Senegalese prime minister criticizes French military bases on territory

Senegalese prime minister criticizes French military bases on territory
Senegal's Prime Minister Ousmane Sonko speaks during a conference with Jean-Luc Melenchon, the French politician and leader of the left-wing party La France Insoumise, at the Cheikh Anta Diop University, in Dakar, Senegal, on May 16, 2024. (REUTERS)
Short Url
Updated 17 May 2024
Follow

Senegalese prime minister criticizes French military bases on territory

Senegalese prime minister criticizes French military bases on territory
  • “I reiterate here the desire of Senegal to have its own control, which is incompatible with the lasting presence of foreign military bases in Senegal," PM Sonko said
  • Neighbours Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger have pushed out French troops and turned to Russia for help fighting jihadist insurgencies on their territory

DAKAR: Senegal’s prime minister Ousmane Sonko raised the possibility of closing French military bases in the West African country on Thursday in a wide-ranging speech that also touched on the euro-backed CFA franc currency, oil and gas deals and LGBTQ rights.

Sonko, a firebrand politician who gained power when his hand-picked presidential candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye won a decisive victory in March, is known for criticizing perceived overreach by France in its former colony.
France has about 350 troops in Senegal.
“More than 60 years after our independence ... we must question the reasons why the French army for example still benefits from several military bases in our country and the impact of this presence on our national sovereignty and our strategic autonomy,” Sonko said at a joint conference with the French left-wing politician Jean-Luc Melenchon in the capital Dakar.
“I reiterate here the desire of Senegal to have its own control, which is incompatible with the lasting presence of foreign military bases in Senegal ... Many countries have promised defense agreements, but this does not justify the fact that a third of the Dakar region is now occupied by foreign garrisons.”
Neighbours Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger have pushed out French troops and turned to Russia for help fighting jihadist insurgencies on their territory.
They have also turned away from West African bloc ECOWAS — which condemned their coups — and formed their own alliance of Sahel states.
But Sonko had friendly words for them on Thursday.
“We will not let go of our brothers in the Sahel and we will do everything necessary to strengthen the ties,” he said.
He also said Senegal, which shares the euro-pegged CFA franc currency with seven countries, would like a flexible currency pegged to at least two currencies to help absorb shocks and support export competitiveness.
During the election campaign, Faye had initially pledged to abandon the CFA franc but later backed off his promise.
Sonko reiterated promises to renegotiate oil and gas contracts in Senegal, where production is due to begin this year.
He also called on Western countries to show “restraint, respect, reciprocity and tolerance” on social matters including LGBTQ rights and gender equality.
He said homosexuality had always existed in Senegal, but the country had “managed” it and would continue to do so according to its socio-cultural realities.
“Senegal and many other African countries cannot accept any truth in legalizing this phenomenon.”


China Premier Li starts Australia trip with Adelaide panda announcement, winery visit

China Premier Li starts Australia trip with Adelaide panda announcement, winery visit
Updated 7 sec ago
Follow

China Premier Li starts Australia trip with Adelaide panda announcement, winery visit

China Premier Li starts Australia trip with Adelaide panda announcement, winery visit
  • Li Qiang, China’s second-highest ranked official and the first Chinese premier to visit Australia in seven years
  • The pandas at Adelaide’s zoo would return to China in November and it would get to select two new giant pandas
China Premier Li Qiang made a low-key start on Sunday to a four-day trip to Australia with visits to a South Australian winery and Adelaide Zoo, where he announced Beijing would provide two new pandas after the current pair go home later this year.
Li, China’s second-highest ranked official and the first Chinese premier to visit Australia in seven years, is due to meet Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Monday. He arrived in the South Australia state capital late on Saturday, saying bilateral relations were “back on track.”
China, Australia’s largest trade partner, imposed restrictions on a raft of Australian agricultural and mineral exports in 2020 during a diplomatic dispute that has now largely eased.
On Sunday, Li’s first official stop was to visit a pair of pandas on loan from China to Adelaide’s zoo, where Australian Broadcasting Corp. television showed crowds gathered, some waving Chinese flags, while others held signs that read “No more panda propaganda.”
At the zoo, Li announced the pandas would return to China in November and the zoo would get to select two new giant pandas, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.
The pandas had “become envoys of friendship between China and Australia, and a symbol of the profound friendship between the two peoples,” Li said, according to a statement from the Chinese embassy.
“China is ready to continue with the cooperative research with Australia on the conservation of giant pandas, and hopes that Australia will continue to be an amicable home for giant pandas,” Li added.
The pandas, Fu Ni and Wang Wang, have been at the zoo since 2009 but have not successfully bred, the ABC reported.
Li later attended an event with South Australia wine exporters, who until recently have been shut out of the Chinese market in a dispute that suspended A$20 billion ($13 billion) in Australian agriculture and mineral exports last year.
Speaking at the winery in the Adelaide suburb of Magill, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the venue was chosen “because of course one of the impediments that has been removed is the export of Australian wine and we welcome that.”
Earlier on Sunday, Wong said Li’s visit was “really important” in showing stabilized ties between the two major trading partners.
“It comes after two years of very deliberate, very patient work by this government to bring about a stabilization of the relationship,” Wong told the ABC.
On the pandas, Wong, who lives in Adelaide, said the animals “have been a great part of the lives of many Adelaide families.”
On Monday, Li will visit the capital Canberra for a meeting with Albanese.
During the talks, the prime minister is expected to bring up the case of Australian writer Yang Hengjun who was given a suspended death sentence on espionage charges in February, as well as an incident last month where a Chinese military jet dropped flares near an Australian defense helicopter.
Li’s final stop on Tuesday will be in resource-rich mining state Western Australia. Australia is the biggest supplier of iron ore to China, which has been an investor in Australian mining projects, though some recent Chinese investment in critical minerals has been blocked by Australia on national interest grounds.
Li arrived from New Zealand, where he highlighted Chinese demand for its agricultural products.
Canberra and Wellington are seeking to balance trade with regional security concerns over China’s ambitions in the Pacific Islands and on issues including human rights the contested South China Sea.

Wildfire north of Los Angeles spreads as authorities issue evacuation orders

Wildfire north of Los Angeles spreads as authorities issue evacuation orders
Updated 12 min 3 sec ago
Follow

Wildfire north of Los Angeles spreads as authorities issue evacuation orders

Wildfire north of Los Angeles spreads as authorities issue evacuation orders
  • The blaze that is being called the Post Fire burned more than 14.5 square kilometers near the Interstate 5 freeway in Gorman

GORMAN, California: Authorities issued evacuation orders Saturday as a wildfire in Los Angeles County spread thousands of acres close to a major highway and threatened nearby structures, officials said.
The blaze that is being called the Post Fire burned more than 14.5 square kilometers near the Interstate 5 freeway in Gorman, which is about 100 kilometers northwest of Los Angeles, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The flames broke out at around 1:45 p.m., authorities said.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the evacuations, whether there were injuries reported and the latest size of the blaze. An investigation is ongoing.


Biden slams Supreme Court at $28 million fundraiser with Obama, Clooney, Julia Roberts

Biden slams Supreme Court at $28 million fundraiser with Obama, Clooney, Julia Roberts
Updated 34 min 34 sec ago
Follow

Biden slams Supreme Court at $28 million fundraiser with Obama, Clooney, Julia Roberts

Biden slams Supreme Court at $28 million fundraiser with Obama, Clooney, Julia Roberts
  • US President Joe Biden: ‘The Supreme Court has never been as out of kilter as it is today’
  • ‘The fact of the matter is that there has never been a court that is this far out of step’

LOS ANGELES: President Joe Biden slammed the US Supreme Court as “out of kilter” at a glitzy fundraiser in Los Angeles on Saturday with former President Barack Obama and top Hollywood celebrities that has raised $28 million.

Late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel began by showing a video montage contrasting Biden’s record with that of his predecessor and current Republican challenger Donald Trump. He drew cheers from the audience at a packed Peacock Theater in downtown Los Angeles, where Hollywood celebrities George Clooney and Julia Roberts were among the guests.

Biden, a Democrat who has frequently denounced specific decisions but resisted a full-throated attack on the court itself, said on Saturday “the Supreme Court has never been as out of kilter as it is today.”

“The fact of the matter is that there has never been a court that is this far out of step,” Biden said. He noted that conservative Justice Clarence Thomas had said the court, which overturned the half-century-old federal right to abortion, should reconsider such things as in vitro fertilization and contraception.

Trump nominated three of the six conservatives who control the nine-member court. He and Biden are in a tight rematch race for the Nov. 5 election.

If Trump is elected again, Biden said, he “is likely to have two new Supreme Court nominees.”

“The idea that if he’s reelected, he’s going to appoint two more who are flying flags upside down... I think it is one of the scariest parts,” Biden said.

He was referring to a recent controversy involving Justice Samuel Alito, who allowed flags associated with the movement to reverse Trump’s 2020 loss to Biden — including an upside-down American flag — to fly outside his homes in Virginia and New Jersey.

Democratic lawmakers, citing the flag displays, have said Alito should recuse himself from a case involving Trump’s claim of presidential immunity from prosecution on federal criminal charges relating to his efforts to overturn the 2020 results.

Since Biden took office, the court’s conservative majority has also restricted affirmative action, gay rights, gun control and environmental regulation. It has blocked the president’s agenda on immigration, student loans, vaccine mandates and climate change.

Obama said “the power of the Supreme Court is determined by elections. What we’re seeing now is a byproduct of 2016” when Trump was elected. “Hopefully we have learned our lesson. Because these elections matter.”

‘LARGEST DEMOCRATIC FUNDRAISER’

The Biden campaign hoped the star-studded event would display strength and momentum despite Biden’s low approval ratings and concerns about the age of the president, who is 81.

“This will be one of the biggest fundraisers we’ve had,” said Ajay Jain Bhutoria, deputy finance chair at the Democratic National Committee. A Biden campaign spokeswoman said “$28 million heading into President Biden’s LA fundraiser — and counting. This is the largest Democratic fundraiser in history.”

The Biden campaign outraised the $26 million a March fundraiser in New York City generated where comedian and TV host Stephen Colbert hosted Biden, Obama and former President Bill Clinton. The top-ticket package for the LA event costs $500,000, campaign officials said.

Other celebrities who took the stage at the Saturday event included Jack Black, Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn and Sheryl Lee Ralph.

In recent weeks, Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame made a White House briefing room appearance to praise the president, Robert De Niro showed up in lower Manhattan for a press conference at the Biden campaign’s behest and Steven Spielberg has been helping the Biden campaign with storytelling.

Actor Michael Douglas held a fundraiser for the president and artists Queen Latifah, Lenny Kravitz, Lizzo, James Taylor, Christina Aguilera and Barbra Streisand have all performed to help Biden raise money.

Biden campaign’s fundraising in April lagged Trump’s for the first time, after the former president ramped up his joint operation with the Republican National Committee and headlined high-dollar fundraisers.

Democrats still maintained an overall cash advantage over Trump and the Biden campaign continues to have a considerably larger war chest.

Biden and Trump are tied in national polls with less than five months to go before the election, while Trump has the edge in the battleground states that will decide the election, recent polls show. On economic issues like inflation, Trump scores higher with voters overall than Biden.

Democrats have long counted on the liberal Los Angeles area as a rich source of financial backing. Republicans often decry Democrats nationwide as funded by Hollywood elites and California liberals.

But the state’s donors bankroll presidential campaigns on both sides of the aisle. Biden and Trump have both raised more in the state for their reelection bids than anywhere else, according to fundraising disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Biden raised $24 million through April 30 in California, and Trump $11.7 million, according to the Federal Election Commission.

The president was largely unable to host high-dollar Hollywood fundraisers for much of 2023 because of industry strikes. But since they were resolved, Biden has headlined several fundraisers in the state, including one in December where top tickets approached $1 million.


Trump challenges Biden to a cognitive test but confuses the name of the doctor who tested him

Trump challenges Biden to a cognitive test but confuses the name of the doctor who tested him
Updated 16 June 2024
Follow

Trump challenges Biden to a cognitive test but confuses the name of the doctor who tested him

Trump challenges Biden to a cognitive test but confuses the name of the doctor who tested him
  • "Does everyone know Ronny Johnson, congressman from Texas?" asked Trump, referring to former White House doctor Ronny Jackson
  • Trump went on to make fun of a tampered video showing Biden stepping away from G7 leaders, turning his back and walking in the other direction

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump on Saturday night suggested President Joe Biden “should have to take a cognitive test,” only to confuse who administered the test to him in the next sentence.

The former president and presumptive Republican nominee referred to Texas Republican Rep. Ronny Jackson, who was the White House physician for part of his presidency, as “Ronny Johnson.” The moment came as Trump was questioning Biden’s mental acuity, something he often does on the campaign trail and social media.
“He doesn’t even know what the word ‘inflation’ means. I think he should take a cognitive test like I did,” the former president said of Biden during a speech at a convention of Turning Point Action in Detroit.
Seconds later, he continued, “Doc Ronny Johnson. Does everyone know Ronny Johnson, congressman from Texas? He was the White House doctor, and he said I was the healthiest president, he feels, in history, so I liked him very much indeed immediately.”
Jackson was elected to Congress in 2021 and is one of Trump’s most vociferous defenders on Capitol Hill.
Trump, who turned 78 on Friday, has made questioning whether the 81-year-old Biden is up for a second term a centerpiece of his campaign. But online critics quickly seized on his Saturday night gaffe, with the Biden campaign — which has long fought off criticism about the Democratic president’s verbal missteps — posting a clip of the moment minutes later.
Trump took the cognitive test in 2018 at his own request, Jackson told reporters at the time. The exam is designed to detect early signs of memory loss and other mild cognitive impairment.
The Montreal Cognitive Assessment that Trump took includes remembering a list of spoken words; listening to a list of random numbers and repeating them backward; naming as many words that begin with, say, the letter F as possible within a minute; accurately drawing a cube; and describing concrete ways that two objects — like a train and a bicycle — are alike.
Trump later said that he had to remember and accurately recite a list of words in order: “Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.”
During the same speech in Detroit, Trump also referenced a video clip widely circulated online in Republican circles where Biden is seen during the recently concluded Group of Seven summit in Italy watching skydivers land with flags from different nations.
A cropped version of the video shows Biden stepping away from the leaders, turning his back and walking in the other direction. He flashes a thumbs-up but it’s not clear who he is gesturing to. A more complete angle of the same scene, however, shows that the president had turned to face a skydiver who has landed.
Trump nonetheless seized on the video clip, falsely describing Biden turning around “to look at trees,” drawing laughter and hoots from the crowd.
The Biden campaign issued a statement dismissing the clip as misleadingly cropped and accusing those disseminating it as “tampering with the video to make up lies.”


Ukraine conference draft communique calls out Russia’s war on Ukraine

Ukraine conference draft communique calls out Russia’s war on Ukraine
Updated 16 June 2024
Follow

Ukraine conference draft communique calls out Russia’s war on Ukraine

Ukraine conference draft communique calls out Russia’s war on Ukraine
  • Absence of China, Russia seen limiting potential impact
  • Putin outlines conditions to end war on eve of gathering

BUERGENSTOCK, Switzerland: A draft communique for a summit of world leaders convened to pursue a pathway for peace in Ukraine makes reference to Russia’s “war” against Kyiv and urges that Ukraine’s territorial integrity be respected, according to a copy of the document seen by Reuters.
The final communique is due to be issued on Sunday at the conclusion of the two-day conference at the Buergenstock resort in central Switzerland. The draft was dated June 13.
The Swiss government has said it hopes the final summit declaration will be supported unanimously by participants. The document tracked certain changes made to the draft.
The document also calls for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to be restored to Ukrainian control and for Kyiv’s access to its Azov sea ports to be safeguarded.

More than 90 countries are taking part in the conference, but China’s absence in particular dimmed hopes the summit would show Russia as globally isolated, while recent military reverses have put Kyiv on the back foot.

China has shunned the summit and it was dismissed as a waste of time by Russia, which pushed its own rival ceasefire plans from afar.

The war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas has also diverted the world’s attention from Ukraine.
The talks focused on broader concerns triggered by the war, such as food and nuclear security. But Turkiye and Saudi Arabia, both mooted hosts for another such event, said meaningful progress required Russia’s participation.
A draft of a final summit declaration, seen by Reuters, blames Russia’s “war” in Ukraine for causing “large-scale human suffering and destruction” and urges Ukraine’s territorial integrity to be respected.
The document, dated June 13, also calls for Kyiv to regain control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and access to its sea ports. The draft had deleted an earlier reference to Russian “aggression” where “war” is cited.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky trumpeted the summit’s attendance as a success and predicted “history being made.”
“Today is the day when the world begins to bring a just peace closer,” he told leaders assembled around a giant rectangular table.
US President Joe Biden sent his deputy Kamala Harris to represent him — a decision that had riled Kyiv.
Harris announced more than $1.5 billion in energy and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, where infrastructure has been pounded by Russian airstrikes since the 2022 full-scale invasion.
On the eve of the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would end the war if Kyiv agreed to drop its NATO ambitions and hand over four provinces claimed by Moscow. The conditions apparently reflected Moscow’s growing confidence its forces have the upper hand.
But they were swiftly rejected by Ukraine and its allies.
“He’s calling for surrender,” Harris said, adding: “Let nothing about the end of this war be decided without Ukraine.”
“Freezing the conflict today, with foreign troops occupying Ukrainian land, is not the answer. It is a recipe for future wars of aggression,” added European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

China and Russia
China said it would boycott the event after Russia was frozen out of the process, with the US suggesting Beijing’s decision was taken at Moscow’s behest.
“Putin has no interest in a genuine peace,” said British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
“He has launched a sustained diplomatic campaign against this summit ordering countries to stay away, spinning a phoney narrative about his willingness to negotiate.”
Avoiding some of the most difficult issues, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz compared the summit to “a small plant that needs watering, nurturing and delicate care” that would yield results further down the line.
But countries including Turkiye, Saudi Arabia and Kenya noted Russia’s absence as a hurdle.
“I must also note that this summit could have been more result-oriented if the other party to the conflict, Russia, was present in the room,” said Turkiye’s foreign minister, Hakan Fidan.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said credible talks would involve “difficult compromise.”
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer saw an opportunity to start building a broader global consensus to pressure Russia.
“It’s like we’re in a Western echo chamber. That is: all Western European countries, the USA, we agree on what we want to happen with Ukraine,” Nehammer said. “But that alone is not enough.”
Calls for Russia to be at the table will only get stronger over time, said Bob Deen, senior research fellow at the Netherlands-based Clingendael Institute think-tank.
“There is a risk that if Ukraine waits too long, it might end up with rival formats popping up. It may risk losing the initiative,” Deen told a forum on the summit’s sidelines.
Supporters of Ukraine marked the talks with a series of events in the nearby city of Lucerne to draw attention to the war’s humanitarian costs.
Dozens of Ukrainian refugees from choirs around Switzerland converged in a public square to sing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”
Earlier about 250 people gathered in the center of the city, many wrapped in Ukrainian flags, wearing traditional clothes and carrying pictures of missing brothers, husbands or sons as they shared their stories.
“I’m clinging to the idea that my husband is still alive,” said Svitlana Bilous, the wife of a soldier who has been missing for more than 14 months. “That’s what keeps me going.”