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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Egyptian teen Muslima invents million-dollar Biofuel

August 22, 2015

by Terry Turner
Source: GoodNews Network

An Egyptian teenager has discovered an inexpensive way to turn plastic trash into fuel — and it could be worth tens of millions of dollars a year.

Azza Faiad’s ideas attracted the attention of the Egyptian Petroleum Research Institute. The institute gave the teen access to a lab and its researchers in order to help refine her trash to fuel formula.

Faiad discovered a cheap and plentiful catalyst called aluminisilicate that drastically reduces the cost of converting plastic waste into gases like methane and propane, which can be turned into ethanol, what some scientists are calling “biofuel” because the organic chemicals from plastic polymers she extracts, are the same chemicals extracted from vegetation to create ethanol biofuel.

The process releases other chemicals that can also be recycled and sold.

Egypt produces a million tons of plastic trash every year, and it’s estimated Faiad’s process could convert that much trash into fuel worth$78 million every year.

In fact, she believes it could raise the total return to $163 million each year from Egypt’s plastic trash.

The European Union Contest for Young Scientists has already honored Faiad with a prize for her work and she is now working on a patent for her trash to fuel process.

Source: Muslim Village.
Link: http://muslimvillage.com/2015/08/22/112544/egyptian-teen-muslima-invents-million-dollar-biofuel/.

Turkey's Erdogan expected to call new elections

August 24, 2015

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was expected on Monday to formally call new elections for Nov. 1 and re-appoint Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to form an interim administration, a day after the deadline passed for establishing a government following Turkey's inconclusive election in June.

The Islamic-rooted ruling party, which Erdogan founded, lost its parliamentary majority in June for the first time since 2002. Davutoglu's efforts to form a coalition alliance failed last week, setting the stage for Erdogan to declare repeat elections he is reported to have favored all along.

Erdogan is thought to have pressed for new elections to give the ruling party the chance to win back its majority and rule alone. Turkey faces new elections as it is grappling with a sharp increase in violence between security forces and Kurdish rebels and is more deeply involved in the U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State group extremists. The Turkish lira has dropped to record lows against the dollar amid the political uncertainty.

More than a hundred people — mostly soldiers and police — have been killed since July in renewed conflict between the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, and the security forces, which has wrecked a 2 1/2-year-old peace process with the Kurds.

On Monday, PKK militants detonated a bomb on a road near Semdili town as a military vehicle was passing, killing two soldiers and injuring three others. Semdinli is near Turkey's borders with Iraq and Iran.

Two opposition parties have already declared they will not participate in the interim government, leaving Davutoglu with little choice but to form a government made up of independent figures and politicians from the pro-Kurdish party, who would be taking government posts for the first time in Turkish history.

Country's first solar-powered bus unveiled in Istanbul

August 20, 2015

The Istanbul Electric Tramway and Tunnel Establishments (İETT), the city's transportation authority, introduced a solar-powered bus on Wednesday.

The bus is the first of its kind to be used in mass transit in the country, which seeks to increase its renewable energy use and has an annual solar power capacity of 380 billion kilowatt hours, one of the highest in Europe.

İETT officials demonstrated the bus to the media at a bus depot in the Topkapı district, the first station for the bus's route, which will continue on to Eminönü, a busy commercial hub in Istanbul's historic peninsula dotted with landmarks such as the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.

Fitted with 15 solar panels on its roof, the white bus with the slogan "We thought of the future and used solar power in public transportation" inscribed on its sides, took its first passengers to Eminönü.

Fatma Nur Yılmaz, an İETT official, told reporters at the unveiling event that the world is already using solar power in transportation, especially in vehicles capable of operating over long distances, but it was the first time solar power is being used in city mass transit where speeds and operation of buses greatly vary due to traffic. Yılmaz said the bus had an environmentally friendly engine and they sought to boost awareness to renewable energy use.

Although the bus runs on gasoline, the solar panels cover almost every energy need of the bus like powering information screens, cellphone charge units, Wi-Fi connection, loudspeakers, cameras and electronic ticket units. They also provide additional power for the bus's battery and contribute to fuel efficiency. More importantly, the bus does not pollute the air as it does not have carbon monoxide emissions, İETT officials said.

Yılmaz said millions of people use public transportation in the city, adding to carbon emissions. She said their aim is to reduce emissions through solar-powered buses. More solar-powered buses will take to Istanbul roads in the near future.

Elif Özdemir was one of the first passengers on the bus. "We need more projects like these. People have difficulty breathing because of high carbon monoxide levels. I think this bus will prove beneficial, especially in Istanbul's heavy traffic," she said.

Selim Özkul, another passenger, said buses can also be used in other cities as Turkey has fairly sunny weather.

Public transport serves more than 14 million people in Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, which also has the notoriety of having the worst traffic in the world according to a study sponsored by a leading electronic navigation company with travel times for even short distances taking up a few hours in rush hour. Add to this the carbon monoxide emissions from vehicles in traffic - over 3.5 million according to latest statistics - and transportation deals a serious impact on the environment. The İETT already introduced another environmentally friendly bus last year. Botobus, a "botanic" bus, running between Edirnekapı and Taksim, with plants on its roof to help to offset the carbon emissions the bus generates.

Source: Daily Sabah.
Link: http://www.dailysabah.com/nation/2015/08/20/countrys-first-solar-powered-bus-unveiled-in-istanbul.

Turkey ranks among world's top aid donors

20 August 2015 Thursday

Turkey has carried out humanitarian work in over 40 countries across four continents, helping people reeling from the effects of natural disasters or civil wars, the country’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) has said.

The figures come in a week which marks World Humanitarian Day – the Aug. 19 anniversary of the death in 2003 of 22 aid workers murdered in a bombing at UN headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq.

Turkish volunteers are providing humanitarian assistance through charity organizations, in addition to state institutions, helping millions affected by conflicts and disasters.

AFAD, for instance, has established 25 temporary housing centers for Syrian people in Turkey, offering accommodation to thousands who fled their country after the onset of civil war.

The total amount of money spent supporting Syrian people since April 2011 has reached 5.6 billion Turkish liras ($1.9 billion).

Three other housing centers were established in northern Iraq, with a spend of 52.8 million Turkish liras.

AFAD has also sent humanitarian aid worth 456 million Turkish liras to Somalia, since 2011.

Following Nepal’s April 2015 earthquake, AFAD sent medical aid worth 814,000 Turkish liras.

Turkey ranked third in the list of countries with the most international humanitarian work in 2012 and 2013, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency, TIKA, says in its Turkish Development Assistance 2013 report -- the latest such figures from the agency.

According to another 2013 Global Humanitarian Assistance report, the top five donors were the U.S. with $3.8 billion, followed by EU institutions ($1.9 billion), the U.K. ($1.2 billion), Turkey ($1.0 billion) and Sweden with $784 million.

The GHA report in 2014 said: "Nine of the ten largest government donors in 2013 showed a rise in their giving from the previous year. The five largest in 2013 (U.S., U.K., Turkey, Japan and Germany) made some of the largest increases."

The most generous country by gross national income (GNI) is Turkey with 0.21 per cent, the report wrote.

The top five recipients were Ethiopia, Afghanistan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Somalia and Pakistan, the report says.

Last year, the Turkish Red Crescent spent over 92 million Turkish liras to help over 810,000 people at home in Turkey and abroad who suffered from traffic accidents, industrial incidents and natural disasters.

Some Turkish NGOs are also actively taking part in humanitarian aid work across the world.

IHH, for example, is one of the biggest aid foundations in Turkey; it has around 100,000 volunteers of all ages.

The foundation provided humanitarian aid for around 1.5 million people both in Turkey and 96 other countries during Ramadan last year.

Among the countries that Turkish humanitarian organizations send aid to are: Bangladesh; Ethiopia; Pakistan; Somalia; Bosnia-Herzegovina; Yemen; Afghanistan; Palestine; Iraq and many others.

Tens of thousands of people from dozens of countries were treated with 90,000 medical examinations and 5,000 surgeries supplied by Doctors Worldwide in the last two years.

Turkey's Cansuyu Foundation, meanwhile, provides humanitarian aid during Ramadan each year for 500,000 people in 30 countries. The foundation also established an orphanage in Gaza with the capacity to home up to 650 children in May 2015.

Turkey's official development assistance has increased every year from $85 million in 2002 to $3.3 billion in 2013, TIKA has reported.

Of the total Turkish official development assistance in 2013, 49 percent was reported as humanitarian aid.

Source: World Bulletin.
Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/headlines/163397/turkey-ranks-among-worlds-top-aid-donors.

Protesters pour into Beirut demanding government resignation

August 23, 2015

BEIRUT (AP) — Thousands of protesters poured into central Beirut on Sunday demanding that the country's top politicians resign, hours after Prime Minister Tammam Salam hinted he might step down following violent protests triggered by a monthlong trash crisis.

The demonstrations, the largest in years, railed against the corruption and dysfunction that has brought about Lebanon's current political crisis. The country does not have a functioning Cabinet or parliament, and hasn't had a president for more than a year.

Salam said in a news conference at the government's headquarters that if this Thursday's Cabinet meeting is not productive, "then there is no need for the council of ministers." Lebanon has a sectarian power-sharing system that ensures equal representation between the country's main religious sects. The arrangement often leads to complete paralysis.

It was not clear why Salam would hint about resignation. It was unlikely that he would step down, as the move could create a total political vacuum and plunge Lebanon into chaos. By Sunday afternoon, thousands of protesters chanting "revolution" massed near the government building, demanding that Salam resign immediately.

"The people want to topple the regime!" protesters cried out, a slogan used during the Arab Spring protests that swept through the region. Waving Lebanese flags and chanting, they stood in front of a ring of barbed wire that separated them from government headquarters and riot police. Two trucks with water cannons stood ready.

The mood in central Beirut was tense, one day after dozens were wounded after security forces fired rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons on protesters. Saturday's demonstrations were by far the largest since garbage began piling up on the streets after the capital's main landfill was closed a month ago. Bickering politicians have been unable to agree on an alternative system for waste management.

Residents in this proud Mediterranean city have resorted to burning trash on the streets and dumping garbage into valleys, rivers and near the sea, leading to warnings of a health catastrophe. An online group calling itself "You Stink!" and other civil society groups organized the rallies, urging others to join them in a revolt against a corrupt system.

"You Stink!" issued a statement Sunday afternoon calling on Salam to resign immediately, saying, "Our patience has run out." The group called for a demonstration at 6 p.m. (1500 gmt) in front of the government headquarters.

In what appears to be an attempt to calm down protesters, Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk said the name of the consortium that will be in charge of waste management in Beirut and Mount Lebanon will be announced on Monday, a day ahead of schedule. Machnouk's statement was carried by state-run National News Agency.

Lebanon has been without a president since May 2014. Parliament has been paralyzed and unable to meet to elect a president because of lack of quorum. Meanwhile, in southern Lebanon, sporadic clashes continued in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh near the southern port city of Sidon between Islamists and the mainstream Fatah movement.

The fighting which began Saturday in Lebanon's largest refugee camp killed three people and wounded 20, according to Lebanese security officials.

Spain: New leftist mayors turn back on bullfighting

August 22, 2015

VILLAFRANCA DE LOS CABALLEROS, Spain (AP) — Bullfights or schoolbooks? A new breed of local officials in Spain are asking.

Julian Bolanos, the mayor of this central Spanish town of around 5,000 inhabitants, recently announced he was taking the 18,000 euros ($20,000) in public funding for bullfights to invest it in textbooks and other educational material.

Days before, his new leftist counterpart in the northwestern city of A Coruna withdrew 50,000 euros in bullfight subsidies and vowed to find a better way to spend it. The measures may be surprising in a country where bullfights are an emblematic part of the culture and a traditional fixture in nearly every town's summer festival. But they are not unusual: Since May 24 local elections, the ruling, pro-bullfighting, conservative Popular Party has been ousted from town halls and regional governments across the country and replaced by leftist coalitions that are questioning funding for bullfights — seen as a luxury in times of economic hardship.

"Of every 10 people that come to me, nine ask for work or help, not one has come to me asking for bullfights," Bolanos, a Socialist party member, told The Associated Press. His town, like most of Spain, suffered severely in the economic crisis that has left the country with 22 percent unemployment.

In Madrid, the world's bullfighting capital, new leftist Mayor Manuela Carmena has said she won't be using the presidential box at the bullring — a mayoral privilege — and is studying withdrawing subsidies and declaring the capital an animal-friendly city, a mostly symbolic gesture toward animal rights groups.

That move has already been taken by Palma de Mallorca in the Balearic Islands, also administered by a new left-wing mayor. The major city of Valencia, in the east, also has a new leftist town hall team that has axed bullfight subsidies, while nearly a dozen towns in the region, including the port city of Alicante, are pushing for referendums on keeping bull events as part of town festivals.

"We're under attack," said Carlos Nunez, president of the Spain's Fighting Bull Breeders Union. "The May 24 elections have brought about many changes with coalitions including anti-bullfighting parties."

He said it was unjust treatment for a spectacle that has been declared part of Spain's national heritage, and is the country's most popular spectacle after soccer. Bullfighting and bull-running have always stirred strong passions; some see the spectacles as artistic while others view them as anachronistic, bloody and cruel.

Going against the trend is the northern Basque city of San Sebastian, which under a new conservative mayor has reintroduced bullfighting, ending a two-year ban by the former leftist town hall. The first bullfight was held Thursday, attended by former King Juan Carlos and other members of his family. The monarch called for bullfighting to be defended, saying it "is an asset for Spain that we must support."

The king received a rousing ovation by those attending and a special dedication by one of the bullfighters, who said the king was defending culture and freedom by his presence. Outside, pockets of anti-bullfight protesters joined forces with anti-monarchists.

The debate of tradition versus animal rights has little to do with this particular debate, however. Spain's economic crisis plunged bullfighting into crisis, with smaller crowds at ever fewer bullfights. Younger people preferred to spend what little money they had on travel, theater shows, movies, pop concerts and night clubs. Despite dwindling popularity, Spain still holds some 2,000 bullfights annually and some 16,000 town festivals include bull events.

One milestone in the debate came in 2011, when Catalonia, the rich northeastern regions whose capital is Barcelona, became Spain's second region to ban bullfighting. It joined the Canary Islands, which stopped the practice in 1991.

In response, a string of other regions mostly run by the Popular Party passed directives protecting the spectacle. Parliament also took moves to enshrining bullfighting as a key part of the nation's cultural heritage following a petition bearing 600,000 signatures, including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Nobel literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa.

Giles contributed from Madrid.

Ukraine vows to increase troops to fend off rebel attacks

August 24, 2015

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's president vowed to increase troop numbers to fend off attacks by Russia-backed separatist rebels and warned his countrymen that there is still the threat of a "large-scale invasion," in an impassioned speech to mark Independence Day on Monday.

Speaking during a military parade, President Petro Poroshenko said Ukraine must not be complacent even though hostilities have largely died down. In a show of force, thousands of Ukrainian servicemen marched in downtown Kiev to commemorate the country's independence from the Soviet Union on Aug. 24, 1991.

"We stand for peace, but we are not pacifists," Poroshenko said. "We must get through the 25th year of independence as if on brittle ice. We must understand that the smallest misstep could be fatal. The war for independence is still ongoing."

Poroshenko didn't say how many more troops he would send to eastern Ukraine. He claimed that Russia had massed about 50,000 troops on the border with Ukraine, still had 9,000 soldiers in eastern Ukraine and had supplied the rebels with about 500 tanks and 400 pieces of artillery. Poroshenko warned that Russia is wary of carrying out an outright invasion and is instead developing another strategy: sow discord across all of Ukraine and thus spoil its relations with its Western allies.

Poroshenko compared the rebel-held territories in the east and their viability to the evil kingdom of Mordor from J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" novels. Russia's foreign minister said Poroshenko's statements about Russian troops were "unsubstantiated and unscrupulous."

"It is difficult to escape the thought that their goal was to break the genetic code that guarantees the unity of our peoples," Sergey Lavrov said. "I don't think he will succeed." The Ukrainian troops taking part in the Independence Day commemorations carried rifles, but, unlike last year, the parade didn't feature any of the more powerful weaponry. This could have been seen as provocative because of the conflict in the east, which has claimed more than 6,800 lives since it began in April 2014 and saw a major uptick in violence last week with nine civilians and soldiers killed in just one day.

Ukraine's military said Monday that the rebels violated a cease-fire 82 times overnight in the eastern part of the country, in some cases with large-caliber weapons that should have been withdrawn in line with a truce signed in February.

Poroshenko later traveled to Berlin for an evening meeting with the leaders of France and Germany, in which the three reasserted that the ceasefire agreed to in Minsk, Belarus in February must be implemented.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there are still hostilities and observers for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observers cannot move freely to assess the situation. "Everything possible must be done to ensure that the ceasefire is a reality," she said.

Poroshenko said that Ukraine is fulfilling its obligations on the ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy weapons and on humanitarian issues. "We clearly declare that today Russia and the fighters it supports are the only threat to the peace process. "

Moscow did not send a representative to Berlin, but said it would watch the meeting closely, and Merkel said that there was still regular contact with Russia. A top French official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't allowed to speak on the issue, said the gathering was planned as a three-party meeting and that talks also including Russia could be expected "in the next few weeks."

Poroshenko told reporters in Kiev that the meeting was crucial for Ukraine, Germany and France to "coordinate their positions" before a possible meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. On front-line positions in eastern Ukraine, the mood was less festive.

"Today... is a happy day for Ukrainians, but it's an ordinary day for us here on the front line," platoon commander Roman Pikulyk said in the town of Avdiivka. "My heart longs to celebrate, but here the holiday feels different, because at war every day is a miracle when one has survived."

Sylvie Corbet and Thomas Adamson in Paris, Lynn Berry and Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow, and David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.

Wave of EU-bound migrants crosses into Serbia

August 24, 2015

MIRATOVAC, Serbia (AP) — In a new human wave surging through the Balkans, thousands of exhausted migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa crossed on foot Monday from Macedonia into Serbia on their way to Western Europe.

The rush over the border followed Macedonia's decision to lift the blockade of its border with Greece, after thousands of migrants stormed past Macedonian police who tried to stop their entry by force.

Nearly 10,000 migrants, including many women with babies and small children mostly from Syria, crossed into Serbia over the weekend. Some were pushed in wheelchairs and wheelbarrows or walked on crutches. Hundreds more entered Macedonia from Greece on Monday.

On Monday, there were more scuffles between Macedonian police and the incoming migrants on the border with Greece. The police were gradually letting into the country only small groups of migrants, trying to prevent a surge. A pregnant migrant from Aleppo, Syria, was slightly injured in the scuffle.

In Austria, police said 37 people were injured — seven seriously — when two vans packed with migrants collided Monday near the Hungarian border. Dozens more migrants fled, along with the suspected smugglers.

The new migrant tide that has hit the Western Balkans has worried EU politicians and left the impoverished Balkan countries struggling to cope with the humanitarian crisis. Visiting Macedonia on Monday, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz talked to migrants and shook hands with them. He also said Greece needed to control its borders more effectively.

"This is a humanitarian disaster. This is a real disaster for the whole European Union and I think there is the real need to have more focus on this problem, not only on the route through Italy but also on the route on the Western Balkans," Kurz said.

A man from Syria, Imad Shoumali, told Kurz in broken English that migrants have no choice but "to come here, to find safe zone, to find good future for us, for our family, for our kids." "We lost everything in Syria, you have to help us to finish the war in Syria," he said. "If you finish now I am back from this point, directly. I don't like to come to Europe."

After entering Serbia, the migrants, fleeing wars and poverty, head toward EU-member Hungary from where they want to continue further north to richer EU countries, such as Germany and Sweden. After they formally ask for an asylum, migrants have three days to reach the border with Hungary which is rushing to build a barbed wire fence on its border with Serbia to block the migrants.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said Monday that although the influx is "huge," Serbia won't "build walls or put them (migrants) in containers and drive them out of the country." Greece's coast guard was searching for at least five people missing at sea after the dinghy they were using to cross from Turkey overturned off the coast of the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos.

The coast guard said it had rescued six people and recovered the bodies of two men, and was searching the area for the missing. The two told authorities they had been in a boat carrying about 15 people when it overturned.

Greece has been overwhelmed by an influx of mainly refugees reaching its islands from Turkey. The Greek coast guard said it had picked up 877 people in 30 search and rescue operations from Friday morning to Monday morning near the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos and Kos. The figures do not include the hundreds that manage to make it to the islands themselves, mostly in inflatable dinghies.

Kurz noted that under EU treaties, known as the Dublin accords, asylum- seekers are supposed to apply for asylum in the first EU country they reach. Greece and Italy, where nearly all those seeking to enter the EU arrive, argue that this places a massively unfair burden on countries on the EU periphery.

"I think there's a need for border control, at least on the outlines of the European Union. And the second point is, it's also the fault of Greece if there is no support for the refugees there," Kurz said.

Amer Cohadzic in Gevgelija, Macedonia, Elena Becatoros in Athens, Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia, and George Jahn in Vienna contributed to this report.

Poland's new leader seeks greater regional unity, NATO bases

August 21, 2015

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — It's been a dream of some Polish leaders for nearly a century: an alliance of Eastern European countries running from the Baltic Sea down to the Black Sea that would keep Russia at bay.

Poland's conservative new president, Andrzej Duda, who took office two weeks ago, has already signaled that building such an alliance under Warsaw's leadership will be a priority of his presidency. That ambition marks perhaps the most significant difference between Duda and his rivals in the centrist government, which for years has prioritized ties with major ally Germany, France and the European Union in a bid to become a significant player in mainstream Europe.

Duda's vision to create a more united front in the face of a resurgent Russia is part of a broader strategy for permanent NATO bases and soldiers in the region. Pursuing that goal, however, could strain ties with Germany, which has refused to allow NATO bases on the alliance's Eastern flank as it tries to avoid a further escalation of tensions with Moscow.

In a recent interview on state radio, Duda said his goal is "very simple — to strengthen Poland's security, to strengthen the security guarantees for Central and Eastern Europe in the situation as it is now."

Duda can count on the support of the three small Baltic states and Romania, which are all deeply fearful of Moscow. However, he can expect an uphill battle in winning over Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which have important political and economic ties with both Germany and Russia that they are reluctant to jeopardize.

Duda's predecessor, Bronislaw Komorowski, and the pro-EU Civic Platform-led government, which has ruled Poland for eight years, have also sought a permanent and significant presence of NATO boots on the ground — but only won a promise of warehouses with military equipment. For now, NATO's presence is limited to a regional command center in Szczecin, a city on Poland's western border with Germany, and some periodic military exercises.

Jedrzej Bielecki, a diplomacy writer for the Rzeczpospolita daily, said what is new is Duda's strategy: The new president will first try to build a coalition in the region and only then, once stronger, will he go to Berlin and Washington to see what he can achieve regarding a stronger NATO presence. A summit of the region's NATO members is planned for early November, ahead of an all-NATO summit next year in Warsaw.

"He understands the realities of power in Europe," Bielecki told The Associated Press. "It will be difficult, but it might not be unrealistic." After the Ukraine crisis erupted last year, then-Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski asked NATO for two heavy combat brigades. But that never materialized, mainly due to Germany's insistence that NATO stick to the letter of a 1997 agreement with Russia.

Poland insists, however, that Russia's annexation of Ukraine' Crimean Peninsula last year has invalidated the act. Duda doesn't have long to prove himself, given that the NATO summit in Warsaw next summer will take up the question of NATO presence in the region. It could be the most important political test of his five-year presidency, Bielecki said.

Most political experts stress that Duda's foreign policy will actually be marked by a much greater degree of continuity than change. He himself has repeatedly stressed that there will be "no revolution" — only a "correction." But a greater shift is expected after the October parliamentary election in which Law and Justice, the party that supports him, is expected to win.

Marcin Zaborowski, vice president of the Center for European Policy Analysis, notes that Duda's first foreign visit, to Estonia on Sunday, underlines the continuity, given Poland's excellent ties with Estonia. Had he wanted to signal a new course he could have headed first to Lithuania, where limits on the rights of the country's ethnic Polish minority remains a cause of strain between the two neighbors.

Duda's second foreign visit, to Berlin on Sept. 28, is also a strong signal he wants to maintain good relations with Germany. Some observers, however, have predicted that ties with Germany will cool. The Law and Justice party has taken a combative stance in the past toward Germany. And ties between the two countries suffered when party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski was prime minister from 2006 to 2007, and when his twin brother Lech was president from 2005 to 2010.

President Lech Kaczynski was killed in a plane crash in Russia in 2010. Several party members have hinted that a more assertive stance toward Berlin is on the horizon. Duda's foreign policy adviser, Krzysztof Szczerski, spoke in an interview of "conditions" Poland would impose on Germany for maintaining the current close partnership, though in recent days he has backed away from that language.

Another Law and Justice member, Witold Waszczykowski, told The Associated Press his party does not want ties to cool with Germany. But he also voiced a feeling shared by some party members that Germany has not been firm enough with the Kremlin, choosing its economic interests over obligations to protect Poland's security.

Waszczykowski, a former deputy foreign minister, said Poland should demand that Germans clarify "who is more precious to them." "They must make up their mind," he said.

Thousands of migrants head closer to EU from Macedonia

August 23, 2015

GEVGELIJA, Macedonia (AP) — Thousands of beleaguered migrants — mostly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans fleeing bloody conflicts — crammed into trains and buses in Macedonia that brought them one step closer to the European Union on Sunday, a day after they stormed past police trying to block them from entering the country from Greece.

On Saturday, some 2,000 rain-soaked migrants rushed past baton-wielding Macedonian officers, who had been sealing the border for three days. Police fired stun grenades and dozens of people were injured as the migrants leapt over barbed wire or ran across a field not protected by the fence to enter Macedonia.

After the incident, police decided to allow migrants to cross the border freely again from Greece, which is also overwhelmed by the human tide. Police officials said that the blockade was imposed to try and stem the overflow of people that had caused chaotic scenes at a railway station in the Macedonian town of Gevgelija as thousands tried to secure places on overcrowded trains.

On Sunday, the migrants — many with children and babies — orderly boarded trains and buses that took them to the border with Serbia before heading farther north toward EU-member Hungary, which is building a razor wire fence on its frontier to prevent them from entering. If they manage to enter Hungary, the migrants could travel freely across the borders of most of the 28 EU-member states.

The more than 5,000 migrants who reached Serbia overnight faced an overcrowded refugee center where they have to apply for asylum — the paper that allows them three days to reach Hungary. State Serbian TV said that a woman gave birth overnight inside the center and that many people are sick and injured from Saturday's clashes.

"A huge number of people have arrived and we expect the same intensity in the next day or two," said Serbian Defense Minister Bratislav Gasic, who toured the area on Sunday. Emina, a migrant from Syria who boarded an early morning train with her two-month-old baby, blamed Macedonian authorities for "harassing" the migrants, not giving them food or water, as well as holding them back at the border.

"It was very hard in Macedonia," she said. "I did not sleep or eat for three days. Just as we arrived to the border, they closed it. It was awful." Both Greece and Macedonia have seen an unprecedented wave of migrants this year. More than 160,000 have arrived so far in Greece, mostly crossing in inflatable dinghies from the nearby Turkish coast — an influx that has overwhelmed Greek authorities and the country's small Aegean islands. Some 45,000 crossed through Macedonia over the past two months.

Few, if any, want to remain in Greece, which is in the grip of a financial crisis, or impoverished Macedonia. Most of the migrants who enter from Greece want to head straight to Macedonia's northern border and then north through Serbia and Hungary on their way to more prosperous EU countries such as Germany, the Netherlands or Sweden.

Separately, Italy's coast guard said it coordinated the rescue of some 4,400 migrants off Libya's coast Saturday, the largest number so far in a single day. The coast guard said 22 rescue operations were carried out for motorized rubber dinghies and fishing boats, all crammed with migrants desperate to reach Europe's southern shores.

So far this year, some 110,000 migrants have been rescued off Libya and brought to southern Italian ports. On Sunday, the Italian coast guard said it had asked three cargo ships to help in rescues, as more smuggler ships needed assistance.

Associated Press writers Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia, and Frances D'Emilio in Rome contributed.

Thousands of migrants trapped on Macedonian border

August 22, 2015

GEVGELIJA, Macedonia (AP) — Thousands of rain-soaked migrants, including many women and children, were trapped Saturday on the border between Greece and Macedonia, as Macedonian police blocked them from entering the country and heading north toward the European Union.

On Friday, police fired stun grenades and clashed with the migrants who tried to rush over the border, a day after Macedonia's government declared a state of emergency on the frontier to stop the human tide. At least 10 people were injured in the melee.

Overnight, police allowed only small groups of families with children to cross the border by walking on railway tracks to a station in the Macedonian town of Gevgelija, where most take trains to the border with Serbia before heading further north toward EU-member Hungary.

Those who could not cross spent the rainy and chilly night in the open with little food. They massed close to a razor wire separating them from machine-gun toting Macedonian policemen. Some raised their babies above their heads to try to persuade the policemen to let them through.

"These men are heartless," said Yousef, a Syrian refugee who gave only his first name, as he held a little wide-eyed girl with curly hair in his arms and pointed toward the policemen. "They don't care about our tragedy."

A police officer told The Associated Press that the force is only following the government's orders to block the refugees from entering the country. "Until we receive another order, the situation here will remain like this," said the officer, who refused to be named because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

As heavy rain poured, some migrants took off their shirts and booed and shouted insults at the policemen in camouflage fatigues. Others took shelter inside dozens of small tents or under a few trees on a muddy field.

Both Greece and Macedonia have seen an unprecedented wave of migrants this year, most fleeing wars in Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq. More than 160,000 have arrived so far in Greece, mostly crossing in inflatable dinghies from the nearby Turkish coast — an influx that has overwhelmed Greek authorities and the country's small Aegean islands. Some 45,000 crossed through Macedonia over the past two months.

Few, if any, of the migrants want to remain in Greece, which is in the grip of a financial crisis. Most head straight to the country's northern border with Macedonia, where they cram onto trains and head north through Serbia and Hungary on their way to the more prosperous EU countries such as Germany, the Netherlands or Sweden.

Last week, there were chaotic scenes at the Gevgelija train station involving hundreds of migrants trying to board the trains. On Saturday, Rama Kabul from Syria walked the railway track in the opposite direction from the station pleading with two Macedonian policemen pushing her back with riot shields to let her brother — who remained trapped behind the razor fence on the border — join her.

"They took me out and left him there," Kabul said with tears in her eyes. "I just want to talk to him." Macedonian police said they started blocking the refugees on the 50-kilometer (30-mile) frontier "for the security of citizens who live in the border areas and for better treatment of the migrants."

The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, said in a statement that it is "particularly worried about the thousands of vulnerable refugees and migrants, especially women and children, now massed on the Greek side of the border amid deteriorating conditions."

Human Rights Watch called on Macedonian authorities to stop police violence against migrants. "Macedonian authorities should be protecting migrants, including children and those among them who may be fleeing war and persecution, not giving the police a green light to fire at them," Emina Cerimovic, research fellow at the rights group, said in a statement.

Until now, the border has been porous, with only a few patrols on each side. Sealing it disrupts the Balkan corridor for migrants who start in Turkey, take boats to Greece or walk to Bulgaria, then make their way through Macedonia and Serbia before heading farther north.

Macedonian troops fire stun grenades at migrants on border

August 21, 2015

IDOMENI, Greece (AP) — Macedonian special police forces fired stun grenades Friday to disperse thousands of migrants stuck on a no-man's land with Greece, a day after declaring a state of emergency on its border to deal with a massive influx of migrants heading north to the European Union.

A crowd of 3,000 migrants who spent night out in the open made several attempts Friday to charge Macedonian police after the border was shut to crossings the previous day. At least eight people were injured in the melee, according to Greek police.

One youngster was bleeding from what appeared to be shrapnel from the stun grenades that were fired directly into the crowd. Police backed by armored vehicles also spread coils of razor wire over rail tracks used by migrants to cross on foot from Greece to Macedonia.

The migrants, many with babies and young children, spent the chilly and windy night in a dust field without food and with little water. Some ate corn they picked from nearby fields. "I don't know why are they doing this to us," said Mohammad Wahid of Iraq. "I don't have passport or identity documents. I cannot return and have nowhere to go. I will stay here till the end."

Greece has seen an unprecedented wave of migrants this year, the vast majority fleeing war and conflict in Syria and Afghanistan. More than 160,000 have arrived so far, mostly crossing in inflatable dinghies from the nearby Turkish coast — an influx that has overwhelmed Greek authorities and the country's small Aegean islands.

Yet few, if any, of the migrants arriving want to remain in Greece, a country in the grip of a financial crisis. The vast majority head straight to the country's northern border with Macedonia, where they cram onto trains and head north through Serbia and Hungary on their way to the more prosperous EU countries such Germany, the Netherlands and those in Scandinavia.

Macedonian police spokesman Ivo Kotevski said both police and the army would control the 50-kilometer (30 mile) border stretch to stop a "massive" influx of migrants coming from Greece. "This measure is being introduced for the security of citizens who live in the border areas and for better treatment of the migrants," he said Thursday.

Until now, the border has been porous, with only a few patrols on each side. Sealing it disrupts the Balkan corridor for migrants who start in Turkey, take boats to Greece or walk to Bulgaria, then make their way through Macedonia or Serbia heading north to the EU.

Almost 39,000 migrants, most of them Syrians, have registered as passing through Macedonia over the past month, double the number from the month before. "We want to go to Germany to find a new life because everything has been destroyed in Syria," said Amina Asmani of Syria, holding her husband's hand and watching her 10-day-old son, who was born on a Greek island during her journey.

She had fought her way past baton-wielding Macedonian riot police in Gevgelija and managed to board a train that took her a step closer to her dream destination: Germany. "The policemen let us on the train only because they felt sorry for the baby," she said.

On Greece's eastern islands, hundreds of migrants arrive each day in overladen, often unseaworthy boats. The Greek coast guard said Friday that a patrol boat from Europe's border agency Frontex had spotted a capsized boat off the island of Lesbos. One migrant was found dead and 15 others were rescued.

Separately, the coast guard said it had picked up 620 people in 15 search-and-rescue operations in the last 24 hours off the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Agathonissi, Leros, Farmakonissi, Kos and Megisti. That doesn't include the hundreds more who have reached the islands on their own.

Costas Kantouris in Thassos and Elena Becatoros in Athens contributed.

Greece: Newly formed party receives mandate to form gov't

August 24, 2015

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A new anti-austerity party formed by rebel lawmakers who quit the governing left-wing Syriza was given its chance Monday to seek government coalition partners and prevent Greece from holding its third national vote this year.

Former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, who heads the newly formed Popular Unity, received the maximum three-day mandate from the country's president after the head of the main opposition conservative New Democracy failed to form a government.

Neither of the two parties was expected to find willing coalition partners, and early elections are practically guaranteed in September following the resignation of Prime Minister Alexis' Tsipras last week, seven months into his four-year term. The most likely date is seen as Sept. 20.

The renewed political uncertainty has hammered the Athens Stock Exchange, which was down 11.3 percent in afternoon trading Monday, dragged down by Europe-wide jitters after China's market tumbled. That followed two straight days of losses last week on election concerns.

Tsipras resigned on Thursday following a rebellion in his party over Greece's new bailout, which saw dozens of Syriza lawmakers dissent and vote against him when the deal came to a vote in Parliament.

Syriza hardliners blasted the party's young leader for reneging on the promises which brought him to power in January elections to repeal austerity measures imposed in return for Greece's two previous international bailouts.

Tsipras has insisted he had no choice but to accept the steep tax hikes and deep spending cuts demanded by European creditors in return for the country's new three-year, 86 billion euros ($99 billion) bailout, to prevent Greece from a potentially catastrophic default and being forced out of Europe's joint currency.

A war of words erupted between New Democracy and Syriza over the weekend when Tsipras refused to meet with New Democracy leader Evangelos Meimarakis as part of the exploratory mandate. "Unfortunately, the country is being led to a catastrophic, in my opinion, course that could have been avoided, with the responsibility of Mr. Tsipras," Meimarakis said during his meeting with Pavlopoulos. "I believe he can still understand that he must meet with us so there can be, even now, an effort at agreement so we can avoid such a course."

Under electoral regulations, each of the three largest parties in Parliament has a maximum three days to seek coalition partners. If no coalition can be formed, the president convenes a meeting of party leaders in a last-ditch attempt to find consensus before a caretaker government is appointed and an election date is set.

This looms as the third time this year that Greeks head to the ballot box, after the January election and a July referendum Tsipras called within a week, urging voters to reject creditor reform demands — which they overwhelmingly did.

Greek election looms as parties struggle to form government

August 21, 2015

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's main opposition party launched efforts to form a new government Friday following Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' resignation, but made no progress in what appears a doomed task — which will pave the way for another potentially destabilizing election.

Tsipras resigned late Thursday and called an early election next month to deal with a rebellion in his radical left Syriza party over the terms of Greece's new bailout deal. Although no date has been set, outgoing government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili said Friday she expects Greeks will go to the polls on Sept. 20.

The opposition has few chances of uniting and forming a government, meaning that after more than five years of a worsening financial crisis, Greece is headed for its fifth national election in six years. Tsipras is widely tipped to win the vote, though if he fails to secure an outright majority he could have to seek a new coalition.

His decision to call a vote so early — just hours after Greece started tapping loans from its 86 billion euro ($95 billion) rescue program — amounts to a bet that he can regain power with a new government that would not be hobbled by internal dissent.

The rebels announced Friday they were splitting to form their own anti-austerity movement. They want to scrap the bailout altogether, arguing that the budget savings and reforms Tsipras agreed to for the bailout Iare exactly what they had vowed to fight when they came to power with Syriza in January.

About one in four Syriza lawmakers refused to back the bailout's ratification in parliament last week, which was only approved with backing from opposition parties. Faced with such dissent, it became only a matter of time before Tsipras called an election or confidence vote to confirm his mandate to implement the bailout reforms.

It will be the third time this year that Greeks vote, after January elections and a July 5 referendum on reforms that creditors were proposing during bailout negotiations. Some analysts are concerned that the election could delay reforms needed to get rescue loans, which are only disbursed after quarterly reviews.

"A September election would occur before the first program review in October and may well hamper and delay the technical work and political decisions necessary for its completion," said the Fitch ratings agency.

"The likely pause in legislating for reforms during the election campaign coming so soon after the agreement was concluded may rekindle or reinforce some creditors' concerns about Greece's ability to meet the program's requirements," Fitch said.

So far, Greece's European creditors seemed sanguine about the election, which had been widely expected. "The step by Prime Minister Tsipras isn't surprising" considering he has lost his majority in parliament, said Steffen Seibert, spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He noted that the bailout deal was signed with Greece, and not just the current government, meaning it should be implemented by whoever emerges victorious from the election.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutchman who heads eurozone finance ministers meetings, said he hoped the elections would not slow down Greece's reforms. "There is a very broad majority in the Greek parliament at the moment that supports the (bailout) package and the expectation is that that could even get stronger," he told reporters.

In Brussels, European Commission spokeswoman Annika Breidthardt said the EU executive body was confident the bailout program would be implemented. The political uncertainty nevertheless took its toll on Greece's stock market, with the main stock index closing down 2.5 percent, a day after losing 3.5 percent on election speculation.

On Friday, President Prokopis Pavlopoulos met conservative New Democracy party head Evangelos Meimarakis and asked him to try to form a government. Meimarakis later met with the head of the small centrist Potami party, Stavros Theodorakis, who said the best way forward for Greece was to hold elections as soon as possible.

"The way things are now ... we believe it is impossible for this parliament to produce a government," Theodorakis said after the meeting. Meimarakis has three days to seek coalition partners, after which the mandate would be given to the third-largest party in Parliament for a further three days.

The third-largest party is now the new movement formed by the 25 lawmakers who split from Syriza Friday. The group, named Popular Unity, will be led by former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis. If, as expected, neither attempt bears fruit, parliament will be dissolved and a caretaker government appointed to lead the country to early elections within a month.

Nicholas Paphitis in Athens , Frank Jordans in Berlin, Lorne Cook in Brussels and Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, contributed.

German minister condemns riots in front of asylum shelter

August 22, 2015

BERLIN (AP) — The German government has harshly condemned riots in front of a new asylum shelter near Dresden which led to at least ten injured, most of them police officers.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas wrote on Twitter Saturday that Germany will "never tolerate that people are threatened and attacked in our country." Maas said authorities will use the "toughness of the rule of law to strike back" against right-wing protesters like those who attacked police Friday night and blocked the road to an asylum shelter in Heidenau to stop migrants from moving in.

German news agency dpa reported the first asylum seekers were only able to move into the home early Saturday after police dispersed the rioters. Up to 600 migrants are expected to find shelter in the former warehouse.

Belorussian president frees all 6 political prisoners

August 22, 2015

MINSK, Belarus (AP) — The authoritarian president of Belarus on Saturday pardoned all six political prisoners in the former Soviet republic, including a former opposition presidential candidate.

Freeing political prisoners was a condition set by the European Union and United States for improved relations with Belarus, which has been ruled by Alexander Lukashenko since 1994. The EU and U.S. have maintained tough sanctions on Belarus since the violent suppression of peaceful protests during the 2010 presidential election.

Seven of the 10 candidates in that race were arrested. One of them, Nikolai Statkevich was still in prison, serving a six-year sentence for what the court said was plotting riots. Lukashenko's office said the president, "proceeding from the principle of humanism," decided Saturday to pardon and release Statkevich and five others who are considered to be political prisoners.

Belarus holds its next presidential election in October, with Lukashenko all but certain to win a fifth term. Statkevich was among those who filed to run against him, but last month election officials turned down his candidacy.

"By freeing the political prisoners, Lukashenko is giving a clear signal to the West about his desire to improve relations," said political analyst Alexander Klaskovsky. "Minsk is in real need of Western credits because of the economic collapse."

Iran official says British Embassy in Tehran reopens Sunday

August 22, 2015

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's deputy foreign minister says Britain will reopen its embassy in Tehran on Sunday after it being closed for nearly four years.

Majid Takht-e-Ravanchi also told state television on Saturday that the Iranian Embassy in London also will reopen at the same time. Takht-e-Ravanchi says British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond will attend the reopening of the British Embassy in Tehran on Sunday. It will be the first visit by a British foreign secretary to Iran since 2003.

Takht-e-Ravanchi said the two embassies will operate at charge d'affaires level. The British Embassy has been closed since hard-liners protesting the imposition of international sanctions stormed it in November 2011.

The recent nuclear deal between Iran and world powers helped accelerate a thaw in relations between Britain and Iran.

Iran unveils new longer-range solid fuel missile

August 22, 2015

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran unveiled a short-range solid fuel ballistic missile Saturday, an upgraded version that the government says can more accurately pinpoint targets.

The surface-to-surface Fateh-313, or Conqueror, was unveiled at a ceremony marking Defense Industry Day and attended by President Hassan Rouhani, who said military might was necessary to achieve peace in the volatile Middle East.

State television showed footage of the missile being fired from an undisclosed location. The missile is a newer version of Fateh-110 and has a quicker launch capability, a longer lifespan and can strike targets with pinpoint accuracy within a 500-kilometer (310-mile) range, the report said.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed a landmark nuclear deal reached between Iran and world powers last month, has called on Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Iran says none of its missiles are designed for that purpose.

The resolution also contains an arms embargo against Iran for the next eight years, but it's not part of the historic nuclear deal. Iran has said it won't abide by that part of the resolution and Rouhani reconfirmed it Saturday.

"We will buy weapons from anywhere we deem necessary. We won't wait for anybody's permission or approval and won't look at any resolution. And we will sell weapons to anywhere we deem necessary," he said in comments broadcast live on state television Saturday.

Rouhani said Iran can't remain passive when instability has spread in neighboring countries. "Can we be indifferent ... when there are special circumstances on our eastern, western, northern and southern borders," Rouhani said, apparently referring to fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the region. "How can a weak country unable to stand up to the military power of neighbors, rivals and enemies achieve peace?"