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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Poland's former president, wife reburied after new autopsy

November 18, 2016

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's former president, Lech Kaczynski, and his wife, were reburied on Friday following exhumations and post-mortems required for the new investigation into the 2010 plane crash that killed them and 94 others.

The Catholic reburial service for the couple took place at St. Leonard's Crypt at the Wawel Cathedral in Krakow, where many of Poland's royals and writers are buried. President Andrzej Duda, first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda and Prime Minister Beata Szydlo attended. The homily was said by Krakow Archishop, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz who was personal secretary to the late pope St. John Paul II.

The late president's twin brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is ruling conservative party leader, and the presidential couple's daughter Marta Kaczynska were also present in the small crypt. The tomb where the couple originally was laid to rest was damaged in the exhumation. A new one was crafted from white Carrara marble in two days, with Poland's national emblem, the crowned eagle on it and the couple's dates of birth and death.

The bodies of Kaczynski and his wife, Maria Kaczynska, were submitted for detailed autopsies that aim to determine the cause of their deaths and of the crash in Russia. Separate investigations done by Poland and Russia right after the crash concluded it resulted from crew errors in bad weather. However, suspicion still surrounds the accident, in part because the identifications and post-mortems performed in Russia were flawed.

Many followers of Jaroslaw Kaczynski think the plane was downed by an intended blast and blame Russia and Poland's prime minister at the time, Donald Tusk, who is now the president of the European Union.

Analyst Marek Migalski said Kaczynski's Law and Justice party is fueling these beliefs because they consolidate the party's electorate. The private RMF FM radio station says it has learned unofficially that the couple's injuries appear typical for a plane crash, not for an explosion.

Officials have said the findings from the new autopsies are expected within four months.

Montenegro inaugurates cemetery for WWII German soldiers

November 19, 2016

GOLUBOVCI, Montenegro (AP) — Officials on Saturday inaugurated a cemetery for German soldiers killed in Montenegro during World War II, hailing it as an act of reconciliation important for the future.

A ceremony outside Montenegro's capital, Podgorica, included a memorial service for 64 German soldiers already buried at the cemetery. Hundreds more are expected to be laid to rest in the coming months.

"We are standing by the freshly dug graves of 64 German soldiers who died in a war ... that ended more than 70 years ago," said Daniela Schily, from Germany's War Graves Commission. "It ... illustrates the past never simply goes away."

About 2,000 German soldiers are believed to have been killed between 1941 and 1945 in Montenegro in clashes with Yugoslav communist partisans. About 500 have been unearthed so far, including 400 from a site excavated by construction workers in 2007 in a Podgorica suburb.

The remaining soldiers are still considered missing. Their names are among those engraved on a crescent-shaped wall surrounding a massive cross at the cemetery in Golubovci. Wilhelm Sundermeier, 76, cried as he found the name of his father on the wall.

"I still hope his remains will be found," he said. The idea of a German cemetery has been met with resistance from anti-fascist groups. About a dozen former Montenegrin partisans protested Saturday, carrying banners and chanting anti-fascist slogans.

Schily said her commission was aware of the "horrendous crimes" committed against civilians in Montenegro during the German Nazi occupation. The German delegation laid a wreath earlier Saturday for more than 500 men, women and children killed by the Nazis in 1943 in Doli, northern Montenegro.

Montenegrin government official Snezana Radovic said the opening of the cemetery was meant to deliver an anti-war message and serve as a reminder. "It also bears the message of reconciliation between people and strengthening of ties between the Montenegrin and German nations," she said.

Anti-migrant protests reach Italian winemaking town

November 16, 2016

SOAVE, Italy (AP) — The migrant crisis has arrived in the small, Italian winemaking town of Soave, where the mayor is fending off plans to house more than 100 new arrivals and a growing protest movement is capitalizing on U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's victory to seek an end to the politics of integration.

Small towns like Soave avoided the dilemma for years, even as cities coped with the tens of thousands of migrants rescued at sea. But the system is burgeoning amid persistent migrant arrivals — a record 27,500 in October, bringing to nearly 160,000 total so far this year — and tighter border controls under pressure from European neighbors.

Prefects nationwide have been looking for space — empty hotels, disused barracks — and communities have been mounting increasing resistance. They succeeded in the Adriatic clamming town of Goro, and a round-the-clock presidio is being staffed near barracks in the Lombard town of Montichiari. The prefect in Cagliari in Sardinia last week received a package with a pair of bullets in protest of migrant relocations.

In the latest demonstration, more than 1,000 people marched under torchlight through the Medieval center of Soave, an idyllic walled town of 7,100 in the province of Verona surrounded by vineyards tucked in Italy's industrial heartland.

Many arrived from towns and cities nearby, marching behind a banner, "Verona for Veronese," and chanting, "Italy for Italians," slogans of a growing movement honing in on discontent as more communities stand up against the Rome government's plans to relocate asylum-seekers in their midst. Residents who joined them cited security concerns and the imperative to help Italians still stung by the economic crisis or suffering after the recent string of quakes.

Organizers from the "Verona for Veronese" movement that has organized recent protests throughout the province, with some successes in delaying relocations, say they are convinced that the Trump vote will awaken support for fringe groups in Italy.

"The vote in America shouldn't be seen as a springboard, but as a strong trampoline to re-establish order in our cities," protest organizer Luca Castellini said. "The multiracial society is a failure. It has failed even in the country (the U.S.) that was born as a multiracial society."

In Castellini's view, the disenfranchised vote in Italy, the next time polls come around, won't go toward leading populist movements like the 5-Star Movement, or even the anti-migrant Northern League, which has played roles in past center-right governments. It's starting to align itself with more extreme right-wing movements in France, the Netherlands and Russia, he said.

"It will go to movements outside the system that will succeed in having the possibility to rise above the media and make themselves seen in the public arena, movements like Forza Nuova," he said, citing a nationalist movement widely seen as neo-Fascist.

The popular anger exuded by people marching through the heart of Soave's center was in contrast to the bureaucratic battle being waged by the mayor to prevent the resettlement of 100 migrants to a hotel in the town's industrial zone.

"What worries me most in this moment isn't so much helping someone who could need help, it is the fact of uncertainty," Mayor Lino Gambaretto told The Associated Press. "How much time? What will happen next? When the money from the EU, if they give it to us, won't be there anymore, who will be responsible for these people, when at this time I can't guarantee services to the people of Soave who are in difficulty."

Gambaretto, who heads a center-right administration with no political affiliation, didn't participate in the protests, but said he would if national officials imposed an excessive number of migrants. To help stop the project, Gambaretto has proposed enrolling Soave in the Interior Ministry's system to organize shelter for asylum-seekers, which has set proposed limits at three asylum-seekers for every 1,000 residents in participating towns.

Under that, Soave's quota of about 21 would be nearly met by one community of about 10 asylum-seekers already in the village of Fitta' and another set to open soon with six to eight asylum-seekers in the neighboring village of Castelcerino, both under Soave's administration.

The Rev. Paolo Pasetto, a Soave native, runs a transitional home in Fitta' for former drug addicts, the homeless and others who have fallen on hard luck. Building on that experience, he is working to open an asylum-seeker shelter in a closed trattoria in neighboring Castelcerino in December.

"We feel in our hearts the need to respond even in small numbers to this drama, which we aren't capable of managing. And where we can't manage things, we find fear and anger. We understand the difficulties of the community," he said.

Even as protesters claim that Italy needs to take care of Italians first, Pasetto notes that few have come to offer aid to the mostly Italians he has helped over the last dozen years. And he expressed disappointment that most residents of Castelcerino chose to boycott a recent meeting where he outlined plans to help the incoming asylum-seekers adjust to life in Italy.

Still, he remains optimistic that people will come around. "We know it is a town of good people, tied to the land, who know how to work, people who once they get over this first phase of difficulties, there will be another phase where we are able to confront these difficulties together," he said.

Former Greek President Constantine Stephanopoulos dies at 90

November 21, 2016

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Constantine Stephanopoulos, a veteran conservative politician who served two terms as president of Greece from 1995-2005, died Sunday at age 90. A statement from the Henry Dunant Hospital said Stephanopoulos was admitted Thursday and died at 11:18 p.m. (2118 GMT) from "complications of pneumonia."

Known widely by his first name diminutive Costis, Stephanopoulos twice failed to win the leadership of the conservative New Democracy party and then formed a splinter party that remained marginal before being dissolved. He was first elected to the presidency by Parliament on the third ballot with support from the social-democratic PASOK party and a smaller conservative party, defeating the New Democracy candidate.

He found unexpected popularity in the last years of his presidency. His moderation, unpretentiousness and lack of bombast made him popular with the public and he maintained good relations across the political spectrum, especially with moderate socialist Costas Simitis, who was prime minister from 1996 to 2004.

His widespread acceptance was reflected in the reaction from political leaders after his death. "A moral man with a lofty vision," said leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, a conservative, called Stephanopoulos "a model of selfless, dignified and consistent service for the public good."

Stephanopoulos was not always considered a moderate. For much of his political career, he was seen as a conservative hardliner. In the 1970s, he caused an uproar when he denied that the smog regularly enveloping Athens was dangerous.

"Bring me a dead body to convince me," he said at the time. Years later, he said he regretted that statement. Stephanopoulos was aware of the limits of the largely ceremonial presidency. On one occasion, he told a Socialist minister who had arrived early for an official function and was reluctant to join him at his office, "Are you one of those who believe the President has work to do? I sit around most of the time."

But he used the office's pulpit effectively, as when he lectured, in measured tones, visiting U.S. President Bill Clinton, in 1999, about his country's meddling in Greece's internal affairs, culminating with support for the 1967-74 military dictatorship. Clinton responded by apologizing for past U.S. policy failures.

Stephanopoulos, the son of a lawyer and politician, was born in the western city of Patras on Aug. 15, 1926. In his youth, he was involved in sports, notably swimming and water polo, before starting a career as a lawyer. He was first elected to Parliament in 1961, and became deputy trade minister in the civilian government that followed the fall of the military junta, in July 1974. He held various posts in New Democracy governments as the interior, social services and civil service minister.

Following New Democracy's loss in the 1981 election, he was a minor candidate for the party's leadership. In 1984, he sought the leadership again, but was a runner-up to Constantine Mitsotakis, the father of the current conservative leader. The following year, he split from New Democracy, forming the Democratic Renewal Party, under whose banner he was elected to Parliament in 1985 and 1989. But the party failed to gain a significant following and he disbanded it in 1994.

Far-right Greek lawmaker attacked, slightly injured

November 19, 2016

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek police say that a lawmaker with the extreme right Golden Dawn party has been briefly hospitalized after being set upon by a group of people, possibly anarchists, who hit him with an iron bar and sprayed him with pepper spray.

Police say that Giorgos Germenis was sitting at a cafe in a northern Athens suburb when he was attacked on Saturday. He was given first aid at a nearby pharmacy and then went to a hospital to be examined.

Germenis has released a video where he claims he resisted about 30 individuals and caused them to flee. In the video, his face appears slightly bruised, with no major injuries. Before he was elected, in 2012, Germenis was known as a bassist in a Greek-Norwegian black metal band.

Clashes in Greek capital as 17,000 mark 1973 uprising

November 17, 2016

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Clashes between anarchists and Greek police broke out Thursday on the sidelines of a peaceful march to the U.S. Embassy in Athens, in an annual commemoration of a 1973 student uprising that was crushed by the military dictatorship which ruled the country from 1967-74.

About 17,000 people marched to the embassy without incident, although some protesters taunted and threw garbage at about 1,000 participating supporters of the governing Syriza party. Some 3,000 police were deployed in central Athens as a precaution.

But the violence came from another quarter of the city. Dozens of anarchists occupied the National Technical University complex, site of the failed pro-democracy revolt, and attacked police with petrol bombs, flares and stones.

Riot police responded with tear gas and stun grenades as street battles lurched outside the university in the densely-inhabited Exarcheia district, well away from the embassy. Police arrested at least two people, but no injuries were reported.

The march Thursday began at the gates of the university, also known as the Polytechnic, where in 1973 the military sent in a tank to crush student demonstrations. Several people were killed during the crackdown, but historians disagree on the precise death toll.

The university has been the flashpoint of many anti-government protests over the years. Before the march started, suspected anarchists stole two riot police shields and helmets and hung them on a statue in Exarcheia.

Violence also broke out during marches in other Greek cities to commemorate the uprising. In Greece's second-largest city of Thessaloniki, in the north, 8,000 protesters marched to the U.S. Consulate. Anarchists attacked police with firebombs, and one group burned a U.S. flag outside the building. Two suspected rioters were detained.

In the northwestern town of Ioannina, the local police chief was hospitalized after a demonstrator hit him on the head with a wooden club. An anti-American protest Tuesday during a visit by President Barack Obama to Athens was marred by extensive clashes around the Polytechnic between anarchists and Greek riot police.

Many Greek left-wing supporters still deeply resent the U.S. for supporting the oppressive dictatorship in Greece at the height of the Cold War.

Costas Kantouris in Thessaloniki contributed to this story.

Germany's Merkel will seek a fourth term, face populist tide

November 20, 2016

BERLIN (AP) — Angela Merkel, who has steered Germany through several global crises as its first female leader, said Sunday she will seek a fourth term as chancellor in elections next year, when she could find herself up against the anti-immigrant populist tide that has swept both Europe and the U.S.

"I literally thought about this decision endlessly ... but I am ready to run for office again," Merkel told reporters after meeting with high-ranking members of her center-right party. "I want to serve Germany."

Repeatedly named "The World's Most Powerful Woman" by Forbes magazine, the 62-year-old Merkel has been cast by some as the last powerful defender of liberal values in the West following Donald Trump's election as the next U.S. president.

The nationalist Alterative for Germany party, or AfD, could prove to be one of the biggest stumbling blocks to her re-election. The party, now represented in 10 state parliaments, has aggressively campaigned against Merkel's decision to welcome an estimated 890,000 migrants into Germany last year, many of them Muslims fleeing the war-torn Middle East and Africa.

Trump's election and Britain's vote last June to withdraw from the European Union have reflected, in part, growing populist and anti-immigrant sentiment among voters. Elections next year could also see a far-right politician become president of France, which has been beset by violence by Islamic extremists.

Merkel said she expects strong challenges from the left and right fringes as Germany has become more polarized. "This election will be difficult — like no other election since the reunification" of West and East Germany in 1990, she said.

A date has not been set for the election, but it will take place sometime between Aug. 23 and Oct. 22. Clearly the dominant leader in Europe, Merkel urged caution against outsized expectations about what she might yet achieve.

"Everything that's about how it all depends on me, especially after the elections in the U.S., honors me, but at the same time I find it very much grotesque and almost bizarre," she said. "No person ... not even with the biggest experience, can turn things in Germany, Europe and in the world more or less to the good, and especially not the chancellor of Germany."

Merkel will also seek re-election as chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union party at its convention next month but faces no serious opposition. A physicist by training, Merkel became chancellor in 2005. She is the first leader of a reunited Germany to have grown up under communism in the former East Germany.

If she wins next year and serves the entire four-year term, Merkel will match her one-time mentor Helmut Kohl's postwar record of 16 years in office. Nearly 60 percent of Germans surveyed in a recent poll said they wanted Merkel to run again, said Manfred Guellner, head of the Forsa polling agency.

"In these difficult times, Merkel is a pillar of stability," Guellner told The Associated Press. "People have the feeling she represents German interests well abroad." While she has never been described as a visionary or earned much praise for stirring speeches, Merkel — sometimes referred to as "Mutti," or "Mom," in Germany — has won respect for being tough, shrewd and dogged in tackling problems.

She has dealt with several international crises, including the Eurozone debt crisis in 2008-09 for which she brokered compromises among fractious EU leaders. She has been a strong advocate of efforts to combat climate change, and in 2011 abruptly accelerated the shutdown of Germany's nuclear power plants following the meltdown at Japan's Fukushima plant.

Unresolved diplomatic challenges include Europe's tense relationship with Russia, the future of Ukraine, autocratic developments in Turkey, the war in Syria and negotiations over Britain's exit from the EU.

In elections in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania earlier this year, Merkel's party came in third behind the AfD. According to recent polls, the AfD would win around 10 percent of the vote if general elections were held now.

Merkel, the daughter of a Protestant pastor, entered politics in her mid-30s after working as a physicist behind the Iron Curtain. She served as minister for women and families in Kohl's first post-reunification Cabinet in the 1990s and then also as an environment minister.

In the beginning of her political career, she was often underestimated by her mostly male, Catholic, West German party companions, who sometimes referred to her condescendingly as "Kohl's girl." In the end, she eliminated her rivals with tactical skill and sheer luck to make it all the way to the top in 2005.

While Merkel often appears reserved and even stiff in public, she has tried in past campaigns to show a more human side. She opened up about her favorite pastimes outside politics, which include baking plum cake for her husband, the publicity-shy chemistry professor Joachim Sauer, and spending weekends at a cabin outside Berlin.

"I can see how Merkel has this personal ambition to show the people that she, who used to be such an outsider when she first entered politics as an East German and a woman, made it all the way," said Gero Neugebauer, a political scientist at Berlin's Free University.

Trump election puts pressure on Merkel to take liberal lead

November 17, 2016

BERLIN (AP) — Can Germany, the country that once unleashed Nazism, lead the free world? The idea that the former home of militarism and nationalism could become a beacon for human rights and peaceful international cooperation within one lifetime may seem far-fetched.

But with outsider Donald Trump's election as U.S. president and the rising strength of far-right and populist movements in Europe, some have suggested that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is left as the last powerful defender of liberal values in the West.

Since taking office in 2005, Merkel has been a fixture of the international summit circuit, often providing the only dash of color in row upon row of grey suits. She has outlasted most of her contemporaries — save for Russian President Vladimir Putin — and won plaudits for successfully steering her country through the turmoil of the global financial crisis.

Along the way, the trained physicist has deftly maintained relations with allies as they gained new leaders, including prime ministers and presidents whose positions were very different from her own. Merkel navigated embarrassing moments, too, such as when U.S. President George W. Bush caused her to recoil in shock by playfully rubbing her neck at a G8 summit in 2006 and after former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was quoted making sexually explicit comments about her.

Merkel's relationship with U.S. President Barack Obama hit a stumbling block when it was revealed that the National Security Agency had been monitoring her cellphone, but both leaders weathered the strain.

Peter Tauber, the general secretary of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party, noted that the uncertainty surrounding another country's new administration usually makes people think "cooperation won't work anymore."

With the German chancellor having demonstrated otherwise, "there is a certain opinion that maybe it would be good if Angela Merkel would remain as an anchor of stability among the statesmen of the Western world," Tauber said.

Merkel departed from the usual diplomatic script after Trump's election last week by suggesting that respect for liberal values was a precondition for Berlin's continued good relations with Washington. Many commentators saw her remarks as a sign that the chancellor was thrusting Germany into the forefront of international politics.

As if to drive home her point, Merkel repeated Monday that Germany was prepared to "protect the dignity of every person, and that's independent of religion, origin, sexual orientation, gender or other attributes."

Obama himself reinforced the image of passing the baton to Merkel by choosing to spend two days in Berlin during his final foreign trip as president, and declaring that the German chancellor had "probably been my closest international partner these past eight years."

Rather than bid farewell to Europe in Paris, the capital of America's oldest ally, or in Britain — which prides itself on a having a "special relationship" with Washington — Obama's choice signals recognition that the heart of the old continent now lies in Berlin.

The leaders of Europe's other major powers — Britain, France, Italy and Spain — will meet Obama in the German capital Friday, a day after he confers at length with Merkel. "The phrase 'leader of the free world' is usually applied to the president of the United States, and rarely without irony," Timothy Garton Ash, a historian and professor of European studies at Oxford University, wrote Friday in Britain's left-leaning Guardian newspaper. "I'm tempted to say that the leader of the free world is now Angela Merkel."

Yet skeptics point out that Merkel may not be suited to rally the West. Her decision last year to open Germany's borders to hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty was seized upon by European nationalists and featured prominently in Britain's debate over quitting the European Union — which the 'leave' camp narrowly won.

European allies blame her for earlier stoking popular unrest by insisting on the need to cut public spending during the continent's debt crisis. And in Ukraine, Merkel's recent efforts to maintain a united European front in the face of Russian aggression are looking increasingly fragile.

Domestically, Merkel is battling a new nationalist foe in the form of Alternative for Germany, a party that has surged in popularity by railing against refugees. Rather than confronting the party head-on, Merkel has instead stuck to her measured mantra of "We will manage."

"Germany can't replace the United States as the leader of the free world," Josef Braml, an expert on international affairs at the German Council on Foreign Relations, said. "At best, it can protect Europe from nationalist tendencies and remind America that the liberal world order it established is also in the economic interests of the United States. That's something the new businessman in the White House should be able to understand."

Close allies say Merkel — who is expected to declare her intention to run for a fourth term in the coming days — is conscious both of her responsibility and the limits of her power. "She is absolutely determined, willing and ready to contribute to strengthen the international liberal order," said Norbert Roettgen, the head of the German Parliament's foreign affairs committee. "But we can't see the chancellor of Germany as last man standing. This will only work together, within Europe, and if we can have the backing of the trans-Atlantic alliance."

For now, German officials are hoping Trump, who called Merkel's immigration policy "a catastrophe" while campaigning, will tone down his rhetoric once he's inaugurated. They are conscious that Berlin is in no position to solve problems such as climate change and crises in the Middle East without American help.

In the meantime, Germany hopes that its post-war history will at least serve as an example to other nations. "Our country embodies, perhaps more than any other country in the world, the experience that war can become peace, division can become reconciliation, and that the mania of nationalism and ideology can eventually be replaced by political sanity," Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Wednesday.

Associated Press writers David Rising in Berlin and Maria Danilova in Washington, D.C. contributed to this report.

France's Sarkozy loses primary with hard-line on immigration

November 21, 2016

PARIS (AP) — Former President Nicolas Sarkozy and his populist, hard-line stand on Muslims and immigration went down in defeat Sunday in France's conservative primary for president. Two ex-prime ministers will instead meet in a runoff next week for the nomination.

The race was seen as an early measure of how the terror attacks in France over the past two years and the nationalist wave sweeping Europe and the U.S. have shaped the country's political landscape. With more than 3.8 million votes counted from about 92 percent of polling stations, Francois Fillon had 44.2 percent, Alain Juppe 28.4 percent and Sarkozy 20.7 percent. The final results are not expected until Monday.

The top two vote-getters will compete in the Nov. 27 runoff. In a speech from his campaign headquarters in Paris, Sarkozy called on his supporters to vote for Fillon — his prime minister from 2007 to 2012 — in the second round.

"I did not succeed in convincing a majority of voters. I do respect and understand the will of those who have chosen for the future other political leaders than me," Sarkozy said. "I have no bitterness, no sadness, and I wish the best for my country."

The winner is expected to have a strong chance of victory in the April-May presidential election, because traditional rivals on the left have been weakened by Socialist Francois Hollande's troubled presidency.

The conservative candidate's main challenger next year may turn out to be far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who is hoping anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-establishment sentiment can propel her to the presidency. Le Pen, the candidate of her once-pariah National Front party, did not take part in any primary.

Sarkozy, Fillon and Juppe had been expected to lead the balloting Sunday. Of the three, Sarkozy, 61, took the hardest line on immigration and Islam-related issues, in the hope of pulling votes from people attracted to Le Pen. He called for stricter immigration rules across Europe and vowed to ban Muslim women from wearing headscarves at universities and possibly elsewhere.

Fillon — an outsider a few weeks ago — enjoyed a recent boost in popularity thanks to his image of authority and seriousness compared with Sarkozy's more brazen demeanor. Observers also said the 62-year-old Fillon proved to be the most convincing candidate in the three televised debates. He pushed for strong conservative values, pledging to hold a referendum on a quota system for immigrants and to ban same-sex couples from adoption.

Juppe, 72, promoted a more peaceful vision of French society, based on respect for religious freedom and ethnic diversity. On the economic front, all candidates called for lower taxes, especially on businesses, and a reduction in the number of public servants. Fillon and Juppe also agreed on giving managers more flexibility by loosening the 35-hour weekly limit on employees' working time.

Other candidates in the French vote were Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the only woman on the conservative ballot; former government ministers Bruno Le Maire and Jean-Francois Cope; and Parliament member Jean-Frederic Poisson.

Chris den Hond and Angela Charlton contributed to this report.

A look at the candidates of France's conservative primary

November 20, 2016

PARIS (AP) — Francois Fillon and Alain Juppe came out on top of the first round of voting in France's first-ever conservative presidential primary Sunday, and now face a runoff election Nov. 27. Here's a look at who they are and what they promise for France:


Background: 62, prime minister under President Nicolas Sarkozy from 2007 to 2012.

Key promises: ban on adoption by same-sex couples, referendum on a quota system for immigrants, drastic reduction of the number of public servants, raising retirement age to 65, extending workweek beyond 35 hours, cutting taxes.

Style: austere, perceived as an experienced and qualified politician.

Weak points: lack of charisma, was long the No. 2 man in the shadow of Sarkozy.


Background: 71, prime minister from 1995 to 1997 under then-President Jacques Chirac, pushed reforms that caused massive strikes, long prominent in conservative politics.

Key promises: cap on legal immigration, respect for religious freedom, raising retirement age to 65, extending workweek beyond 35 hours, cutting taxes.

Style: elder statesman, emphasis on experience and calm demeanor.

Weak points: his age, long links to discredited political establishment, past conviction for having taken illegal advantage of public funds.

Crucial Cyprus peace talks at Swiss resort 'inconclusive'

November 22, 2016

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Crucial talks being held at a Swiss resort aiming to reunify ethnically divided Cyprus have hit an impasse, officials said Monday, in a serious setback that casts doubt over whether 18 months of negotiations can successfully resolve the decades-old dispute.

Cyprus' government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said United Nations-backed talks on how much territory Greek and Turkish Cypriots will administratively control under an envisioned federation have proven "inconclusive."

"This isn't good for anyone," Christodoulides told reporters after the talks broke off shortly after midnight Monday. We are not at all happy with the outcome." A U.N. statement said Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, a Greek Cypriot, and breakaway Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci have failed to narrow differences on the territorial aspect of a deal over two days of negotiations at Mont Pelerin, Switzerland.

"Despite their best efforts, they have not been able to achieve the necessary further convergences on criteria for territorial adjustment that would have paved the way for the last phase of talks," the statement said.

A deal on territory would have paved the way for a final summit bringing together Greece, Turkey and Cyprus' former colonial ruler Britain to agree on how implement security arrangements in a reunified island.

A 1974 Turkish invasion triggered by a coup aiming at union with Greece divided Cyprus into an internationally recognized, Greek-speaking south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and maintains more than 35,000 troops in the north.

The U.N. statement said Anastasiades and Akinci have decided to return to Cyprus "and reflect on the way forward." U.N. envoy Espen Barth Eide will brief U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the result.

Christodoulides said the main area of disagreement was on the amount of territory that would make up the federal zones each side would run.ia Greek Cypriots sought the return of enough territory that would enable as many as 100,000 displaced people to return to the homes and property they lost during the war. That would serve to build support for an accord that would be put to a vote and help reduce the costs involved with compensating those unable to return.

Turkish Cypriots sought to avoid displacing most of the people who have been living in Greek Cypriot-owned homes and property for decades. Akinci's spokesman Baris Burcu accused the Greek Cypriot side of being inflexible in negotiations and of keeping a "maximalist" approach, even as Turkish Cypriots agreed to cede about 7 percent of the territory now under their control.

Christodoulides dismissed Burcu's accusation as "not corresponding with reality." "Now is not the time to apportion blame," he said. Neither Christodoulides nor Burcu would say what the next step was, saying they would reevaluate where things stand on their return to Cyprus.

Numerous rounds of talks over four decades have ended in failure. Officials repeatedly said this latest round has marked significant progress especially on how power will be shared between the majority Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots.

A reunified Cyprus would usher in a significant degree of stability in a tumultuous region and unlock cooperation on newly-found undersea gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean among rival neighbors.

But important obstacles remain, including Turkish military intervention rights that Turkish Cypriots insist are vital to their security and that Greek Cypriots reject as a threat. Monday's impasse dashed the hopes of hundreds of Greek and Turkish Cypriots who gathered inside the U.N. controlled buffer zone dividing the capital, Nicosia, to demonstrate for peace.

Waving peace flags and dancing to Cypriot folk music, the event aimed underscore the determination of Cypriots from both sides for reunification. "Fear is holding us back," said Greek Cypriot Rania Georgiou. "Our future must be a shared one."

Flurry of new names floated as Trump assembles cabinet

17 November 2016 Thursday

President-elect Donald Trump will on Thursday meet with more candidates for top White House positions in New York, as a flurry of new names have emerged as potential cabinet picks.

Until now, US news outlets have reported that former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani was tipped for the job of top diplomat.

Media reports suggested Trump might have believed that the 72-year-old's controversial professional ties -- which include lobbying for a Venezuelan oil firm -- were too much to secure senate confirmation.

Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, originally supported Marco Rubio for president and differed with Trump on several issues, but she eventually came round to supporting the Republican nominee.

Retired general Michael Flynn is being considered for the role of national security adviser -- a position that does not require senate confirmation, NBC News reported.

Flynn is one of the few national security experts who strongly supported Trump during the campaign.

Between 2012 and 2014, the 57-year-old headed the Defense Intelligence Agency but left under a cloud because of clashes with personnel and administration officials, US media reported.

Trump is expected to spend the day at his Manhattan headquarters, where he will meet a stream of potential new hires as well former Republican secretary of state Henry Kissinger, now 93.

During the evening, Trump will have his first appointment with a foreign leader when he meets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Source: World Bulletin.
Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/180317/flurry-of-new-names-floated-as-trump-assembles-cabinet.

Hillary Clinton surpasses 1M popular vote lead over Donald Trump

By Andrew V. Pestano
Nov. 16, 2016

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Hillary Clinton's popular vote lead over President-elect Donald Trump has surpassed 1 million, according to an independent analysis.

Cook Political Report on Wednesday said Clinton had 62,403,469 votes compared to Trump's 61,242,652 votes.

Clinton's victory in the popular vote has generated criticism against the United States' Electoral College system. Following the 2016 election, Clinton's loss is the fifth time in U.S. history a candidate who won the popular vote did not assume the presidency. The last time was in 2000, when former Vice President Al Gore defeated then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush in the popular vote, but lost the recount in Florida -- giving Bush the needed electoral votes to win the executive branch.

Trump on Tuesday defended the Electoral College, despite calling the system a "disaster for a democracy" in 2012.

"If the election were based on total popular vote I would have campaigned in N.Y., Florida and California and won even bigger and more easily," Trump wrote on Twitter. "The Electoral College is actually genius in that it brings all states, including the smaller ones, into play. Campaigning is much different!"

Votes were still being counted in several states.

Source: United Press International (UPI).
Link: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2016/11/16/Hillary-Clinton-surpasses-1M-popular-vote-lead-over-Donald-Trump/6201479299669/.

Haiti's presidential redo goes well; long vote count begins

November 21, 2016

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti's repeatedly derailed presidential election finally went off relatively smoothly Sunday as the troubled nation tries to get its shaky democracy on a firmer foundation after nearly a year of being led by a provisional government.

Polls closed late in the afternoon, and election workers set to work on an archaic and time-consuming process of counting paper ballots in front of political party monitors. The schools serving as voting centers where they gathered were lit by lanterns, candles and flashlights.

No official results were expected to be issued for eight days, and Provisional Electoral Council executive director Uder Antoine has said it might take longer than that. Voter turnout appeared paltry in much of southwestern Haiti, which was ravaged by Hurricane Matthew last month and was drenched by rain Sunday. But in the crowded capital of Port-au-Prince and other areas, voters formed orderly lines and patiently waited to cast ballots even as some polling centers opened after the 6 a.m. scheduled start.

"This is my responsibility as a citizen," said Alain Joseph, a motorcycle taxi driver and father of four who wore a bright pink sweatshirt to show his loyalty to the Tet Kale party of former President Michel Martelly. Pink is the faction's color.

Police reported some isolated incidents of voter intimidation and disruptions, including an attempt to burn a voting center in the northern town of Port Margot. Across the country of over 10 million people, there were 43 arrests for various charges such as illegal gun possession and assault. Hours after voting ended, a major fire raged at a central market in the hillside Petionville district above Port-au-Prince but the cause wasn't immediately clear.

Leopold Berlanger, president of the electoral council, told reporters that authorities were satisfied with how the day progressed even though balloting could not take place in two isolated districts. He said officials would examine complaints by people who couldn't find their names on voter lists.

In Cite Soleil, a volatile slum on the edge of Port-au-Prince where voting sometimes has slid into chaos, balloting was so brisk and orderly that even some polls workers were stunned. "I have to admit, I'm a little surprised just how smoothly things are going," said Vanessa Similien, an electoral office worker who was monitoring voting at a school in the desperately poor district.

The Caribbean nation's roughly 6 million registered voters did not lack for choice: 27 presidential candidates were on the ballot. The top two finishers will meet in a Jan. 29 runoff unless one candidate managed to win more than 50 percent of the votes or got the most votes while leading the nearest competitor by 25 percentage points.

The balloting will also complete Parliament as voters pick a third of the Senate and the 25 remaining members of the Chamber of Deputies. Helene Olivier, 72, said she was inspired to vote for the first time in her life in hopes a woman could tame Haiti's fractious politics. She said Fanmi Lavalas candidate Maryse Narcisse, one of two female presidential contenders, would improve the nation because of her gender.

"Women protect women. They make good changes. The men, they boss you and beat you too hard," Olivier said after casting her ballot at a high school in Petionville. Results of an October 2015 vote were annulled earlier this year after a special commission reported finding what appeared to be significant fraud and misconduct.

Haiti has had an anemic caretaker government for nearly a year, and the new president will face a slew of challenges.  With the depreciation of the currency, the gourde, the cost of living has risen sharply. Haiti is deeply in debt and public coffers are largely depleted. The southwest is in shambles from last month's Hurricane Matthew and parts of the north have been battered by recent floods.

In Bel Air, a rough hillside neighborhood of shacks in downtown Port-au-Prince, a group of men playing dominoes said their biggest hope from a new administration was simply regular garbage collection.

"All I know is the next government needs to start picking up the trash around here again. Under the interim government, we've had no garbage collection here at all," said Nicolas Michel, a math teacher and part-time welder.

After lengthy drift, Haiti votes for new leader

November 20, 2016

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Voters will have their say Sunday in a repeatedly derailed presidential election that leaders hope will get Haiti's shaky democracy on a sturdier track. The Caribbean nation's roughly 6 million registered voters don't lack for choice: 27 presidential candidates are on the ballot. The top two finishers will meet in a Jan. 29 runoff unless one candidate in the crowded field somehow manages to win a majority of the votes.

No results are scheduled to be released for eight days, but electoral council director Uder Antoine has said it might take longer. The balloting will also complete Parliament as voters pick a third of the Senate and the 25 remaining members of the Chamber of Deputies.

Results of last year's presidential election were disputed and then annulled after a special commission reported finding what appeared to be significant fraud and professional misconduct. Most Haitians typically stay away from the polls, in part because they are repelled by the chronic ineffectiveness and broken promises of their elected officials. But there are Haitians who say they are determined to vote, hopeful new leaders might be able to relieve Haiti's chronic poverty and political turbulence.

"Nothing will stop me from voting. We all have to step up and help solve Haiti's problems," said Mickenson Berger, who has been cutting hair on a Port-au-Prince street corner since his barber shop was destroyed in the devastating 2010 earthquake.

Haiti has had a caretaker government for nearly a year, and the new president will face a slew of immediate and long-term challenges.  With the depreciation of the currency, the gourde, the cost of living has risen sharply. Haiti is deeply in debt and public coffers are largely depleted. The southwest is in shambles from last month's Hurricane Matthew and parts of the north have been battered by recent floods.

Haiti is the poorest nation in the hemisphere and one of the most unequal in the world. "Public institutions remain weak, and life-crushing poverty remains the daily reality of most of its citizens. Environmental degradation has left the population and the country's productive infrastructure highly vulnerable to shocks," said Robert Maguire, a Haiti expert who is an international affairs professor at George Washington University.

A revamped Provisional Electoral Council, known as the CEP, has gotten high marks for organizing Sunday's vote with some $25 million from the government. It replaced a council that was marred by internal discord and widespread allegations of fraud.

"So far, this CEP has done a good job. Their credibility is very high," said Rosny Desroches of the Haitian group Citizen Observatory for Institutionalizing Democracy, which will have 1,500 observers monitoring the national vote.

Delegations from the Organization of American States and the Caribbean Community are here to watch the election. The European Union withdrew its monitors in frustration earlier this year after officials annulled results from the 2015 vote.

As always with Haitian elections, security is a big concern. The Haitian National Police, which has been strengthened with international assistance, is playing a far greater role in maintaining security than it did in previous electoral cycles.

A total of 2,026 U.N. police officers and 1,468 peacekeeper troops will assist nearly 9,500 members of Haiti's police force maintain security. There will also be some 5,400 security agents conscripted by the Provisional Electoral Council to help keep order at voting centers.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to ban fishing in disputed lagoon with support from China

By Allen Cone
Nov. 21, 2016

LIMA, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, with the support of China's Xi Jinping, plans to issue an executive order banning fishing in part of the disputed Scarborough Shoal.

The lagoon in the shoal would be declared a "no-fishing zone," but fishing would be allowed in the deeper waters around the shoal, Philippine National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Monday.

The two leaders met Sunday on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders' Meeting in Lima, Peru.

The Philippines and China have fought over the Scarborough Shoal for years. In 2012, China routinely harassed Filipinos fishing in the area, even though it is inside the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

In July, an international tribunal ruled against China, saying it violated the rights of Filipinos by banning them from fishing. But China ignored the ruling, which also invalidated its right to most of the South China Sea.

Duterte, who took office in June, has initiated a new foreign policy, befriending China and criticizing its longtime ally, the United States.

The move to ban fishing in the Scarborough Shoal lagoon has been supported by environmentalist and former president Fidel Ramos, who in August met with Chinese leaders in Beijing as Duterte's special envoy. He called the move to create a marine sanctuary there "the highest form of aquaculture preservation."

"We will mobilize government forces to promote our agreements, step up guidance to create a favorable environment," Chinese Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andana said in Peru.

The two Asian leaders have hit it off.

"I guess on a personal level as well as at an official level, the two leaders are resolving the issue," Philippine Secretary Ramon Lopez said. "With that renewed friendship, it really opened up a lot of opportunities. Now, we are talking of economic cooperation. Previously this topic was not discussed,"

Duterte also held his first bilateral meeting Sunday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He praised Russia as a "great country" with his acknowledged idol and criticized the United States.

"Of late, I see a lot of these Western nations bullying small nations," Duterte said he told Putin. "And not only that, they are into so much hypocrisy."

Putin said Duterte has been "developing the all-round partnership between our countries and with respect to promoting greater trust and confidence between us."

Source: United Press International (UPI).
Link: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2016/11/21/Philippine-President-Rodrigo-Duterte-to-ban-fishing-in-disputed-lagoon-with-support-from-China/9621479733642/.

Philippines' Duterte mulls leaving international court

November 17, 2016

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday he might follow Russia's example and withdraw from the International Criminal Court, where his critics say he could be charged over the thousands killed in his war on drugs.

In a statement before flying to Peru to attend the annual summit of Asia-Pacific leaders, Duterte also said the United Nations has been inutile in stopping wars. He said if China and Russia decide to create a new world order, he would be the first to join them and leave the U.N., which he said is dominated by the U.S.

"You know, if China and Russia would decide to create a new order, I would be the first to join," he said, adding that he would quit the U.N. Duterte also criticized the global agreement to fight climate change, saying there are no penalties for violators and it is not clear which industrialized countries will contribute money to support developing countries' efforts against global warming. He said that was the reason why President-elect Donald Trump does not want the U.S. to spend on fighting climate change.

During his campaign, Trump said he would pull the U.S. out of the Paris pact on climate change. The foul-mouthed Duterte said that like Russia, he might withdraw from the ICC "because we the small ones are the only ones being beaten up," but nothing has been done for the thousands of children and women dying in bombings in Syria and Iraq.

Duterte is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the sidelines of the summit in Lima. He requested for the bilateral meeting because he wants to meet and be friends with Putin, whom he said was his idol.

Human rights advocates have criticized Duterte's anti-drug campaign that has left more than 4,000 suspected addicts and pushers dead since July. They said the killings can be a basis to charge him for crimes against humanity before the Netherlands-based court.

Duterte said he has intentionally used foul language — including calling Obama a "son of a bitch" — because Obama has trivialized the Philippines' drug problem when there are already around 4 million Filipinos addicted to drugs. The country has a population of more than 103 million.

Space station receives oldest female astronaut, bit of Mars

November 20, 2016

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The International Space Station gained three new residents Saturday, including the oldest and most experienced woman to orbit the world. A bit of Mars also arrived, courtesy of a Frenchman who brought along a small piece of a Mars meteorite.

Launched Thursday from Kazakhstan, the Russian Soyuz capsule docked at the 250-mile-high outpost just an hour or two before NASA launched a weather satellite from Florida. The Soyuz delivered NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy. They joined three men already on board, one American and two Russians.

This is the third space station mission for Whitson, who at 56 is older than each of her crewmates. She already holds the record for most time in space for a woman: nearly 400 days during her various missions. By the time she returns next spring, she should break the record for any American, man or woman.

"We could not be more proud," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told Whitson once she entered the space station. He joined the new crew's family and friends at Russia's Mission Control outside Moscow to welcome the newcomers on board.

"I'm really happy to be here," Whitson replied. A biochemist by training, Whitson will celebrate her 57th birthday at the orbiting lab in February. Until Thursday, no woman older than 55 had flown in space.

Pesquet, meanwhile, is making his first spaceflight and Novitskiy his second. Before rocketing away, Pesquet told reporters he was taking up a piece of a Mars meteorite to illustrate the necessary union between human and robotic explorers. He intends to bring the stone back with him to Earth in six months. It then will launch aboard a Mars rover and return to its home planet.

"So it's going to be the most experienced space traveler there is in the world," Pesquet said Wednesday at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. "The idea is to show that space exploration is just the whole ... we're not competing against robotic exploration, we're all working together. What we do on the (space station) is just one step on that road to exploration."

Sunday marks the 18th anniversary of the launch of the first space station piece. It's now as big as a football field, with a mass of 1 million pounds and eight miles of electrical wiring. Whitson and company represent its 50th full-time expedition.

"So we can celebrate the station's birthday today," said Sergei Krikalev, a cosmonaut-turned-space official who spoke from the Russian control center. "Good luck."

Russia withdraws signature from ICC founding statute

16 November 2016 Wednesday

Russia said Wednesday it is formally withdrawing its signature from the founding statute of the International Criminal Court, saying the tribunal has failed to live up to the hopes of the international community.

"The court did not live up to the hopes associated with it and did not become truly independent," Russia's foreign ministry said, describing its work as "one-sided and inefficient".

Moscow said it is unhappy with the ICC's ongoing investigation into Russia's brief 2008 war with neighboring Georgia, saying the court ignored aggression by Tbilisi against civilians in South Ossetia -- a pro-Moscow separatist region of Georgia.

"In these conditions one cannot speak of trust in the International Criminal Court," the ministry said, adding that the decision "not to be a participant in the ICC statute" was taken by President Vladimir Putin and entails "withdrawing the signature from this document".

Putin on Wednesday signed the decree, published in the official database, ordering the government to communicate the decision to the UN Secretary General.

"We have withdrawn the signature, so all obligations associated with the signature are lifted," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. "There are no longer any obligations."

The ICC is currently conducting a preliminary investigation of alleged crimes committed in Ukraine during street protests in late 2013 as well as events after February 2014 including the annexation of Crimea and the downing of the MH17 flight over eastern Ukraine.

In a report published Monday, the ICC's office of the prosecutor said that information already available suggests the situation in Crimea "amounts to an international armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation" despite lack of major violence.

It said the office is examining allegations against Russia to determine whether the conflict in east Ukraine between pro-Russia separatists and government forces "could be actually international in character" and would fall under the relevant articles in the Rome Statute.

Western leaders have accused Moscow of war crimes in Syria, where it has been conducting air strikes to aid the Bashar al-Assad government and bombing the city of Aleppo as well as attacking rebels.

The ICC opened its annual meeting on Wednesday with several African nations formally withdrawing from the court.

Source: World Bulletin.
Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/180271/russia-withdraws-signature-from-icc-founding-statute.

Iran appoints new chief for army's ground forces

November 19, 2016

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The website of Iran's Supreme Leader is reporting that he has appointed a new chief for the national army's ground forces. The Saturday report says Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, has appointed Gen. Kiumars Heidari to the post.

The 52-year-old Heidari was formerly the acting commander of the ground forces. He is a veteran of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war that cost both sides over a million people. Separately, Khamenei also appointed the former chief of ground forces Gen. Ahmad Reza Pourdastan to the post of acting commander of the army. Pourdastan has served seven years in the post.

Both the national army and the elite Revolutionary Guard have their own separate air, naval and ground forces.

Cambodian court upholds life terms for 2 Khmer Rouge leaders

November 23, 2016

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — A special Cambodian court on Wednesday upheld the life sentences for the two most senior surviving members of the Khmer Rouge regime, which was responsible for the deaths of 1.7 million people. The court said the massive scale of the crimes showed the two men's complete lack of consideration for the lives of the Cambodians.

The Supreme Court Chamber said the 2014 verdict by a U.N.-assisted Khmer Rouge tribunal was "appropriate" given the gravity of the crimes and roles of the two — Khieu Samphan, the 85-year-old Khmer Rouge head of state, and Nuon Chea, the 90-year-old right-hand man to the communist group's late leader Pol Pot.

"It is a historic day for Cambodia. For the first time in 41 years someone in the national leadership has been held criminally responsible for the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge regime," said tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen.

The two — who were sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity including extermination, enforced disappearances and political persecution — sat impassively as the lengthy verdict was read out. They were detained in 2007 and started serving their sentences in 2014 inside the Khmer Rouge tribunal's facility, where conditions are much better than ordinary Cambodian prison. They have access to radio and television.

About 1.7 million people are estimated to have died from starvation, disease and execution due to the extremist policies of the communist Khmer Rouge when they held power from 1975 to 1979. "The gravity of the crimes should be reflected in the sentence ... the crimes were not isolated events but occurred over an extended period of time," said Kong Srim, president of the Supreme Court Chamber.

Given the "significant role of the accused, the Supreme Court Chamber considers that the imposition of the life sentence for each of the accused is appropriate and therefore confirms the sentence imposed by the trial chamber," he said, as he wrapped up a two-hour reading of the verdict.

He added that the "massive scale of the crimes" showed a complete lack of consideration for the "ultimate fate of the Cambodian population, especially the most vulnerable group." Lawyers for Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea filed lengthy appeals against their verdicts by the Khmer Rouge tribunal — formally called the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, which was set up in 2006. They had alleged a slew of legal and factual errors, as well as biases by the judges.

They suggested that their clients were unfairly being singled out while the Cambodian government sought to block the tribunal from trying other suspects. "I waited for this moment for 40 years. It has now arrived," said Seak Ny, a 64-year-old woman from the northwestern Pursat province whose husband died of starvation under the Khmer Rouge regime. She said the Khmer Rouge also killed her older brother and his five children when they found out he was a former soldier in the previous regime.

"Today I am happy because these people have received justice," she said, adding she came to attend the tribunal to see the faces of the Khmer Rouge leaders. The two defendants are also on trial in a second case where they are facing charges of genocide against ethnic minorities and foreigners, and implementing policies of rape and forced marriages.

Originally all the charges were to have been part of one trial, but fears that they would die before proceedings could finish led to their case being broken into two parts, known as Case 002/01 and 002/02.

Their two co-defendants, Ieng Sary, the third-ranking Khmer Rouge leader and its foreign minister, and his wife, Ieng Thirith, died during the first phase of their trial. There have been charges made against other suspects in what are known as Cases 003 and 004, but they remain in limbo because of a lack of cooperation from Prime Minister Hun Sen's government.

Hun Sen has threatened to shut down the tribunal if further cases are pursued. He has repeatedly said that if the tribunal targets more defendants, it could incite former Khmer Rouge members to start a civil war. Few people share his belief, since the Khmer Rouge became a spent force almost two decades ago.

Hun Sen himself was a mid-level commander with the Khmer Rouge before defecting while the group was still in power, and several senior members of his ruling Cambodian People's Party share similar backgrounds. He helped cement his political control by making alliances with other former Khmer Rouge commanders.

The tribunal's operations have been complicated by its unusual hybrid nature, which pairs international and Cambodian jurists and works under complicated rules that have slowed progress.