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.

Nigeria votes for a new president after delay

International and local electoral observers arrive to attend briefing by the chairman of the Nigerian Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) about preparations for the rescheduled general elections in Abuja, on February 20, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 31 min 59 sec ago

Nigeria votes for a new president after delay

  • Neither has produced evidence and the elections watchdog has worked round the clock to overcome difficulties in delivering materials, which it had blamed for the postponement

ABUJA: Nigerians vote for a new president on Saturday after a week-long delay that has raised political tempers, sparked conspiracy claims and stoked fears of violence.
Some 120,000 polling stations were due to open at 0700 GMT, from megacity Lagos and the oil hub Port Harcourt in the south, to ancient Kano in the north and the country’s rural heartlands.
Results are expected from early next week, with the winner gaining control of Africa’s most populous nation and leading oil producer for four years.
In a crowded field of 73 presidential hopefuls, the two frontrunners — incumbent Muhammadu Buhari, 76, and former vice president Atiku Abubakar, 72 — are expected to vote in their home towns.
Electors are also choosing 360 members of the House of Representatives and 109 senators from a choice of 6,500 candidates.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last Saturday announced a one-week delay to the election, just hours before it was due to get under way.
That angered voters who had already traveled to their home towns and villages to participate, and saw the main parties accuse the other of conspiring with INEC to rig the result.
Neither has produced evidence and the elections watchdog has worked round the clock to overcome difficulties in delivering materials, which it had blamed for the postponement.
INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu has given an indication of the scale of the task, announcing that more than 825,000 temporary staff had been drafted in to help conduct the vote.
More than 80,000 vehicles and nearly 1,000 boats have been hired to transport ballot papers, results and other materials to and from polling units.
“I want to reassure you that elections will be held on Saturday,” he said on Thursday. “There won’t be another postponement.”

The logistical fine-tuning, however, has been overshadowed by comments from Buhari that he had ordered security forces to be “ruthless” with vote-riggers and ballot-box snatchers.
Critics said his warning was a “license to kill” to the police and the military, while Abubakar said his comments were not fitting for an elected head of state.
Buhari has since sought to reassure voters not to be afraid, promising an “atmosphere of openness and peace, devoid of fear from threat or intimidation.”
Analysts SBM Intelligence say 233 people were killed in 67 incidents of election-related violence from last October to Friday — an average of two people per day.
The election campaign has come against a backdrop of wider violence from Boko Haram Islamists and criminal gangs in the north that have killed more than 200 people this month alone.
That could affect participation in some affected areas and combine with voter apathy from last weekend’s postponement to affect turnout, according to analysts.
Just over 84 million people were registered to vote but only 72.7 million (86 percent) of those will be allowed to vote, as they have picked up their voter identity cards.

In 2015, former military ruler Buhari became the first opposition candidate in Nigerian history to defeat a sitting president, beating Goodluck Jonathan by 2.5 million votes.
Buhari has again vowed to be tough on insecurity and corruption, and wants to complete much-needed road and rail infrastructure projects, as well as social mobility schemes.
Abubakar is a pro-business free marketeer whose main pledges have been to privatise giant state-run companies and float the embattled naira currency.
Nigerian elections have previously been characterised by voting along ethnic and religious lines.
But with Buhari and Abubakar both northern Muslims, that could split the northern vote, making southern states a key battleground.
Opponents have accused Buhari of trying to manipulate the judiciary that would rule on any dispute about the results, after he suspended the country’s chief justice this month.
Nigeria’s Business Day newspaper on Friday said whoever wins has to repair a “broken economy” limping back from recession, and hit by high unemployment, inflation and weak growth.
Some 87 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty, with the gulf between haves and have-nots widening.