United Nations, Sep 12 (AP/UNB) — The Security Council gave strong backing Tuesday to the U.N. special envoy for Yemen as he seeks to bring the warring parties together after a failed effort last week.
In a statement following a briefing by Martin Griffiths on his plans, the council urged all sides "to invest in confidence-building measures, engage in future consultations in good faith and seize the opportunity to de-escalate tensions."
A delegation of the internationally recognized government arrived in Geneva for talks scheduled to start last Thursday, but rival Iranian-backed Shiite rebels known as Houthis did not, arguing they didn't have guarantees for their safe return.
Griffiths told the council by video from Amman that the Yemeni political process "will see ups and downs" and "the challenges that we faced are temporary hurdles to be overcome."
"It is not a sign that the political and military situation is not conducive to formal consultations," he said. "We need to stay focused on nurturing the political process particularly in its early stages, and building the needed momentum so that it can deliver tangible benefits to Yemenis throughout Yemen."
Griffiths said he will begin a series of visits in the coming days to secure "a firm commitment" for new talks and build on discussions with the government last week to make progress on confidence-building measures including an exchange of prisoners and the opening of the airport in Sanaa, the rebel-held capital.
He said he will first go to Oman's capital Muscat and Sanaa to engage Houthi leaders, and will also meet Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in the Saudi capital Riyadh. He said he also plans to consult "very soon" with parties in southern Yemen where there were widespread demonstrations in the past 10 days against the country's failing economy and lack of services that also saw renewed calls for secession.
The conflict in impoverished Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital of Sanaa by the Houthis, which toppled Hadi's government. A Saudi-led coalition allied with the government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
Civilians have borne the brunt of the conflict which has killed over 10,000 people and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine, crippled the country's health system, sparked a cholera epidemic, and created the world's worst humanitarian crisis according to the U.N.
The Security Council expressed regret that the Houthi delegation did not attend the Geneva talks and reiterated that only a political solution can end the conflict and alleviate the humanitarian suffering.
Griffiths stressed that as he attempts to resume talks, it's important that the parties don't become embroiled in large-scale military operations.
He expressed relief that the Red Sea port city of Hodeida — key to deliveries of food, medicine and other needed supplies — hasn't yet suffered "the calamity of military operations."
But he said "the war has been escalating across all fronts" including intensive operations on the outskirts of Hodeida and fierce fighting in other areas including Saada, Hajjah, Marib and Taiz governorates.
Washington, Sep 12 (AP/UNB) — Canadian negotiators are traveling to brief Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in person on the state of negotiations with the United States on a deal that would allow Canada to remain in a North American trade bloc.
Canada's envoy — Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland — left a meeting with U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer Tuesday night. She said the talks were at a point where discussing them face-to-face with the prime minister "is absolutely essential."
Trudeau and his ministers will hold a caucus retreat in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to plot their strategy.
The U.S. and Mexico last month reached a preliminary agreement to replace the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement. But those talks excluded Canada, the third NAFTA country.
Washington, Sep 12 (AP/UNB) — With a powerful hurricane bearing down on the Southeast coast, President Donald Trump on Tuesday turned attention back to the federal government's response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico a year ago, deeming it "incredibly successful" even though a recent federal report found that nearly 3,000 people died.
The administration's efforts in Puerto Rico received widespread criticism. But after visiting the island last September, Trump said that Puerto Ricans were fortunate that the storm did not yield a catastrophe akin to the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast.
All told, about 1,800 people died in that 2005 storm. Puerto Rico's governor last month raised the U.S. territory's official death toll from Hurricane Maria from 64 to 2,975. The storm is also estimated to have caused $100 billion in damage.
"I actually think it was one of the best jobs that's ever been done with respect to what this is all about," Trump said Tuesday of the response in Puerto Rico, suggesting that it was made more difficult by the "island nature" of the storm site.
The president praised the response to the series of storms that battered the United States last year, saying, "I think Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success. Texas, we've been given A-pluses for. Florida, we've been given A-pluses for."
The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, seized on Trump's use of the word "successful" and said in a statement issued later Tuesday: "No relationship between a colony and the federal government can ever be called 'successful' because Puerto Ricans lack certain inalienable rights enjoyed by our fellow Americans in the states."
Rossello called Hurricane Maria "the worst natural disaster in our modern history" and said work still remained before they could move on to other stages of recovery. He also said he was still waiting for Trump to respond to a petition to help Puerto Rico complete work on emergency housing restoration programs and debris removal.
Trump, having long struggled to express empathy at times of national crises, sparked outrage when during his visit to the island he feuded with the mayor of San Juan and passed out paper towels to victims like he was shooting baskets.
While defending the handling of the previous storm, he urged caution in regards to the new one bearing down on North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
"The safety of American people is my absolute highest priority," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. "We are sparing no expense. We are totally prepared. We are ready. We are ready as anybody has ever been."
The president, flanked by maps of the storm and the heads of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Florence was unlikely to change course before it is expected to make landfall with 130 mph winds and potentially ruinous rains in the coming days.
"They haven't seen anything like what's coming at us in 25, 30 years, maybe ever," Trump said of the states in the storm's path. "It's tremendously big and tremendously wet. Tremendous amount of water."
Florence was expected to blow ashore late Thursday or early Friday, then slow down and wring itself out for days, unloading 1 to 2½ feet (0.3 to 0.8 meters) of rain that could cause flooding well inland and wreak environmental havoc by washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms. North and South Carolina and Virginia ordered mass evacuations along the coast.
La Trinidad, Sep 12 (AP/UNB) — Philippine police say at least 14 people have died when the brakes of an overloaded passenger van failed while cruising a winding road, sending it down a ravine in a northern mountain province.
Police Chief Superintendent Rolando Nana says 24 other passengers, including the driver, were injured Tuesday afternoon in Balbalan town in Kalinga province. Some of the dead were poor elderly villagers returning home after collecting government cash dole-outs from a bank.
Police say 13 passengers were pinned to death while one other died on the way to a hospital after being retrieved from the 80-meter (262-foot) deep ravine.
Road accidents in the region have been blamed on weak enforcement of traffic rules, poorly maintained public transport and long-neglected upland roads.
Rio De Janeiro, Sep 12 (AP/UNB) — In a letter from his jail cell, former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called on tens of millions of supporters to vote for the man he named to lead his Workers' Party ticket in October's presidential election.
"I want everyone who would vote for me to vote for Fernando Haddad for president of Brazil," da Silva, who Brazilians universally call Lula, said on Tuesday, the deadline for the party to pick another candidate after da Silva's candidacy was barred. "From now on he will be Lula for millions of Brazilians."
While long anticipated, the formal designation of Haddad both settled one question and launched another: Will da Silva's supporters actually listen?
The two men are close in their political views and said to be friends, but for many voters in Latin America's largest nation they are also very different.
While da Silva is easily the country's most recognizable politician after being president between 2003 and 2010, Haddad is largely unknown outside of Sao Paulo, where he was governor four years, a liability in a nation slightly larger than the continental U.S. While da Silva is charismatic and has an every-man touch, Haddad is a political science professor turned education minister who comes off as professorial. He also got trounced in his re-election bid as mayor in 2016, raising questions about how well he is at winning over voters.
Haddad, 55, also only begins his campaign in earnest on Wednesday, less than four weeks before voters go to the polls.
Carlos Melo, a political science professor at Insper university, believes the strength of the party and da Silva's endorsement will be enough to help Haddad get to a second round of voting. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent on Oct. 7, as expected, the top two finishers will meet in an Oct. 28 runoff.
"He was introduced as the candidate very late, we have to see if there is time for him to get all the votes he needs," Melo said.
Before running for mayor in 2012, Haddad served as education minister under da Silva and his predecessor, President Dilma Rousseff.
He was confirmed as the replacement to da Silva on Tuesday after a meeting of his party's executive committee in the southern city of Curitiba, where the former president is jailed for a corruption conviction. He will be joined on the ticket by Manuela D'Avila, a member of Brazil's Communist Party.
Recent polls show Haddad with less than 10 percent of voter intentions, but the party hopes he will now rise with da Silva's endorsement. The current poll leader is far-right congressman Jair Bolsonaro.
A Datafolha poll published on Monday shows Haddad in fourth place, favored by 9 percent support. That was a rise of 5 percentage points in just a few weeks, but still behind Bolsonaro's 24 percent, left-leaning Ciro Gomes' 13 percent, centrist Marina Silva's 11 percent and right-leaning Geraldo Alckmin's 10 percent.
The poll had a margin of error of 2 percentage points. All the 2,804 voters sampled were interviewed on Monday, days after da Silva's candidacy was barred by the electoral court and Bolsonaro was stabbed in an incident that might put him in hospital until election day.
The move to put Haddad on the top of the ticket was an acknowledgement that the left-leaning party could not get da Silva on the ballot despite numerous attempts in the courts.
One of the last appeals of the former president was denied by Brazil's top court after Haddad was announced as his replacement.
Haddad met with da Silva after the decision, then delivered his first speech as the candidate in front the federal police building where da Silva is jailed.
"I feel the pain of many Brazilians who won't be able to vote for who they want," he said, standing next to D'Avila and other Workers' Party heavyweights. "But now is not the time to have your head down."
Da Silva is serving a 12-year sentence for trading favors with construction company Grupo OAS for the promise of a beachfront apartment. The former president has always denied wrongdoing, arguing this case and several others pending against him are meant to keep him off the ballot.
Da Silva led polls for more than a year, but his candidacy was recently barred by the country's top electoral court.
The strategy of holding on to da Silva's candidacy until the last minute caused much internal fighting within the party. Many believed that leaving Haddad so little time to present his case to voters was risky, while others thought it was best to keep da Silva front and center as long as possible.
Since the beginning of the year the Workers' Party hinted Haddad could be the candidate. When he was named candidate for vice president in mid-August the choice became obvious.
"Haddad and I are like Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez," da Silva once said, referring to superstar teammates on FC Barcelona's soccer club. "We play together and we don't even need to look at each other to know what the other is doing."