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EU leaders reject informal talks with UK

Agencies 

The European Union will not hold informal talks with the UK until it triggers Article 50 to leave, Germany, France and Italy have insisted.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted talks with French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Berlin.

The leaders called for a "new impulse" to strengthen the EU.

Last Thursday, British citizens voted 52-48 in favour of leaving the EU in a historic referendum.

UK financial markets remain volatile in the wake of the vote, with sterling plunging to a 31-year low against the dollar, and some share trading temporarily halted.

Together with the UK, Germany, France and Italy have the largest economies in the EU.

'No further steps'

"We are in agreement that Article 50 of the European treaties is very clear - a member state that wishes to leave the European Union has to notify the European Council," Mrs Merkel told a joint news conference at the German chancellery.

"There can't be any further steps until that has happened. Only then will the European Council issue guidelines under which an exit will be negotiated.

"That means that, and we agree on this point, there will be neither informal nor formal talks on a British exit until the European Council has received the [UK's] request for an exit from the European Union."

President Hollande and Prime Minister Renzi emphasised the need to process the UK's exit as quickly as possible and focus on the challenges facing the remaining 27 states.

"Our responsibility is not to lose time in dealing with the question of the UK's exit and the new questions for the 27," Mr Hollande said. "There is nothing worse than uncertainty."

 

China blow to India's NSG hopes

Agencies

India's bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has suffered a setback following Chinese opposition. The plenary of the NSG ended on Friday without a decision on India's membership.

China said India should not become a member until it signs the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) - a key requirement for all NSG members.bThe NSG sets global rules for international trade in nuclear energy technology.

In a statement following the end of the plenary session, the group confirmed that India's application had been discussed, reports India's PTI news agency.

"Participating governments reiterated their firm support for the full, complete and effective implementation of the NPT as the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime," the statement read.

India needed a unanimous vote in the 48-member group to become a member, but Beijing took the position that the rules should not be bent for India.

"Applicant countries must be signatories of the NPT. This is a pillar, not something that China set. It is universally recognised by the international community," the Reuters news agency quoted Wang Qun, the head of the arms control department in China's foreign ministry, as saying.

China was always the main opponent to India's US-backed bid to become an NSG member despite hectic diplomatic discussions between Delhi and Beijing.

US President Barack Obama had publicly endorsed India's candidacy during his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this month and also urged other NSG members to consider it favourably.

Correspondents say that India's failure to secure a seat in the NSG will be seen as a setback to Mr Modi's foreign policy.

India's main opposition Congress party has referred to the development as an "embarrassment" to the country.

"Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to realise that diplomacy needs depth and seriousness and not public tamasha [spectacle]," a party spokesman said.

 

Brexit: Cameron to quit after UK votes to leave EU

Agencies

Prime Minister David Cameron is to step down by October after the UK voted to leave the European Union.

Speaking outside 10 Downing Street, he said "fresh leadership" was needed.

The PM had urged the country to vote Remain but was defeated by 52% to 48% despite London, Scotland and Northern Ireland backing staying in.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage hailed it as the UK's "independence day", while Boris Johnson said the result would not mean "pulling up the drawbridge".

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was "absolutely determined" to keep Scotland in the EU so a second Scottish independence referendum was now "highly likely".

German chancellor Angela Merkel expressed "great regret" at the outcome, and EU chiefs said they expected the UK to begin negotiations to leave "as soon as possible, however painful that process may be".

But Boris Johnson, the ex-London mayor and public face of Vote Leave who is now a front-runner to be next prime minister, said there was "no need for haste" about severing the UK's ties.

He said voters had "searched in their hearts" and the UK now had a "glorious opportunity" to pass its own laws, set its own taxes and control its own borders.

Another leading Leave campaigner, Labour's Gisela Stuart, said the UK would be a "good neighbour" when it left the EU.

The pound fell to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985 as the markets reacted to the results. It later regained some ground but was still 8% lower on the day by mid-afternoon.

Flanked by his wife Samantha, Mr Cameron announced shortly after 08:15 BST that he had informed the Queen of his decision to remain in place for the short term and to then hand over to a new prime minister by the time of the Conservative conference in October.

He would attempt to "steady the ship" over the coming weeks and months, but that it would be for the new prime minister to carry out negotiations with the EU and invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would give the UK two years to negotiate its withdrawal, he said.

"The British people have voted to leave the European Union and their will must be respected," said Mr Cameron. "The will of the British people is an instruction that must be delivered."

Bank of England governor Mark Carney said UK banks' "substantial capital and huge liquidity" allowed them to continue to lend to businesses and households.

The Bank of England is ready to provide an extra £250bn of support, he added.

The European Parliament is to hold an emergency session on Tuesday to discuss the referendum result.

On Twitter, EU Parliament president Martin Schulz called for a "speedy and clear exit negotiation".

But Leave supporting Tory MP Liam Fox said voters had shown great "courage" by deciding to "change the course of history" for the UK and, he hoped, the rest of Europe.

Britain is set to be the first country to leave the EU since its formation - but the Leave vote does not immediately mean Britain ceases to be a member of the 28-nation bloc.

That process could take a minimum of two years, with Leave campaigners suggesting during the referendum campaign that it should not be completed until 2020 - the date of the next scheduled general election.

 

Man in court over killing of MP Jo Cox

Agencies 

The man charged with the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox has appeared in court and been remanded in custody. Thomas Mair gave his name as "Death to traitors, freedom for Britain" when he appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

Mrs Cox, 41, was shot and stabbed in Birstall, West Yorkshire, on Thursday.

Mr Mair, 52, is also charged with GBH, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and possession of an offensive weapon.

The defendant, who was wearing a grey tracksuit, refused to give his correct name and did not reply when asked to confirm his address and date of birth.

He is due to appear at the Old Bailey on Monday.

The venue chosen for Thomas Mair's first court appearance was the most important magistrate's court in London. Deputy Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot was presiding.

Reporters from the broadcasters and Sunday Newspapers and from overseas packed the press seats at the back.

As is almost always the case, the hearing was brief, but it had a key moment of drama - the moment the man in the dock was asked his name.

He stood, as asked, for what is normally one of the most mundane parts of the proceedings. Not this time.

"My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain," he said.

Asked to repeat it, he said the same thing. Then he fell silent until he was taken from the dock and driven off to prison.

Mrs Cox, who was married with two children, was about to attend a constituency surgery when she was killed.

A 77-year-old man, who came to her aid, was also injured and remains in a stable condition in hospital.

West Yorkshire Police said friends and family of Mrs Cox are to visit Birstall later.

Vigils were held across the country on Friday evening in memory of Mrs Cox. Earlier in the day, David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn visited Mrs Cox's Batley and Spen constituency.

The prime minister said the country was "rightly shocked" by her death, while the Labour leader described the former aid worker as "an exceptional, wonderful, very talented woman."

Parliament will be recalled on Monday to allow MPs to pay further tributes.

Obama leads tributes to boxing legend

Agencies

While touching tributes to Ali were pouring in from world leaders, fellow athletes and just regular folk, the boxing great had already addressed how he wanted the world to think about him after his death.

In his book "The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life's Journey," Ali said he wanted to be remembered as "a man who won the heavyweight title three times, who was humorous, and who treated everyone right. As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him, and who helped as many people as he could. As a man who stood up for his beliefs no matter what. As a man who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love."

He added, " And if all that's too much, then I guess I'd settle for being remembered only as a great boxer who became a leader and a champion of his people, And I wouldn't even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was."

President Barack Obama said he and first lady Michelle Obama mourn Ali's passing.

"But we're also grateful to God for how fortunate we are to have known him, if just for a while; for how fortunate we all are that The Greatest chose to grace our time," the Obamas said in a statement Saturday.

The President said he has a pair of Ali's gloves on display in his private study off of the Oval Office, just underneath a photograph of the legend.

Obama said Ali "fought for us."

"He stood with King and Mandela; stood up when it was hard; spoke out when others wouldn't. His fight outside the ring would cost him his title and his public standing. It would earn him enemies on the left and the right, make him reviled, and nearly send him to jail. But Ali stood his ground. And his victory helped us get used to the America we recognize today," the President said in a statement issued by the White House.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, at a ceremony honoring Ali Saturday, said the boxer "lived a life so big and bold, it's hard to believe that any one man could do everything he did, could be all the things that he became in the course of just one lifetime."

He added, "Muhammad Ali belongs to the world, but he only has one hometown. The 'Louisville Lip' spoke to everyone, but we heard him in a way no one else could -- as our brother, our uncle, and our inspiration."

Don King, the boxing promoter who was every bit as brash as Ali, told CNN that in his mind Ali will never die.

"His spirit will go on forever," he said. "He's just a great human being, a champion of the people, the greatest of all time."

Even as the former champ battled Parkinson's, he had the same love for life and people, King said. Parkinson's disease, which primarily affects a patient's movement, is a "progressive disorder of the nervous system," according to the Mayo Clinic.

The Ali sense of humor was displayed in an old photo tweeted by Oscar De La Hoya, who won titles in six weight classes.

'The Greatest' is gone

Agencies

Heavyweight boxing legend Muhammad Ali, a 20th Century icon whose fame transcended sport during a remarkable career that spanned three decades, died Friday, his family said.

The 74-year-old sports hero, who had been battling Parkinson's disease for decades, passed away in a hospital here where he had been admitted earlier this week suffering from respiratory problems.

"After a 32-year battle with Parkinson's disease, Muhammad Ali has passed away at the age of 74," spokesman Bob Gunnell said.

"The three-time World Heavyweight Champion boxer died this evening."

Funeral arrangements for Ali would be announced on Saturday, he added, with the champion to be buried in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

Ali had been living in the Phoenix area with his fourth wife, Lonnie, whom he married in 1986. He was survived by nine children, seven daughters and two sons.

As the family gathered at his bedside on Friday, concern for Ali had grown.

Upon his death tributes immediately poured in for "The Greatest," who was known globally not only for his storied ring career but also for his humanitarian activism.

US President Barack Obama, who said he keeps a pair of Ali's boxing gloves and a photo in his private study, hailed the late boxer for his civil rights work.

"His fight outside the ring would cost him his title and his public standing. It would earn him enemies on the left and the right, make him reviled, and nearly send him to jail. But Ali stood his ground. And his victory helped us get used to the America we recognize today."

He was, Obama said, "not just as skilled a poet on the mic as he was a fighter in the ring, but a man who fought for what was right. A man who fought for us."

Longtime boxing promoter Bob Arum said "Ali transformed this country and impacted the world with his spirit. His legacy will be part of our history for all time.

"He is, without a question in my mind, the most transformative person of our time," Arum said.

Ali had been hospitalized multiple times in recent years.

In 2014 he was treated for a mild case of pneumonia and again in 2015 for a urinary tract infection.

His Parkinson's, thought to be linked to the thousands of punches he took during a career studded by bruising battles inside the ropes, had limited his public speaking.

But he continued to make appearances and offer opinions through his family members and spokespeople.

In April, he attended a Celebrity Fight Night Dinner in Phoenix that raised funds for treatment of Parkinson's.

In December, he issued a statement rebuking US presidential hopeful Donald Trump's call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.

Ali's 30-year career, which stretched from 1960 to 1981 and saw him retire with a record of 56-5, included such historic bouts as the Rumble in the Jungle against George Foreman.

Don King promoted that watershed bout in Kinshasa, Zaire, in 1974, in which Ali used his "Rope a Dope" strategy to best Foreman and become just the second fighter ever to regain the heavyweight world title.

"His spirit will go on forever," King said of Ali. "He represents what every athlete and sports person tries to do, an attitude of getting it done, success, he was fabulous.

"A great human being, and a champion of the people. The greatest of all times."

Other defining moments of Ali's career included two knockouts of Sonny Liston and his thrilling rivalry with Joe Frazier -- which saw the two men slug it out in the ring and verbally spar out of it.

"Ali, Frazier & Foreman, we were 1 guy. A part of me slipped away -- the greatest piece" Foreman wrote on Twitter shortly after Ali's death was announced.

Ali, born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr in Louisville, Kentucky, dazzled fans with slick moves in the ring, and with his wit and engaging persona outside it.

His refusal to serve in the Vietnam War saw him banned from the sport for years, but the US Supreme Court overturned his conviction for draft dodging in 1971.

He took the name of Muhammad Ali after converting to Islam in 1964, soon after he had stunned the sport by claiming the title with a monumental upset of Liston.

He was vilified in some quarters for that conversion and his outspoken stance on Vietnam and civil rights issues. His refusal to fight in Vietnam saw him prosecuted for draft evasion, and led to him being effectively banned for boxing for three years of his prime.

But he held firm to his beliefs and eventually earned accolades as an activist.

He received the highest US civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2005.

Ali represented the United Nations as a messenger of peace and was chosen to light the Olympic torch in 1996, when he was already weakened by Parkinson's.

- 'A giant' -

Tributes flooded in from around the world -- celebrities, politicians, reporters that covered him, athletes and of course boxers praised Ali for his superb work in and out of the ring.

Floyd Mayweather, who retired from boxing last year with a perfect 49-0 record, recalled the awe he felt in meeting Ali in '96, when he was a US Olympian.

"I didn't really know what to say. I couldn't believe it," Mayweather said. "I didn't even want to show my true feelings and emotions of how I felt."

Twenty years on, Mayweather was clear on his view of Ali's legacy -- forged inside and outside the ring.

"Never be afraid," Mayweather said. "Never stop believing. And never settle for less."

Mayweather's great rival Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines said the world had lost "a giant".

"Boxing benefitted from Muhammad Ali's talents, but not as much as mankind benefitted from his humanity," Pacquiao said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron praised Ali on Twitter as "a champion of civil rights, and a role model for so many people," while India's Narendra Modi said he was a "source of inspiration who demonstrated the power of human spirit & determination."

 

Top Hizbollah commander killed in Syria

Agencies

The man believed to be Hezbollah's most senior military commander in Syria's war has been killed in Damascus.

Mustafa Amine Badreddine died in a large explosion near Damascus airport, the Lebanon-based militant group said in a statement on its al-Manar website.

Hezbollah supports Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and has sent thousands of fighters into Syria.

In 2015, the US said that Badreddine was behind all Hezbollah's military operations in Syria since 2011.

The US treasury, which imposed sanctions on Badreddine last July, said at the time he was behind the movement of Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon to Syria, and was in charge of the key battle for the town of al-Qusair in 2013.

Badreddine was also charged with leading the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri in Beirut in 2005.

The funeral for Badreddine is scheduled for Friday afternoon south of the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

An initial report by Lebanon's al-Mayadeen TV said that Badreddine, 55, died in an Israeli air strike. But a later statement by Hezbollah on al-Manar's website did not mention Israel.

Israeli media reported that the government refused to comment on whether it was involved in Badreddine's death.

Israel has been accused by Hezbollah of killing a number of its fighters in Syria since the conflict began.

The group was established in the wake of the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in the early 1980s, and has called for the "obliteration" of Israel.

as on a US sanctions list

A number of Twitter accounts supporting Syrian rebel groups and the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front say Badreddine was killed in a battle in Khan Touman, southern Aleppo, rather than in Damascus.

Khan Touman was captured by a coalition of groups including al-Nusra Front last week and has been subject to heavy shelling in recent days.

No official sources have commented on the reports.

Born in 1961, Badreddine is believed to have been a senior figure in Hezbollah's military wing. He was a cousin and brother-in-law of Imad Mughniyeh, who was the military wing's chief until his assassination by car bomb in Damascus in 2008.

According to one report, a Hezbollah member interrogated by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), described Badreddine as "more dangerous" than Mughniyeh, who was "his teacher in terrorism".

They are alleged to have worked together on the October 1983 bombing of the US Marine Corps barracks in Beirut that killed 241 personnel.

Badreddine is reported to have sat on Hezbollah's Shura Council and served as an adviser to the group's overall leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Beirut in February 2005

Badreddine was tried in absentia by the ongoing Special Tribunal for Lebanon, in The Hague, over the killing of Mr Hariri.

He was indicted on four charges and was said by the tribunal to be "the overall controller of the operation" to kill Mr Hariri.

Three other Hezbollah members also stand accused of their role in the assassination.

The indictment also details Badreddine's role in bombings in Kuwait in 1983, that targeted the French and US embassies and other facilities, and killed six people.

He was sentenced to death over the attacks, but later escaped from prison.

 

Brussels attacks: Man charged with terrorist offences

Agencies

Belgian prosecutors have charged a man with terrorist offences, in connection with Tuesday's attacks in Brussels that left 31 dead, including three bombers.

He was named as Faycal C and was arrested on Thursday.

At least half the victims died at the airport, the rest in an attack on the metro in suicide bombings claimed by so-called Islamic State (IS).

Zaventem - Brussels international airport - will not reopen before Tuesday, authorities have announced.

Meanwhile a demonstration against the attacks, planned for Sunday in central Brussels, has been cancelled after a request from the authorities.

Organisers said people's security was a top priority. 

Belgian prosecutors said that Faycal C had been detained outside the prosecutor's office in Brussels on Thursday. A search of his home had found no weapons. 

Faycal C was charged with "participation in the activities of a terrorist group, terrorist murders and attempted terrorist murders," a statement said. 

It gave no further details and made no comment on Belgian media reports that he was the third man in an airport CCTV image that showed the two suicide bombers - Najim Laachraoui on the left, and Brahim el-Bakraoui. Belgian media say the third man is Faycal Cheffou, a freelance journalist. 

The third man, wearing a hat and pale jacket, also had luggage packed with explosives. However he was said to have fled without detonating his device. It was detonated in a controlled explosion once the departures hall was cleared. 

Brahim el-Bakraoui's brother Khalid carried out the Maelbeek metro attack. 

The third man, wearing a hat and pale jacket, also had luggage packed with explosives. However he was said to have fled without detonating his device. It was detonated in a controlled explosion once the departures hall was cleared. 

Brahim el-Bakraoui's brother Khalid carried out the Maelbeek metro attack. 

 

Trumps doubles down despite violent campaign

Agencies

CINCINNATI: Donald Trump doubled down Sunday on his claim that "thugs" -- not his heated rhetoric -- are to blame for spiraling violence at his rallies, two days before crucial votes that could propel him to an insurmountable lead in the Republican White House race.

Trump hit the campaign trail again Sunday as a climate of growing tension engulfed the 2016 election race, with White House rivals on both sides of the political divide warning the Republican's inflammatory language was inciting violence.

A campaign rally in Chicago late Friday had to be canceled because of unrest that saw ardent Trump supporters and opponents come to blows, after dozens of campaign stops where Trump has berated his opponents and encouraged the crowd to verbally and physically mistreat protesters.

The billionaire's invective also has targeted journalists, the disabled, women, Muslims, Hispanics and other minorities -- often to raucous approval from thousands of chanting partisans.

But as with each new controversy swirling around the brash billionaire, Trump seemed unscathed by the furor, with polls suggesting he remained on a glide path toward the party nomination heading into Tuesday's make-or-break round of voting.

Dubbed "Super Tuesday 2" by US media, the latest key date in the run up to November's general election will see Democratic and Republican contests in the states of Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina.

Trump this weekend jetted on his private plane between rallies in the delegate-rich states, as his Republican rivals Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Ohio Governor John Kasich also ramped up campaigning on the ground.

In Cincinnati, Ohio hundreds had already lined up in the early morning to see the candidate despite a persistent drizzle -- while demonstrators also massed ahead of the event, chanting "Build bridges, Not walls" and "No Trump no KKK, no fascist USA."

Some Trump supporters verbally challenged the protesters, but the event so far remained violence free.

Politicians across the spectrum are increasingly alarmed at the divisiveness and the erosion of civility seen in the campaign and have called on Trump to tone down his rhetoric, saying he is fanning division by exploiting anger among the electorate.

India caste riots death toll rises to 19

Agencies

SONIPAT: The death toll from caste riots in northern India has risen to 19, a state government official told AFP on Monday, adding that the protests had eased overnight.

Authorities said some districts had now lifted a curfew imposed after the outbreak Friday of deadly riots in Haryana state by members of the Jat rural caste.

“Nineteen people have died and more than 200 are injured,” said Haryana additional chief secretary P. K. Das.

“There were a few clashes in parts of Bhiwani district overnight, where a curfew is still on, but the curfew has been lifted in other districts."

“Most of the road links have been restored in the state and we hope to be in control of the situation by the end of the day,” said Das.

Water source cleared

The Indian army has taken control of a canal that supplies three-fifths of Delhi's water, the state's chief minister said, raising hope that a water crisis in the metropolis of more than 20 million people can be averted.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted that the army had regained control from protesters of the gates of the Munak canal to the north of Delhi.

He was assessing how long it would take for water to reach the city.

Although the government bowed on Sunday to the demand of the Jats for more government jobs and places in education, protest leaders said they would carry on their agitation.

“We will continue the protests. The government thinks we will succumb to their pressure tactics but they are making a big mistake by ignoring us,” Ramesh Dalal, convenor of the Jat Arakshan Andolan (Jat Reservation Movement), told Reuters.

“Jats are determined to win the battle. They had to send the army to control our anger but even they have failed.”

Protesters have burned railway stations and car showrooms, blocked road traffic and forced the cancellation of hundreds of trains. India's largest car maker, Maruti Suzuki, has shut two factories because of disruptions to its supply chain.

The Jats, who make up a quarter of the state's population, are a largely rural community of landowners that has lost out as population growth has shrunk the size of family farms while two years of drought have hit their crops.

Members of the Jat caste say they are struggling to find work despite India's strong economic growth.

India sets aside a proportion of jobs and university places for Dalits, known as “untouchables”, and for other so-called “backward castes”, under measures intended to remedy centuries of discrimination.

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