China hosts Arab leaders at forum aimed at deepening ties

China hosts Arab leaders at forum aimed at deepening ties
President Xi Jinping, center, is set to deliver a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the cooperation forum between China and Arab states. (Reuters)
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Updated 29 May 2024
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China hosts Arab leaders at forum aimed at deepening ties

China hosts Arab leaders at forum aimed at deepening ties
  • Beijing has sought to build closer ties with Arab states in recent years
  • Last year it brokered a detente between Iran and Saudi Arabia

BEIJING: China on Wednesday hosts a litany of Arab dignitaries and diplomats ahead of a forum Beijing hopes will deepen ties with the region and present a “common voice” on the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Beijing has sought to build closer ties with Arab states in recent years, and last year brokered a detente between Tehran and its long-time foe Saudi Arabia.
It has also historically been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and supportive of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
And Beijing last month hosted rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah for “in-depth and candid talks on promoting intra-Palestinian reconciliation.”
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, as well as a host of other regional leaders and diplomats, are among the delegates attending the forum.
President Xi Jinping is set to deliver a keynote speech at the opening ceremony on Thursday, Beijing has said, aimed at building “common consensus” between China and Arab states.
Top of the agenda will be the war between Israel and Hamas, which Xi has called for an “international peace conference” to resolve.
China sees a “strategic opportunity to boost its reputation and standing in the Arab world” by framing its efforts to end that conflict against US inaction, Ahmed Aboudouh, an associate fellow with the Chatham House Middle East and North Africa Programme, said.
“This, in turn, serves Beijing’s focus on undermining the US’s credibility and influence in the region,” he said.
“The longer the war, the easier for China to pursue this objective,” he added.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with counterparts from Yemen and Sudan in Beijing, saying he hoped to “strengthen solidarity and coordination” with the Arab world.
He also raised China’s concerns over disruptive attacks on Red Sea shipping by Iran-backed Houthi forces acting in solidarity with Hamas with his Yemeni counterpart Shayea Mohsen Al-Zindani.
“China calls for an end to the harassment of civilian vessels and to ensure the safety of waterways in the Red Sea,” state news agency Xinhua quoted him as saying.


Rwandans vote ‘smoothly’ in election expected to extend Kagame’s rule

Rwandans vote ‘smoothly’ in election expected to extend Kagame’s rule
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Rwandans vote ‘smoothly’ in election expected to extend Kagame’s rule

Rwandans vote ‘smoothly’ in election expected to extend Kagame’s rule
  • Incumbent Paul Kagame has won more than 93% of the vote at each of the three previous elections
  • Kagame is running against two other candidates, Frank Habineza and Philippe Mpayimana
KIGALI: Voters in Rwanda lined up at polling stations on Monday to elect their next president, with 66-year-old incumbent Paul Kagame, who has ruled the central African country for nearly a quarter of a century, expected to cruise to victory.
Kagame has won more than 93 percent of the vote at each of the three previous elections. Eight candidates had applied to run against him, but only two were retained in the final list validated by the electoral commission.
The others, including Kagame’s most vocal critics, were barred for various reasons that included prior criminal convictions.
At the Rwandexco polling center in the capital Kigali people started queueing 90 minutes before polls opened.
Voter Barimukije Pheneas said he had chosen to re-elect Kagame, who is praised for rebuilding the country in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide by prioritizing development and putting in place effective social services.
“We voted smoothly without any crowding, and we are happy,” Pheneas said. “I voted for Paul Kagame because he has achieved a lot for us; he united us.”
Kagame is running against two other candidates, Frank Habineza and Philippe Mpayimana, who also challenged him at the last poll in 2017.
He is looking to win the endorsement of the more than 9 million eligible voters, who are also electing members of parliament. Provisional results are expected by July 20.
Motorcycle taxi driver Karangwa Vedaste said the voting process was calm and peaceful.
“I voted for a leader I trust. The one I voted for is a secret in my heart. We will share it when he wins,” Vedaste said.
Kagame won nearly 99 percent of the vote in the 2017 poll, which followed a constitutional change removing term limits that would have prevented him from standing again.
He has won acclaim for transforming Rwanda into a thriving economy but has also faced criticism from rights activists and Western nations for muzzling the media, stifling opposition and backing rebel groups in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
Rwanda’s government has denied all the accusations against it, and while campaigning, Kagame promised continued development and stability.
Its human rights record was thrown into the spotlight when Rwanda struck a migration deal in 2022 with the UK to receive thousands of asylum seekers. Britain’s new government has said it would scrap the deal.

Greece fears water shortages after warmest winter ever

Greece fears water shortages after warmest winter ever
Updated 58 min 18 sec ago
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Greece fears water shortages after warmest winter ever

Greece fears water shortages after warmest winter ever
  • “Would you like some water? Turn off the tap!” one public service announcement in Athens implores; another daily spot urges the capital’s residents to not fill their bath all the way to the top

ATHENS: After Greece’s warmest winter and earliest heatwave on record, authorities are sounding the alarm over the risk of dire water shortages in the heat of the Mediterranean summer.
“Would you like some water? Turn off the tap!” one public service announcement in Athens implores; another daily spot urges the capital’s residents to not fill their bath all the way to the top.
Already, there are signs that habits may need to change.
At the beginning of July, the Mornos reservoir around 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of Athens, the main water source for the Attica region surrounding the capital, levels were down 30 percent from the same period last year.
And overall reserves for Attica were down by nearly a quarter over the same period, according to the water utility company EYDAP.
Home to more than a third of Greece’s population, the region of 3.7 million inhabitants was recently placed on “yellow alert” by EYDAP, which urged people to reduce consumption to keep reserves at a sustainable level.
Across Greece’s islands, which tend to rely on wells and desalination plants to meet water needs, the problem is even more acute.
Added pressure comes from the millions of tourists who flock to the country’s beaches each summer, swelling the local populations.
On some islands suffering from overtourism, the demand for water in summer “is sometimes 100 times greater than in winter,” Nikitas Mylopoulos, a professor of water resource management at the University of Thessaly, told AFP.
Mylopoulos said the problem of mass tourism was being compounded by poor water management.
At the end of June, a month-long state of emergency was declared for the Dodecanese island of Leros.
The island’s council noted malfunctions at the desalination plant, alleging “poor maintenance in the past.”
Other islands threatened by water scarcity include Sifnos in the Cyclades, Chios in the north Aegean and Lefkada and Corfu in the Ionian Sea.
Sifnos’s mayor, Maria Nadali, has criticized “the over-consumption of water for swimming pools and watering large gardens.”
On Lefkada, Michalis Makropoulos, a local resident and author, denounced a “deplorable” situation where “the water was cut off at the end of June for four consecutive days.”
In a local newspaper article, he blamed the problem on “years of mismanagement by the municipal authorities” and the “uncontrolled development of tourism without adequate infrastructure.”
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis traveled to Lefkada in July to announce “one of the largest water supply projects in Greece to cover the needs.”
The water shortfalls have been made worse by intense heat, which scientists say is at least in part a result of human-driven climate change.
The mildest Greek winter on record has been followed by higher average temperatures this spring.
Last month, the country’s earliest-ever heatwave resulted in the hottest June since 1960, with temperatures reaching 43 degrees Celsius (109 Fahrenheit) in many parts of the country.
The heat has also sparked an increase in wildfires, with more than a thousand recorded last month, more than double the number in the same month last year, authorities say.
The head of the water utility EYDAP, Charalambos Sachinis, has said a “special plan” had been drawn up “to deal with extreme water shortages,” including investments of around 750 million euros ($819 million).
Elissavet Feloni, a hydrologist at the National Technical University of Athens, said the company was also planning to tap Lake Yliki, around 85 kilometers northwest of Athens, as an additional emergency source alongside the main Mornos reservoir.
“However, this is an energy-intensive solution because the water has to be pumped up, whereas the Mornos stream has a natural gradient,” she said.
“For better water management, a central body needs to be set up to develop a comprehensive approach to resources across the country,” she said.


Extravagant wedding celebrations for the son of Asia’s richest man conclude with a reception

Extravagant wedding celebrations for the son of Asia’s richest man conclude with a reception
Updated 15 July 2024
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Extravagant wedding celebrations for the son of Asia’s richest man conclude with a reception

Extravagant wedding celebrations for the son of Asia’s richest man conclude with a reception
  • Youngest son of Mukesh Ambani married Radhika Merchant, daughter of pharma tycoons, with a price tag running into the millions
  • Ambani, who owns Reliance Industries conglomerate, is the world’s ninth-richest man with net worth of $116 billion, according to Forbes

MUMBAI: A wedding reception on Sunday wrapped up the monthslong celebrations as the youngest son of Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man, married his longtime girlfriend with a price tag running into the millions.
The newlyweds were cheered by friends and relatives at Mumbai’s Jio World Drive — a convention center built and owned by the Ambani family — as part of the “Mangal Utsav” (a festival of Bliss), which marked what many have dubbed as the wedding of the year.
Anant Ambani tied the knot with Radhika Merchant, daughter of pharma tycoons Viren and Shaila Merchant. The wedding rituals, including exchanging garlands by the couple and walking around the sacred fire, began Friday and were completed early Saturday.
Former British Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Tony Blair, as well as Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas, American wrestler and actor John Cena, Bollywood superstars Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan were among the celebrities who attended the ceremonies on Friday and Saturday.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi blessed the newlyweds at a Saturday reception organized by the Ambanis, highlighting the billionaire’s rising clout.
“This is the final and the most auspicious ceremony and the last wedding in our family,” The Times of India newspaper quoted Mukesh Ambani. The Ambanis didn’t say how much they spent on the festivities that have been going on for months.

Indian actor Shahrukh Khan, second left, shares a light moment with his family as they pose for a picture during the blessing ceremony of newlywed couple Anant Ambani son of billionaire Mukesh Ambani's and his wife Radhika Merchant at Jio World Convention Centre in Mumbai, India, on July 13, 2024. (AP)

During a three-day pre-wedding celebration in March, Rihanna and Akon performed for a star-studded 1,200-person guest list.
A four-day European cruise in May featured on-deck concerts from the Backstreet Boys and Pitbull, followed by a masquerade ball where Katy Perry sang. At last week’s traditional music night in Mumbai Justin Bieber belted out his music hits.

The Antilia mansion, house of billionaire Mukesh Ambani, is lit up ahead of his son Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant's wedding in Mumbai, India, on July 10, 2024. (AP)


The groom’s father, Mukesh Ambani, is the world’s ninth-richest man, with a net worth of $116 billion, according to Forbes. He is the richest person in Asia. His Reliance Industries is a conglomerate reporting over $100 billion in annual revenue, with interests that include petrochemicals, oil and gas, telecoms and retail.
The Ambani family owns, among other assets, a 27-story family compound in Mumbai worth $1 billion. The building contains three helipads, a 160-car garage and a private movie theater.
The groom, 29-year-old Anant, oversees the conglomerate’s renewable and green energy expansion. He also runs a 3,000-acre (about 1,200-hectare) animal rescue center in Gujarat state’s Jamnagar, the family’s hometown.
The bride, also 29, is the daughter of pharmaceutical tycoon Viren Merchant and is the marketing director for his company, Encore Healthcare, according to Vogue.
Ambani’s critics say his company has relied on political connections during Congress Party-led governments in the 1970s and ‘80s, and under Modi’s rule since 2014.
 


Rescuers in Nepal recover 7 bodies after a landslide swept 2 buses of people into a river

Rescuers in Nepal recover 7 bodies after a landslide swept 2 buses of people into a river
Updated 15 July 2024
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Rescuers in Nepal recover 7 bodies after a landslide swept 2 buses of people into a river

Rescuers in Nepal recover 7 bodies after a landslide swept 2 buses of people into a river
  • Rescuers were able to find the bodies in different locations on the riverbanks
  • The buses swept away Friday morning near Simaltal, about 120 kilometers west of Katmandu

KATMANDU: Rescuers have recovered a total of seven bodies from the river that two buses full of people were swept into by a landslide, officials said Monday.
Rescuers were able to find the bodies in different locations on the riverbanks as the search continues for the missing buses and people on board.
Government administrator Khima Nanda Bhusal said the bodies were identified and relatives contacted. Three of the dead are Indians and the remaining four are Nepali nationals.
The buses were on the key highway connecting Nepal’s capital to southern parts of the country when they were swept away Friday morning near Simaltal, about 120 kilometers west of Katmandu.
The first body was recovered Sunday some 50 kilometers from where the buses fell.
Weather conditions improved Saturday and search teams were able to cover more ground in the hunt for the missing buses and passengers. Heavy equipment had cleared much of the landslides from the highway, making it easier to reach the area as rescuers expanded their scope toward the southern region from where the first body was found, Bhusal said.
The government has imposed a ban on passenger buses traveling at night in the areas where weather warnings are posted, according to the Home Ministry.


Indian troops kill three suspected Kashmir militants

Indian troops kill three suspected Kashmir militants
Updated 15 July 2024
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Indian troops kill three suspected Kashmir militants

Indian troops kill three suspected Kashmir militants
  • Muslim-majority Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence from British rule in 1947
  • New Delhi and Islamabad accuse each other of stoking militancy and espionage to undermine each other

NEW DELHI: Soldiers in India-administered Jammu and Kashmir have killed three suspected militants, the army said, the latest incident in an uptick of attacks in the disputed northern territory.
Muslim-majority Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence from British rule in 1947.
The Indian army’s Chinar Corps said late Sunday that three people were killed in an “anti-infiltration operation” in Kashmir’s Kupwara district, with “weapons and other war-like stores” seized.
India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir in full and have fought three wars for control of the Himalayan region.
New Delhi and Islamabad accuse each other of stoking militancy and espionage to undermine each other.
Rebel groups have waged an insurgency since 1989, demanding independence for the territory or its merger with Pakistan.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers and rebels.
Earlier this month, gunmen ambushed an army convoy killing five soldiers, and two other soldiers and six suspected militants were killed in separate incidents.
In June, nine Indian Hindu pilgrims were killed and dozens wounded when a gunman opened fire on a bus carrying them from a shrine in the southern Reasi area.
It was one of the deadliest attacks in years and the first on Hindu pilgrims in Kashmir since 2017, when gunmen killed seven people in another ambush on a bus.