Easter services.

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe condemned the blasts as “cowardly” and said the government was working to “contain the situation.”

The country’s police chief made a nationwide alert 10 days before the blasts that suicide bombers planned to hit “prominent churches,” according to the warning seen by AFP.

Police chief Pujuth Jayasundara sent an intelligence warning to top officers on April 11 setting out the threat.

“A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,” said the alert.

The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that came to notice last year when it was linked to the vandalization of Buddhist statues.

A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least 42 people were killed in Colombo, where three hotels and a church were hit.

Another 10 people were confirmed dead in the town of Batticaloa, in the east of the country, where another church was targeted.
There were also reports of casualties in a blast at a church north of the capital and the toll was expected to rise.
The nature of the blasts was not immediately clear and there were no immediate claims of responsibility.
President Maithripala Sirisena in an address said he was shocked by the explosions and appealed for calm.
Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, writing on his verified Twitter account, said the attacks had killed “many innocent people” and appeared to be a “well-coordinated attempt to create murder, mayhem & anarchy.”
The first explosions were reported at St. Anthony’s Shrine, a church in Colombo and St. Sebastian’s Church in the town of Negombo just outside the capital.
Dozens of people injured in the St. Anthony’s blast flooded into the Colombo National Hospital by mid-morning, an official told AFP.
“A bomb attack to our church, please come and help if your family members are there,” read a post in English on the Facebook page of the St. Sebastian’s Church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo.
Shortly after those blasts were reported, police confirmed three hotels in the capital had also been hit, along with a church in Batticaloa.
An official at one of the hotels, the Cinnamon Grand Hotel near the prime minister’s official residence in Colombo, told AFP that the blast had ripped through the hotel restaurant.
He said at least one person had been killed in the blast.
An official at the Batticaloa hospital told AFP more than 300 people had been admitted with injuries following the blast there.
“Emergency meeting called in a few minutes. Rescue operations underway,” Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, Harsha de Silva, said in a tweet on his verified account.
He said he had been to two of the attacked hotels and was at the scene at St. Anthony’s Shrine and described “horrible scenes.”
“I saw many body parts strewn all over,” he tweeted, adding that there were “many casualties including foreigners.”
“Please stay calm and indoors,” he added.
Photos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost blown off in the blast.
The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood.
Several people could be seen covered in blood, with some trying to help those with more serious injuries.
The images could not immediately be verified.

Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.