Lithuania’s President Nauseda re-elected in vote marked by Russia fears

Lithuania’s President Nauseda re-elected in vote marked by Russia fears
Lithuania's President Gitanas Nauseda celebrates in Vilnius late Sunday after being re-elected in a vote dominated by fears over Russian aggression. (AP)
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Updated 27 May 2024
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Lithuania’s President Nauseda re-elected in vote marked by Russia fears

Lithuania’s President Nauseda re-elected in vote marked by Russia fears
  • Electoral commission count showed that Nauseda won 76 percent of votes with 80 percent of ballots counted after polls closed
  • Electoral commission count showed that Nauseda won 76 percent of votes with 80 percent of ballots counted after polls closed

VILNIUS: Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda won re-election on Sunday in a vote marked by defense concerns over neighboring Russia, official results showed.

The count published by the electoral commission showed that Nauseda won 76 percent of votes with 80 percent of ballots counted after polls closed in the second-round vote.
Voters “have handed me a great mandate of trust and I am well aware that I will have to cherish this,” Nauseda, 60, told journalists in Vilnius.
“Now that I have five years of experience, I believe that I will certainly be able to use this jewel properly, first of all to achieve the goals of welfare for all the people of Lithuania,” he said.
His opponent, Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, conceded defeat in comments to reporters and congratulated Nauseda.
The Lithuanian president steers defense and foreign policy, attending EU and NATO summits, but must consult with the government and parliament on appointing the most senior officials.
While the candidates agree on defense, they share diverging views on Lithuania’s relations with China, which have been strained for years over Taiwan.
Both candidates agree that the NATO and EU member of 2.8 million people should boost defense spending to counter the perceived threat from Russia, and to that end the government recently proposed a tax increase.

Vilnius fears it could be next in the crosshairs if Moscow were to win its war against Ukraine.
Lithuania is a significant donor to Ukraine, which has been battling Russia since the 2022 invasion. It is already a big defense spender, with a military budget equal to 2.75 percent of GDP.
It intends to purchase tanks and additional air defense systems, and to host a German brigade, as Berlin plans to complete the stationing of around 5,000 troops by 2027.
Pensioner Ausra Vysniauskiene said she voted for Nauseda.
“He’s an intelligent man, he speaks many languages, he’s educated, he’s a banker,” the 67-year-old told AFP.
“I want men to lead, especially when the threat of war is so big.”

Simonyte, the 49-year-old candidate of the ruling conservatives, was running for president again after losing to Nauseda in the last presidential ballot.
The uneasy relationship between Nauseda and Simonyte’s conservatives has at times triggered foreign policy debates, most notably on Lithuania’s relations with China.
Bilateral ties turned tense in 2021, when Vilnius allowed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy under the island’s name — a departure from the common diplomatic practice of using the name of the capital Taipei to avoid angering Beijing.
China, which considers self-ruled Taiwan a part of its territory, downgraded diplomatic relations with Vilnius and blocked its exports, leading some Lithuanian politicians to urge a restoration of relations for the sake of the economy.
Nauseda sees the need to change the name of the representative office, while Simonyte pushed back against it.

But voters also cited personal differences between the candidates, as well as economic policy and human rights.
Simonyte drew support from liberal voters in bigger cities and traditional conservative voters.
A fiscal conservative with liberal views on social issues, she notably supports same-sex partnerships, a controversial issue in the predominantly Catholic country.
“I would like to see faster progress, more openness... more tolerance for people who are different from us,” she said when casting an early vote.
Nauseda, who maintains a moderate stance on nearly all issues, has established himself as a promoter of the welfare state, with conservative views on gay rights.
 


UK migrant boat crossings hit 19-month high, adding to pressure on Sunak

UK migrant boat crossings hit 19-month high, adding to pressure on Sunak
Updated 4 sec ago
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UK migrant boat crossings hit 19-month high, adding to pressure on Sunak

UK migrant boat crossings hit 19-month high, adding to pressure on Sunak
  • Provisional data from Britain’s interior ministry showed 882 migrants arrived on Tuesday, taking the yearly total so far to above 12,300
LONDON: More than 800 asylum seekers arrived in Britain via small boats on Tuesday, the highest single-day figure since late 2022, adding to pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ahead of a July 4 national election.
Provisional data from Britain’s interior ministry showed 882 migrants arrived on Tuesday, taking the yearly total so far to above 12,300. The daily figure was last higher in November 2022, when 947 migrants arrived in a single day.
Trailing far behind the opposition Labour party in opinion polls, and with immigration a major concern for some voters, “stopping the boats” and curbing illegal migration has been one of Sunak’s flagship pledges.
The centerpiece of Sunak’s immigration policy is a plan to deport asylum seekers from Britain to Rwanda and create a deterrent for migrants using small boats to cross from France.
But, because he calling the election earlier than many expected, that plan has yet to come into effect.
The opposition Labour Party, which is about 20 points ahead in opinion polls, has said it would scrap the Rwanda policy if it comes to power.
Instead, its proposed solution is to create a Border Security Command that would bring together staff from the police, the domestic intelligence agency and prosecutors to work with international agencies to stop people smuggling.

Nigeria warns over cholera outbreak that kills 30

Nigeria warns over cholera outbreak that kills 30
Updated 35 min 9 sec ago
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Nigeria warns over cholera outbreak that kills 30

Nigeria warns over cholera outbreak that kills 30
  • Cholera is an acute intestinal infection that spreads through contaminated food and water
  • In 2021, an epidemic killed more than 2,300 people, especially children under the age of 14

LAGOS: Nigerian health officials are issuing warnings over a cholera outbreak that has killed at least 30 people, many of them in the commercial capital Lagos, since the start of the year.
Cholera is an acute intestinal infection that spreads through contaminated food and water. It typically causes severe diarrhea, vomiting and muscle cramps — and sometimes death.
Lagos State health officials reported 15 deaths so far and 350 suspected cases, according to a statement on X, formerly Twitter this week.
Lagos Water Corporation warned against consuming water from unreliable or untreated courses.
“According to the Lagos State Ministry of Health, the primary cause of the cholera outbreak has been linked to the consumption of contaminated water and inadequate sanitation,” it said in a statement.
Last week, the Nigerian Center for Disease Control and Prevention alerted the public of the increasing trend in cases of the disease across the country as the rainy season intensifies.
The agency said 30 people had died since the start of the year. An outbreak killed 128 people with more than 3,600 suspected cases across Africa’s most populous country last year compared to two deaths in 2022.
Nigeria is particularly vulnerable to cholera outbreaks.
In 2021, an epidemic killed more than 2,300 people, especially children under the age of 14, according to health authorities.


Deadly fire at army ammo depot in Chad’s capital

Deadly fire at army ammo depot in Chad’s capital
Updated 19 June 2024
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Deadly fire at army ammo depot in Chad’s capital

Deadly fire at army ammo depot in Chad’s capital
  • President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno said people had been killed and wounded in the blaze, without giving precise figures

N’DJAMENA: A deadly fire erupted at a huge military ammunition depot in Chad’s capital N’Djamena, sending powerful explosions into the night sky and shaking buildings miles from the blast.
The explosions from the late Tuesday blaze turned the sky red and could be heard miles away as ordnance fired off in the flames at regular intervals, according to AFP journalists and witnesses on the scene.
President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno said people had been killed and wounded in the blaze, without giving precise figures.
“Peace to the souls of the victims, sincere condolences to the grieving families and a speedy recovery to the wounded,” Deby wrote on Facebook, promising to open an investigation into the fire.
The sky burst into flames above the Goudji area, where the army’s largest depot of ammunition is located, for several hours before tapering off and finally ceasing after midnight.
The explosions shook buildings as far as seven kilometers (four miles) away and the flames were visible for miles.
“The roof of our house was blown off by one of the explosions,” said resident Kadidja Dakou, who lives in the Amsinene area near Goudji.
The 36-year-old and her three children took refuge in the street alongside their neighbors, for fear their houses would collapse, she said by phone.
Authorities had cordoned off the area with a heavy security presence, where thick red smoke hung in the air long after the blasts stopped.
Foreign Minister Abderaman Koulamallah, who is also the government spokesman, said on Facebook that there were “huge explosions” at the site and urged the population to keep calm.
There are multiple homes in the neighborhood that is the site of the depot, which sits near the international airport and a base where French troops are stationed.
The blaze “caused explosions of ammunition of all calibres,” an official with the French forces said on condition of anonymity.
“For the moment, no French military personnel have been wounded,” he said.
Chad’s president officially won 61 percent of a May 6 vote that international NGOs said was neither credible nor free and which his main rival called a “masquerade.”
Deby was proclaimed transitional president in April 2021 by a junta of 15 generals after his father, president Idriss Deby Itno, was shot dead by rebels following 30 years in power.
Chad, one of the world’s poorest nations, is considered vital in the fight to stop the march of jihadists through the Sahel region.


Pope offers prayers for ‘noble, courageous’ Chinese people

Pope offers prayers for ‘noble, courageous’ Chinese people
Updated 19 June 2024
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Pope offers prayers for ‘noble, courageous’ Chinese people

Pope offers prayers for ‘noble, courageous’ Chinese people
  • Relations with communist China have historically been fraught
  • The Vatican’s overtures to China are controversial, as critics see them as a form of appeasement

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Wednesday called for prayers for the Chinese people, in unscripted remarks coming amid the Vatican’s desire to upgrade its relations with Beijing.
Relations with communist China have historically been fraught, but Francis has made it a priority to normalize them, building on a landmark 2018 pact on appointing bishops.
“This also makes me think about the beloved Chinese people: let us always pray for this noble and very courageous people who have such a beautiful culture,” the pope said.
Francis spoke during his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square, adding to pre-written remarks as he greeted an association that honors a late Vatican envoy to Beijing.
The Vatican’s overtures to China are controversial, as critics see them as a form of appeasement toward a country accused of trampling on religious freedom and human rights.
Beijing has been following a policy of “Sinicization” of religion, trying to root out foreign influences and enforce obedience to the Communist Party.
There are an estimated 10 to 12 million Catholics in China. (Reporting by Alvise Armellini, editing by Alex Richardson)


US lawmakers meet with Dalai Lama in India’s Dharamshala, sparking anger from China

US lawmakers meet with Dalai Lama in India’s Dharamshala, sparking anger from China
Updated 19 June 2024
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US lawmakers meet with Dalai Lama in India’s Dharamshala, sparking anger from China

US lawmakers meet with Dalai Lama in India’s Dharamshala, sparking anger from China
  • Relations deteriorated even more following the COVID-19 pandemic and the rising military tensions in the South China Sea and in the Taiwan Strait
  • The Dalai Lama denies being a separatist and says he only advocates substantial autonomy and protection of Tibet’s native Buddhist culture

DHARAMSHALA, India: A bipartisan United States congressional delegation met with the Dalai Lama Wednesday at his residence in India’s Dharamshala, sparking anger from China which views the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism as a dangerous separatist.
This comes as Washington and Beijing have recently restarted talks after several years of turmoil that began after the imposition of tariffs on Chinese goods under the Trump administration. Relations deteriorated even more following the COVID-19 pandemic and the rising military tensions in the South China Sea and in the Taiwan Strait.
The high-level delegation, led by Republican Rep. Michael McCaul and including Democratic former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, arrived Tuesday at the hillside town, which the Nobel Peace Prize laureate has made his headquarters since fleeing from Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. There, they met with officials from the Tibetan government-in-exile, which wants more autonomy for Tibet.
Beijing doesn’t recognize the exiled administration and hasn’t held any dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama since 2010.
After meeting the spiritual leader on Wednesday, the seven US lawmakers addressed hundreds who had gathered at a monastery just outside the 88-year-old Dalai Lama’s residence, waving American and Tibetan flags.
They told the crowd that a key focus of their visit was to underscore the Resolve Tibet Act, passed by the US Congress last week, and aims to encourage dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Chinese officials with the hopes of finding a peaceful resolution between Tibet and Beijing. The bill should now be sent to the White House to be signed into law by President Joe Biden.
The bill is “a message to the Chinese government that we have clarity in our thinking and our understanding of this issue of the freedom of Tibet,” Pelosi said, eliciting applause.
McCaul, the Republican representative, said the bill reaffirms American support for the Tibetan right to self-determination. “Just this week our delegation received a letter from the Chinese Communist Party, warning us not to come here... but we did not let the CCP intimidate us for we are here today,” he said as people cheered.
However, the visit and newly passed bill have triggered swift backlash from Beijing.
Lin Jian, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, urged Washington on Tuesday not to support Tibetan independence and said the White House “must not sign the bill into law,” or China will take “resolute measures,” without elaborating on what these measures may be.
“It’s known by all that the 14th Dalai Lama is not a purely religious figure, but a political exile engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the cloak of religion,” Lin added, urging the US side to “have no contact with the Dalai group in any form, and stop sending the wrong signal to the world.”
The Dalai Lama denies being a separatist and says he only advocates substantial autonomy and protection of Tibet’s native Buddhist culture.
The Tibetan spiritual leader has a history of engaging with US officials, including meeting American presidents — from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama — except for Donald Trump. He has yet to meet Biden since he took office in 2021.
The Dalai Lama is expected to travel to the US on Thursday for medical treatment on his knees, but it is unclear if he will meet any officials while there.
Meanwhile, Beijing has repeatedly asked the US not to interfere with Tibetan affairs and has argued that the people of Tibet have enjoyed social stability and economic growth under its rule.
While India considers Tibet to be part of China, it hosts Tibetan exiles.