DRC News Feed
German President Joachim Gauck will not attend the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia's Sochi in February, his office said on Sunday, with the government's human rights commissioner calling it a "wonderful gesture." Presidential officials confirmed he would snub Russia's first ever winter Games but did not comment on media reports suggesting he was skipping them over the country's human rights record, saying there was "nothing unusual" about not going. Gauck, who attended the 2012 London Olympics, has not visited Russia since taking office in 2012. His decision was welcomed by the German government's human rights commissioner Markus Loening.
Francois Hollande's approval rating edged 2 percentage points higher in December to 24 percent, a small rise from an all-time record low hit last month, a poll showed on Sunday. The Opinionway survey also showed that 64 percent of those interviewed were dubious about Hollande's military intervention in the Central African Republic, which received the United Nations' backing on Thursday. The slight rebound in the poll comes after French jobless claims fell in October from a record reached in September. For 64 percent of the 1,007 people interviewed in the poll between December 2 and December 4, the situation in France has not improved since the election of Hollande in May 2012.
Hundreds of Egyptian police rallied on Sunday to demand higher wages, in a rare act of defiance of a new protest law which they themselves have been enforcing to quell unrest on the streets. The demonstration by police was an ironic turn of events after arrests of activists for violating the controversial law passed last month, which requires Interior Ministry permission for any public gathering of more than 10 people. When they received no response they marched to the Interior Ministry in defiance of the new law. Separately, police fired tear gas to disperse supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi who gathered in front of al-Azhar University in Cairo and at Mansoura University, north of Cairo on Sunday.
By Daniel Wallis and Andrew Cawthorne CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelans voted in municipal elections on Sunday that are the biggest political test yet for President Nicolas Maduro as he tries to halt an economic slide and preserve the socialist legacy of his late mentor, Hugo Chavez. The outcome of ballots to choose 337 mayors and around 2,500 councillors will be seen as a sign of Maduro's strength, nine months after Chavez died from cancer and he narrowly beat opposition leader Henrique Capriles to win the presidency. In Caracas shantytowns and elsewhere, pro-Maduro activists woke up supporters before dawn with bugle calls and trumpets in an election mobilization tactic begun under Chavez. "It's important to vote though I don't think it will bring the changes I want," said graphic designer Antonella Gutierrez, 45, on her way to vote at a primary school in a pro-opposition upscale suburb of Caracas nestled under the Avila mountain.
By Maayan Lubell TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's main coalition partner publicly prodded him on Sunday to show "historic courage" and reach a peace deal with the Palestinians even at the risk of his government's collapse. Finance Minister Yair Lapid, in a speech, reassured Netanyahu of his centrist Yesh Atid party's support and spoke of possible changes in the coalition - a nod to any future exit of far-right factions and their replacement by left-wing partners - should a land-for-peace agreement be achieved. But he also appeared to issue a warning to Netanyahu, reiterating that Yesh Atid, which has 19 legislators in the 120-member parliament and is the second-biggest party in the coalition, would not remain in a government that did not genuinely pursue a negotiated settlement. "I am not ready to have Yesh Atid serve as a fig leaf for pointless political manoeuvring," Lapid told an economic conference.
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has told Sky News he “couldn’t give a t***” about speculation by newspapers and bookmakers about his future after stinging criticism of his Autumn Statement speech. On Sky News' Murnaghan show, Mr Balls insisted he had "never been less bothered" about "gossip and tittle tattle" on his Commons performance following George Osborne’s update on the economy. Despite receiving flak for failing to provide a convincing response to improved economic figures, Mr Balls told the show that Labour is still winning argument over the economy. Mr Balls said the massed ranks of Tory MPs were always going to try to shout down his message, adding many people had in fact congratulated him on his performance in the following days.
By Ed Cropley and Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - With hymns and eulogies, South Africans of all colours and creeds remembered Nelson Mandela in a day of prayers on Sunday, holding him up as a symbol of freedom, forgiveness and hope for the nation and the world. Mandela, South Africa's first black president who steered his nation out of apartheid and into multi-racial democracy, died on Thursday at the age of 95 after months of illness. Crowds have piled flowers, candles, balloons and messages outside his Johannesburg home. At the cavernous Regina Mundi church in Soweto, South Africa's largest Catholic Church, hundreds of mourners, young and old, gathered to pray for Mandela and the nation's future.
The new leader of Germany's liberal Free Democrats (FDP), voted in at the weekend to rescue the party from oblivion after it crashed out of parliament in September's elections, has ruled out tapping into euroscepticism as a way to regain popularity. At an FDP congress in Berlin, the confident 34-year-old Christian Lindner sought to rally the party, for decades the kingmaker in Germany's coalition-oriented political system. The FDP had ruled in partnership with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives since 2009, but was humiliated in this year's election by failing for the first time to cross the 5 percent threshold to enter parliament. According to pollsters, the FDP's demise was at least partly due to the rise of a new anti-euro party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD).
British Prime Minister David Cameron will attend the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in South Africa next week and Prince Charles will attend the funeral several days later, officials said on Sunday.
By Khettiya Jittapong BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra proposed a referendum on her future on Sunday and promised to resign if that was what the people wanted, as anti-government protesters prepared for a final push to try to force her from power. Protesters have been on the streets of the capital for weeks, clashing with police and vowing to oust Yingluck and eradicate the influence of her self-exiled brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Underscoring the divide, the pro-establishment Democrat Party said all of its members of the House of Representatives would give up their seats because they were unable work with Yingluck's ruling party. The leader of the protesters, Suthep Thaugsuban, a former Democrat Party deputy prime minister, has called for a final demonstration on Monday to force Yingluck out.
Nuclear power will always provide at least half of France's electricity, the country's industry minister was reported as saying in China on Sunday, defying calls by the green arm of the government to exit nuclear altogether. The ability of the world's most nuclear-reliant country to continue to sell its atomic expertise overseas has been questioned since France vowed to cut nuclear power to 50 percent of its electricity mix by 2025, down from 75 percent currently, and boost renewables capacity. But Arnaud Montebourg, the French industry minister, insisted that nuclear power will remain a key element of France's energy mix, newspaper Journal du Dimanche reported.
By Marcus George and Isabel Coles DUBAI (Reuters) - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani presented his first budget to parliament on Sunday, vowing to bring down inflation and boost growth to lift an economy reeling from sanctions and what he says was mismanagement by predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani says Ahmadinejad squandered vast oil revenues on cash handouts and housing projects during his two terms in office from 2005 and racked up enormous government debt. Gross domestic product had contracted by 6 percent over the past year, Rouhani told lawmakers on Sunday, while inflation was running at 44 percent when he took office in August, a situation he described as "very worrying". "The combination of stagnation and inflation over the past two years was unprecedented," he said.
The National Crime Agency has launched a second probe into alleged match-fixing in English football after a Sunday newspaper claimed a player told an undercover reporter he could guarantee certain events in a Championship (second division) match. "The NCA can confirm that the Sun on Sunday has passed material from its own investigation to the National Crime Agency," it said in a statement. "An active NCA investigation is now underway and we are working closely with the Football Association and the Gambling Commission. We cannot comment further at this stage." The newspaper said it had evidence of a player saying he arranged a booking in a recent Championship match in which another received a 30,000 pounds ($49,100) payment for getting a yellow card.