DDMA Headline Animator

Monday, July 4, 2016

Airport attack comes just as Turkey tries to rebuild bridges

June 30, 2016

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — When he took office in May, Turkey's prime minister declared it was time for the country to put its international affairs in order and reclaim its place as an oasis of stability in a war-torn region. Turkey was trying to do just that — mending fences with both Israel and Russia only this week — when suicide bombers hit its main airport, throwing those plans into disarray.

Tuesday's gun-and-bomb attacks killed more than 40 people, including at least 10 foreigners, and highlighted Turkey's precarious position on the borders of Syria and Iraq. Just a day earlier, Turkey and Israel had announced a deal ending six years of acrimony, and Turkey had expressed regret to Russia over its downing of a warplane, paving the way for reconciliation with Moscow.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim pinned the airport attack on the Islamic State group, which is battling an array of enemies in Iraq and Syria including Western powers and Russia. "It is meaningful that this heinous attack came at a time when we have become successful in the fight against separatist terrorism... and at a time when we started a process of normalizing ties with our neighbors," Yildirim said.

Sabah newspaper, which is close to the government, called the attack a "treacherous ambush on peace," saying it came as Turkey was spearheading peace initiatives that would "change regional balances."

While any direct link between the attack and Turkey's reconciliation efforts is uncertain, there is no doubt that it has a destabilizing effect on a country where a renewed conflict with Kurdish separatists and a spate of attacks by the IS group have kept tourists and investments away. Turkey's crackdown on dissenting voices and media freedoms has also hurt its international standing.

Giray Sadik of Ankara's Yildirim Beyazit University said such attacks are usually pre-planned, making any connection to Monday's normalization moves unlikely. But, he said, "it will harm Turkey's image. It came at a time when (Turkey) was hoping that the rapprochement with Russia would revive its tourism industry."

The charm offensive with Israel and Russia follows several years of foreign policy bungles that crippled Turkey's influence in the region and left it with few friends. Relations between Israel and Turkey began to decline after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose party has Islamist roots, became prime minister in 2003 and got even worse when he criticized Israeli operations against Palestinians. They reached an all-time low over Israel's 2010 raid against a Turkish ship aiming to breech the blockade of Gaza. Nine Turks, including a dual American citizen, were killed. Another later died of his wounds.

This week's agreement with Israel will now lead to an exchange of ambassadors, a revival of economic ties and new energy deals. The same day that deal was announced, Erdogan sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin expressing regret over an incident seven months ago where Turkey shot down a Russian jet on a mission in Syria, triggering a slew of Russian sanctions that have dealt a blow to the Turkish economy. In a sign of warming ties, the two leaders talked by phone Wednesday and agreed to meet face-to-face during a G-20 summit in China.

In the Syrian conflict, Turkey has been accused of supporting Jihadist groups in a bid to bring about Syrian President Bashar Assad's ouster, a move critics say helped exacerbate the civil war and cause the refugee crisis. Turkey, which has taken in some 3 million Syrian refugees, strongly rejects the accusation.

Turkey also has turbulent relations with the European Union over the implementation of a deal to stem the flow of migrants and is frustrated with the United States over its support of a Syrian Kurdish militia. The latter plays a key role in the U.S. fight against IS in Syria, but Turkey considers it a terror organization because of its affiliation with Turkey's Kurdish rebels.

Svante Cornell, Director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program, said the airport attack is an indication of how difficult it will be for Turkey to clean up years of foreign policy failures.

"Turkey inserted itself in the affairs of the Middle East, threw its support behind non-governmental armed groups, taking sides in various conflicts without seriously considering the consequences," Cornell said. "If you use these kinds of groups they have a tendency to turn back and bite and Turkey is now paying the price for its decisions."

Turkish authorities identify suicide bombers; death toll 43

June 30, 2016

ISTANBUL (AP) — The three suicide bombers who attacked Istanbul airport were a Russian, an Uzbek and a Kyrgyz, a senior Turkish official said Thursday, hours after police carried out sweeping raids across the city looking for Islamic State suspects. Tuesday's gunfire and suicide bombing attack at Ataturk Airport killed 43 people and wounded more than 230 others.

The day opened with police conducting raids on 16 locations in Istanbul, rounding up 13 people suspected of having links to the Islamic State group, the most likely perpetrator of the attack at one of the world's busiest airports. The manhunt spanned three neighborhoods on the city's Asian and European sides.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations, did not name the attackers. "A medical team is working around the clock to conclude the identification process," the official told journalists, noting that extensive soft-tissue damage had complicated efforts to identify the attackers. The official could not confirm Turkish media reports that the Russian national was from the restive Daghestan region.

From the start, Turkish authorities have said all information suggests the attack was the work of IS, which this week boasted to have cells in Turkey, among other countries. There was no immediate claim of responsibility by the militant group, which used Turkey as a crossing point to establish itself in neighboring Syria and Iraq. The group has repeatedly threatened Turkey in its propaganda publications.

Interior Minister Efkan Ala said 43 people were killed in the attack, including 19 foreign nationals. Of those who were wounded, 94 remained in hospital, the Istanbul Governor's office reported. Unconfirmed details of the attack continued to emerge on Turkish media.

The private Dogan news agency said the Russian attacker had entered the country one month ago and left his passport in a house the men had rented in the neighborhood of Fatih. The Karsi newspaper, quoting police sources, said the trio was part of a seven-person cell who entered Turkey on May 25. The assailants raised the suspicion of airport security on the day of the attack because they showed up in winter jackets on a summer day, several media reported.

The Dogan news agency broadcast footage of the Istanbul police raids. It showed a special forces police team entering a building carrying what appeared to be a steel shield to protect from possible counterattack during the raid.

In separate large-scale police operations, nine suspects believed to be linked to the IS group were also detained in the coastal city of Izmir. It was not clear if the suspects had any links to the carnage at the airport.

The Izmir raids unfolded simultaneously in the neighborhoods of Konak, Bucak, Karabaglar and Bornova, according to Anadolu Agency. Police seized three hunting rifles and documents relating to IS. The report said the suspects were in contact with IS militants in Syria and were engaged in "activities that were in line with the organization's aims and interests," including providing financial sources, recruits and logistical support.

Days before the Istanbul attack, on June 25, security forces killed two suspected Islamic State militants who were trying to cross the border illegally and ignored orders from security forces to stop, according to local media reports.

One of the two militants was wanted by Turkey on suspicion that he would carry out suicide attacks in the capital Ankara or in the southern city of Adana, Anadolu said. Turkey shares long, porous borders with both Syria and Iraq, where IS controls large pockets of territory. The government has blamed IS for several major bombings over the past year, including in the capital Ankara, and on tourists in Istanbul.

Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul contributed reporting.

Turkish president apologizes for downing of Russian jet

June 27, 2016

MOSCOW (AP) — Turkey's president has apologized for the downing of a Russian military jet at the Syrian border, the Kremlin said Monday, an unexpected move that could open the way for easing a bitter strain in Russia-Turkey ties.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan's letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin comes seven months after the incident, which has triggered a slew of Russian sanctions that have dealt a severe blow to the Turkish economy. The formal apology, which the Kremlin had requested, came hours after Turkey and Israel announced details of an agreement to repair their strained relations.

The Kremlin quoted the Turkish leader as offering his condolences to the killed pilot's family and saying: "I'm sorry." "I share their pain with all my heart," Erdogan said in the letter, according to the Kremlin. "We are ready to take any incentive to help ease the pain and the burden of inflicted damage."

Erdogan's office was keen to describe the letter as an expression of regret, not an apology. "In the letter, the president stated that he would like to inform the family of the deceased Russian pilot that I share their pain and to offer my condolences to them. May they excuse us," spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said.

In a speech delivered during a Ramadan fast-breaking dinner in Ankara, Erdogan said he had written to Putin expressing his "regrets" over the incident and reminding the Russian leader of the "potential for regional cooperation."

"I believe that we will leave behind this current situation which is to the detriment of both countries and rapidly normalize our relations," Erdogan said. Putin had denounced the downing of the Russian warplane at the Syrian border on Nov. 24 as a "treacherous stab in the back." Russia rejected the Turkish claim that the plane had violated its airspace, and responded by deploying long-range air defense missiles to its base in Syria, warning that they would destroy any target posing a threat to Russian aircraft.

The plane's downing came amid a rift between Moscow and Ankara over Syria, where they backed the opposing sides in the conflict. Moscow moved swiftly to ban the sales of package tours to Turkey, which had depended heavily on the Russian tourist flow; banned most of Turkey's food exports; and introduced restrictions against Turkish construction companies, which had won a sizable niche of the Russian market.

Erdogan, who often has been compared to Putin because of both leaders' intolerance to dissent and biting criticism of the West, had apparently miscalculated the plane incident's fallout for the Turkish economy.

The letter comes at a moment when Ankara's relations with the EU and the U.S. have also been strained over the migrant crisis, human rights issues and other disputes. Turkey's new prime minister, Binali Yildirim, said recently that Turkey wants to increase the number of its friends and decrease the number of its enemies, and the letter came on the same day that Turkey and Israel released details of a deal to reappoint ambassadors and end six years of acrimony over Israel's 2010 deadly raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish aid ship.

Lifting the Russian economic penalties was essential for Erdogan, who has found himself under pressure both at home and abroad. Since the incident, Erdogan and his ministers have continuously spoken in favor of normalizing ties with Moscow, but Putin made it clear that he expects a formal apology and compensation.

Erdogan has now offered both, according to his letter, excerpts of which were released by the Kremlin. Erdogan's office also said that the Turkish leader called on Putin to restore traditional friendly relations between Turkey and Russia and work together to address regional crises and jointly combat terrorism.

The Kremlin said that the letter added that the Turkish authorities were conducting a probe against a Turkish ultranationalist militant, Alparslan Celik, who allegedly shot and killed the plane's pilot as he was descending by parachute. The plane's co-pilot survived and was rescued, but a Russian marine was killed by militants during the rescue mission near the border.

On Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is set to visit a ministerial meeting of a grouping of the Black Sea nations hosted by Russia in Sochi, a trip that offers a chance to negotiate a rapprochement.

"We are pleased to announce that Turkey and Russia have agreed to take necessary steps without delay to improve bilateral relations," Erdogan spokesman Kalin said.

Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.

Spanish city pays tribute to 2006 subway crash victims

July 03, 2016

MADRID (AP) — More than 100 people have paid tribute to victims of a fatal subway crash in the eastern Spanish city of Valencia that killed 43 and injured 47 a decade ago. Some mourners laid flowers outside the Jesus station where the crash occurred on July 3, 2006.

The 10-anniversary ceremony was an emotional one for the families, which had long battled to reverse a decision by the conservative Popular Party that governed Valencia at the time to change the name of the station. It has now been changed back to its original name.

Contrary to the local government's account that human error and excessive speed was to blame, victims' associations argued that the derailment was caused by poor railway maintenance. An investigative commission's recent verdict supported the victims' version.

Spain conservatives win vote but face problems to form govt

June 27, 2016

MADRID (AP) — Spain's ruling conservative Popular Party has won the country's unprecedented repeat elections but it remains to be seen if acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy can muster enough support to form a new government.

The Popular Party won 137 seats in Sunday's vote, 14 more than in December but still short of the absolute majority in the 350-seat Parliament that it enjoyed after the 2011 election. Rajoy's party also won the December election but no other major party was willing to help him form a government and it's not clear if they will this time either.

The party's leadership was to meet Monday to review its options. The center-left Socialist Party placed second in the election, collecting 85 seats, five fewer seats than in December in its worst ever result.

Barring an unlikely grand coalition with the Socialists, Rajoy's best option would appear to be to strike a deal with the business-friendly Ciudadanos party, which came in fourth with 32 seats. Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera rejected backing any government led by Rajoy following the December vote, but recently suggested he might ease that stance. That would still leave Rajoy needing the support of smaller groups to make a majority.

In third place, with 71 seats, was the left-wing Unidos Podemos (United We Can) group, which brings together the communists, the Greens and the two-year-old Podemos party that grew out of a grassroots anti-austerity protest movement.

The alliance, headed by pony-tailed political science professor Pablo Iglesias, had hoped to overtake the Socialists and break the country's traditional two-party system. Spain has never had a coalition government and the Popular Party and the Socialists have alternated in power for decades.

King Felipe VI will consult party leaders in the coming weeks and likely nominate one to try to form a government. Following the December election, Rajoy acknowledged he didn't have any support to form a government and renounced the opportunity to even try. The king then called on the second-placed Socialists to try, but they were also unable and the monarch eventually called a repeat election.

"With his big victory, Rajoy now certainly has a stronger hand than after the December election," Antonio Barroso, a London-based analyst with the Teneo Intelligence political risk consulting group, said in an analysis note Monday. "However, it is unlikely that other parties will rapidly give him their support."

Speaking at a victory rally, Rajoy said "We won the election. We demand the right to govern." He said the party would begin talks with other groups immediately. The Popular Party had championed its role in Spain's strong economic recovery following a severe crisis and had to weather much criticism over high unemployment, cuts in government spending on welfare and education and unrelenting political corruption scandals.

5 killed, 20 injured in cafe shooting in Serbia

July 02, 2016

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — A man who police said was driven by jealousy opened fire with an assault gun in a crowded cafe in northern Serbia early Saturday, killing five people — including his ex-wife — and wounding more than 20 before he was arrested.

The attack occurred at 1:40 a.m. in a village close to Zrenjanin, a town 50 kilometers (30 miles) northwest of Belgrade. A police statement said a man identified only as Z.S. first targeted his ex-wife and another woman before randomly shooting at other occupants of the Makijato cafe. The two women died, along with three men, and the wounded included minors, authorities said.

This is the third mass shooting in Serbia in recent years. Last year, a man killed six people with a hunting rifle in northern Serbia, while in 2013 a Balkan war veteran killed 13 people in a central Serbian village.

The tragedies have shocked the Balkan nation and sparked a public debate about the amount of weapons left over from wars in the 1990s. They also brought into focus widespread violence against women in the conservative society, which is being torn by deep social and economic crises.

About 30 to 40 women die each year as the result of domestic violence in Serbia, according to local human rights groups. "The latest horrific events only serve to remind us that this is one of the burning issues in our society," said Brankica Jankovic, a rights watchdog official.

Witnesses told Serbia's state TV that the attacker came to the packed cafe and saw his ex-wife there with a group of friends. He then went home and came back with a gun. "He just pulled out a gun and started shooting, first into the air," said witnesses Svetozar Manojlovic.

"It sounded like firecrackers at first," he said. "Then the guy next to me fell down and others started falling down. It was total chaos." Cafe owner Ljubomir Milinovic said people didn't immediately grasp what was going on. "It was horrible, people were screaming and there was blood everywhere," Milinovic said.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said cafe guests eventually managed to grab the weapon from the man's hands when he tried to run away and police caught him. He said the probable motive was jealousy, adding the man had no criminal record.

Stefanovic said the man's automatic weapon was illegal and appealed to citizens to hand over their old weapons. The Blic daily quoted the father of the slain ex-wife as saying the gunman had been violent to his daughter in the past, which is why she divorced him last year.

The wounded were taken to hospitals in nearby Zrenjanin and Novi Sad. Doctors in Zrenjanin said seven people underwent operations and were in serious condition. Local authorities have declared a three-day mourning period starting Sunday.

AP Writer Dusan Stojanovic contributed.

Iceland celebrates biggest victory with win over England

June 28, 2016

NICE, France (AP) — Aron Gunnarsson, every inch the bearded Viking, ran shirtless toward the Iceland fans and led them in their victory chants. Beating England at the European Championship was more than just Iceland's greatest sporting success. Monday was a moment of national triumph in a country where the team's improbable progress from the group stage had already outshone coverage of Saturday's presidential election.

The Scandinavian nation of just 330,000 people, by the far the smallest country to qualify for a European Championship, inflicted a shattering 2-1 defeating on England - the country that has been the model for Icelandic football for decades.

Defender Ragnar Sigurdsson, who scored Iceland's first goal and made an outstanding last-ditch tackle to deny Jamie Vardy a potential equalizer, said he had "dreamt ... a long time ago" of playing England.

But he sounded a little disappointed with what he'd found. "We didn't feel that they created any chances," he said. "(Harry) Kane had a header opportunity and headed straight to the goalkeeper, there's a lot that we were just heading away and long shots from distance."

It was a victory built on smart positioning in defense, English-style physical play and many, many individual errors from England's players. Iceland's rock-solid 4-4-2 formation was a ghost from the past of England coach Roy Hodgson, who along with Bob Houghton introduced it to Sweden when they coached there in the 1970s and 1980s. One of their disciples was Lars Lagerback, now Iceland's co-coach.

"I learned a lot from them, they changed the training methods and the coaching education in the long run in Sweden and I was really, really benefiting from that," Lagerback said, minutes after Hodgson resigned from the England job. "Respect to a really, really good coach."

Lagerback took Hodgson's gifts and turned them against his old master with devastating effect. In seven games against England with Sweden and now Iceland, Lagerback's teams have never been defeated. In Nice on Monday, Iceland neutralized the English Premier League's top two scorers, Kane and Vardy, with tight marking, positional forethought and superb awareness of where the rest of the team was at all times.

England's left winger Raheem Sterling won the penalty that gave England the lead early on. But he was then kept quiet by right-back Birkir Saevarsson. On the right, Daniel Sturridge had a little more success but found few targets for his often-wayward crosses.

Iceland's gameplan was built around shutting down England's stars, but it wasn't all negative. On the break, the Icelanders created the best chances of the game and could have scored another when Gunnarsson turned Jack Wilshere but saw his shot saved by Joe Hart.

All through the game, the vastly outnumbered contingent of Icelanders sang more than England's supporters, who were left in stunned silence for long periods. As England's players slumped onto the grass and the final whistle, Iceland's substitutes and backroom staff charged onto the pitch as if they'd won the final.

"We are a little bit colored by our love for the English football, so probably this game means a little bit more to us, who have been watching English football since we were born," Lagerback's co-coach Heimir Hallgrimsson said.

As for playing host nation France in a quarterfinal on Sunday, Hallgrimsson added: "I will take it." Fresh from beating England, tiny Iceland now feels it can take on the world. "We didn't have so much problems defending (against) the English, and also in ball possession we created a lot of good chances," Hallgrimsson said. "If the players play with the same attitude, we can beat anyone."

100 years later, France marks American's July 4 sacrifice

July 03, 2016

BELLOY-EN-SANTERRE, France (AP) — In the end, Alan Seeger's bones could no longer be distinguished from those of his Foreign Legion comrades who had fallen alongside him in one of the most brutal battles of World War I.

United across nations, it was the glorious death that he craved. Seeger — an American poet, romantic and soldier — died on that most American of days, July 4th, a century ago Monday. Barely 28, he was already fighting for a global, common cause that bound dozens of countries together at a time when the United States was still a bystander, reluctant to get involved in a faraway war in Europe.

His premonition, "I have a Rendezvous with Death," was to become his most beloved poem, and the volunteer was happy to give his life for France and its grand ideals of "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity." Half a century later, it was a favorite poem of U.S. President John Kennedy.

Seeger was last seen by his Egyptian friend Rif Baer charging the German enemy, a tiny part of the massive Battle of the Somme, where more than 1 million people were killed, wounded or went missing in 4 ½ months of fighting in 1916.

"His head erect, and pride in his eye, I saw him running forward, with bayonet fixed. Soon he disappeared," Baer described the final scene — and the myth of Seeger emerged. As a belated summer comes to northern France, peonies bloom over Ossuary No. 1 in nearby Lihons where he is believed to lie, forgotten by most but still cherished by some. In the village where he fell, a gnarly apple tree planted in dedication to his sacrifice furtively tries to produce fruit from the few branches it still has. The mayor plans to graft the tree, to make sure Seeger's memory survives.

The Belloy village square is named after him and the village's World War I memorial even has him — in the Gallic "Alain Seeger" —chiseled in stone. "For France, Alan Seeger is first and foremost the symbol of commitment — commitment right up to death," said local historian Marcel Queyrat.

In his diary, Seeger wrote "I never took arms out of any hatred against Germany or the Germans, but purely out of love for France." To his mother he wrote "there should really be no neutrals in a conflict like this, where there is not a people whose interests are not involved." This, combined with his French military flair for "elan" — the forward thrust in battle — makes Seeger a standout a century later when Europeans are questioning their unity.

From the start of World War I, Seeger wanted to get the United States involved in the allied cause. Once it did, in 1917, it set the scene for the "American century" of predominance in the world. His centennial now offers a stark contrast. During this year's U.S. presidential campaign, opponents of Republican candidate Donald Trump accuse him of turning back to isolation, his "America First" slogan stoking such fears.

Seeger could not understand those who stood to the side in World War I, hardly the anti-war message that his folk-singing nephew Pete Seeger would later spread during the Vietnam War years. "Playing a part in the life of nations, he is taking part in the largest movement his planet allows him," Alan Seeger wrote in his diary.

Born into a wealthy family that built its fortune on Mexican sugar refining, and with a gift for languages, he went to study at Harvard. His life changed for good when he started hanging out with classmate John Reed, who went on to become the eyewitness writer of the 1917 Russian Communist revolution with "Ten Days that Shook the World."

After Harvard, it was on to New York and the Bohemian lifestyle of Greenwich Village. Soon Seeger was crossing the Atlantic to Paris and the Rive Gauche — the Left Bank. He arrived there in 1912, giving him two years to fall in love with the City of Lights and all things French, enough to decide to defend the nation when war came.

"An artist is not only an artist, he is also a man of action which, for me, is absolutely essential," said Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, president of the famed family Champagne house. "Seeger shows the way."

Taittinger has been smitten with Seeger's dash. At his Chateau de la Marquetterie amid the Champagne vineyards, he even has a special room with poetry and photos of Seeger, amid other World War I memorabilia. Seeger was smitten just as much with Champagne, writing of a night when he and other soldiers "in our candle-lit loft we uncorked bottles of bubbling champagne ... and clinking our tin army cups."

Early on, there was much fighting around Reims, Champagne's main city, and the destruction of the Cathedral by the Germans was considered such a sacrilege that it turned many across the world against Kaiser Wilhelm II. Those were the lands amid rusty vines that soldier Seeger roamed early on — often behind the lines while his soul yearned for action.

"And what a curious anomaly," he wrote to his mother. "On this slope the grape pickers are singing merrily at their work, on the other the batteries are roaming. Boom! Boom!" Even though France was in his heart, home kept tugging at it too. He "fairly danced for joy" being granted a July 4th leave in Paris in 1915, but the war malaise had already spread to the capital, where Seeger saw many women in mourning. It was to be his last full Independence Day.

With an uncanny sense of fate, he felt battle was near in June 1916. "We will go directly into action, magnificently, unexpectedly, and probably victoriously, in some dashing charge, even if it be only of local importance," he wrote.

That is exactly what happened at Belloy-en-Santerre. "I have a rendezvous with Death — At some disputed barricade," the poem says. On Monday, Seeger will be remembered again. "Life is very short but some lives are more full than others," said the 63-year-old Taittinger, adding that Seeger's life, cut short at 28, "is much more full than my life will ever be."

Other Europeans unhappy with EU could seek to follow UK out

June 30, 2016

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Disenchantment with the European Union is not limited to British voters who opted to leave the bloc. Across the continent, anti-EU sentiment is bubbling up, fueled by far-right movements and others unhappy about government spending cuts, the influx of migrants and other policies overseen from the 28-nation bloc's headquarters in Brussels.

Some political parties are offering to fight the cause of those disgruntled voters in upcoming national elections — while a few far-right groups are demanding a ballot in their own countries on whether to follow the United Kingdom out of the EU door.

That prospect is sending a shudder through top EU officials because it could propel a process where the bloc breaks up or collapses as fast as an Arctic ice sheet, wrecking Europe's delicate postwar balance. "Will Britain's shock vote to leave the (EU) embolden populists elsewhere in Europe? That has become the key question for Europe," Holger Schmieding, the chief economist at German bank Berenberg, wrote in an analysis.

France's far-right National Front lost no time in claiming that the U.K. referendum outcome was an emphatic endorsement for the proposals it has been putting forward for years. The nationalist party's leader, Marine Le Pen, posted a Union Jack photo on her Facebook page when the result came out last week, saying, "The United Kingdom has started a movement that will not stop."

She told the European Parliament on Tuesday: "I believe the consequences (of the U.K. vote) can only be positive ... the people can only gain from getting back their independence, a democratic process and control of their destiny."

Le Pen predicts that Europe's future shape will now be a central issue in campaigning for the French presidential election in about a year's time. Numerous polls have shown her reaching a runoff against a mainstream candidate.

The British decision to leave was also met with joy by Dutch firebrand lawmaker Geert Wilders, whose anti-Islam and euroskeptic Freedom Party is riding high in polls ahead of a general election next year.

"We want to be in charge of our own country, our own money, our own borders, and our own immigration policy," Wilders said, pledging to hold a referendum on EU membership if he takes power. "Let the Dutch people decide."

Eager to nip such talk in the bud, EU leaders are taking a tough line with the British government — refusing to hold any talks on future ties with Britain until London formally notifies Brussels it is leaving.

"No notification, no negotiation," EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Tuesday — also sending a signal that leaving the bloc won't be painless. It's not hard to find European politicians disaffected with the EU. They might not want to quit the bloc, but they do want it to do some things differently and now they are finding public support.

Earlier this month, an anti-establishment party founded by a comic triumphed in Italian mayoral runoff elections, upending the established order of municipal politics in Rome and Turin. The 5-Star Movement candidates trounced Italian Premier Matteo Renzi's mainstream rivals.

"We want a Europe that is more a 'community' and not a union of banks and lobbies," the 5-Star Movement's founder, comic Beppe Grillo, wrote on his blog after the British vote. "The European Union must change, otherwise it dies," he wrote. "There are millions and millions of European citizens ever more critical, who don't recognize themselves in this union, made of banks and economic blackmail."

Grillo was apparently referring to the deeply unpopular austerity measures designed to cut government debt in Europe after the continent's financial crisis. Although the immediate threat of a disintegration of the 19-nation eurozone that uses the euro currency has eased, the budget cuts have stayed.

So has the resentment of them. Since a general election in Portugal last year, an anti-austerity Socialist government has been kept in power by an unprecedented alliance with the Communist Party and radical Left Bloc. While Portugal has won too many benefits to want to leave the EU, the government's reversal of austerity measures is a clear act of defiance against Brussels.

EU nations such as Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and others have also defied EU officials in Brussels by refusing to accept the principle of sharing the refugee load among all EU members and helping hard-hit Greece and Italy.

Even in Germany, a bedrock EU member, there are stirrings of dissent against the bloc. Although Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc is easily the strongest political force, its ratings have sagged over recent months amid the huge surge of migrants to Germany and the fierce debate about how to respond.

At the same time, the 3-year-old nationalist Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, has surged in the polls and hopes to enter the national parliament next year. It opposes the EU becoming a "centralist federal state" and demands that the EU go back to being a community of "sovereign, loosely connected individual states."

If the EU doesn't scrap its "quasi-socialist experiment of deeper political integration, more European people will win back their sovereignty the British way," AfD leader Frauke Petry said. And even the wealthy countries of Northern Europe have not been immune from the anti-EU malaise, with the U.K. referendum result encouraging euroskeptic parties there as well.

The nationalist Sweden Democrats reiterated their calls for a similar anti-EU referendum in Sweden, while the leader of the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party, Kristian Thulesen Dahl, said Denmark should wait to see what kind of exit deal Britain gets and then hold its own referendum.

Britain's impending departure from the EU — which is apparently is going to be a much longer process than EU officials want — has not triggered a groundswell of other countries eager to follow suit. Still, it has given European leaders a lot to think about.

"Obsessed with the idea of instant and total integration, we failed to notice that ordinary people, the citizens of Europe, do not share our euro-enthusiasm," EU President Donald Tusk said.

Elaine Ganley in Paris, Geir Moulson in Berlin, Frances D'Emilio in Italy, Michael C. Corder in The Hague and Karl Ritter in Stockholm contributed to this report.

EU lawmakers to press U.K. for quick exit ahead of summit

June 28, 2016

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union lawmakers are meeting in emergency session to discuss the U.K.'s unprecedented vote to leave the EU, set to call for Britain to trigger the exit process immediately. A non-binding draft resolution drawn up for Tuesday's session says the process should be launched once Prime Minister David Cameron notifies the outcome of the British referendum to EU leaders.

Cameron is to share his views about the referendum and perhaps Britain's future at a summit in Brussels starting at 1400 GMT on Tuesday. He has signaled that Britain might not trigger the exit clause known as Article 50 until October.

EU nations acknowledge the political chaos in the U.K. but they want Article 50 triggered as soon as possible to calm markets and reassure European citizens.

Leadership hopeful May vows to unify Britain behind EU exit

July 03, 2016

LONDON (AP) — Theresa May, the leading Conservative candidate to succeed David Cameron as British prime minister, pledged Sunday to unify her divided party and country behind a slowly negotiated exit from the European Union.

Home Secretary May, who holds a strong lead over four party rivals before Tuesday's initial leadership ballot, billed herself as best placed to bridge the gulf between ardent opponents and supporters of EU membership.

May said that under her leadership, the United Kingdom wouldn't formally declare its intention to leave the EU until next year, meaning a British exit from the 28-nation bloc might not happen until 2019. Under Article 50 of EU treaty law, members who formally apply to leave face a two-year deadline to negotiate new agreements with EU partners.

"What's important is that we do this in the right timescale to get the right deal for the UK. We shouldn't invoke Article 50 immediately," May said in a BBC television interview. "It shouldn't be before the end of the year. We need to establish our own negotiating position."

May officially supported Cameron's pro-EU efforts but avoided campaigning herself. She argued Sunday this relative neutrality would help her build consensus between the 17 million who voted for a British exit, or "Brexit," and the 16 million who voted to remain in the June 23 referendum.

"I've been clear that Brexit means Brexit," she said. "What we need to do is to bring those two sides together, bring 'leave' and 'remain' together, and bring the country together." Four other Conservatives are competing with May to take the helm of Britain's governing party following Cameron's resignation in the immediate wake of his referendum defeat.

Tuesday's initial ballot of 330 Conservative members of the House of Commons will eliminate the least popular candidate, followed by two more internal party votes Thursday and July 12 to reduce the field to two. Both surviving candidates will spend weeks seeking support from the party's approximately 150,000 grass-roots members before a winner is declared Sept. 9.

Media polling of Conservative MPs suggests that May already has more than 100 lawmakers' votes secured, while three others — anti-EU candidates Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom and pro-EU candidate Stephen Crabb — have secured around 20 each. The other anti-EU candidate, former Defense Secretary Liam Fox, has secured only a handful of votes and is considered most likely to be eliminated from the race Tuesday.

EU supporters parade through London in 'March for Europe'

July 02, 2016

LONDON (AP) — Thousands of European Union supporters are singing, dancing and marching through the streets of London to protest the United Kingdom's vote to leave the EU. Saturday's 2-mile (3-kilometer) "March for Europe" from Hyde Park to Parliament was organized on social media. Many of the marchers say they expect lawmakers to block any moves to leave the 28-nation bloc, a move backed by 52 percent of voters in the June 23 referendum.

One organizer, comedian Mark Thomas, says British lawmakers should not legislate for an exit based on a result driven by anti-EU campaigners' exaggerations and distortions on immigration and EU spending.

Thomas said: "We would accept the result of the referendum if it was fought on a level playing field. But it was full of misinformation."

Wales votes 'leave' despite millions in EU support

July 01, 2016

BRYNMAWR, Wales (AP) — The modern highway connecting Brynmawr to other former coal-mining towns in South Wales was partly funded by the European Union, replacing a three-lane road known for deadly accidents. Other EU funds have been used to improve railway lines, open museums and regenerate dreary town centers shattered by the decline of heavy industry.

But none of that impresses John Thompson, a retired truck driver who recalls the days when the area in Blaneau Gwent county was bustling with life, and the coal mines and steelworks provided thousands of jobs.

"We have seen no benefit up here at all," the 70-year-old says outside a cafe serving instant coffee and bacon rolls. Besides, he notes, the EU doesn't just hand out the money: "They tell us how to spend it. That's not democracy."

Even though Wales receives hundreds of millions annually in EU funding, more than half of the Welsh electorate voted in last week's referendum for Britain to leave the EU. Puzzling many analysts, the "leave" vote was strongest in deprived post-industrial areas that have arguably benefited the most from EU support.

"Wales has shot itself in the foot," says Ed Poole, lecturer in politics at Cardiff University. "Wales has been one of the biggest net beneficiaries of being in the European Union." A study he co-authored before the vote estimated that Wales receives a net annual benefit of 245 million pounds (now $326 million) from the EU budget — 79 pounds ($105) a head. That compares with a net contribution of 151 pounds per head for all of the United Kingdom.

Maybe some voters didn't fully understand the role of EU funds in supporting their communities, Poole says. Maybe, he says, they chose to ignore it. It's not yet clear when the money will go away or what, if anything, might replace it — the negotiations over specifics of Britain's divorce from the EU are expected to take years.

"There may be a sense of disconnect from some of the projects and whether they have a real impact on people's lives," he says. "I do think that this has been an opportunity perhaps to reflect a deep sense of grievance of how the general political processes have been working."

South Wales is a pleasant landscape of lush green hills with small towns in the valleys featuring rows of two-story brick homes that look quaint at first glance but have a certain sadness to them on further inspection. Town centers are quiet, mostly just a few stores and pubs with Welsh flags fluttering in the windows and, here and there, a "vote leave" banner.

Connor Morris, 18, who is in a training program to become a mechanic, said all of his friends voted to leave the EU. He said he's concerned about immigrants, though there aren't many in Brynmawr. "I don't really know a lot about it. I just voted out," he says, smoking an e-cigarette.

Besides a few factories, there is little work in the towns themselves, so people commute to Cardiff or other big cities. Left in town during the day are mostly older people. About 80 million pounds in EU funds were used to build the 8-kilometer (5-mile) stretch of highway west of Brynmawr. Signs next to the road remind drivers of where the money came from.

Similar signs in neighboring Ebbw Vale explain the EU's role in building a modern hospital, train station and learning center that now occupy the grounds of the former steelworks that once employed more than 10,000 people.

"Leave" campaigners say many of the EU projects are gimmicky and haven't led to tangible improvements. Also, they consider the EU money to be British money to begin with, since overall Britain contributes more money than it gets back from the EU.

"So people actually used the opportunity of the referendum to say: 'Whoa, stop the car, I want to get out,'" says Welsh Conservative leader Andrew R.T. Davis, who voted for Britain to leave the EU. "The way this car is being driven we're going to hit a brick wall."

The "leave" side's strongest support in Wales was in the low-income county that includes both Brynmawr and Ebbw Vale, where 62 percent voted to quit the EU. By contrast, the Welsh capital of Cardiff voted 60 percent "remain."

In Port Talbot, 57 percent voted "leave" despite warnings from some analysts that losing access to the EU's single market could have devastating consequences for the city's steelworks. In Pontypridd, a town climbing up misty hillsides north of Cardiff, Jenny Hughes said her education consultancy firm lost three potential contracts the day after the referendum as European partners pulled out. She is furious at neighbors who voted for leaving the EU, and says many of them did so for reasons that have little to do with the bloc.

"You've got the racist brigades. You've got the ones who want Britain to be the way it was. And you have those who are sticking it to the government," she says. Eddie Cullen, a digger operator in the small town of Hengoad, might belong to the middle category. He says the sense of community was shattered when the town's Penallta coal mine closed in 1991. In its heyday it employed 3,000 people.

Cullen, 59, recalls the noise it used to make: the clatter of drams packed with coal being raised from the shaft. His grandfather worked down there; so did his father. Now the mine is silent and overgrown with weeds. The shafts have been filled and the winding towers above them are rusting away. The enormous engine hall is gutted, its windows sealed and sprayed with graffiti.

None of that can reasonably be blamed on the EU, and yet when Cullen says people have "had enough" he is directing his frustration at Brussels, not the market forces or British governments that killed off coal mining.

"People just want to be British again," Cullen says, a Jack Russell Terrier pulling on a leash in his hand. "Have their identity back. Not be run by Europe."

5 candidates in leadership race for UK's Conservative Party

June 30, 2016

LONDON (AP) — There are five candidates competing for the position of leader of Britain's Conservative Party. The winner, to be announced September 9, will become prime minister and is expected to lead negotiations to take Britain out of the European Union. Here are brief descriptions of the candidates:


Home Secretary Theresa May did not support leaving the EU during the referendum campaign, staying largely out of the fray while backing the "remain" side, but she said Thursday she is now committed to Brexit. As home secretary, she has played a central role in shaping and implementing security and counter-terrorism policies. The Home Office that she runs is also charged with maintaining Britain's border security and has other far-ranging responsibilities. She has served in the post since 2010 and entered Parliament in 1997.

May, 59, is a vicar's daughter who came up through Conservative Party ranks, working behind the scenes at her local Conservative Association before becoming a city councilor in a London borough. Her position within the party was helped when she served as its chairman in 2002 and 2003. Stressing her extensive experience near the top of government, her campaign has launched with the slogan "Theresa May is ready to be prime minister from day one."


Justice Secretary Michael Gove helped ex-London mayor Boris Johnson lead the successful referendum campaign to take Britain out of the EU. His last-minute announcement Thursday that he was joining the Conservative leadership race indicates growing support for his candidacy in Parliament. He earlier served a controversial tenure as Education Secretary. Gove, 48, enjoyed a close friendship with Prime Minister David Cameron before they split over the referendum.

Gove was born and brought up in Scotland. His father ran a fish-processing business and his mother worked as a university lab assistant and at a school for the deaf. Gove worked first in journalism, including a stint at the Times newspaper, and built a reputation with extensive TV and radio appearances. He entered Parliament in 2005 and was made Education Secretary after the Conservatives' election victory in 2010. His reform plan made many enemies, however, and he was reassigned after four years.

Gove mostly campaigned in Johnson's shadow during the referendum on the EU but his popularity within the party appears to have played an important role in Johnson's decision not to seek the leadership.


The 43-year-old Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb does not enjoy a large national profile but he is well known among the Conservative Party lawmakers who will choose which two leadership candidates are put before the party as a whole. He has emphasized his working-class roots, having been raised by a single mother in a social housing complex in Wales. He draws a contrast between himself and other Conservative lawmakers who have elite educational backgrounds.

Crabb said when he announced his candidacy that he wants to deliver "on the expectations of the 17 million people" who voted to take Britain out of the EU, in part by making establishing control over immigration. He earlier served as Welsh Secretary.


The former defense secretary Liam Fox challenged for the party leadership in 2005 but lost out to Cameron, who eventually led the Conservatives back to power. He resigned from his defense post in 2011 because of a controversy surrounding the actions of close friend Adam Werritty, who took on an unofficial role as adviser. Despite have no official role at the Ministry of Defense and no security clearance, he traveled with Fox on numerous official trips.

Fox, 54, has been a strong backer of getting Britain out of the EU. He said when he announced his candidacy for leader that he would not favor remaining part of the single European market if that means accepting the EU's freedom of movement principle. To do so, he said, would be to betray the Britons who voted for Brexit.


Energy and Climate Change Minister Andrea Leadsom campaigned strongly in favor of leaving the European Union. She called Brexit her "absolute priority" and a focal point of her race for the party leadership. The 53-year-old had a long career in the banking and finance industry before entering Parliament in 2010 when the election brought Cameron and the Conservatives to power.

She told constituents before the Brexit referendum that Britain has a much brighter future outside the EU and could forge new and sensible trading arrangements with EU countries. She says Britain is well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunities available now that the decision to leave has been made.

Austrian court overturns presidential election, orders rerun

July 01, 2016

VIENNA (AP) — In a move that could turn into the next blow to the EU after Britain's exit vote, Austria's highest court on Friday ordered a rerun of the country's presidential election. The landmark decision gives a right-wing candidate the chance to turn his narrow defeat into victory.

Unprecedented in Austria's post-war history, the court ruling also appeared to be unique within the European Union and is looming large in the wake of Britain's vote to leave the 28-nation bloc. The decision, announced by Constitutional Court chief judge Gerhart Holzinger, represents a victory for the right-wing Freedom Party, which had challenged the May 22 runoff on claims of widespread irregularities. It comes just a week before independent politician Alexander Van der Bellen was to be sworn in as president and 40 days after he was declared the winner of the vote.

But it also has wider implications. With Britain's impending departure from the EU, a chance by Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer to turn his loss into a win would boost not only his party but also far-right and nationalist movements elsewhere in Europe who are all lobbying for a weaker EU or an outright exit from the bloc.

Those parties had hailed Hofer's strong showing in May as proof of a surge in anti-EU sentiment. Several wasted no time in responding to Friday's court decision. Marine LePen of France's far-right National Front called it "very good news for patriots."

"After the happy victory of Brexit in Britain ... Austria also has a chance to find the path to freedom and national pride," she said in a statement. "France's turn will be next!" The leader of Italy's euroskeptic, right-wing Northern League party, Matteo Salvini, also linked the outcome in Austria to Britain's decision to leave the EU.

"Let's hope the winds of European freedom and normality arrive here as well," Salvini said in a Facebook video post. Austrian referendums are decided by parliament and not by the president and are restricted to only a few issues, with an EU exit not among them. Still, a win by Hofer could increase pressure for a popular vote on that topic.

Interviewed after last week's exit vote in Britain, Hofer said he could see the need for such a referendum in Austria within a year if the EU "develops into a centralistic union instead of returning to the original basic values."

Founded by former members of the Nazi party, the Freedom Party has sought over the past few decades to shed its far-right image and appeal to the political middle but still counts the far-right fringe among its supporters.

Hofer was leading after the polls closed in May, but final results after a count of absentee ballots put Van der Bellen ahead by only a little more than 30,000 votes. The final count gave Van der Bellen 50.3 percent of the vote, compared with 49.7 percent for Hofer.

The Freedom Party insisted the law had been contravened in one way or another in most of the 117 electoral districts. The court ruled broadly with Freedom Party claims that absentee ballots were sorted before electoral commission officials arrived; that some officials stayed away during absentee vote counts but signed documents saying they were present; and that some ballot envelopes were opened without authorization.

Holzinger also spoke of the possibility of individuals voting twice and of potential violations by the Interior Ministry, which released partial results under a publishing embargo to media, pollsters and other institutions.

The judge said the court had no other choice but to call for a rerun, noting that the irregularities potentially affected nearly 78,000 votes — more than twice the margin separating the two candidates.

He acknowledged that opting for a new vote instead of a recount represented a "rigorous measure." But he said this was necessary "in the interest of the legality of the elections, which represent one of the foundations of the state ... in a democratic republic."

He emphasized that the irregularities did not point to willful cheating, saying testimony from witnesses led to no indication that of any "manipulation" of the results. Holzinger also said the investigation suggested that previous Austrian national elections also were beset by similar problems that had remained hidden until now.

Government officials also sought to cast the decision not as a failure but a victory for strong democratic institutions, including one tongue-in-cheek comment. "Sometimes, a re-vote is not the worst thing in the world. If someone in the UK needs the phone-number of our Supreme Court: +43-1-531220," tweeted Martin Weiss, Austria's ambassador to Israel.

But Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache suggested that the count was marred not by "sloppiness but massive legal irregularities." "Because of these illegalities, anything could have happened," he told reporters.

Parliament now has to decide on a re-run date, expected in September or October. Until then, Austria's presidency will be run jointly by the three parliamentary presidents — one of whom is Hofer — once Heinz Fischer, the current president, steps down next week.

Austria's flawed election has increased mistrust in the Interior Ministry and other government institutions and that, said political scientist Kathrin Stainer-Haemmerle, "is a sentiment which first and foremost benefits" Hofer.

Hofer and the other co-presidents from the governing center-left coalition said they would restrict themselves to the essentials and avoid high-profile representational functions during their interim terms. Hofer personally promised to avoid any effort to exploit his position.

"I will prove that I will act in a non-partisan way," he said. Lothar Lockl, who ran Van der Bellen's campaign, said the court decision must be respected. He urged everyone to vote in the new runoff and called on Van der Bellen's supporters to rally behind him.

Associated Press writers Nicole Winfield in Rome, Elaine Ganley in Paris and AP video journalist Philipp Jenne in Vienna contributed.

Netanyahu lauds benefits of normalizing ties with Turkey

June 27, 2016

ROME (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that his nation's agreement with Turkey to normalize ties will have "immense" implications for the Israeli economy. The Israel-Turkey reconciliation deal, which is to be officially announced later in the day, is meant to end a bitter six-year rift between the Mideast powers. News of the deal first emerged on Sunday, and an Israeli official confirmed the details of the deal to The Associated Press. He spoke on condition of anonymity pending a formal announcement.

Speaking in Rome during talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome, Netanyahu said Monday the agreement is an important step, alluding to the development of Israel's offshore natural gas reserves.

"I use that word advisedly, immense implications for the Israeli economy, and I mean positive immense implications," the Israeli prime minister said. As Netanyahu and Kerry met for the second time in as many days, the U.S. top diplomat welcomed the agreement and congratulated Netanyahu. He said the U.S. has been working on the rapprochement for several years, and called it a "positive step."

Israel and Turkey were former close allies, but relations imploded in 2010 following an Israeli naval raid that killed nine Turkish activists, including a dual American citizen, who were on a ship trying to breach Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Following the incident, Turkey withdrew its ambassador to Israel and greatly scaled back military and economy ties. The move toward rapprochement comes amid Turkey's deepening isolation in the region, following a deterioration of ties with Russia and Egypt as well as the turmoil in neighboring Syria.

An Israeli official said the impending deal would include $20 million in Israeli compensation for families of those killed in the raid, an end to all Turkish claims against Israeli military personnel and the state of Israel over the raid, and the mutual restoration of ambassadors.

A senior Turkish official said that under the agreement, Turkey would deliver aid to Gaza and engage in infrastructure investments to construct residential buildings and a hospital, and to address energy and water shortages in Gaza.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan briefed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about the deal, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said on Monday. Officials from Erdogan's office said Abbas expressed his "satisfaction" over the deal.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to speak publicly about the matter.

Associated Press writer Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Duterte sworn in as president of Philippines

June 30, 2016

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in Thursday as president of the Philippines, with some hoping his maverick style will energize the country but others fearing he will undercut one of Asia's liveliest democracies amid threats to kill criminals en masse.

The 71-year-old former prosecutor and longtime mayor of southern Davao city won a resounding victory in May's elections in his first foray into national politics. Duterte, who begins a six-year term as president, captured attention with promises to cleanse the poor Southeast Asian nation of criminals and government crooks within six months — an audacious pledge that was welcomed by many crime-weary Filipinos but alarmed human rights watchdogs and the influential Roman Catholic church.

Shortly after Duterte's election win, policemen launched an anti-drug crackdown under his name, leaving dozens of mostly poor drug-dealing suspects dead in gunfights with police or in mysterious circumstances.

Days before his swearing in, Duterte was threatening criminals with death if they wouldn't reform. "If you destroy my country, I will kill you," he said in a warning to criminals in a speech during the last flag-raising ceremony he presided as mayor in Davao city this week.

Vice President Leni Robredo, a human rights lawyer who comes from a rival political party, was sworn in earlier in a separate ceremony. Vice presidents are separately elected in the Philippines, and in a sign of Duterte's go-it-alone style, he has not met her since the May 9 vote.

In a country long ruled by wealthy political clans, Duterte rose from middle-class roots. He built a reputation on the campaign trail with profanity-laced speeches, sex jokes and curses that sideswiped even the widely revered pope and the United Nations.

His brash style has been likened to that of presumptive U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, although he detests the comparison and says the American billionaire is a bigot and he's not.

Duterte is the first president to come from the country's volatile south, homeland of minority Muslims and scene of a decades-long Muslim separatist insurgency, where he said his central Philippine-based family migrated in search of better opportunities.

Who will take Spain's crown? Euro 2016 down to final 4 teams

July 04, 2016

MARSEILLE, France (AP) — The European Championship semifinals promise mouth-watering matchups as the last four teams battle for a berth in the July 10 final and a chance to succeed two-time winner Spain.

In Lyon on Wednesday, Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal takes on a Welsh team featuring his Real Madrid teammate Gareth Bale. A day later in Marseille, world champion Germany, fresh from a nerve-rattling penalty shootout win against Italy, looks to add the European title against host France which is coming off a morale-boosting 5-2 win against Iceland.

Here are a few snapshots of the final four:


Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal is a regular feature in the latter stages of the European Championship, having reached the semifinals at four of the last five tournaments.

But the team has never triumphed overall, its best coming back in 2004 when as host it lost the final to Greece.

Ronaldo, who played in that match, will become the first player to appear in three European Championship semifinals.

His form at Euro 2016 has been inconsistent to say the least and he will likely have to improve if Portugal is going to win its first major competition.

Ronaldo has only truly shone in only one match, with a memorable pair of goals in the 3-3 draw with Hungary.

In his team's penalty shootout win over Poland in the quarterfinal, Ronaldo was so out of touch that he swung and missed at two clear chances in front of goal. But he has the flair and talent to produce a touch of match-winning magic at any time and the semifinal might be the stage he has been waiting for.

Portugal defensive midfielder William Carvalho is suspended after picking up two yellow cards.


Alongside Iceland, Wales has been the surprise package of Euro 2016, reaching its first major semifinal.

Unlike Iceland, Chris Coleman's team does boast an undisputed superstar in the form of the world's most expensive player, Bale.

Though Bale's three goals helped his team through the group stage, the team has shown itself to be anything but a one-man show. That depth could give Wales an edge against a rock-solid Portugal defense featuring another Madrid star, Pepe.

The Welsh will be missing a key midfielder in Aaron Ramsey after the Arsenal star drew his second yellow card of the tournament in the 3-1 quarterfinal defeat of Belgium.


Germany is looking to add a fourth European title, and its first in 20 years, to its world crown.

But first it will have to get past a France side that's found its scoring touch in Marseille on Thursday. It will also have to overcome injuries and a suspension to reach the tournament decider next Sunday at the Stade de France in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis.

Joachim Loew's team has been rock-solid in defense, conceding just one goal so far — Leonardo Bonucci's 78th-minute equalizer from the penalty spot for Italy in the quarterfinal.

But Germany will be weakened against France; Mats Hummels is out through suspension and Mario Gomez has been ruled out for the rest of the tournament. Midfielders Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger are also injury worries.

One new concern may center on Germany's penalty-taking, one of its historic strengths. Though it beat Italy on penalties in the quarterfinal, German players failed to convert three from the spot, more than they had ever done before in the history of penalty shootouts.


In Antoine Griezmann, France has Euro 2016's top scorer. Dimitri Payet is not far behind.

Griezmann lifted his tournament tally to four as France ruthlessly dismantled Iceland at the Stade de France on Sunday night; Payet netted his third goal of the tournament with another clinical finish as France gave Iceland a nightmare ending to its fairytale Euro 2016.

Suddenly, the host's confidence has shot up before it faces a German team whose ranks have been depleted in attack and defense.

France still appears vulnerable in defense, conceding twice against Iceland, although they came at a time when the result wasn't in any doubt and French players may understandably have been focusing on the upcoming semifinal in Marseille.

France has no suspensions or injury worries and, seeking its third European title, will also get a boost from the fanatical fans at the Stade Velodrome, where Didier Deschamps starred as a player and coach.