Monday 19 March 2018

In Brief: Berlusconi pulls out ministers from cabinet, scuppering Italian reform


Italian centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi pulled his ministers out of the cabinet yesterday, effectively bringing down the government of PM Enrico Letta and leaving the eurozone's third-largest economy in chaos.

Talks will now start to find a parliamentary majority to back a new cabinet and avoid going back to an election just seven months after the last one.

The relentless political jockeying has already thwarted efforts to push through important reforms to help Italy emerge from a two-year recession, a decade-long economic stall, a €2 trillion public debt and youth unemployment of around 40 per cent.

Tensions between the two sides had been rising for weeks following moves to expel Mr Berlusconi from parliament after his conviction for tax fraud last month.


A deadly three-week stand-off between government troops and Muslim rebels who held nearly 200 people hostage in the southern Philippines has ended with all of the remaining captives safe, officials said yesterday.

The Defence Secretary said only a handful of Moro National Liberation Front rebels remained in hiding and were being hunted by troops in the coastal regions.

Authorities are also trying to determine whether a rebel commander who led the September 9 siege, was dead.

More than 200 people died in the clashes, including 183 rebels, 23 soldiers and police, and 12 civilians.


THE head of Angela Merkel's Bavarian allies has attacked a plan by the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) to put any decision on forming a "grand coalition" with her to a vote of its grassroots members, warning against tactics that threaten stability.

The SPD agreed on Friday to poll its 472,000 members if it decides to join Ms Merkel. Bavaria state chief Horst Seehofer said Germans had voted for a government led by Merkel, and to torpedo attempts to create a coalition on tactical grounds would hurt the SPD.

A new government must emerge within two months, he said, or Germany risked making itself look ridiculous.


THE death toll from the collapse of a five-storey apartment block in India's financial capital of Mumbai climbed to 50 last night and was expected to rise as more than a dozen people were feared trapped in the rubble. The cause of the collapse of the building, where employees of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai were housed with their families, was still not known.

But police said yesterday they had arrested a man identified by the municipal authority as having leased a part of the basement and done some construction that may have changed the structure of the building, which was built in the early 1980s.

A spokesman for the city authority said 50 people had been confirmed dead and 32 people injured so far.

A shortage of cheap homes in Indian cities has led to a rise in illegal construction, often using substandard materials and shoddy methods.


Rebel fighters including foreign Islamists took control of a military post on Syria's southern border with Jordan yesterday after four days of heavy fighting with President Bashar al-Assad's forces, activists said.

The former customs post on the edge of the city of Deraa, where Syria's uprising against Assad erupted in 2011, was seized by several groups including the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front and the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham, according to the reports.

A video from the site showed a masked fighter claiming victory in the name of the two movements, and a captured tank from which a black Islamist flag was fluttering. Rebels also seized a fuel depot north of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, while state media said Assad's forces made gains in rebel areas of east Damascus.


A village in central Germany has been evacuated after a major gas explosion injured 16 firefighters.

The 3,000 residents of Hartenhausen near Ludwigshafen had to leave their homes after a gas tank exploded at the local Gas Trans company, police spokesman Markus Sicius said.

A blaze at the company was reported before dawn, and while firefighters were trying to douse the flames, the fire spread to a truck with a gas tank, which then exploded.

Mr Sicius said one of the injured firefighters was in critical condition, but his injuries were not believed to be life-threatening. Most of the other firefighters were treated at surrounding hospitals for burns and smoke inhalation.


A major earthquake has rocked Pakistan's south west, killing at least 15 and sending panicked people running into the street just days after another quake in the same region killed hundreds.

The 6.8 magnitude quake was felt in Pakistan's south-western Baluchistan province. Pakistan's Meteorological Department said its epicentre was about 90 miles west of the town of Khuzdar.

The death toll from Tuesday's disaster was 359.


TUNISIA's governing Islamist party has agreed to resign in favour of a caretaker government in an attempt to resolve a political crisis that has paralysed the country.

The assassination of a left-wing politician at the end of July – the second in five months – was the turning point for opposition parties, which pulled its deputies out of parliament and staged protests across the country.

The opposition also faulted the governing Ennahda Party for ignoring a rising trend of Islamic radicals, some of whom attacked the US embassy in Tunis last year.

But the government has since cracked down on these groups, throwing many of their members in jail.


Officials in Nigeria said 42 people drowned leaving rescuers searching for about 200 people missing after a ferry broke up in stormy weather on the Niger River.


Gunmen from Islamist group Boko Haram killed 27 villagers in two attacks in Nigeria's restless northeast last week, a government official said, as violence continued to flare in the face of an army crackdown on the militants.

Boko Haram wants to create an Islamic state in northern Nigeria. It is the biggest security threat in Africa's second largest economy and top oil exporter.

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