FILE PHOTO: Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini addresses a major rally of European nationalist and far-right parties ahead of EU parliamentary elections in Milan, Italy May 18, 2019. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo
May 19, 2019
MILAN (Reuters) – Italian prosecutors have ordered the seizure of a rescue boat anchored outside the port of Lampedusa in Sicily, triggering a potential tug-of-war with Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini who has pledged to stop the migrants from disembarking.
Tax police officers have boarded Sea Watch 3 to seize the vessel, the websites of several Italian dailies reported, adding the move would eventually open the way for the 47 immigrants on board to disembark.
Sources at the interior ministry, which is headed by Salvini, criticized the prosecutors’ move, adding the minister was still opposed to the migrants disembarking from what he considers an “illegal ship”.
(Reporting by Francesca Landini; Editing by Mark Potter)
FILE PHOTO: A man walks past fuel containers while vehicle queue to refuel with gasoline in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela May 17, 2019. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero/File Photo
May 19, 2019
By Mariela Nava and Mircely Guanipa
MARACAIBO/PUNTO FIJO (Reuters) – Soldiers oversaw rationing of gasoline at service stations in several parts of Venezuela on Sunday as worsening fuel shortages forced angry drivers to wait for hours to fill their tanks, prompting protests in some areas.
Venezuela, whose economy is reeling from a painful five-year recession amid a prolonged political crisis, saw long lines of vehicles appear at services stations in several regions this week after a shutdown at the OPEC nation’s second-largest refinery.
Shortages have been exacerbated by tough U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan state oil firm Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) in January, which have slashed crude oil exports and imports of refined fuels.
Washington recognized opposition head Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader after he invoked the constitution in January to declare an interim presidency, saying President Nicolas Maduro rigged last year’s election.
Maduro calls Guaido a U.S. puppet and says Washington wants to control Venezuela’s oil reserves, the largest in the world. Dozens of people have been killed in political protests this year.
In the western city of San Cristóbal, close to the Colombian border, National Guard soldiers in anti-riot gear limited gasoline sales to 40 liters (10.6 gallons) per vehicle, witnesses said – roughly equivalent to a full tank on a compact vehicle.
Angry residents blocked streets with metal barriers, rubbish and branches in some parts of the city. At some gasoline stations, people said they had been waiting days for fuel.
“How can a country function like this?” asked Antonio Tamariz, 58, who said he had waited for days for fuel to drive his truck back to his farm. “No one has explained why there are so many lines for gasoline. I think the government is losing control of this.”
Venezuela’s Information Ministry – which handles media enquiries for the government – did not respond to requests for comment.
Oil Minister Manuel Quevedo said on Sunday his country’s oil industry was under siege from the U.S. government, causing supply problems.
In the southeastern industrial hub of Puerto Ordaz and the northwestern city of Punto Fijo, close to Venezuela’s largest refining complex, soldiers were ordered to deliver 40 and 30 liters respectively, according to a dozen witnesses.
In the western oil hub of Maracaibo, where power cuts and fuel shortages have been severe in recent months, National Guard soldiers allowed drivers only 20 liters (5.3 gallons) of fuel, witnesses said.
“They have taken control of the pumps,” said Rocio Huerta, a manager of a service station in Maracaibo. “Every five hours there are inspections by the Military Intelligence Division to measure how much gasoline is left.”
Victor Chourio, a 58-year-old taxi driver, said he had arrived at the gasoline station early on Saturday and waited for 12 hours without getting fuel.
“At two o’clock in the afternoon a soldier guard said that only 20 liters per vehicle … but at seven o’clock the gasoline ran out,” Chourio told Reuters.
Venezuela’s 310,000 bpd Cardon oil refinery – which had been operating well below capacity – halted operations on Wednesday because of damage at some of its units, two workers at the PDVSA-operated complex said. That left only two refineries in operation in Venezuela.
Internal PDVSA documents and Refinitiv Eikon data indicate that Venezuela had not imported a gasoline cargo since March 31.
The fuel shortages come on top of rolling powercuts in many parts of Venezuela as the government attempts to rotate electricity supplies to avoid a repeat of March’s week-long national blackout.
In Caracas, home to roughly a fifth of Venezuela’s more than 30 million people, there were few signs of widespread gasoline shortages as Maduro has prioritized services to the capital.
PDVSA said on its Twitter account on Friday that the government and the company would “ensure the supply and distribution of fuel throughout the national territory.”
PDVSA did not respond to a request for more information.
In some cities, security forces set up special gasoline pumps to deliver fuel for ambulances, medical personnel and official vehicles, a measure that aroused criticism among people who remained in rows often stretching for several kilometers.
Some drivers complained that rationing of fuel meant they would be forced to wait in line for hours once again within just a few days.
“This is not enough at all, between going to work and taking my children to school. It will run out in two days,” said Eduardo Pereira, a 47-year-old teacher in Puerto Ordaz, who was only allowed to buy 40 liters of fuel.
(Reporting by Mariela Navas in Maracaibo and Mircely Guanipa in Punto Fijo; Additional reporting by María Ramírez in Puerto Ordaz, Anggy Polanco in San Cristóbal, Keren Torres in Barquisimeto and Tibisay Romero in Valencia; Writing by Daniel Flynn and Corina Pons; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
FILE PHOTO: A general view of Atmeh camp for the displaced, in Atmeh town, Idlib province, Syria May 15, 2019. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi/File Photo
May 19, 2019
By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian rebels held onto a commanding position in a mountain range in the coastal province of Latakia, the ancestral home of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, after government forces were forced to withdraw.
They said the army’s attempt was the latest of several costly campaigns to seize Kubayna, after it mounted an offensive last month with Russian air power to retake main highways and trade arteries around Idlib and northern Hama now in rebel hands that have fragmented the country’s war-torn economy.
The northwest represents the last big piece of territory held by rebels opposed to Assad. The coastal province of Latakia is home to the Assad family’s Alawite minority.
“Whoever controls Kubayna ensures a large stretch of territory is effectively under their firing range. The regime wants it to protect its coastal villages from rebel fire,” said Major Youssef Hamoud, spokesman for the Turkey-backed group of mainstream rebels called the National Army.
An official from Tahrir al-Sham, the latest incarnation of the former Nusra Front which was part of al Qaeda, said poison gas was used in the army’s attack on their position on the mountain slopes in an attempt to regain control.
Abu Baraa al-Shami, a fighter based there, told Reuters that several fighters suffered choking symptoms.
The army denied the claim and said it was continuing to fight terrorism, with state media earlier saying the military had struck at al Qaeda terrorists in the last jihadist foothold in Latakia province that has long been a launching pad for drone attacks on the main Russian base of Hmeimim nearby.
The eviction of jihadists from commanding positions in the mountains would bring the army closer to securing parts of Idlib and a main highway that connects the cities of Latakia and Aleppo.
The fighting has continued even after Russia agreed with Turkey to a 72 hour halt following an upsurge in violence in northwest Syria that has sparked an exodus of tens of thousands to the safety of border areas with Turkey, residents and opposition sources have said.
Russia’s defense ministry confirmed on Sunday a “unilateral ceasefire” in the Idlib buffer zone in a move the opposition said showed the failure by Moscow and the army after almost three weeks of intensive strikes to bring a rapid collapse in rebel lines.
“They are facing stiff resistance in areas that had fallen to the army,” said Hamoud, adding many of their fighters from a nearby stretch of territory to the north protected by the Turkish army had joined their compatriots in fronts.
The army has so far gained three significant areas, the last being the town of Hawayz on Friday after taking Qalaat al Madiq and the town of Kfar Naboudah.
Two senior Western diplomats following Syria say the aim appears to be to take control of the main cities of Maarat al-Numan and Khan Sheikhoun on the main highways in Idlib.
The campaign that began in earnest late last month has also killed dozens, destroyed hundreds of civilian homes, more than a dozen hospitals and food stores, according to opposition-based rescuers and Western aid agencies.
Both Moscow and Damascus deny indiscriminate bombing of civilians and say they seek to crush radical Islamist groups.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi, additional reporting by Polina Ivanova in MOSCOW, editing by Louise Heavens)
Venezuela’s Oil Minister Manuel Quevedo speaks to the media before the OPEC 14th Meeting of the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, May 19, 2019. REUTERS/Waleed Ali
May 19, 2019
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) – Venezuelan Oil Minister Manuel Quevedo said on Sunday his country’s economy and oil industry was under economic and financial siege by the U.S. government.
“This therefore generates disturbances in the flow of oil supply to the world market as well as serious economic damage and suffering to the Venezuelan people,” he said in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, ahead of a ministerial panel meeting of top OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers, including Saudi Arabia and Russia.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin in Jeddah; Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Alison Williams)
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) speaks about the formation of the Congressional Servicewomen and Women Veterans Caucus on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 15, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
May 19, 2019
By Amanda Becker
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Some Democrats vying for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination shifted the focus of the race to foreign policy on Sunday, criticizing Republican President Donald Trump as a weak commander in chief who is escalating tensions with Iran.
The relationship between Washington and Tehran has become increasingly strained in recent weeks, raising concerns about a potential U.S.-Iran conflict.
Trump and hawkish foreign policy advisers like national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo want Tehran to give up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Trump has tightened economic sanctions against Iran, aimed at forcing its leaders into negotiations. Pompeo last year outlined a list of demands on Iran that critics said showed he was pushing for regime change.
Representative Tulsi Gabbard, one of 24 Democrats vying for the White House nomination, said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that Trump was “leading us down this dangerous path towards a war with Iran.”
“He says he doesn’t want it, but the actions of him and his administration, people like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, tell us a very different story. They are setting the stage for a war with Iran that would prove to be far more costly, far more devastating and dangerous than anything that we saw in the Iraq war,” Gabbard said.
Trump has said he is not pushing for war with Iran. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he promised to stay out of overseas conflicts, saying the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were too costly.
In May 2018, Trump withdrew the United States from a multinational deal with Iran negotiated by the Obama administration that reduced economic sanctions on Tehran in exchange for scaling back its nuclear program. Trump criticized the deal as weak, saying he would negotiate a stronger one.
Gabbard, 38, enlisted in the U.S. Army National Guard after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and was twice deployed to the Middle East. Gabbard has said she is running for president to end regime-change wars, though she currently trails most of her 2020 opponents in opinion polls.
Another White House hopeful, Representative Seth Moulton, a 40-year-old former U.S. Marine Corps officer who did four tours in Iraq, told “This Week” that if the Trump administration sends additional troops to the Gulf it could “drag us into war.”
“Make no mistake, this is exactly what John Bolton wants to have happen,” said Moulton, who also trails in 2020 opinion polls. “The world is so dangerous when you have a weak commander in chief in the president of the United States.”
Moulton counts as a mentor former Vice President Joe Biden, who currently leads the 2020 Democratic field in support. When asked why Democratic primary voters should back him over his mentor, Moulton said: “I think it’s time for the generation that fought in Iraq and Afghanistan to take over for the generation that sent us there.”
Gabbard resigned her post at the Democratic National Committee in 2016 when Hillary Clinton was the nominee because she said the former secretary of state’s foreign policy positions were too hawkish. Gabbard was asked by ABC if that also applied to Biden, given both he and Clinton served in the Obama administration.
“We’ll see what Vice President Biden’s foreign policy vision is for this country. We may agree on some issues, disagree on others,” Gabbard said.
(GRAPHIC: Who is running in 2020 – tmsnrt.rs/2Ff62ZC)
(Reporting By Amanda Becker in Washington; editing by Bill Berkrot)
FILE PHOTO: Port officials take a photo of the damaged tanker Andrea Victory at the Port of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, May 13, 2019. REUTERS/Satish Kumar/File Photo
May 19, 2019
DUBAI (Reuters) – Countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) began “enhanced security patrols” in the international waters of the Arabian Gulf area on Saturday, the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet said on Sunday.
The GCC countries were “specifically increasing communication and coordination with each other in support of regional naval cooperation and maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf,” the Facebook statement said.
(Reporting by Lisa Barrington)
Participants Hatari of Iceland perform during a dress rehearsal ahead of the Grand Final of 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, Israel May 17, 2019. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
May 19, 2019
By Dan Williams
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The Israeli broadcaster of the Eurovision Song Contest said on Sunday that an unauthorized display of Palestinian flags by Iceland’s band could draw “punishment” from the event’s organizers.
During the point-tally of Saturday’s final, members of the eclectic punk ensemble Hatari held up scarf-sized Palestinian flags. A vocalist, Klemens Nikulásson Hannigan, flashed a V-for-victory sign. Many in the Tel Aviv audience responded with boos.
In earlier remarks to Eurovision fan site wiwibloggs, Hannigan had criticized Israel’s settlements and what he described as its “apartheid” in occupied Palestinian territory.
The flag display, briefly caught on the live TV relay of the 41-country contest, marked the only disruption of a show that had been a focus of anti-Israel boycott calls, and drew a swift rebuke from the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).
“The Icelanders will apparently be punished by the European Broadcasting Union, which is really not tolerant of those who violate its rules,” Eldad Koblenz, CEO of the EBU’s Israeli counterpart Kan, told Ynet TV.
An EBU spokesman declined direct comment, saying the matter was under discussion.
EBU rules allow for disqualifying contestants who do not abide by requirements for a “non-political event”. Asked what other penalties might be available, the spokesman said: “In the past there have been financial sanctions for rule breaches.” He did not elaborate on these cases or sums.
Hatari’s song “Hate Will Prevail”, during which the leather- and latex-clad performers thrashed around a grenade-shaped globe as flames shot from the stage, came 10th of the 26 finalists.
Their flag display did not impress the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel, which had urged countries to shun the Tel Aviv Eurovision. None did.
“Palestinian civil society overwhelmingly rejects fig-leaf gestures of solidarity from international artists crossing our peaceful picket line #Hatari,” the campaigners said on Twitter.
Koblenz was more upbeat about a political display by Madonna, whose much-anticipated, two-song guest performance in the final featured two back-up dancers, with Israeli and Palestinian flags on their backs, walking in an embrace.
“We are very happy that she came, certainly in a reality where very few artists are prepared to come to Israel,” he said, while allowing that “perhaps she’s had more successful shows”.
Madonna, who has previously performed in Israel and is a devotee of Jewish mysticism, said on Twitter on Sunday that she was grateful “for the opportunity to spread the message of peace and unity with the world”.
Kan had no advance notice of Hatari’s or Madonna’s flag displays, Koblenz said: “That’s the price of a live broadcast.”
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Alison Williams)
FILE PHOTO: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves towards his supporters during a roadshow in Varanasi, India, April 25, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo
May 19, 2019
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling alliance is likely to win a majority in parliament after a mammoth general election that ended on Sunday, two exit polls showed.
Modi’s National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is projected to win 287 seats in the 545-member lower house of parliament followed by 128 for the Congress party-led opposition alliance, CVoter exit poll said.
To rule a party needs the support of 272 lawmakers. Votes are to be counted on Thursday. Exit polls have a mixed record in a country with an electorate of 900 million people.
According to another poll released by Times Now television Modi’s alliance is likely to get 306 seats, a clear majority.
(Reporting by Aftab Ahmed and Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)
Marine Le Pen, leader of French National Rally party addresses a major rally of European nationalist and far-right parties ahead of EU parliamentary elections in Milan, Italy May 18, 2019. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo
May 19, 2019
PARIS (Reuters) – A win by Marine le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National party in next week’s European parliament elections could hurt the euro and damage the French economy and industries, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Sunday.
Opinion polls show Le Pen’s party, formerly known as the National Front, to be neck-and-neck with President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Republic On the Move.
“If the nationalists, through Marine Le Pen, win on May 26, it would be serious for our finances, it would be serious for the stability of the euro,” Le Maire said on a Sunday talk show on BFM television.
“It will be serious for all economic and industrial policies that we have launched,” the minister said.
Countries in a “fragile” euro zone needed to take extra steps to support the single currency, including measures addressing its budget, banking and capital market unions.
“These decisions are hard to make. If we do not take them, it is the euro that risks being threatened,” he said.
(Reporting by Simon Carraud and Bate Felix; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)