‘We will rebuild Notre-Dame together’, says France’s Macron

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The soaring spire collapsed in flames, and a church spokesman says the entire wooden interior of the 12th century landmark is burning and likely to be destroyed. (AFP)
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Smoke billows as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. (AFP)
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Smoke billows as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. (AFP)
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Smoke billows as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. (AFP)
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Flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris. (AFP)
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A fire broke out at Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris. (Social media)
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Smoke could be seen billowing out from the top of the medieval cathedral. (Social media)
Updated 16 April 2019
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‘We will rebuild Notre-Dame together’, says France’s Macron

  • City Hall spokesman said on Twitter the area was being cleared
  • Paris fire brigade say fire is "potentially linked" to the renovation work

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to rebuild Notre-Dame cathedral on Monday after a blaze devastated large parts of the gothic gem on Monday.

Smoke could be seen billowing out from the top of the medieval cathedral, as flames lept out besides its two bell towers, witnesses said, while black smoke was seen shooting from the base of the spire, which is undergoing renovation.

"Notre-Dame is our history, our literature, part of our psyche, the place of all our great events, our epidemics, our wars, our liberations, the epicentre of our lives," Macron told reporters in front of the still burning Paris landmark.

French President Emmanuel Macron postponed a televised speech to the nation because of the blaze.
"Notre-Dame is burning, and I know the sadness, and this tremor felt by so many fellow French people. But tonight, I'd like to speak of hope too," he said, announcing the launch of an fundraising campaign.
"Let's be proud, because we built this cathedral more than 800 years ago, we've built it and, throughout the centuries, let it grow and improved it. So I solemnly say tonight: we will rebuild it together," he added. 

French firefighters managed to bring the blaze under control in the early hours of Tuesday.

Fire spread rapidly through a major portion of the magnificent Gothic cathedral at the heart of Paris. The Paris mayor, Anne Hidalgo, said the fire service was currently "trying to control the flames."

The soaring spire collapsed in flames, and a church spokesman says the entire wooden interior of the 12th century landmark is burning and likely to be destroyed.

The massive fire engulfed the roof of the cathedral in the heart of the French capital as Parisians watched in horror.

Notre Dame spokesman Andre Finot told French media: "Everything is burning, nothing will remain from the frame."

The cathedral is home to incalculable works of art and is one of the world's most famous tourist attractions.

Paris is disfigured. The city will never be like it was before," said Philippe, a communications worker in his mid-30s, who had biked over after being alerted of the fire by a friend.

"It's a tragedy," he added. "If you pray, now is the time to pray."

Police were attempting to clear pedestrians away from the two islands in the river Seine, including the Ile de la Cite which houses the soaring Gothic church, one of Europe's best known landmarks.

A major operation was under way, the Parisian fire department added, while a city hall spokesman said on Twitter that the area was being cleared. Police said investigations into the cause of the fire had been opened and was still ongoing, and that no deaths or injuries had been reported.

Flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris. (AFP)

French media quoted the Paris fire brigade saying the fire is "potentially linked" to the renovation work.

Smoke billows as fire engulfs the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. (AFP)

US President Donald Trump called the blaze "horrible" and suggested the deployment of flying water tankers.

"So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!" he tweeted.


China’s Xi Jinping to visit North Korea this week ahead of G20

Updated 32 min 34 sec ago
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China’s Xi Jinping to visit North Korea this week ahead of G20

  • Xi JingPing will be in Pyongyang at the invitation of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
  • Kim Jong Un has gone to China multiple times over the past year

BEIJING: Xi Jinping will make the first trip to North Korea by a Chinese president in 14 years this week, state media said Monday, as Beijing tightens relations with Pyongyang amid tensions with the United States.
Xi will visit Pyongyang on Thursday and Friday at the invitation of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said Chinese broadcaster CCTV.
The timing is likely to raise eyebrows at the White House as it comes one week before the G20 summit in Japan, where US President Donald Trump expects to meet with Xi to discuss their protracted trade war.
Analysts say Xi could now use North Korea as leverage in talks with Trump.
China and North Korea have worked to improve relations in the past year after they deteriorated as Beijing backed a series of UN sanctions against its Cold War-era ally over its nuclear activities.
The North’s leader Kim Jong Un has traveled to China — his country’s sole major ally — four times in the past year to meet Xi.
But Xi had yet to reciprocate until now. It will be the first trip there by a Chinese president since Hu Jintao went in 2005.
“China-DPRK relations have opened a new chapter,” CCTV said, adding that Xi and Kim have reached a “series of important consensus” in past meetings.
Xi and Kim will “push for new progress” in a political resolution of the Korean peninsula issue, according to CCTV, which cited an unnamed official.
With Beijing and Washington at loggerheads over trade, China is keen to remind Trump of its influence in Pyongyang, with whom his nuclear negotiations — a point of pride for the US president, who faces an election next year — are also at a deadlock.
“The signal would be that China remains a critical stakeholder,” said Jingdong Yuan, a professor specializing in Asia-Pacific security and Chinese foreign policy at the University of Sydney.
“You cannot ignore China and China can play a very important role,” he told AFP. Xi could thus use the trip as a “bargaining chip” in the US-China trade war, he added.
According to an informed source in Pyongyang, Beijing was keen to arrange a visit to North Korea ahead of any encounter between Xi and Trump at the G20 summit — with logistics finalized only last month.
In recent days, hundreds of soldiers and workers have been sprucing up the Friendship Tower in Pyongyang, pruning bushes and replanting flowerbeds on the approaches to the monument, which commemorates the millions of Chinese troops Mao Zedong sent to save the forces of Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, from defeat during the Korean War.
A detachment of soldiers in white jackets was also seen outside the Liberation War Museum — which includes a section on the Chinese contribution — potentially indicating that it may be on Xi’s itinerary.
The office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in said it had learned about Xi’s travel plans last week.
“We hope that this visit will contribute to the early resumption of negotiations for the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula which will lead to the settlement of lasting peace on the Korean peninsula,” the Blue House said.
It will be Xi’s first trip to North Korea since taking power in 2012, though he visited the country as vice president in 2008.
In contrast, Kim Jong Un has gone to China multiple times over the past year — an unbalanced exchange that has not gone unnoticed in Pyongyang.
According to diplomatic sources in the North Korean capital, after Kim’s many trips to meet Xi, there were increasingly strong feelings in Pyongyang that the Chinese leader should reciprocate for reasons of saving face.
“From a North Korean perspective, it’s time for Chairman Xi to visit,” said John Delury, an expert on US-China relations and Korean Peninsula affairs at Yonsei University in Seoul.
“They do keep score and it’s like four to zero,” he recently told AFP. “So far, Xi has approached China-North Korea relations very much as a function of US-China relations and kind of calculated in terms of that.”
The visit also comes as negotiations between Trump and Kim have soured after a second summit in February broke up without a deal, failing to agree on what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in exchange for sanctions relief.
Since then, Kim has accused Washington of acting in “bad faith” and given it until the end of the year to change its approach.
Still, the nuclear situation is “under control for now,” said Delury.
“That creates a space, a window where Xi could make a visit without expecting like a missile test the day he leaves or something like that,” he said.