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World

    Italy's anti-migrant interior minister says the far-right political spectrum includes 'the true defenders of European values.' Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who leads the right-wing League party, said Saturday that during European Parliament elections in May 'we have the occasion to send a force into government in Europe that's not socialist.' Salvini, who is also a deputy premier in Italy's new populist, euro-skeptic government, was speaking at a political forum in Rome that was organized by a small far-right Italian opposition party. Later slated to speak at the forum was Steve Bannon, a former strategist for U.S. President Donald Trump. Bannon has been encouraging the formation of a united, transnational front to push politics in the European Union far to the right.
  • The Latest on the Maldives' presidential election (all times local): 10:05 p.m. A spokesman for the former president of the Maldives says a police raid of the opposition presidential candidate's main campaign office Saturday in Male supports opposition claims that the vote will be rigged. In Colombo, the capital of neighboring Sri Lanka, Hamid Abdul Gafoor, a spokesman for former president Mohamed Nasheed, said incumbent President Yameen Abdul Gayoom 'wants to muzzle his way' to victory on Sunday. The Maldives' third multiparty presidential elections since becoming a democracy a decade ago is seen as a referendum on whether democracy will survive in the country. ___ 7:45 p.m. Police in the Maldives say they have raided the main campaign office of the opposition presidential candidate on the eve of an election that is seen as a referendum on whether democracy will survive in the country. Police spokesman Ahmed Shifan says police raided Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's campaign office late Saturday. He did not give any other details. The move is a sign of a crackdown against the opposition by the government that has raised fears that Sunday's election may be rigged to favor President Yameen Abdul Gayoom's party. ___ 5:10 p.m. Opposition supporters in the Maldives are demanding that officials ensure a free and fair presidential election, as the country prepares to vote in an election seen as a referendum on whether democracy will stay. The archipelago nation's election chief, Ahmed Shareef, said Saturday that all measures have been taken to hold Sunday's election in a free and fair manner and without violence. Still, opposition activists voiced fears that the polls may be rigged to favor President Yameen Abdul Gayoom's party. Beyond the postcard image the Maldives has of luxury resorts and white sand beaches, the 400,000 citizens of the former British protectorate have struggled to maintain the democratic system established in 2008.
  • Russia's space agency chief said Saturday that it wouldn't accept a second-tier role in a NASA-led plan to build an outpost near the moon, but Roscosmos spokesman quickly clarified that Russia is still staying in the project. Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying that Russia wouldn't be reduced to a junior partner in the NASA-led project to build the lunar orbital platform called the Gateway in the 2020s. 'I believe that Russia can't afford itself to participate in other countries' project on second-tier roles,' Rogozin said when asked about the Gateway during a meeting with young space engineers, according to Tass. He noted that Russia was working to develop heavy-lift rockets that would allow it to build its own orbital platform near the moon, possibly in cooperation with some BRICS countries — a grouping that includes Brazil, China, India and South Africa along with Russia. A few hours later, Roscosmos spokesman Vladimir Ustimenko clarified that Rogozin didn't mean to say Russia was bailing out of the NASA-led project. 'Russia hasn't refused to take part in the project of the lunar orbital station together with the United States,' Ustimenko was quoted by Tass as saying. He added 'we stand for equal, partnership-style cooperation.' Earlier this month, Rogozin has raised some consternation by saying that an air leak spotted at the International Space Station was a drill hole that happened during manufacturing or in orbit. He didn't say if he suspected any of the current crew of three Americans, two Russians and a German aboard the station. Rogozin, who until May served as a deputy prime minister in charge of military and space, long had been known for his brash style and anti-Western rhetoric. He has failed to stem a decline of the Russian space industries, which have been dogged by launch failures and other problems.
  • A U.S. military airstrike has killed 18 al-Shabab extremists after U.S. and local forces on the ground came under attack in southern Somalia, the U.S. Africa Command said Saturday. No U.S. or Somali forces were killed or injured in the attack, an AFRICOM spokesman, Nate Herring, told The Associated Press. The airstrike was carried out Friday in self-defense after extremists were 'observed maneuvering on a combined patrol,' while the U.S. also responded with 'indirect fire,' the spokesman said. The confrontation occurred about 50 kilometers (31 miles) northwest of the port city of Kismayo, the U.S. Africa Command statement said. Two other al-Shabab extremists were killed by Somali forces 'with small arms fire during the engagement,' it said. The operation was Somali-led, the AFRICOM spokesman said. There was no immediate comment from Somali authorities. The U.S. has carried out more than 20 airstrikes this year against the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, the deadliest Islamic extremist group in sub-Saharan Africa. U.S. military involvement in Somalia has grown since President Donald Trump early in his term approved expanded operations against al-Shabab. Dozens of drone strikes followed. Late last year the military also carried out its first airstrike against a small presence of fighters linked to the Islamic State in northern Somalia. Since the expanded operations, two U.S. military personnel have been killed in Somalia. A service member was killed in May 2017 during an operation about 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Mogadishu. And in June, one U.S. special operations soldier was killed and four U.S. service members wounded in an 'enemy attack' as troops with Somali and Kenyan forces came under mortar and small-arms fire in Jubaland. The U.S. currently has about 500 military personnel in the Horn of Africa nation. Al-Shabab, which seeks to establish an Islamic state in Somalia, was pushed out of Mogadishu in recent years but continues to control rural areas in the south and central regions. Its fighters continue to attack the bases of a multinational African Union force that remains largely responsible for security as Somalia's fragile central government tries to recover from decades of chaos. In the next few years Somali forces are expected to take over responsibility for the country's security as the AU force withdraws. Concerns about their readiness remain high, and the U.N. Security Council recently voted to delay the handover's target date to December 2021. ___ Follow Africa news at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa
  • Britain's foreign secretary on Saturday urged European Union leaders to 'step back from the abyss' and seek a compromise over stalled Brexit negotiations. Jeremy Hunt told the BBC that the EU should work with Britain to try to find a way to make British Prime Minister Theresa May's 'sensible, concrete proposals actually work' in the divorce between Britain and the bloc. He spoke a day after May used a rare televised address to complain the EU was acting in bad faith by rejecting her proposed Brexit plan without offering an alternative. She said talks were at an 'impasse' over future trade relations and a possible border between the Republic of Ireland, an EU-member, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K. A gathering of EU leaders in Salzburg on Thursday not only failed to make progress on the topic of Brexit but led to bitter recriminations from both sides. Since the failed summit, the usually reserved May has used unusually blunt language to complain that EU leaders are not taking her proposals seriously. EU Council President Donald Tusk used a satirical Instagram post showing him giving May some sweets with the caption 'Sorry, no cherries' — a reference to the EU's refusal to allow Britain to cherry-pick what aspects of EU membership it would like to keep after Brexit. The British foreign secretary said this approach, and comments by French President Emmanuel Macron characterizing the leaders of Britain's Brexit campaign as 'liars,' are counterproductive. 'Insulting her on social media, getting to these standoffs where you are calling people liars and so on is not the way we are going to get a solution to this difficult situation,' Hunt said. The increasingly bitter stalemate has raised the prospects that Britain will leave the EU in March without a deal. The value of the British pound dropped Friday because of fears of the possible economic costs of a 'no deal' Brexit scenario.
  • North Korea's Kim Jong Un is 'little rocket man' no more. President Donald Trump isn't a 'mentally deranged U.S. dotard.' In the year since Trump's searing, debut U.N. speech fueled fears of nuclear conflict with North Korea, the two leaders have turned from threats to flattery. And there's fresh hope that the U.S. president's abrupt shift from coercion to negotiation can yield results in getting Kim to halt, if not abandon, his nuclear weapons program. Trump will address world leaders at the United Nations on Tuesday on the back of an upbeat summit between South and North Korea, where Kim promised to dismantle a major rocket launch site and the North's main nuclear complex at Nyongbyon if it gets some incentive from Washington. North Korea remains a long, long way from relinquishing its nuclear arsenal, and the U.S. has been adding to, not easing, sanctions. Yet the past 12 months have seen a remarkable change in atmosphere between the adversaries that has surprised even the former U.S. envoy on North Korea. 'If someone had told me last year that North Korea will stop nuclear tests, will stop missile tests and that they will release the remaining American prisoners and that they would be even considering dismantling Nyongbyon, I would have taken that in a heartbeat,' said Joseph Yun, who resigned in March and has since left the U.S. foreign service. Since Trump and Kim held the first summit between U.S. and North Korean leaders in Singapore in June, Trump has missed no chance to praise 'Chairman Kim,' and Kim has expressed 'trust and confidence' in the American president he once branded 'senile.' But progress has been slow toward the vague goal they agreed upon — denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which has eluded U.S. presidents for the past quarter-century. The U.S. wants to achieve that by January 2021, when Trump completes his first term in office. Although Kim won't be going to New York next week, meetings there could prove critical in deciding whether a second Trump-Kim summit will take place any time soon. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has invited his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho for a meeting in New York, and Trump will be consulting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, fresh from his third summit with Kim this year. It was at that meeting in Pyongyang that the North Korean leader made his tantalizing offers to close key facilities of his weapons programs that have revived prospects for U.S.-North Korea talks. Yun, who spoke to reporters Friday at the United States Institute for Peace in Washington, said the U.S. goal of achieving denuclearization in just two years is unrealistic, but the offer to close Nyongbyon, where the North has plutonium, uranium and nuclear reprocessing facilities, is significant and offers a way forward. That's a far cry from last September. After Trump's thunderous speech, Yun's first thought was on the need to avoid a war. The president vowed to 'totally destroy North Korea' if the U.S. was forced to defend itself or its allies against the North's nukes. 'Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime,' the president said. His blunt talk triggered an extraordinary, almost surreal, exchange of insults. Kim issued a harshly worded statement from Pyongyang, dubbing the thin-skinned Trump a 'mentally deranged U.S. dotard.' A day later, the North's top diplomat warned it could test explode a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean. Tensions have eased hugely since then, and cracks have emerged in the international consensus on pressuring North Korea economically to get it to disarm. The U.S. accuses Russia of allowing illicit oil sales to North Korea. Trump has also criticized China, which has fraternal ties with the North and is embroiled in a trade war with the U.S., for conducting more trade with its old ally. Sanctions could even become a sore point with South Korea. Moon is eager to restart economic cooperation with North Korea to cement improved relations on the divided peninsula. All that will increase pressure on Washington to compromise with Pyongyang — providing the incentives Kim seeks, even if the weapons capabilities he's amassed violate international law. He's likely eying a declaration on formally ending the Korean War as a marker of reduced U.S. 'hostility' and sanctions relief. That could prove politically unpalatable in Washington just as it looks for Kim to follow through on the denuclearization pledge he made in Singapore. Frank Aum, a former senior Pentagon adviser on North Korea, warned tensions could spike again if the U.S. does not see progress by year's end, when the U.S. would typically need to start planning large-scale military drills with South Korea that North Korea views as war preparations. Trump decided to cancel drills this summer as a concession to Kim. 'Things can flip pretty quickly,' Aum said. 'We've seen it going from bad to good and it could fairly quickly go back to the bad again.
  • Egypt's highest appeals court on Saturday rejected a motion by former president Hosni Mubarak and his two sons to overturn their conviction on corruption charges. The ruling by the Court of Cassation, Egypt's final recourse for appeals in criminal cases, dashed any hope that Gamal, Mubarak's younger son and one-time heir apparent, could run for public office. A senior newspaper editor and confidant of Egypt's current president had recently suggested that banker-turned-politician Gamal may have been contemplating the move. The Mubarak trio was sentenced to three years each for embezzling funds meant for maintenance of presidential palaces but which they spent on upgrading or building private residences. The sons were released in 2015 for time served, while their father was freed last year. They repaid the funds, a total of 125 million pounds (about $7 million). Mubarak's sons are currently on trial for insider trading. They are free on bail after a judge on Thursday overturned a surprise Sept. 15 ruling to detain them. The case's next hearing is on Oct. 20. The rejection of their appeal Saturday and Gamal Mubarak's subsequent ineligibility to run for office came in the wake of recent comments by the chief editor of state-run Al-Akhbar publications, Yasser Rizq, who suggested that frequent public appearances by the younger Mubarak could be a prelude to a future presidential run. Rizq first warned Gamal Mubarak against harboring presidential ambitions in an article published in May. He repeated the warning in a television interview aired earlier this week. 'His real crime is insulting the dignity of the Egyptian people,' Rizq said, alluding to Gamal's one-time intention to succeed his father. It violated the constitution and amounted to the toppling of republican rule, he explained. He said it was not improbable that he would strike a political deal with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to secure the group's return to politics in exchange for its support in a presidential bid in 2022, when President Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi's second term ends. Preventing Gamal from succeeding his father was among the main drivers of a 2011 uprising that ended Mubarak's 29-year rule, as well as the military's support for it. The years that followed saw Mubarak regime heavyweights tried on corruption or abuse of power charges. Most have since walked free, while second-string regime loyalists found their way back to public life under el-Sissi. El-Sissi led the military's 2013 ouster of Egypt's first freely elected president — the Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi — and has since overseen a massive crackdown on his supporters, jailing thousands of them along with secular activists behind the 2011 uprising. Egypt's constitution prohibits el-Sissi from running for a third term in office, but his supporters have raised the specter of amending the 2014 charter to allow him to do so or extend the duration of his term. He won a second, four-year term in office this year in an election in which his only opponent was a little-known politician viewed as among his staunchest supporters. Riza's attack on Gamal Mubarak mirrors past campaigns by the pro-government media against potential challengers to el-Sissi, which have included personal attacks and unsubstantiated accusations. His suggestion that Gamal might strike a deal with the Brotherhood to rise to power carries a thinly-veiled threat given the country's political climate where suspicion of links to the group has provided authorities with grounds to imprison critics, including some with established secular credentials. Gamal wielded vast influence in Egypt during the final years of Mubarak's rule through his top job at the then-ruling National Democratic Party and the support of Mubarak's inner circle. Had he succeeded his father, he would have been Egypt's first president that didn't hail from the military since a 1952 military coup that toppled the monarchy.
  • Police in the Maldives raided the main campaign office of the opposition presidential candidate on Saturday, the eve of an election viewed as a referendum on whether democracy will survive in the country. The move is a sign of a government crackdown against the opposition that has raised fears that Sunday's election may be rigged to favor President Yameen Abdul Gayoom's party. Police spokesman Ahmed Shifan told The Associated Press that police raided Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's campaign office late Saturday and that the raid was ongoing. He said police would share details of the raid after it was over. Shauna Aminath, a spokeswoman for the opposition, said police were 'not letting us go inside. They have not told what is happening.' 'No court warrant was produced. Police raided the building unlawfully, citing reports of illegal activity,' Aminath said, adding that Solih was not in the building at the time of the raid. Since Sunday's election was announced, opposition leaders have feared the vote may be rigged. The European Union said Friday that it was not sending election observers because the Maldives had failed to meet the basic conditions for monitoring. Earlier Saturday, the Indian Ocean archipelago nation's election chief, Ahmed Shareef, said that all measures had been taken to hold the election in a free and fair manner and without violence. 'So far, we have facilitated whatever the opposition candidate requested, within the regulations and laws permitting us,' Shareef told reporters. 'I don't think he could give any concrete reason to call it unfair.' Still, opposition activists voiced their concerns. 'There is no democracy in the Maldives — democracy has vanished under President Yameen,' said Adam Ahmed, a 58-year-old opposition activist. He said a second term for the incumbent could mean an end to an 'already withering' democracy, as many voters wanted to see a change of government. Beyond the postcard image the Maldives has of luxury resorts and white sand beaches, the 400,000 citizens of the former British protectorate have struggled to maintain the democratic system established in 2008. The Maldives' third multiparty presidential election is being held five years after Yameen began consolidating power, rolling back press and individual freedoms, asserting control over independent governmental institutions and jailing or forcing major political rivals into exile. Yameen has jailed two former presidents, including his half brother, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the Maldives' former strongman, his former vice president, two Supreme Court justices, two former defense ministers and many others after trials criticized for a lack of due process. As protests culminating in violent confrontations with police and mass arrests have grown, opposition parties — many of them Yameen's own former political partners — formed an alliance in exile with the aim of unseating him. Supporters of the opposition candidate and the president gathered Saturday at their respective campaign offices in Male, the capital, for final campaign rallies, as pink and green campaign banners hung across the city's streets. 'I don't agree with the policies of this government and also some corrupt activities,' said 19-year-old Scifulla Waheed, who is looking to vote for the first time on Sunday. 'It is high time that we should rise to change the government.' Waheed, who believes Yameen has weekend democracy in the Maldives, said a free and fair election 'will change this regime.' Yameen's supporters were also vocal. 'Under President Yameen, everything has improved,' said Latheef, who gave only one name. 'If the opposition comes into power, the economy will be in doldrums and we will have to face hardships.
  • For yet another weekend, thousands rallied across Russia on Saturday to protest the government's plan to raise the eligibility age for retirement pensions by five years. Several thousand people attended a Moscow rally organized by the Communist Party and other leftist groups, which was authorized by city officials. Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov called for rolling back the proposed changes, arguing that the government should redistribute resources to avoid raising the pension age. 'They keep reaching into your pockets,' he told protesters, who waved red flags. The government's plan to lift the retirement age to 65 for men and 60 for women has irked a wide range of Russians from all political factions. Older Russians fear they won't live long enough to collect significant benefits while younger generations are worried that keeping people in the workforce longer will limit their own employment opportunities. The proposal has also dented President Vladimir Putin's popularity. Dmitry Orlov, who came to Moscow from his home city of Kostroma to join the rally, denounced the Russian government's move as a 'robbery.' 'It can't be that our country doesn't have money for its people, the people who spend their whole lives working and paying deductions for their pensions,' he said. Similar protests were also held Saturday in many cities across Russia's 11 time zones, most of them sanctioned by authorities. Several hundred demonstrators rallied against the pension age hike in Sevastopol in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. 'This is a very serious issue for me, because it touches upon my life, my children, my parents who haven't retired yet,' said Olga Konitskaya, 30, a protester in Sevastopol. The demonstrations went on peacefully, unlike a wave of unauthorized pension protests earlier this month organized by opposition leader Alexei Navalny that led to the detention of over 1,000 people across Russia. Navalny, the anti-corruption activist who is Putin's most visible foe, had called for protests against the pension age hike before he was sentenced to 30 days in jail for organizing a January protest over a different issue. He is set to be released from custody Monday. Putin has responded to the protests by offering some concessions, but argued that the age hike is necessary because rising life expectancies in Russia could exhaust the nation's pension resources if the eligibility age remains the same. The Kremlin-controlled lower house, the State Duma has given only a preliminary approval to the pension changes bill and is yet to hold a decisive second reading. __ Iuliia Subbotovska in Moscow contributed to this report.
  • The Latest on capsized Tanzanian ferry (all times local): 2:05 p.m. A Tanzanian official says a survivor has been found in a capsized ferry two days after the deadly disaster on Lake Victoria. Mwanza regional commissioner John Mongella tells reporters that the engineer was found near the engine of the vessel. Only the ferry's underside has been exposed since the capsizing on Thursday afternoon that killed 167 people. The death toll is likely to rise. ___ 1:40 p.m. A Tanzanian official says the death toll from a capsized ferry on Lake Victoria has risen to 167 while wooden coffins have arrived at the scene. The government's Chief Secretary John Kijazi spoke to reporters after the country's president ordered the arrests of those responsible for the disaster. The badly overloaded ferry capsized in the final stretch before shore on Thursday afternoon as people returning from a busy market day shifted and prepared to disembark. Families of victims are preparing to claim the bodies of their loved ones as search efforts around the ferry's exposed underside continue. No one knows how many people were on board the ferry, which had a capacity of 101. Search efforts continue. The East African nation has a history of deadly maritime disasters.