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Saudis elect 17 women in landmark local council polls: news site

Saudis elect 17 women in landmark local council polls: news site

Saudis elect 17 women in landmark local council polls

Saudi Arabians voted 17 women into public office in municipal elections in the conservative Islamic kingdom on Saturday, the first to allow female participation, a state-aligned news site reported on Sunday before all official results were announced.

The election was the first in which women could vote and run as candidates, a landmark step in a country where women are barred from driving and are legally dependent on a male relative to approve almost all their major life decisions.

Sabq.org, a news website affiliated with the autocratic monarchy’s Interior Ministry, reported that a total of 17 women had been elected in various parts of the country. Some results had been announced on the official Saudi Press Agency, including the victories of four women.

COP21: Paris climate deal is ‘best chance to save planet’

The climate deal reached in Paris is “the best chance we have to save the one planet we have”, US President Barack Obama has said.

He said it could be a “turning point” towards a low-carbon future.

China, the world’s biggest polluter, also hailed the deal, as did India. But some campaigners said it did not go far enough to protect the planet.

The Paris pact aims to curb global warming to less than 2C (3.6F) by the end of the century.

Nearly 200 countries took part in tense negotiations in the French capital over two weeks, striking the first deal to commit all nations to cut emissions.

The agreement – which is partly legally binding and partly voluntary – will come into being in 2020.

Describing the agreement as “ambitious”, President Obama said: “Together, we’ve shown what’s possible when the world stands as one.”

“In short, this agreement will mean less of the carbon pollution that threatens our planet and more of the jobs and economic growth driven by low-carbon investments.”

Russia fires Turkey boat warning shot

Russia says one of its warships fired warning shots at a Turkish fishing vessel in the Aegean Sea to avoid a collision.

A Russian defence ministry statement said the Turkish vessel approached to 600m (1,800ft) before turning away in response to Russian small arms fire.

The Turkish military attache in Moscow has been summoned to the foreign ministry over the incident.

Relations remain tense over Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian bomber.

The warplane crashed in Syria in last month’s clash, with Turkey maintaining it crossed into its airspace. Russia disputes this.

In the latest incident, Russia’s defence ministry said its frigate Smetlivy spotted the fishing boat when it was 1,000m (3,000ft) away heading towards the Russian vessel’s starboard side.

“Despite numerous attempts by the crew of the Smetlivy, the crew of the Turkish fishing boat did not make radio contact and did not respond to visual signals by semaphore or warning flares,” the ministry said in a statement.

Japan and India sign bullet train deal amid closer ties

India has agreed to buy a high-speed bullet train from Japan, in an attempt to transform its creaking rail system.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the train would link Mumbai and Ahmedabad, cutting travel time on the route from eight hours to two.

The deal was one of a raft of agreements reached after talks between the two sides in Delhi.

The leaders of Asia’s second and third largest economies also announced other areas of co-operation.

These include working on defence technology, and agreeing a memorandum of understanding on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Libya crisis: Rome talks hope to produce unity

Talks are under way in Italy in the hope of getting Libya’s rival factions to establish a unity government and bring a halt to months of chaos.

The country has two rival governments – one in Tripoli, another in the east.

But there is growing concern that the Islamic State group (IS), with a stronghold in the city of Sirte, is profiting from the instability.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is among those at the talks pushing the rival groups to implement a UN plan.

Delegates from the two opposing administrations, which are backed by militia groups, agreed after months of talks at a meeting in Tunis on Friday on a date – 16 December – to sign an accord on the unity government.

However, it is unclear how much support in Libya they will have for doing so.

Neither of the opposing parliaments in Tripoli and the east has voted to adopt the plan, but it is believed it could be signed in Rome without a formal vote in Libya.

Gambia declared Islamic republic by President Yahya Jammeh

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has declared his Muslim-majority country an Islamic republic, saying the move marks a break with the colonial past.

Mr Jammeh told state TV the proclamation was in line with Gambia’s “religious identity and values”.

He added that no dress code would be imposed and citizens of other faiths would be allowed to practise freely.

Some 90% of Gambians are Muslim. The former British colony’s economy relies heavily on tourism.

However, relations with the West have soured recently.

The European Union temporarily withheld aid money to Gambia last year over its poor human rights record.

Mr Jammeh has been president of the tiny West African country for 21 years.

“As Muslims are the majority in the country, the Gambia cannot afford to continue the colonial legacy,” Mr Jammeh told state TV, explaining his decision to proclaim an Islamic republic.

Other Islamic republics include Iran, Pakistan and – in Africa, Mauritania.

Pakistan market bombing kills 15 people in Kurram

At least 15 people have been killed by a bomb blast in a crowded market in a town in northwest Pakistan’s Kurram tribal agency, near the Afghan border.

More than 40 people were hurt in the blast at the Eid Gah clothes market in the town of Parachinar.

TV images showed people fleeing over ground covered in clothes and debris.

No group has said it carried out the attack but a sectarian motive is suspected, as most people in Parachinar are from Pakistan’s Shia minority.

Death toll from day of clashes in Burundi capital rises to nearly 90

Nearly 90 people were killed during Friday’s clashes in the Burundian capital, the army said on Saturday, the worst outbreak of violence in Burundi since a failed coup in May.

Blasts and gunfire echoed around Bujumbura for most of Friday and residents said officials spent the day collecting bullet-riddled bodies from city streets.

There was no fighting overnight and the capital’s streets were calm on Saturday.

Army spokesman Gaspard Baratuza said gunmen had attacked three military sites in Bujumbura, kindling a day of clashes across the city. He said 79 attackers were killed and 45 others captured. Four police officers and four soldiers also died.

“Sweep operations have finished now,” Baratuza said, adding that officials confiscated weapons and ammunition.

Heavy clashes break out during CAR referendum

Heavy fighting broke out in a Muslim enclave of Central African Republic’s capital Bangui on Sunday as voters went to the polls to cast their ballots in a constitutional referendum seen as crucial to restoring stability, witnesses said.

Gunfire and the explosions of rocket propelled grenades were heard in the PK5 neighborhood soon after U.N. peace keepers moved in to protect poll workers and residents who had been prevented from voting.

Russian mental health clinic fire kills 23 in Voronezh

At least 23 people have died in a fire at a mental health clinic in the Voronezh region of western Russia, the emergency ministry says.

At least 20 people are being treated in hospital, the ministry says.

The building was completely destroyed by the fire that began late on Saturday, reports say.

The blaze is the latest in a series of deadly fires at Russian state institutions. The cause is being investigated.

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