Downing Street

Cambridge, United Kingdom

Downing Street

Cambridge, United Kingdom
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FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks outside 10 Downing Street in London, May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party has a 14 percentage point lead over the main opposition Labour Party ahead of a June 8 election, according to an ICM opinion poll published in the Sun newspaper on Sunday. The poll put the Conservatives on 46 percent and Labour on 32 percent, little changed from the previous ICM poll on May 22 which put the Conservatives on 47 percent and Labour on 33 percent. Other polls published since Monday's suicide attack in Manchester have shown May's lead narrowing. ICM said support for the Liberal Democrats was at 8 percent and the UK Independence Party at 5 percent.


News Article | May 24, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

LONDON (AP) — The Latest on the bombing at a pop concert in Manchester that left 22 people dead The spokesman for a Libyan anti-terror force says the father of the alleged Manchester bomber has been arrested in Tripoli. Special Deterrent force spokesman Ahmed bin Salem told the Associated Press that Ramadan Abedi, the father of Salman Abedi, was detained in Tripoli on Wednesday. Bin Salem says the elder Abedi was detained for interrogations. Before his arrest, the father told the AP that his son was innocent and had been planning a trip to Saudi Arabia for a pilgrimage. Ramadan Abedi also had said he worked as the administrative manager of the Central Security force in Tripoli. He said he fled Tripoli in 1993 after Moammar Gadhafi's security authorities issued an arrest warrant and eventually sought political asylum in Britain. Salman Abedi was born in Britain in died in Monday's attack at Manchester Arena. Two of his brothers have been arrested along with their father. Scores of people have gathered in a Manchester square for a multi-faith vigil for the victims of Monday night's bomb attack at an Ariana Grande concert. Leaders from Manchester's Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities echoed the message that extremists would not drive a wedge between the city's religious groups. Irfan Chishti, the imam of Manchester's biggest mosque, told the crowd, "There are no divisions here tonight." The Catholic bishop for the area, John Arnold, read a message from Pope Francis. Arnold said the pontiff offered "his assurance of his prayers for the injured and for all who have died." A British man of Libyan descent who died in the attack has been blamed for the bombing. The brief event ended with people lifting their hands in the air during a moment of silence. A Libyan security spokesman says another brother of the alleged Manchester bomber has been arrested, this one in Tripoli. Ahmed bin Salem, the spokesman of a Libyan anti-terror force, says a younger brother of Salman Abedi, Hashim, was detained on Tuesday. The alleged bomber's father, Ramadan Abedi, told The Associated Press on Wednesday, that another son, Ismail, was arrested in England on Tuesday. The 22-year-old Abedi is a British citizen born to Libyan parents and grew up around Manchester. He died in the attack. The bombing killed 22 people and wounded scores at an Ariana Grande concert Monday night in Manchester. British police say officers investigating the Manchester Arena concert blast have arrested a fifth suspect, and are assessing a package the suspect was carrying. Greater Manchester Police said the suspect was detained in Wigan, a town to the west of Manchester. The force did not immediately provide details. Officers also arrested three men earlier Wednesday in Manchester, where a bomber attacked an Ariana Grande concert, killing 22 and injuring dozens others. Another man, the brother of alleged bomber Salman Abedi, was arrested on Tuesday. A spokesman for the Manchester Islamic Center has denied reports that the man identified as the bomber who attacked a pop concert in the city worked at the center. Officials identified the bomber as 22-year-old Salman Abedi, a British citizen born to Libyan parents. Islamic Center spokesman Fawzi Haffar told reporters on Wednesday: "This bomber has never worked in this center." Haffar also told reporters he was concerned about reports of "anti-Muslim acts" the center has received since Monday's attack. He says the reports range from verbal abuse to damage to mosques in Manchester and elsewhere. The attack at Manchester Arena killed 22 people, including children and many teenagers. Manchester's police chief has told reporters that it is clear "this is a network we are investigating" as he gave an update on the probe into the bomb attack at a pop concert in the city. Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said Wednesday that police are carrying out extensive searches across Manchester as part of their probe. Hopkins declined to comment on whether police have found the alleged maker of the explosive device used in Monday night's attack. His comments followed media reports that the alleged bomber, Salman Abedi, acted as a "mule" for others. Hopkins says a serving police officer was among the 22 people confirmed killed in the attack. He confirmed that a total of four suspects have been detained so far. Witnesses say they heard explosions as police raided a block of flats in central Manchester following Monday's attack. Manchester Police said officers briefly closed a railway line on Wednesday to carry out a search as part of the investigation into the deadly bombing at the Ariana Grande concert Monday. Residents described how armed police and men clad in balaclavas stormed the Granby House building, an apartment block where rented apartments are popular with students and young professionals. Muye Li, a 23-year-old student who lives on the third floor, says he heard an explosion as police stormed an apartment on his floor. He says officers knocked on his door and "asked me if I had seen the lady next door," and believed police were looking for a woman. A former Libyan security official says the father of the alleged Manchester arena bomber was allegedly member of a former al-Qaida-backed group in Libya. Former Libyan security official Abdel-Basit Haroun said Wednesday he personally knew Ramadan Abedi, the father of Salman Abedi, and that the elder Abedi was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting group in the 1990s. The group had links to al-Qaida. Although the LIFG disbanded, Haroun says the father belongs to the Salafi Jihadi movement, the most extreme sect of Salafism and from which al-Qaida and the Islamic State group hail. Haroun says Abedi, also known as Abu Ismail, had returned to the Libyan capital of Tripoli. Ramadan Abedi told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Tripoli that his family "aren't the ones who blow up ourselves among innocents." The father of the alleged Manchester arena attacker denies his son is linked to militants or the suicide bombing that killed 22 people. Ramadan Abedi says he spoke to his 22-year-old son, Salman Abedi, five days ago and he was getting ready to visit Saudi Arabia and sounded "normal." He said that his son visited Libya a month-and-a -half ago. The elder Abedi told The Associated Press by telephone from Tripoli: "We don't believe in killing innocents. This is not us." He said his other son, Ismail, was arrested in England on Tuesday morning. He said Salman was planning to head from Saudi Arabia to Libya to spend the holy month of Ramadan with family. Abedi fled Tripoli in 1993 after Moammar Gadhafi's security authorities issued an arrest warrant and eventually sought political asylum in Britain. Now, he is the administrative manager of the Central Security force in Tripoli. Manchester United fans are congregating in Stockholm's city center, dominating bars and singing songs ahead of their team's match against Ajax in the Europa League. A flag outside a bar in the Swedish capital displayed the words: "United against terrorism. Lest we forget 22.05.17" — the date of Monday's suicide bombing in the English city of Manchester. The final will kick off at Friends Arena on Wednesday, less than 48 hours after a deadly bomb attack at a pop concert in Manchester killed 22 people. There will be a huge security presence at the venue. A police helicopter was flying above the city center Wednesday afternoon. Premier League champion Chelsea has called off its victory parade because of the concert attack in Manchester. Chelsea says it would be inappropriate to hold a parade in London this weekend following Monday's bombing at a concert in Manchester and adds "we are sure our fans will understand this decision." The club says "given the heightened security threat announced by the government, and recognizing that this is a developing situation, we have given this careful consideration." Chelsea also says it does not want to divert emergency services. English soccer champions traditionally celebrate by driving through the city streets on an open top bus, with players holding trophies and waving to fans. Manchester police made an arrest early Wednesday at a house just a 10-minute walk from the home of suicide bomber Salman Abedi. Omar Alfa Khuri, who lives across the street, said he was awakened at 2:30 a.m. by a loud noise and saw police take away the father of the family that lives there in handcuffs. He said the man is named Adel and is in his 40s, with a wife and several children. He says "there was a policeman, armed policeman, shouting at my neighbor ... and I realized there is something wrong here ... they arrested the father, and I think the rest of the family kind of disappeared." He said he immediately suspected the arrest might be linked to Monday night's concert bombing. He said he knew the man from the neighborhood and the mosque. He says "in the last 15 years, I haven't seen him in trouble at all. I haven't seen police come to his house." British police say they are now confident they know the identities of all the people who lost their lives in Monday's concert attack in Manchester. But Greater Manchester Police said Wednesday that it could not formally name the victims until forensic post-mortems are concluded. The force said because of the number of victims, that is likely to take four to five days. It said all the families affected have been contacted and trained officers are supporting them. Officials said 22 people were killed in the suicide bombing of an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena, including teenagers and children. Some of them have been named by friends and family. The youngest victim was 8-year-old Saffie Roussos. A school near Manchester says it is "in shock" and heartbroken as it announced that one of its students, teenager Olivia Campbell-Hardy, was killed in the Manchester concert attack. Tottington High School, in Bury near the city of Manchester, said in a statement that Olivia, reportedly 15, had been with a friend during Monday night's attack on the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena. The friend has undergone surgery to treat injuries from the bombing. Her mother, Charlotte Campbell, who had been appealing online for news of Olivia, wrote in a Facebook posting early Wednesday: "RIP my darling precious gorgeous girl Olivia Campbell taken far far too soon, go sing with the angels and keep smiling mummy loves you so much." Police and health officials say 22 people were killed and 119 wounded in Monday's attack. — This story corrects the high school's name to Tottington. Manchester health officials have raised the number of wounded in the concert bombing, saying 119 people sought medical treatment at the city's hospitals after the suicide attack Monday night. The Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership gave the higher figure on Wednesday. Jon Rouse of the agency said 64 people were still hospitalized. He said the number of overall wounded was raised due to the "walking wounded" who came in hours after the attack. Rouse said many of those hospitalized had serious wounds that would require "very long term care and support in terms of their recovery." The attack after the Ariana Grande concert also killed 22 people. Officials say no decision has been reached yet on whether to postpone planned London concerts by pop singer Ariana Grande. The American pop singer's next two concerts are scheduled for Thursday and Friday night at London's 02 Arena. Representatives of 02 Arena said Wednesday they are in contact with her promoters but haven't made a final decision. They say a decision will be made shortly. Grande's concert in Manchester on Monday night was targeted by a suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded 64. The singer was not injured but said later she was "broken" by the attack. The head of Britain's domestic intelligence agency has canceled his attendance at an international anti-terrorism meeting. MI5 chief Andrew Parker pulled out of the upcoming meeting in Berlin following the deadly attack on a pop concert in Manchester. British authorities believe a suicide bomber carried out the attack that killed 22 and wounded dozens in the city in northwest England on Monday. Germany's domestic intelligence agency confirmed Parker's cancellation to The Associated Press on Wednesday. The May 29 meeting in Berlin is titled "Western democracies' responses to the threat of Islamist terrorism" and also features senior intelligence officials and experts from Europe and Israel. Parker's attendance at the meeting would have been a rare public appearance for the MI5 chief. Britain's defense ministry says the changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace has been cancelled so that police officers can be re-deployed in the wake of the Manchester concert attack. The traditional ceremony at the palace in London is a major attraction that draws crowds of tourists. Officials also announced Wednesday that the Palace of Westminster, which houses the British Parliament in London, will be closed to all without passes. That comes after Britain's national security threat level was raised to "critical," the highest level, following Monday's attack in Manchester. All tours and events at Parliament were immediately cancelled until further notice. Police in Manchester say they have arrested three more men in connection with the suicide bombing at a pop concert that killed 22 people. They said Wednesday the arrests had been made in the south of the city, where a day earlier a 23-year-old man was also arrested and a number of homes were searched. Police are trying to establish if bomber Salman Abedi acted alone or whether there could be a risk of further attacks. Israel's defense minister says he doubts the devastating bombing in Manchester will have any impact on European counterterrorism tactics because of the continent's "politically correct" character. Avigdor Lieberman says every bombing in Europe results in much talk, but little action. He told Israel's Army Radio Wednesday the problem is extremism among Muslim youths who are not integrated into society. He said nothing will change until these residents are ready to adopt "universal, European values." At least 22 people were killed in Monday evening's attack at an Ariana Grande concert. The bomber, Salman Abedi, was British-born and of Libyan descent. The official threat level in Britain has since been raised to its highest point. Lieberman says Israel and Britain enjoy close intelligence cooperation and Israel offered its assistance following the attack. Prime Minister Theresa May is chairing a meeting of her emergency security cabinet, known as Cobra. The Downing Street meeting is dealing with intelligence reports about the investigation into Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi. Police and intelligence agencies are trying to determine if he was part of a network that may be planning further attacks in the coming days. Home Secretary Amber Rudd has criticized U.S. officials for leaking information about Abedi to the press as the investigation is unfolding. Poland's foreign minister says that a Polish couple were killed in the concert blast in Manchester. Witold Waszczykowski said Wednesday the couple came to collect their daughters from the Ariana Grande concert Monday night. The daughters were unharmed. He did not give the couple's names, but the daughter of Marcin and Angelika Klis has been publicly searching for them since the explosion. Waszczykowski also said that another Polish citizen was wounded and had undergone surgery in a hospital. Germany's interior minister has ordered that flags on federal government buildings be flown at half-staff following the attack in Manchester. Thomas de Maiziere's ministry said Wednesday that flags will be lowered to half-staff for the day on Wednesday. It described the order as "a signal of sympathy and solidarity after the cruel attack in Manchester." At least 22 people were killed in Monday evening's attack at an Ariana Grande concert. British Home Secretary Amber Rudd says Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi was known "up to a point" to the British intelligence services and police. She said Wednesday the investigation is continuing and declined to provide further details about Abedi, whose improvised bomb killed 22 people at a pop concert in Manchester. Rudd says Britain's increased official threat level will remain at "critical" as the investigation proceeds. France's interior minister says that the suicide bomber who targeted Manchester is believed to have traveled to Syria and had "proven" links with the Islamic State group. Gerard Collomb said on BFM television Wednesday that British and French intelligence have information that British-born attacker Salman Abedi had been to Syria. He did not provide details, and said it is unclear whether Abedi was part of a larger network of attackers. Collomb, who spoke with British Prime Minister Theresa May after the attack at an Ariana Grande concert that killed 22, said the two countries should continue cooperating closely on counterterrorism efforts despite Britain's pending exit from the European Union. With France still under a state of emergency after a string of IS attacks, French President Emmanuel Macron is holding a special security council meeting Wednesday. Britons will find armed troops at vital locations after the official threat level was raised to its highest point following a suicide bombing that killed 22. Officials say soldiers will be deployed to places like Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street and Parliament. They will replace armed police as Operation Temperer takes effect Wednesday. Officials believe this will free up police to fight the threat of further extremist action against civilian targets, amid fears that another attack may be imminent Police are trying to determine whether suicide bomber Salman Abedi acted alone when he set off his explosives at the end of a pop concert at a Manchester arena. The government Tuesday night raised the threat to "critical", its highest level, following an emergency Cabinet session.


News Article | May 24, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Police scrambled to close down a network around the Manchester suicide bomber with arrests in Britain and Tripoli on Wednesday, as details about the investigation were leaked to U.S. media, infuriating authorities who fear a second attack is imminent. British-born Salman Abedi, 22, who was known to security services, killed 22 people at a concert venue packed with children on Monday. Authorities believe he had help in building the bomb, which photographs published by the New York Times showed was sophisticated and powerful, and that his accomplices could be ready to strike again. Manchester police arrested five men and one woman on Wednesday, bringing the total held for questioning to seven, and searched multiple addresses in northern and central England. Explosives were found at one site, the Independent reported, citing security service sources. A source said British investigators were hunting for anyone who may have helped build the suicide bomb. "I think it's very clear that this is a network that we are investigating," police chief Ian Hopkins said outside Manchester police headquarters. "And as I've said, it continues at a pace. There's extensive investigations going on and activity taking place across Greater Manchester as we speak." Abedi, who was born in Manchester in 1994 to Libyan parents, blew himself up on Monday night at the Manchester Arena indoor venue at the end of a concert by U.S. pop singer Ariana Grande attended by thousands of children and teenagers. Police in Tripoli on Wednesday arrested Abedi's younger brother and his father, who said he did not expect the attack. "I spoke to [Salman Abedi] about five days ago ... there was nothing wrong, everything was normal," Ramadan Abedi told Reuters, moments before he was arrested. A spokesman for the local counter-terrorism force said his brother Hashem Abedi was arrested on suspicion of links with Islamic State and was suspected of planning to carry out an attack in the Libyan capital. The first arrest made in Britain on Tuesday was reported by British and U.S. media to be Abedi's older brother. Earlier, interior minister Amber Rudd said the bomber had recently returned from Libya. Her French counterpart Gerard Collomb said he had links with Islamic State and had probably visited Syria as well. Authorities in Britain have become increasingly angered by U.S. leaks from the investigation, including the bomber's name on Tuesday and the photos of blood-stained fragments from the bomb on Wednesday. British police chiefs said the breaches of trust between security service partners were undermining their efforts. Rudd had earlier scolded U.S. officials for leaking details. "The British police have been very clear that they want to control the flow of information in order to protect operational integrity, the element of surprise, so it is irritating if it gets released from other sources, and I have been very clear with our friends that should not happen again," she said. But, hours after the warning, the New York Times published the detailed photographs. A government source told the Guardian newspaper, "Protests have been lodged at every relevant level between the British authorities and our U.S. counterparts." British Prime Minster Theresa May will meet U.S. President Donald Trump at a NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday, but officials said she would cut short the second leg of her trip to the G7 summit in Italy. The Manchester bombing has raised concern across Europe. Cities including Paris, Nice, Brussels, St. Petersburg, Berlin and London have suffered militant attacks in the last two years. The 22 victims in Manchester included an eight-year-old girl, several teenage girls, a 28-year-old man and a Polish couple who had come to collect their daughters. Britain's official terror threat level was raised to "critical", the highest level, late on Tuesday, meaning an attack was expected imminently. But with just over two weeks to go until a national election, May's Conservatives and political parties said they would resume campaigning in the coming days. The Manchester bombing was the deadliest attack in Britain since July 2005, when four British Muslim suicide bombers killed 52 people in coordinated attacks on London's transport network. Rudd said up to 3,800 soldiers could be deployed on Britain's streets, taking on guard duties to free up police to focus on patrols and investigation. An initial deployment of 984 had been ordered, first in London and then elsewhere. Soldiers were seen at the Houses of Parliament, May's Downing Street residence and at the London police headquarters at New Scotland Yard. The Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace, a draw for tourists, was canceled because it requires support from police officers, which authorities decided was not a good use of resources given the threat level. A source close to the bombing investigation told Reuters that the focus was on whether Abedi had received help in putting together the bomb and on where it had been done. The bomb used in the attack appeared to contain carefully packed shrapnel and have a powerful, high velocity charge, according to leaked photographs from the investigation published by the New York Times. [L8N1IQ4N0] The BBC reported that security services thought the bomb was too sophisticated for Abedi to have built by himself. Police arrested three people in South Manchester, one woman in North Manchester, a man in the nearby town of Wigan, and another man in the central English town of Nuneaton. Ariana Grande's representative said on Wednesday she was suspending her tour to assess the situation and to "pay our proper respects to those lost". The U.S. singer had been scheduled to perform two shows at London's O2 arena this week. Chelsea soccer club said it had canceled a victory parade that had been set to take place on Sunday to celebrate its Premier League title. Several high-profile sporting events are coming up in Britain, including the soccer FA Cup final at London's Wembley Stadium and the English rugby club competition final at Twickenham on Saturday and the UEFA Champions League final at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on June 3. Britain also has a national election scheduled for June 8. All campaigning was suspended after the attack, although major parties said they would resume some activities on Thursday and national-level campaigning on Friday. The government said a minute's silence would be held at all official buildings at 1000 GMT (6.00 a.m. ET) on Thursday. Greater Manchester Police said they were now confident they knew the identity of all the people who lost their lives and had made contact with all the families. They said they would formally name the victims after forensic post-mortems, which would take four or five days. The bombing also left 64 people wounded, of whom 20 were receiving critical care for highly traumatic injuries to major organs and to limbs, a health official said. France, which has repeatedly been hit by devastating militant attacks since 2015, extended emergency powers.


News Article | May 24, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

LONDON (AP) — The Latest on the bombing at a pop concert in Manchester that left 22 people dead The spokesman for a Libyan anti-terror force says the father of the alleged Manchester bomber has been arrested in Tripoli. Special Deterrent force spokesman Ahmed bin Salem told the Associated Press that Ramadan Abedi, the father of Salman Abedi, was detained in Tripoli on Wednesday. Bin Salem says the elder Abedi was detained for interrogations. Before his arrest, the father told the AP that his son was innocent and had been planning a trip to Saudi Arabia for a pilgrimage. Ramadan Abedi also had said he worked as the administrative manager of the Central Security force in Tripoli. He said he fled Tripoli in 1993 after Moammar Gadhafi's security authorities issued an arrest warrant and eventually sought political asylum in Britain. Salman Abedi was born in Britain in died in Monday's attack at Manchester Arena. Two of his brothers have been arrested along with their father. Scores of people have gathered in a Manchester square for a multi-faith vigil for the victims of Monday night's bomb attack at an Ariana Grande concert. Leaders from Manchester's Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities echoed the message that extremists would not drive a wedge between the city's religious groups. Irfan Chishti, the imam of Manchester's biggest mosque, told the crowd, "There are no divisions here tonight." The Catholic bishop for the area, John Arnold, read a message from Pope Francis. Arnold said the pontiff offered "his assurance of his prayers for the injured and for all who have died." A British man of Libyan descent who died in the attack has been blamed for the bombing. The brief event ended with people lifting their hands in the air during a moment of silence. A Libyan security spokesman says another brother of the alleged Manchester bomber has been arrested, this one in Tripoli. Ahmed bin Salem, the spokesman of a Libyan anti-terror force, says a younger brother of Salman Abedi, Hashim, was detained on Tuesday. The alleged bomber's father, Ramadan Abedi, told The Associated Press on Wednesday, that another son, Ismail, was arrested in England on Tuesday. The 22-year-old Abedi is a British citizen born to Libyan parents and grew up around Manchester. He died in the attack. The bombing killed 22 people and wounded scores at an Ariana Grande concert Monday night in Manchester. British police say officers investigating the Manchester Arena concert blast have arrested a fifth suspect, and are assessing a package the suspect was carrying. Greater Manchester Police said the suspect was detained in Wigan, a town to the west of Manchester. The force did not immediately provide details. Officers also arrested three men earlier Wednesday in Manchester, where a bomber attacked an Ariana Grande concert, killing 22 and injuring dozens others. Another man, the brother of alleged bomber Salman Abedi, was arrested on Tuesday. A spokesman for the Manchester Islamic Center has denied reports that the man identified as the bomber who attacked a pop concert in the city worked at the center. Officials identified the bomber as 22-year-old Salman Abedi, a British citizen born to Libyan parents. Islamic Center spokesman Fawzi Haffar told reporters on Wednesday: "This bomber has never worked in this center." Haffar also told reporters he was concerned about reports of "anti-Muslim acts" the center has received since Monday's attack. He says the reports range from verbal abuse to damage to mosques in Manchester and elsewhere. The attack at Manchester Arena killed 22 people, including children and many teenagers. Manchester's police chief has told reporters that it is clear "this is a network we are investigating" as he gave an update on the probe into the bomb attack at a pop concert in the city. Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said Wednesday that police are carrying out extensive searches across Manchester as part of their probe. Hopkins declined to comment on whether police have found the alleged maker of the explosive device used in Monday night's attack. His comments followed media reports that the alleged bomber, Salman Abedi, acted as a "mule" for others. Hopkins says a serving police officer was among the 22 people confirmed killed in the attack. He confirmed that a total of four suspects have been detained so far. Witnesses say they heard explosions as police raided a block of flats in central Manchester following Monday's attack. Manchester Police said officers briefly closed a railway line on Wednesday to carry out a search as part of the investigation into the deadly bombing at the Ariana Grande concert Monday. Residents described how armed police and men clad in balaclavas stormed the Granby House building, an apartment block where rented apartments are popular with students and young professionals. Muye Li, a 23-year-old student who lives on the third floor, says he heard an explosion as police stormed an apartment on his floor. He says officers knocked on his door and "asked me if I had seen the lady next door," and believed police were looking for a woman. A former Libyan security official says the father of the alleged Manchester arena bomber was allegedly member of a former al-Qaida-backed group in Libya. Former Libyan security official Abdel-Basit Haroun said Wednesday he personally knew Ramadan Abedi, the father of Salman Abedi, and that the elder Abedi was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting group in the 1990s. The group had links to al-Qaida. Although the LIFG disbanded, Haroun says the father belongs to the Salafi Jihadi movement, the most extreme sect of Salafism and from which al-Qaida and the Islamic State group hail. Haroun says Abedi, also known as Abu Ismail, had returned to the Libyan capital of Tripoli. Ramadan Abedi told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Tripoli that his family "aren't the ones who blow up ourselves among innocents." The father of the alleged Manchester arena attacker denies his son is linked to militants or the suicide bombing that killed 22 people. Ramadan Abedi says he spoke to his 22-year-old son, Salman Abedi, five days ago and he was getting ready to visit Saudi Arabia and sounded "normal." He said that his son visited Libya a month-and-a -half ago. The elder Abedi told The Associated Press by telephone from Tripoli: "We don't believe in killing innocents. This is not us." He said his other son, Ismail, was arrested in England on Tuesday morning. He said Salman was planning to head from Saudi Arabia to Libya to spend the holy month of Ramadan with family. Abedi fled Tripoli in 1993 after Moammar Gadhafi's security authorities issued an arrest warrant and eventually sought political asylum in Britain. Now, he is the administrative manager of the Central Security force in Tripoli. Manchester United fans are congregating in Stockholm's city center, dominating bars and singing songs ahead of their team's match against Ajax in the Europa League. A flag outside a bar in the Swedish capital displayed the words: "United against terrorism. Lest we forget 22.05.17" — the date of Monday's suicide bombing in the English city of Manchester. The final will kick off at Friends Arena on Wednesday, less than 48 hours after a deadly bomb attack at a pop concert in Manchester killed 22 people. There will be a huge security presence at the venue. A police helicopter was flying above the city center Wednesday afternoon. Premier League champion Chelsea has called off its victory parade because of the concert attack in Manchester. Chelsea says it would be inappropriate to hold a parade in London this weekend following Monday's bombing at a concert in Manchester and adds "we are sure our fans will understand this decision." The club says "given the heightened security threat announced by the government, and recognizing that this is a developing situation, we have given this careful consideration." Chelsea also says it does not want to divert emergency services. English soccer champions traditionally celebrate by driving through the city streets on an open top bus, with players holding trophies and waving to fans. Manchester police made an arrest early Wednesday at a house just a 10-minute walk from the home of suicide bomber Salman Abedi. Omar Alfa Khuri, who lives across the street, said he was awakened at 2:30 a.m. by a loud noise and saw police take away the father of the family that lives there in handcuffs. He said the man is named Adel and is in his 40s, with a wife and several children. He says "there was a policeman, armed policeman, shouting at my neighbor ... and I realized there is something wrong here ... they arrested the father, and I think the rest of the family kind of disappeared." He said he immediately suspected the arrest might be linked to Monday night's concert bombing. He said he knew the man from the neighborhood and the mosque. He says "in the last 15 years, I haven't seen him in trouble at all. I haven't seen police come to his house." British police say they are now confident they know the identities of all the people who lost their lives in Monday's concert attack in Manchester. But Greater Manchester Police said Wednesday that it could not formally name the victims until forensic post-mortems are concluded. The force said because of the number of victims, that is likely to take four to five days. It said all the families affected have been contacted and trained officers are supporting them. Officials said 22 people were killed in the suicide bombing of an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena, including teenagers and children. Some of them have been named by friends and family. The youngest victim was 8-year-old Saffie Roussos. A school near Manchester says it is "in shock" and heartbroken as it announced that one of its students, teenager Olivia Campbell-Hardy, was killed in the Manchester concert attack. Tottington High School, in Bury near the city of Manchester, said in a statement that Olivia, reportedly 15, had been with a friend during Monday night's attack on the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena. The friend has undergone surgery to treat injuries from the bombing. Her mother, Charlotte Campbell, who had been appealing online for news of Olivia, wrote in a Facebook posting early Wednesday: "RIP my darling precious gorgeous girl Olivia Campbell taken far far too soon, go sing with the angels and keep smiling mummy loves you so much." Police and health officials say 22 people were killed and 119 wounded in Monday's attack. — This story corrects the high school's name to Tottington. Manchester health officials have raised the number of wounded in the concert bombing, saying 119 people sought medical treatment at the city's hospitals after the suicide attack Monday night. The Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership gave the higher figure on Wednesday. Jon Rouse of the agency said 64 people were still hospitalized. He said the number of overall wounded was raised due to the "walking wounded" who came in hours after the attack. Rouse said many of those hospitalized had serious wounds that would require "very long term care and support in terms of their recovery." The attack after the Ariana Grande concert also killed 22 people. Officials say no decision has been reached yet on whether to postpone planned London concerts by pop singer Ariana Grande. The American pop singer's next two concerts are scheduled for Thursday and Friday night at London's 02 Arena. Representatives of 02 Arena said Wednesday they are in contact with her promoters but haven't made a final decision. They say a decision will be made shortly. Grande's concert in Manchester on Monday night was targeted by a suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded 64. The singer was not injured but said later she was "broken" by the attack. The head of Britain's domestic intelligence agency has canceled his attendance at an international anti-terrorism meeting. MI5 chief Andrew Parker pulled out of the upcoming meeting in Berlin following the deadly attack on a pop concert in Manchester. British authorities believe a suicide bomber carried out the attack that killed 22 and wounded dozens in the city in northwest England on Monday. Germany's domestic intelligence agency confirmed Parker's cancellation to The Associated Press on Wednesday. The May 29 meeting in Berlin is titled "Western democracies' responses to the threat of Islamist terrorism" and also features senior intelligence officials and experts from Europe and Israel. Parker's attendance at the meeting would have been a rare public appearance for the MI5 chief. Britain's defense ministry says the changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace has been cancelled so that police officers can be re-deployed in the wake of the Manchester concert attack. The traditional ceremony at the palace in London is a major attraction that draws crowds of tourists. Officials also announced Wednesday that the Palace of Westminster, which houses the British Parliament in London, will be closed to all without passes. That comes after Britain's national security threat level was raised to "critical," the highest level, following Monday's attack in Manchester. All tours and events at Parliament were immediately cancelled until further notice. Police in Manchester say they have arrested three more men in connection with the suicide bombing at a pop concert that killed 22 people. They said Wednesday the arrests had been made in the south of the city, where a day earlier a 23-year-old man was also arrested and a number of homes were searched. Police are trying to establish if bomber Salman Abedi acted alone or whether there could be a risk of further attacks. Israel's defense minister says he doubts the devastating bombing in Manchester will have any impact on European counterterrorism tactics because of the continent's "politically correct" character. Avigdor Lieberman says every bombing in Europe results in much talk, but little action. He told Israel's Army Radio Wednesday the problem is extremism among Muslim youths who are not integrated into society. He said nothing will change until these residents are ready to adopt "universal, European values." At least 22 people were killed in Monday evening's attack at an Ariana Grande concert. The bomber, Salman Abedi, was British-born and of Libyan descent. The official threat level in Britain has since been raised to its highest point. Lieberman says Israel and Britain enjoy close intelligence cooperation and Israel offered its assistance following the attack. Prime Minister Theresa May is chairing a meeting of her emergency security cabinet, known as Cobra. The Downing Street meeting is dealing with intelligence reports about the investigation into Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi. Police and intelligence agencies are trying to determine if he was part of a network that may be planning further attacks in the coming days. Home Secretary Amber Rudd has criticized U.S. officials for leaking information about Abedi to the press as the investigation is unfolding. Poland's foreign minister says that a Polish couple were killed in the concert blast in Manchester. Witold Waszczykowski said Wednesday the couple came to collect their daughters from the Ariana Grande concert Monday night. The daughters were unharmed. He did not give the couple's names, but the daughter of Marcin and Angelika Klis has been publicly searching for them since the explosion. Waszczykowski also said that another Polish citizen was wounded and had undergone surgery in a hospital. Germany's interior minister has ordered that flags on federal government buildings be flown at half-staff following the attack in Manchester. Thomas de Maiziere's ministry said Wednesday that flags will be lowered to half-staff for the day on Wednesday. It described the order as "a signal of sympathy and solidarity after the cruel attack in Manchester." At least 22 people were killed in Monday evening's attack at an Ariana Grande concert. British Home Secretary Amber Rudd says Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi was known "up to a point" to the British intelligence services and police. She said Wednesday the investigation is continuing and declined to provide further details about Abedi, whose improvised bomb killed 22 people at a pop concert in Manchester. Rudd says Britain's increased official threat level will remain at "critical" as the investigation proceeds. France's interior minister says that the suicide bomber who targeted Manchester is believed to have traveled to Syria and had "proven" links with the Islamic State group. Gerard Collomb said on BFM television Wednesday that British and French intelligence have information that British-born attacker Salman Abedi had been to Syria. He did not provide details, and said it is unclear whether Abedi was part of a larger network of attackers. Collomb, who spoke with British Prime Minister Theresa May after the attack at an Ariana Grande concert that killed 22, said the two countries should continue cooperating closely on counterterrorism efforts despite Britain's pending exit from the European Union. With France still under a state of emergency after a string of IS attacks, French President Emmanuel Macron is holding a special security council meeting Wednesday. Britons will find armed troops at vital locations after the official threat level was raised to its highest point following a suicide bombing that killed 22. Officials say soldiers will be deployed to places like Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street and Parliament. They will replace armed police as Operation Temperer takes effect Wednesday. Officials believe this will free up police to fight the threat of further extremist action against civilian targets, amid fears that another attack may be imminent Police are trying to determine whether suicide bomber Salman Abedi acted alone when he set off his explosives at the end of a pop concert at a Manchester arena. The government Tuesday night raised the threat to "critical", its highest level, following an emergency Cabinet session.


News Article | May 14, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

Ten years ago this month, Britain was on the cusp of change. Two things were about to happen, one planned and one unexpected. The change everybody knew about was that Tony Blair was going to stand down as prime minister after 10 years in the job, during which time he had won three elections on the trot. To mark his going, Dan Atkinson and I wrote a book summing up his legacy. Fantasy Island, as the title suggests, was not exactly flattering about Britain’s departing PM. It painted a picture of Britain as mired in debt, where the public sector was on the brink of meltdown, where the country was trying to play the part of world policeman on the cheap, and where the growing size of the trade deficit exposed the perils of allowing manufacturing to shrivel. Fantasy Island was not exactly a bestseller but it sold reasonably well. The reason for that (apart, obviously, from the book’s razor-sharp analysis and polished prose) was that the biggest financial crisis in a century erupted within two months of its publication and a month after Blair’s departure from Downing Street. This was the unexpected event. Britain, as a result of what happened between the first inklings of trouble in July 2007 and the bottoming out of a deep slump in the early part of 2009, is an utterly changed country. There has been a lost decade of living standards. Dismal productivity growth and the proliferation of low-paid, insecure jobs have made a mockery of the idea that Britain was forging ahead in the knowledge economy. A decade of investment in the public sector has been followed by a decade of cuts. Without sounding unduly boastful, quite a lot of what was predicted in Fantasy Island came true. And, to be frank, not a lot has changed in the subsequent 10 years. The economy is still over-dependent on the financial sector and on the willingness of households to load up on debt. When the housing market slows – as in 2011-12 and currently – so does the economy. Income and wealth are highly concentrated because not only has growth been slow it has also been unevenly distributed. In the workplace, management is strong and unions are weak, which helps explain why real wages have grown more slowly since 2007 than in any decade since the 19th Century. London is rich and thriving but might as well be a separate country given how different it is from other, less prosperous, regions. Relative poverty, as the former prime minister Gordon Brown has shown, is heading for levels not experienced even under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. Imperfect though it is, Labour’s draft manifesto at least tries to tackle some of these glaring weaknesses. Sure, there is a perhaps naive belief in the ability of the state to administer top-down solutions. Certainly, the document can – and will – be criticised for being stronger on how to spend money than how to create it. No question, some of the individual measures don’t really cut it. The £8bn bung to scrap tuition fees, for example, is not especially progressive. That said, though, there are plenty of good things in the manifesto. The employers who whinge constantly about the poor quality of school leavers and graduates will be asked to contribute more to the education budget through higher corporation tax. Labour plans to broaden stamp duty to a wider range of financial instruments, including derivatives, which will raise £5bn and help lessen volatility. There is a recognition that macro-economic policy since the crisis has been flawed, with far too much emphasis on ultra-low interest rates and quantitative easing and too little on tax and spending measures. Austerity has been tested to destruction, with both deficit reduction and growth much weaker than envisaged. There is a strong case, as the International Monetary Fund has noted, for countries to borrow to invest in infrastructure, especially when they can do so at today’s low interest rates. Indeed, it is sign of how much ground has been ceded by the left over the last decade that these ideas are seen as dangerously radical. Germany and France have higher levels of corporation tax than Britain, but they also have better trained workforces and higher levels of productivity. A group of eurozone countries are planning a financial transactions tax. Balancing day-to-day spending while borrowing for roads, railways and superfast broadband, which is what John McDonnell is suggesting, is more Keynesian than Marxist. What’s more, these essentially social-democratic ideas will seem even more mainstream if – as is entirely possible – there is another crisis. Mohammed El-Erian used to run Pimco, the world’s biggest fund manager. He told the Observer this week that in 2008-09 there was a chance to construct a new growth model, but the opportunity was passed up. Financial markets have been kept happy by an unceasing diet of cheap money but the economic fundamentals are poor. Brexit, the election of Donald Trump and the eclipse of both the traditional parties of government in the French presidential election are warning signs that something is seriously amiss. El-Erian says the developed world is “either going to take a turn towards higher, more inclusive growth that will reduce political polarisation and the politics of anger. Or alternatively, low growth becomes recession, artificial financial stability becomes unsettling volatility, and the politics get a lot messier”. Things, in other words, are back where they were in the run-up to the crash of 2007-08. Then, the series of regional financial crises in Mexico, south-east Asia, Russia, and Latin America were warnings that something bigger and much more serious was about to happen. These were akin to someone who is obese and a heavy smoker suffering a series of mini strokes and failing to change their lifestyle. The leak of Labour’s draft manifesto led to some predictable headlines – “Britain heading back to the 1970s”; “This was the most expensive suicide note in history”. For me, though the most memorable given its personal connotations, was the Daily Mail’s “Corbyn’s fantasy land”. Think about this for a moment. Real incomes are falling. Inequality is rising. The NHS is kept going on a wing and a prayer. The economy is barely rising despite more than eight years of unprecedented stimulus from the Bank of England. Personal debt is heading back towards its previous record levels. International co-operation has rarely been weaker. There is a profound disconnect between the financial markets, where asset prices regularly scale new heights, and the state of the real economy. Now ask yourself this. If any of the above rings true, what is the real fantasy: Labour’s idea that income, wealth and power should be a bit more evenly distributed or the idea that the current state of affairs can be sustained for very much longer?


News Article | May 8, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

Facebook has stepped up attempts to build its influence as a political tool by giving jobs to former senior Conservative and Labour campaign officials. The Guardian has learned Facebook’s recruits have inside knowledge of how the major parties’ general election campaigns are likely to work. They include a former Downing Street adviser to David Cameron, a former aide to Ed Balls and a social media expert who worked with the Conservatives’ election strategist Lynton Crosby. On Monday, the company confirmed it employed staff, “whose role it is to help politicians and governments make good use of Facebook”. Campaign strategists for both Donald Trump and the Leave.EU campaign have said that reaching voters on Facebook has become pivotal to election success. Both Labour and the Conservatives have teams dedicated to targeted Facebook advertising and are thought to be preparing to hand the San Francisco company well over £1m in the coming weeks. There has been growing concern about the ability of politicians to track the interests of Facebook users in order to “micro-target” voters. There are 31m registered Facebook accounts in the UK. The Electoral Commission is investigating whether Leave.EU failed to declare spending or support from Cambridge Analytica, a Washington-based company that claims to be able to target voters based on psychometric profiling gleaned from their social media activity. Leave.EU denies any wrongdoing. Facebook’s policy and politics teams include Rishi Saha, a former head of digital communications at Downing Street; Karim Palant, a former chief policy adviser to Balls, Labour’s shadow chancellor; and Theo Lomas, a former political consultant for Crosby Textor, the PR firm of the man running the Tories’ 2017 general election campaign. “They have created these links into the campaigns so they can whisper in the parties’ ears, say ‘we know what you need, why don’t you come and spend some money with us’,” claimed a source with knowledge of the strategy. “Their job is to persuade political campaigns to use Facebook.” During the 2015 general election campaign, the Conservatives spent more than £1m on Facebook advertising; Labour sources have indicated they are prepared to spend a similar amount in the coming weeks. Lomas works for Facebook’s government and politics team, which helps parties and MPs use Facebook. Saha and Palant are in the policy team. According to a recent job description, the duties of Facebook UK’s head of policy include “responding to queries from politicians … about how to use the Facebook platform” and “actively promot[ing] the uses of Facebook with policymakers and influencers in both electoral and governing bodies”. Saha helped Cameron “detoxify” the Conservative brand from as early as 2005, and worked on the 2010 election campaign before becoming No 10’s head of digital communications. He joined Facebook in 2014. Craig Elder, the Conservatives’ current social media campaign consultant, used to work for Saha at party HQ. Facebook declined to comment in detail on the roles of the former party aides. But speaking to BBC1’s Panorama on Monday, Simon Milner, Facebook UK’s head of policy, confirmed the company’s staff worked closely with political parties. “One of the things we are absolutely there to do is to help people make use of Facebook products,” he said, in a programme that explored how political campaigns capitalise on Facebook users’ personal information. Referring to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s US presidential election campaigns, Milner said: “I can’t give you the number of exactly how many people worked with these campaigns. But I can tell you that it was completely demand-driven, so it was really up to the campaigns.” Gerry Gunster, an American strategist who worked for Leave.EU during last year’s Brexit referendum campaign, told Panaroma that Facebook was “a game-changer”. “You can say to Facebook, I would like to make sure that I can micro-target fishermen in certain parts of the UK so that they are specifically hearing that if you vote to leave that you will be able to change the way that the regulations are set for the fishing industry. Now I can do the exact same thing for people who live in the Midlands, who are struggling because the factory has shut down. So I may send a specific message through Facebook to them that nobody else sees.” Political parties have huge lists of email addresses, telephone numbers and Facebook IDs that they can use to target Facebook users with bespoke messages. One digital campaigner told the Guardian that the main parties and other pressure groups, such as the Taxpayers Alliance and 38 Degrees, are likely to have the details of around 10 million UK voters. “This is where you can do the interesting stuff,” said the campaigner, who wished to remain anonymous. “You are not just advertising to them once; if they click, you know a specific person has shown an interest. You can feed that back and know who and where they are, down to the postcode. Then you can change the messaging to suit what you need politically.” Parties can also target opposition supporters by buying data that indicates party affiliation. In 2015, Jim Messina, the former Barack Obama strategist turned Conservative adviser, masterminded a micro-targeting campaign in the south-west of England that contributed to wiping out the Liberal Democrats in the region.


News Article | May 14, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

The chancellor, Philip Hammond, has called for closer economic ties with China as Britain enters a new, post-Brexit era. Speaking at the start of a summit in Beijing celebrating President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road initiative”, Hammond heaped praise on his hosts and said Britain was a “natural partner” for Beijing as it pushed ahead with a massive infrastructure campaign some call the most ambitious in history. “China and the UK have a long and rich trading history. Indeed, the English first attempted to find a trade route to China in the 16th century although it took us four decades to find one,” Hammond told the opening session of the two-day forum. “I welcome the ‘Belt and Road initiative’ as an opportunity to strengthen these ties and I welcome the progress that has already been made.” Relations between London and Beijing soured after Theresa May became prime minister in July and ordered a review of the controversial China-backed Hinkley Point C plant. That decision cast doubt on what had previously been cast as a “golden age” of ties under her predecessor David Cameron and former chancellor George Osborne. But the relationship appeared to recover after the £18bn project was approved. On Sunday Hammond hailed China’s ability to drive “phenomenal economic development” and success in “lifting” 800 million Chinese citizens out of poverty over the past four decades. “Since 1980 the Chinese economy has grown by over 2,500%. This year, it is expected to account for a quarter of total global economic growth,” he told an audience of world leaders including Russian president Vladimir Putin, and Turkey’s Recep Erdoğan. Britain now hoped to benefit from that growth as it charted its post-Brexit course, the chancellor added. “As we embark on a new chapter in our history, as we leave the European Union, we want to maintain a close and open trading partnership with our European neighbours and at the same time pursue our ambition to secure free trade agreements around the world with new partners and old allies alike.” “Our ambition is for more trade, not less trade, and China clearly shares this ambition,” Hammond added. The chancellor said that between now and 2030 about $26tn would need to be spent on infrastructure in Asia - $4tn of which China had pledged to help fund. “But the scale of infrastructure investment required cannot be met by public financing alone and the UK, I believe, can be a natural partner in delivering this infrastructure by supporting the finance, the design and the delivery needed to make the vision a reality.” Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador in London, said that while Brexit and next month’s general election had brought “uncertainties”, Downing Street was now “in an excellent position to secure the opportunities [Xi’s] initiative has to offer”. “Remarkable opportunities … are now up for grabs,” Liu told Xinhua, China’s official news agency. Hammond added on Twitter: “Britain is ready to work with all [Belt and Road] partners.”


News Article | May 13, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

London (AFP) - The European Union could end up paying a Brexit bill to Britain instead of the other way round, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told The Daily Telegraph in an interview on Saturday. Asked if he believed that Britain might end up receiving a payment, Johnson replied: "I do, I think there are very good arguments". "There are assets that we share, that we have paid for over the years and there will need to be a proper computation of the value of those assets," said Johnson, one of the leading lights in last year's Brexit referendum campaign. Johnson dismissed as "absurd" the various estimates for the exit fee that would have to be paid by Britain, which some reports have said could be as high as 100 billion euros ($109 billion). "They are going to try to bleed this country white with their bill," he said, threatening that Britain could "definitely" walk away from the negotiations without paying anything. The payments that London must make to settle financial commitments made when it was a member are considered one of the most difficult Brexit issues and are a top priority for the talks. A report in the Telegraph earlier this week said British officials estimated that Britain was entitled to £9 billion ($11.6 billion, 10.6 billion euros) in funds held by the European Investment Bank and £14 billion of other EU assets including property and cash. Johnson also criticised the "shameful" leaking of details of a meeting in Downing Street last month between Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. "Brussels is ruthless in its negotiating techniques. They are going to play dirty. We have got to be very wary and intellectually very firm," the former London mayor said. Quoting the famous Eagles hit, he added: "Jean-Claude Juncker thinks it's the Hotel California where you can check out but you can never leave. He is wrong." Tensions between Brussels and London have risen in the run-up to Britain's general election on June 8, with the government accusing EU officials of "meddling" in the election campaign.


News Article | May 7, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

PARIS (AP) — The latest on France's presidential runoff Sunday between centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen (all times local): The Paris 2024 Olympic bid committee is welcoming the election of pro-business Emmanuel Macron as France's new president, after concerns that a win for his populist rival Marine Le Pen could have damaged the bid. Paris and Los Angeles are the only cities left competing for the 2024 Olympics, and a decision will be made in September. Paris bid committee co-chairmen Tony Estanguet and Bernard Lapasset say in a Sunday statement that Macron "understands the power of sport and how the Games can be a force for real change and help build inspiration and inclusion." Australia's prime minister has congratulated French president-elect Emmanuel Macron on what he described as an "historic election win." Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull tweeted on Sunday: "We will build even stronger ties between our two great nations." Scattered groups of masked protesters have clashed with police firing tear gas in eastern Paris after the election of pro-business independent Emmanuel Macron as France's new president. About 100 protesters are dodging police in mobile protests through neighborhoods near the Pere Lachaise cemetery. Police are checking documents and detaining some protesters. During the presidential campaign, many groups held protests against Macron's far-right rival Marine Le Pen. Some anarchist and far-left groups also held occasionally violent protests against both candidates, seeing Macron as too business-friendly and Le Pen as tainted by her party's racist past. French president-elect Emmanuel Macron's inauguration will be held by the end of the coming week at the Elysee palace. But the exact date hasn't yet been set. The ceremony must be scheduled before the formal end of the term of Socialist President Francois Hollande on May 14. Macron will attend his first official event as president-elect on Monday by Hollande's side at the commemoration of World War II Victory Day. The Constitutional Council will declare the definitive results of the vote by Thursday. Once president, Macron will have to quickly designate a prime minister and form a government. The whole process usually takes no more than a few days. French far-right leader Marine Le Pen's National Front party will be changing its name. Le Pen said in her presidential concession speech Sunday night that she would make "deep" changes to her party, and interim party president Steeve Briois told The Associated Press that would include a new name. He said "It's opening the doors of the movement to other personalities then give it a new name to restart on a new basis." He called the election result a "semi-victory" because the party won more votes than ever before. There has long been internal talk of changing the name of the party but that felt too radical for some National Front militants. A name change would help Le Pen further distance herself from the party's anti-Semitic past and her hard-line father, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen. Greece's prime minister has tweeted his satisfaction over French centrist Emmanuel Macron's victory in France's presidential election. Alexis Tsipras says that Macron's "victory is a fresh breath for France and the whole of Europe. I am certain we will work closely together for Europe to change course, inspire its people again so as to never again experience the nightmare of the extreme right." Macron beat far-right leader Marine Le Pen in Sunday's runoff. Tsipras had called Macron to congratulate him after the first-round results on April 23. French president-elect Emmanuel Macron says that France is facing an "immense task" to rebuild European unity, fix the economy and ensure security against extremist threats. Speaking to thousands of supporters from the Louvre Museum's courtyard, Macron said Sunday night that Europe and the world are "watching us" and "waiting for us to defend the spirit of the Enlightenment, threatened in so many places." Macron, who has never held public office and just founded his political movement a year ago, said "everyone said it was impossible. But they didn't know France!" Macron strongly beat far-right leader Marine Le Pen in Sunday's runoff election, seen as a test for Europe's direction and global populism. He also promised to work to unify France after a bruising presidential campaign and serve the country "with love." His wife Brigitte then came up on stage with him, and she kissed his hand and waved to the crowd. The leaders of Czech Republic and Slovakia have welcomed French centrist Emmanuel Macron's victory in the presidential election. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka says that Macron's win is a "positive signal for France, the entire European Union and the Czech Republic." Sobotka says that the French people "made it clear they reject nationalism, populism, and the isolation of their country. Most voters decided that they want a president who will represent a modern and open France." Slovak President Andrej Kiska tweeted: "Warm congratulations to Emmanuel Macron and to the people of France." Kiska says it's a "victory for all who believe in Europe." Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak says he was "delighted to learn of Emmanuel Macron's victory." Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who won an election in March against opponents including right-wing populist Geert Wilders, has congratulated Emmanuel Macron on his victory in France's presidential election. Rutte said in a post on his official Facebook page that in Macron, French voters "made a clear progressive and pro-European choice." He said that "a choice for cooperation within Europe in areas where that is necessary, instead of an inward-looking vision." In a tweet Sunday night, Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Bert Koenders said that "France chooses for reform, for Europe and against xenophobia. We look forward to working together with the new French government." Macron, a centrist, is a strong supporter of France's continued membership in the EU. He beat far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in Sunday's runoff. Rutte is still negotiating with the leaders of three other parties to form a new ruling coalition after the March election delivered a fractured Dutch political landscape. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says France, with Emmanuel Macron as its new president, will help strengthen the European Union at a key moment for the 28-nation bloc. In a telegram sent Sunday to congratulate the new president-elect of France, Rajoy praised Macron for his proposed reforms and his "firm defense of the European integration process." Those principles and his solid backing from French voters, Rajoy said, mean "France — a friend, neighbor and strategic partner of Spain — will actively contribute to the advancement and reinforcement of the European Union in a key moment of its history." German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman says she has called Emmanuel Macron to congratulate him on his victory in the French presidential election. Spokesman Steffen Seibert said Merkel "praised his stance for a united and open European Union during the campaign" and that "the decision of the French voters is a clear statement of support for Europe." Seibert's statement said Merkel "looked forward to working together with the new president on the basis of trust in the spirit of the traditional German-French friendship." Macron, 39, trounced far-right rival Marine Le Pen in Sunday's presidential runoff, winning a projected 65 percent of the vote. Stock markets and the shared euro currency are expected to rise on news that centrist Emmanuel Macron has won the French presidential election. Jacob Kirkegaard, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, says "there will be a relief rally in Europe ... this is certainly positive for the European economy." The euro will start trading late Sunday European time, alongside Asian markets. European stock markets will open Monday morning. Kirkegaard said shares in financial firms in particular are likely to gain as they stood to suffer the most from a possible French exit from the European Union, as proposed by Macron's defeated far-right rival, Marine Le Pen. Paul Christopher, head global market strategist for Wells Fargo Investment Institute, said "Europe dodges a bullet here." Germany's foreign minister is urging support for Emmanuel Macron and his efforts to create jobs and reform France's economy. Sigmar Gabriel said that Macron "must succeed, if he fails, in five years Mrs. Le Pen will be president and the European project will go to the dogs." Gabriel said it was time to give up "budget orthodoxy" based on spending restraint and that if France embarks on reforms it "should not be forced into austerity." As a member of the euro currency France is subject to European Union limits on debt and deficits. Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has expressed his relief at the defeat of far-right Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election. Corbyn tweeted Sunday that he was "delighted that the French people have decisively rejected Le Pen's politics of hate." French centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron defeated Le Pen by a big margin. The former leader of the UK Independence Party, Nigel Farage, meanwhile, has offered his condolences to Le Pen, saying she could win France's next election in 2022. Farage, who led the effort to take Britain out of the European Union, tweeted that Macron "offers 5 more years of failure, power to the EU and open borders." Although he no longer heads UKIP, Farage remains a figurehead for nationalist parties in Europe. Belgium's prime minister has welcomed the election of centrist Emmanuel Macron as French president and invited him to join in the effort to reinvigorate the European Union. Charles Michel has been a staunch backer of Macron in the elections and said in a twitter message "Bravo" when he learned of the clear-cut victory over extreme-right candidate Marine Le Pen. Michel has called on Macron to "let us work together to give Europe new momentum." President Donald Trump has tweeted his congratulations to Emmanuel Macron on what Trump is calling Macron's "big win" in France's presidential election. Trump also says he looks forward to working with France's new leader. He didn't immediately extend an invitation for Macron to visit the White House. Trump tweeted: "Congratulations to Emmanuel Macron on his big win today as the next President of France. I look very much forward to working with him." A White House statement cited Macron and the French people for "their successful presidential election" and said the United States looks forward to "continuing our close relationship with the French government." Several British politicians have congratulated Emmanuel Macron on his victory in the French presidential election. Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted "Vive La France (Long live France). Congratulations to new president, Emmanuel Macron, on his decisive victory over the hard right." Sturgeon leads the Scottish National Party, which supports independence for Scotland and its continued membership in the European Union. Macron, a centrist, has long backed France's continued membership in the EU. He beat far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in Sunday's runoff. Tim Farron, leader of Britain's Liberal Democrats, says that "Emmanuel Macron has kept the wolves from our door, but we must never be complacent in the fight against racism, fascism and the far right." Farron added that "this is not just a victory for France, but a victory for Britain and the liberal values we hold dear." France's president-elect Emmanuel Macron acknowledged divisions in society he says drove people to "vote to the extreme" and says he will work for all of France. Macron, whose far-right opponent Marine Le Pen had called for leaving the European Union and returning France to the franc currency, says that he will defend both France and Europe as president. The 39-year-old former banker, who served as economy minister under the unpopular President Francois Hollande, briefly acknowledged his onetime mentor. But not once cracking a smile in the short speech, Macron says that he needed to look forward for the sake all of France. It was less a victory speech than one of acknowledgement of the task ahead for Macron, who was projected to win 65 percent of votes cast for a candidate, compared with 35 percent for Le Pen. The head of the European Union's executive has congratulated Emmanuel Macron on his election as French president and says that his pro-European message will continue to be that of founding nation France. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says that it made him "happy that the ideas that you defended of a strong and progressive Europe that protects all its citizens will be those that France will cherish under your presidency." Juncker had already shown his clear support for Macron after the first round in the elections and insisted that a win Marine Le Pen would have been bad for the EU and France alike. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff has congratulated Emmanuel Macron, tweeting in French "vive la France, Vive L'Europe!" or "Long live France, long live Europe!" Peter Altmaier says the result is "a strong signal for our common values." Merkel's chief spokesman, Steffen Seibert, also has tweeted in French "felicitations," or congratulations. He says it's "a victory for a strong and united Europe." Before the results came in, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a Social Democrat, urged support for Macron in his efforts to create jobs and undermine support for the National Front party's nationalist approach under far-right leader Marine Le Pen. Gabriel said that a Macron victory means that "we have only won time. We must do everything to see that Macron succeeds." British Prime Minister Theresa May has offered her warm wishes to France's new president-elect, saying she welcomes a chance to work with Emmanuel Macron. May's Downing Street office says that she "warmly congratulates President-elect Macron on his election success." In comments released immediately after exit polls showed Macron's victory, May said that France is one of Britain's closest allies and "we look forward to working with the new president on a wide range of shared priorities." France will be a key player in upcoming talks on Britain's departure from the European Union. Thousands of supporters of French centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron have let out a big cheer when national television called the presidential election in his favor based on poll projections. Macron's backers are singing "we have won, we have won" and are waving French flags in front of the stage in the courtyard outside the Louvre museum where he is planning to celebrate his victory. Many expressed their relief that far-right candidate Marine Le Pen suffered a clear defeat. Sandra Ledoux, a 32-year-old Macron supporter, says that she feels "very happy because Macron is young, innovative and he has a project to make Europe better instead of destroying it like Le Pen wanted." French President Francois Hollande says that he has called centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron to congratulate him on his election victory. Hollande says it shows that the overwhelming majority of voters rallied behind the European Union and openness to the world. It was Hollande who first brought Macron into the world of politics, naming the untested ex-banker as economy minister. But Macron left the position to found his own political movement last year, and has distanced himself from his former mentor. With nearly 20 percent of the votes counted, Macron had 60 percent of the vote to 40 percent for far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, according to the Interior Ministry. The early results are primarily from provincial towns that lean more conservative than the cities, whose votes are counted later. French far-right leader Marine Le Pen says she has called centrist Emmanuel Macron to congratulate him and says the vote confirms her National Front party and its allies as the leader of France's opposition. Minutes after the first results were released, Le Pen said she would call for a new political force as legislative elections loom in June. Le Pen received 35 percent of the votes cast for a candidate, according to polling agency projections, compared with 65 percent for Macron. She hinted that her party may rename itself from the National Front, which has been dogged by allegations of racism and anti-Semitism since it was founded by her father. France's prime minister says that centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron has won the French presidential election. Bernard Cazeneuve said in a statement minutes after the last polls closed that the vote "testifies to the lucidity of the voters who rejected the deadly project of the extreme right." He said the vote shows an embrace of the European Union. French polling agencies have projected that Macron has defeated Marine Le Pen 65 percent to 35 percent, with a record number of blank and spoiled ballots. Polling agencies have projected that centrist Emmanuel Macron will be France's next president, putting a 39-year-old political novice at the helm of one of the world's biggest economies and slowing a global populist wave. The agencies projected that Macron defeated far-right leader Marine Le Pen 65 percent to 35 percent on Sunday. If confirmed, Le Pen's showing would nonetheless be stronger than her National Front party has seen in its 45-year history. The projections are based on vote counts in selected constituencies, then extrapolated nationwide. Macron would be the youngest French president ever. But Le Pen's projected showing, unusually low turnout and the record number of blank ballots are an indication of the headwinds facing Macron, a former economy minister who started his own political movement only a year ago. Supporters of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron are entering the courtyard outside the Louvre museum in Paris where he plans to celebrate election night. Late Sunday afternoon, French police emptied the place of tourists. Police dogs searched the site. Hundreds of Macron supporters were waiting quietly outside barriers to pass security checks, while Macron's volunteer staffers were handing them French tricolor flags. Earlier in the day, the courtyard was briefly evacuated after a suspicious bag was discovered. The famous museum itself was not evacuated or closed. Macron, a centrist, is running against far-right Marine Le Pen in the presidential runoff. If elected as France's next president, he plans to speak on the stage with the museum's large glass pyramid in the background. The Paris prosecutors' office says it has launched an investigation following the hacking attack targeting presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron. France's election campaign commission said Saturday that "a significant amount of data" — and some fake information — was leaked on social networks following the hacking attack on Macron. The leaked documents appeared largely mundane, and the perpetrators remain unknown. The commission urged French media and citizens not to relay the documents. Earlier this week, Paris prosecutors launched a separate investigation into whether fake news was being used to influence voting in Sunday's presidential runoff. Macron's campaign filed suit against an unknown source "X'' after his far-right rival Marine Le Pen suggested on television that the former banker could have an offshore account. Macron denies having any such account. Voter turnout in France's presidential runoff is above 65 percent in late afternoon, a sharp drop of more than 6 percent compared to the last presidential vote. The Interior Ministry announced Sunday the turnout had reached 65.3 percent, compared to 71.96 percent in the second round of presidential voting in 2012. Going into Sunday's runoff, centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron had a large polling lead over far-right rival Marine Le Pen. The last polling stations in France close at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT) and partial results are expected shortly afterward. A brief election-day security scare at the Louvre Museum in Paris has barely ruffled tourists and locals. Russian tourist Ksenia Simonova told The Associated Press "there is no more of a security problem in Paris than elsewhere. I come from Moscow and the risk is the same. There are a lot of police officers here. I am not afraid." Frenchman Eric Kadio came to the park near the Louvre in hopes of seeing presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, who's expected to speak to supporters from the Louvre courtyard after election results come in later Sunday. Kadio says "France has an efficient security operation. I am not afraid. Bomb scares are frequent and each time they get things under control." Police evacuated the Louvre courtyard Sunday because of a suspicious bag but later reopened it. If he defeats Marine Le Pen in France's runoff election, 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron will become the country's youngest president of all time, erasing Louis Napoleon Bonaparte's record. After the 1848 French Revolution and the proclamation of France's Second Republic, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte — Napoleon's nephew — won the first presidential election at the age of 40. He then staged a coup and ruled as emperor under the name Napoleon III. Macron has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top of French politics. The former banker served as the country's economy minister under outgoing President Francois Hollande, but has never held elected office. He launched an independent political movement, called En Marche, only a year ago. However, Macron would not beat all records for precociousness, if he succeeds Hollande as president. France's King Louis XIV was just 4 years old when he started his rule back in 1643. The courtyard outside the Louvre museum in Paris has reopened after a brief security scare prompted an evacuation of the site where French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron plans to celebrate election night. Explosives experts have left the site after a suspicious bag prompted the evacuation on Sunday of a few hundred people, primarily journalists preparing for Macron event. The museum itself was not evacuated or closed, and visitors continued entering and leaving. The Louvre already was being heavily guarded after an extremist attacker targeted soldiers near the museum during the presidential campaign. Paris police said the evacuation was a "precautionary measure." Some 50,000 security forces are guarding voting stations and other sites around France for Sunday's runoff between Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen. Emmanuel Macron's campaign press office says it was a suspicious bag that prompted the evacuation of the courtyard outside the Louvre museum where the centrist French presidential candidate has planned to celebrate election night. Macron's team said a press room had been set up at the downtown Paris location and 300 journalists who were on site have been evacuated as a precaution. The Louvre already was being heavily guarded after an extremist attacker targeted soldiers near the museum during the presidential campaign. The Paris police prefecture Tweeted a reassuring message: "#Louvre These are simple verification measures carried out as precautionary measure." The runoff election in which Macron is competing against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is being conducted under the watch of 50,000 security forces guarding against extremist attacks. Emmanuel Macron's campaign press office says the courtyard outside the Louvre museum where the centrist French presidential candidate has planned to celebrate election night has been evacuated because of a security alert. Campaign spokeswoman Pauline Calmes told The Associated Press that the Esplanade du Louvre, in downtown Paris, was evacuated on Sunday as a precaution. She did not specify the nature of the threat, but says police ordered the evacuation. Macron picked the dignified internal courtyard of the renowned palace-turned-museum as the location for his celebration party. The Louvre already was being heavily guarded after an extremist attacker targeted soldiers near the museum during the presidential campaign. Lines of French citizens stretched down the block at a school in central London as dozens cast their ballots in the final round of the country's presidential election. Thousands of French citizens who live and work in the United Kingdom are voting in 11 cities in Britain, making their choice between centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen. London has been described as France's "sixth-biggest city," and French voters in the British capital had two polling stations to choose from. One was the private Lycee Francais Charles de Gaulle school. Sylvie Bermann, the French ambassador to the U.K., was among the voters casting their ballots on Sunday morning. France's Interior Ministry says the voter turnout in the country's presidential runoff election so far is running slightly lower than it was in 2012. The ministry said as of midday Sunday that 28.23 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots, compared with the 30.66 percent half-day tally during the last presidential runoff five years ago. Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron was considered the front-runner going into the runoff. But commentators think a low voter turnout would benefit far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, whose supporters are seen as more committed and therefore more likely to show up to vote. The last polling stations close at 8 p.m. (1800GMT.) Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has cast her ballot in Henin-Beaumont, a small northern town controlled by her National Front party. Le Pen arrived at the polling station with Henin-Beaumont Mayor Steeve Briois, who took over as the National Front's leader during the presidential election campaign. She was able to vote without any incident after feminist activists were briefly detained a couple of hours earlier Sunday for hanging a big anti-Le Pen banner from a church. Polls suggest centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron is favored to beat Le Pen in Sunday's runoff election. While Le Pen has worked hard to rid her nationalistic party of its xenophobic image, she has campaigned on an anti-immigration, anti-EU platform. The election is being watched as a bellwether for populism's global appeal. Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, the front-runner in France's presidential election, has voted in the coastal town of Le Tourquet in northern France alongside his wife, Brigitte Macron. The former Socialist economy minister and one-time banker was all smiles and petted a black dog as he stepped out of his vacation home in the seaside resort. For security reasons, Macron was driven to his nearby polling station at Le Touquet City Hall and shook hands with a large crowd of supporters before he and his wife entered the building. Macron had a large polling lead over far-right leader Marine Le Pen going into Sunday's presidential runoff election. Outgoing French president Francois Hollande has cast his vote in the runoff election to replace him. Hollande voted Sunday morning in his political fiefdom of Tulle in southwestern France. Hollande, the most unpopular French leader in the country's modern history, decided not to stand for re-election last year. The Socialist president has called on voters to reject far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and to back centrist Emmanuel Macron, his former protégé. The Socialist candidate, Benoit Hamon, was eliminated in the election's first round after receiving some 6 percent of the vote. Police and soldiers are working to secure symbolic Paris venues where France's next president will celebrate victory after Sunday's runoff election between centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. Macron has opted for the dignified Esplanade du Louvre, the courtyard of the renowned museum in central Paris. The Louvre is already heavily guarded after an extremist attacker targeted soldiers near the museum during the presidential campaign. If Le Pen wins, she plans to celebrate at the Chalet du Lac (sha-LAY doo lahk) in the Bois de Vincennes (bu-AH de vin-SEN) , a vast park on Paris' eastern edge. She is notably staying away from the area around the Paris Opera, associated with her father's past xenophobic reign over her National Front party. Celebration sites have a huge symbolic power, and both candidates are trying to break with the past and the traditional left-right divide. It's no wonder Macron didn't choose the Bastille or Republique squares, two highly popular places for the left, or the Place de la Concorde, where former right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy celebrated his victory. Feminist activists have hung a big banner from a church to protest French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen in the depressed northern town where she is casting her ballot. The activists were quickly detained after the protest Sunday in Henin-Beaumont, the latest among many actions in recent days against Le Pen or against both candidates. Polls suggest centrist Emmanuel Macron is favored to beat Le Pen in Sunday's runoff election. Parisian voter Yves Robert staged his own kind of protest, casting a blank ballot. Many voters like him are both worried about the racist past of Le Pen's National Front party and worried about the 39-year-old Macron's inexperience or his pro-business policies. Retiree Gabrielle Lebbe says she voted because she's "worried for my grandchildren, I'm worried for the world." Voters across France are casting ballots in a presidential election runoff that could decide Europe's future, choosing between independent Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen. With Macron the pollsters' favorite, voting stations opened across mainland France at 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) under the watch of 50,000 security forces guarding against extremist attacks. Polling agency projections and initial official results will be available when the final stations close at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT). The unusually tense and unpredictable French presidential campaign ended with a hacking attack and document leak targeting Macron on Friday night. France's government cybersecurity agency is investigating the hack. Either candidate would lead France into uncharted territory, since neither comes from the mainstream parties that dominate parliament and have run the country for decades.

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