‘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.


US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

Updated 19 April 2019
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US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

  • A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend
  • The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group

KABUL: The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan expressed disappointment on Friday after the collapse of a planned meeting between the Taliban and a group of Afghan politicians in Qatar that exposed some of the deep divisions hampering efforts to end the war.
A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group, which included some government officials attending in a personal capacity.
“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”
The collapse of the meeting before it had even started, described as a “fiasco” by one senior Western official, laid bare the tensions that have hampered moves toward opening formal peace negotiations.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat, has held a series of meetings with Taliban representatives but the insurgents have so far refused to talk to the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.
The Doha meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan state created after the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. A similar encounter was held in Moscow in February.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office blamed Qatari authorities for the cancelation, saying they had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, “which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.”
“This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Sultan Barakat, director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar, which had been facilitating the meeting, said there was no disagreement about the agenda.
“Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success,” he tweeted.
Preparations had already been undermined by disagreements on the government side about who should attend, as well as by suspicions among rival politicians ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Taliban derided the agreed list of 250 participants as a “wedding party.” Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend.
The Taliban also objected to Ghani’s comments to a meeting of delegates that they would be representing the Afghan nation and the Afghan government, a statement that went against the insurgents’ refusal to deal with the Kabul administration.