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France lifting state of emergency in New Caledonia

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Paris, May 27 (IANS/DPA) France is lifting a state of emergency in its overseas territory of New Caledonia after 12 days, the office of President Emmanuel Macron said here on Monday.

The measure, introduced on May 15 amid unrest in the South Pacific overseas territory, will not be extended and will end on Tuesday at 5 a.m. local time, French media quoted the Elysee Palace as saying.

French media reported that the French government was hoping the move would help dialogue.

However, it went on to say that the prerequisite for concrete negotiations was for roadblocks set up by the protesters to go.

Paris also announced the deployment of 480 additional police officers, bringing the number of French security forces in New Caledonia to around 3,500.

Although the situation has largely calmed down, the airport in the capital, Noumea, which has been closed since May 14, is to remain closed to all commercial flights until at least June 2.

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Macron flew to the island state in the South Pacific last week for a short visit to discuss solutions with the political forces and defuse the crisis.

The pro-independence protests, in which seven people died and hundreds were detained, were triggered by a constitutional amendment planned by Paris. This would grant thousands of French-born inhabitants of the archipelago the right to vote in provincial elections and give them more political influence.

The indigenous Kanak ethnic group, in particular, has long hoped for its state and now fears that it will be at a disadvantage.

In three referendums in 2018, 2020, and 2021, the inhabitants of the former French colony voted in favour of remaining part of France. However, since the last vote, boycotted by the separatists, talks on a new status have stalled.

New Caledonia has historically been important to France in military and geopolitical terms, as well as due to its large nickel deposits.

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–IANS/DPA

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Lebanon's war with Israel not to stop as long as offensive against Gaza continues: Hezbollah leader

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Lebanon's war with Israel not to stop as long as offensive against Gaza continues: Hezbollah leader

Lebanon's war with Israel not to stop as long as offensive against Gaza continues: Hezbollah leader

Beirut, July 17 (IANS) Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Wednesday that Lebanon’s war with Israel will not stop as long as the offensive against Gaza continues.

In a televised speech marking the Islamic holy day of Ashura, Nasrallah warned Israel against “going too far” in targeting civilians in southern Lebanon, saying it will push its group “to launch missiles and target new settlements that were not previously targeted.”

He denied rumours about an agreement to be reached regarding the Lebanese front, stressing that “the future of the situation in the south will be decided in light of the results of the battle” in Gaza, reported Xinhua news agency.

“If the war stops, the party responsible for negotiating is the Lebanese state,” said Nasrallah.

In addition, Nasrallah accused America of “bearing full responsibility” for the killing of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli army because it supplied weapons.

The leader also vowed to rebuild villages and towns destroyed in the confrontations.

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Tensions along the Lebanon-Israel border escalated on Oct. 8, 2023, following a barrage of rockets launched by the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah toward Israel in solidarity with Hamas’ attack on Israel the day before. Israel then retaliated by firing heavy artillery toward southeastern Lebanon.

–IANS

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Egypt, German FMs discuss regional crisis over phone

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Egypt, German FMs discuss regional crisis over phone

Egypt, German FMs discuss regional crisis over phone

Cairo, July 17 (IANS) Egyptian Foreign Minister Badr Abdelatty discussed regional crisis with his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock on Wednesday in a phone conversation, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Abdelatty highlighted that the current regional conditions proved the pivotal role of Egypt, stressing that the two countries’ collaboration is important given Egypt’s weight in the region and Germany’s role in Europe and the international arena, Xinhua news agency reported.

He reviewed the Egyptian endeavours in mediating the negotiation process to reach a ceasefire in Gaza, stressing the necessity to exert pressure on the Israeli government for the full implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions regarding ending the war and delivering humanitarian aid and the importance of continued German support for United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

During the talks, Abdelatty also underscored the perilous humanitarian conditions in Sudan and their impact on doubling the numbers of refugees and displaced people.

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For her part, the German minister stressed the importance of stability in the Middle East for her country.

Baerbock spoke highly of Egypt’s role in alleviating the suffering of Gazans, underscoring Germany’s keenness to support Egypt in this regard.

They agreed to continue coordination on regional situations and ways to resolve escalating regional conflicts.

–IANS

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King Charles III unveils Labour government's priorities for UK

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King Charles III unveils Labour government's priorities for UK

King Charles III unveils Labour government's priorities for UK

London, July 17 (IANS) The United Kingdom’s King Charles III on Wednesday set out the new Labour government’s legislative agenda, promising to focus on economic growth and tackling issues ranging from housing shortages to illegal immigration.

“Securing economic growth will be a fundamental mission,” the King said in a speech written for him by the government.

The monarch’s speech at Westminster marked the state opening of Parliament with Prime Minister Keir Starmer’s government. The Labour Party swept into power with a landslide in UK’s general election held early this month.

“My government will govern in service to the country,” said the King. “My government’s legislative programme will be mission-led and based on the principles of security, fairness and opportunity for all.”

The King said the government will “get Britain building” as they seek to accelerate the delivery of “high-quality infrastructure and housing.”

Making good on Labour’s promise to fix the cost-of-living crisis with clean power, the government will introduce a bill to set up Great British Energy, a publicly-owned clean power company headquartered in Scotland, which is expected to help accelerate investment in renewable energy such as offshore wind.

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The King also confirmed Labour’s plan to renationalize the country’s passenger railway network as the new government seeks to establish a more efficient and reliable rail service for passengers, reports Xinhua news agency.

A bill will be introduced to modernize the country’s asylum and immigration system, the King said, with the establishment of a new Border Security Command to strengthen the border and make streets safer.

The UK government will also seek to “reset” the relationship with European partners and work to improve the country’s trade and investment relationship with the European Union, according to the speech.

–IANS

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Russia, Ukraine exchange prisoners

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Russia, Ukraine exchange prisoners

Russia, Ukraine exchange prisoners

Moscow, July 17 (IANS) Russia and Ukraine exchanged 95 prisoners from each side who were captured during their ongoing conflict, the Russian Defence Ministry said on Wednesday.

The United Arab Emirates mediated in the swap of prisoners, the ministry said in a statement.

The freed Russian soldiers will be taken to Moscow for medical treatment and rehabilitation in the ministry’s medical facilities, it added, Xinhua news agency reported.

Previously in late May and June, Russia and Ukraine conducted two rounds of prisoner swaps, freeing 75 and 90 military personnel from each side, respectively.

–IANS

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Visa Japan unit investigated for alleged antitrust violations

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Visa Japan unit investigated for alleged antitrust violations

Visa Japan unit investigated for alleged antitrust violations

Tokyo, July 17 (IANS) Japan’s antitrust authority is investigating Visa’s Japanese unit for allegedly pressuring card companies to exclusively use its credit information system, a practice potentially hindering competition and harming consumers, local media reported on Wednesday.

The local unit of Visa, a major global credit card brand, is suspected of imposing higher fees on credit card companies that did not use its network for credit checks, thereby forcing them to abandon competitors’ networks, national news agency Kyodo reported, citing sources close to the matter.

The Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) inspected Visa Worldwide Japan Co.’s Tokyo office, suspecting violations of the country’s antimonopoly law, which forbids dominant companies from enforcing unfair trading terms on weaker firms. Violations can result in cease-and-desist orders or penalties.

Visa’s practice is likely aimed at excluding competitors from the market, which could keep fees high and increase the burden on consumers and shops that use the service, said the report, Xinhua news agency reported.

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Most Japanese credit card companies rely on networks operated by Visa or NTT Data Japan Corp. for credit information checks.

The JFTC is also examining Visa’s Singaporean unit, which oversees Asia-Pacific operations, and investigating whether Visa’s U.S. headquarters were involved.

In 2023, Japan’s credit card transactions totaled approximately 105 trillion yen (about 670 billion U.S. dollars), data from the Japan Consumer Credit Association showed.

–IANS

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