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World

    French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday accused former Trump strategist Steve Bannon and Russian oligarchs of conspiring with Europe's nationalists to dismantle the European Union, saying Europeans 'should not be naive' about foreign interference ahead of this week's European Parliament elections. The centrist French leader said in an interview with French regional newspapers published Tuesday that 'Russians and some others' are financing extremist political parties in Europe, without elaborating. Macron also singled out Bannon for criticism. Bannon, who has been in France in recent days and praised far-right leader Marine Le Pen's campaign, called himself an 'observer.' Macron's interview is a last-ditch appeal for support for his centrist movement in the elections, in which nationalists are expected to gain ground amid worries about migration. Le Pen invited Bannon to a congress last year of her anti-immigration party, which changed its name from National Front to National Rally. However, she has publicly distanced herself from him ahead of France's May 26 elections. 'He has no role in the campaign,' she said Monday on FranceInfo. She claimed she didn't know he was in town, although Le Parisien newspaper reported that two National Rally party officials were spotted in the luxury Bristol Hotel where he was staying. Bannon's presence in Paris in the last week of campaigning — with numerous interviews in the French press — riled other parties, including Macron's. Le Pen blamed the media. 'It's not us who invite Steve Bannon into the campaign. It's you journalists who invite (him),' Le Pen said, noting the numerous interviews he has given to the French press. Macron himself has been criticized for his increasingly active role in his party's campaign as polls show his Republic on the Move! neck to neck with Le Pen's National Rally. Her party was the biggest winner in France's European Parliament voting in 2014. Many in France have framed the European elections as a replay of France's 2017 presidential vote, which pitted Macron against Le Pen — who lost in a landslide — and say the president is on shaky ground throwing himself into the ring. He argued that the elections are 'the most important since 1979 because the (European) Union is facing an existential risk.' Asked to define Europe's biggest enemy, Macron told regional newspapers that 'the enemy of Europe is he doesn't believe in its future. The nationalists who want to divide it are the main enemies.' He said he saw 'connivance between nationalists and foreign interests, whose objective is the dismantling of Europe' — naming Steve Bannon, 'close to the American power structure.' ___ For more news from The Associated Press on the European Parliament elections, go to https://www.apnews.com/EuropeanParliament
  • The U.N. envoy for Libya warned Tuesday that the oil-rich nation 'is on the verge of descending into a civil war' that could divide the country and imperil the security of its neighbors and the wider Mediterranean region. Ghassan Salame told the Security Council that extremists from the Islamic State and al-Qaida are already exploiting the security vacuum sparked by the offensive to take the capital Tripoli launched April 4 by the self-styled Libyan National Army led by Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter. He said the black flags of the Islamic State extremist group are appearing in southern Libya and there have been four attacks by its fighters in the south since April 4 that together have killed 17 people, wounded more than 10 and led to eight kidnappings. 'Libyan forces that had in the past courageously defended their country against these terrorist groups are now busy fighting each other,' Salame said. Besides innocent Libyans being increasingly subjected to the increasing wrath of Islamic State extremists, he said, 'there will be spillover of this violence to Libya's immediate neighbors.' Civil war in Libya in 2011 toppled and later killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and the chaos that followed resulted in a divided country, with a U.N.-aligned, but weak, administration in Tripoli overseeing the country's west and a government in the east aligned with Hifter. Each is backed by an array of militias and armed groups fighting over resources and territory. Salame lamented that when Hifter launched the offensive on April 4 'the capital was enjoying a measure of increased security, the population a much more stable currency and an improved economic outlook, and the political process, despite many obstacles, was moving forward' with a national conference days away to chart a roadmap to elections and a united future for Libya. But 48 days into Hifter's offensive, he said, more than 460 people have died, including 29 civilians, over 2,400 mainly civilians have been wounded, and over 75,000 civilians have been forced from their homes. Humanitarian officials estimate that 'over 100,000 men, women and children remain trapped in immediate frontline areas, with over 400,000 more in areas directly impacted by the clashes, he said. And 'nearly 3,400 refugees and migrants are trapped in detention centers exposed to, or in close proximity to, the fighting.' Salame said there are also numerous reports of extremists, people on U.N. sanctions blacklists, and people wanted by the International Criminal Court 'appearing on the battlefield on all sides.' He called on the Security Council to support the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry 'to determine who has taken up arms and support the establishment of mechanisms to ensure the exclusion of unwanted elements.' Salame also said 'arms are pouring in again to all sides' supplied by many countries that he did not name, in violation of a U.N. arms embargo against Libya. The U.N. envoy said 'full civil war is not inevitable' — but 'it may occur by the will of some parties, and by the inaction of others.' He called on the Security Council to urge an immediate cease-fire and return to a U.N.-led political process. 'A better future is still possible, but we all must be seized with the fierce urgency of now while the front lines remain on the outskirts of Tripoli and before the battle moves, God forbid, to the capital's more densely populated neighborhoods,' Salame said.
  • The Latest on the Trump administration's Iran policy (all times local): 12:10 p.m. House Democrats have received a closed-door briefing on Iran from former CIA Director John Brennan and former State Department official Wendy Sherman, who negotiated the Iran nuclear deal. Brennan told Democrats that while Iran wants to avoid conflict, the country's leadership will not capitulate to Trump. Sherman warned that reckless behavior by the Trump administration is undermining moderates in the country. That's according to a person in the room who was not authorized to discuss the private meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity. The U.S. has sent an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf region and evacuated non-essential personnel from Iraq amid unspecified threats the administration says are linked to Iran. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said he wants answers on 'what the administration's strategy is — if they have one — to keep us out of war.' —Susannah George 11:50 a.m. Ahead of briefings on Capitol Hill, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is suggesting that the U.S. military response to Iranian threats has already had an effect. Shanahan tells reporters that the military moves by the United States have given Iran 'time to recalculate' and as a result the potential for attacks on Americans is 'on hold.' He cautioned that the lack of attacks on Americans doesn't mean the threats have gone away. The U.S. sent an aircraft carrier strike group, four bomber aircraft and other assets to the region, and is moving a Patriot missile battery to an unnamed country in the area. Shanahan says the response was a measure of America's willingness to protect its people and interests in the region. He and other national security officials will brief Congress on Tuesday. ___ 12:30 a.m. Iran and tensions in the Persian Gulf as well as President Donald Trump's tough talk are the subject of competing meetings in the House and Senate, both closed to the public and the press. Tuesday's meetings on Capitol Hill come as lawmakers warn the Trump administration it cannot take the country into war without approval from Congress. The briefings are another indication of wariness by Democrats and some Republicans over the White House's sudden policy shifts in the Middle East. Trump continues to offer a mixed signal on Iran, telling reporters Monday that Iran has been 'very hostile' and that its provocations will be met with 'great force,' but also saying that he's willing to negotiate. Trump also says no talks are scheduled but he'd like to hear from Iran.
  • Greece's supreme court on Tuesday examined the rejection of a furlough request by a hunger-striking extremist serving multiple life sentences for the killing of 11 people by Greece's deadliest militant organization. Dimitris Koufodinas, a hitman for the now defunct November 17 group which killed 23 people from 1975-2000, has been on hunger strike for more than two weeks over the refusal of his request for a leave of absence from prison. He was moved to intensive care in a hospital in the central city of Volos last week. There has been a barrage of vandal attacks on high-profile targets in support of Koufodinas, 61, who was convicted in 2003 and was moved to a minimum-security agricultural prison last summer. He has received six furloughs since late 2017. The latest vandalism occurred in the middle of the day Tuesday, when a group of about 10 people threw red paint at parliament and set off a smoke bomb. Other targets have included the U.S. ambassador's home, banks, shops, political offices and police stations The Rouvikonas anarchist group claimed responsibility for the parliament attack, as it had done for the paint-throwing against the exterior of the U.S. ambassador's garden wall. Police said one person was arrested in connection with the parliament incident, while authorities launched an investigation into how the paint-throwers gained access to the building's exterior. Tuesday's hearing, which was to determine whether Koufodinas' request should be re-examined, was held behind closed doors and with a heavy police guard. Supreme court prosecutor Xeni Dimitriou, who had ordered a review of the decision to deny the furlough, has argued even those serving multiple life sentences are entitled to leaves of absence from prison. The supreme court panel hearing the case is expected to issue a decision in the coming days. If it rules to accept the appeal against the denial, the case will be sent back to the Volos court which made the initial judgment for review. The supreme court itself does not rule on whether to grant the furlough. Professing a mixture of Marxism and nationalism, November 17's victims included American, British and Turkish diplomats, Greek politicians, businessmen, police and a Greek student. Koufodinas has claimed 'political responsibility' for the group's acts, and is serving 11 life terms. He has vowed to continue his hunger strike 'to the end' unless he is granted a new temporary prison leave. His previous furloughs and his move from the maximum security Korydallos prison near Athens to a minimum-security facility in central Greece were criticized by relatives of November 17 victims and U.S. authorities.
  • The Latest on Britain's political debate as it attempts to leave the European Union (all times local): 4:30 p.m. British Prime Minister Theresa May says Parliament will get the chance to vote on whether to hold a new referendum on Britain's EU membership, as she tries to get lawmakers to back her divorce deal with the European Union. May says Tuesday that an EU withdrawal agreement bill that she plans to bring to Parliament next month will include a provision for a vote on whether to hold a new public poll on whether to leave. That is a key demand of many opposition lawmakers. May is offering concessions in what she says is a 'last chance' to secure an orderly British departure from the bloc. The deal that she struck with the EU has been rejected by UK lawmakers three times already. ___ 2 p.m. British Prime Minister Theresa May secured backing from her Cabinet for tweaks to her proposed European Union divorce terms that she hopes can finally get Parliament's approval for her thrice-rejected Brexit deal. The Cabinet met for three hours to work out details of what May has called a 'bold offer' to win support for her Brexit agreement. May was due to give details of what's being billed as her 'new deal' in a speech later Tuesday. But it's unlikely changes agreed by the government — whose members are divided over the terms of Britain's EU departure — will be sweeping enough to change lawmakers' minds on a divorce deal that has been resoundingly rejected by both pro-EU and pro-Brexit lawmakers. Britain was due to leave the EU on March 29, but the bloc extended the deadline until Oct. 31 amid the political impasse. Talks on securing a compromise between May's Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party broke down last week. ___ Follow AP's full coverage of Brexit at: https://www.apnews.com/Brexit
  • Ukraine's new president on Tuesday formally ordered Ukraine's parliament to dissolve and called an early election for July, hoping to ride the wave of his electoral success to get his supporters into parliament. Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a 41-year-old TV comedian who won 73% of the presidential vote last month, announced his intention of disbanding parliament in his inauguration speech Monday, saying that current lawmakers were too focused on self-enrichment and lacked public trust. He quickly fulfilled the promise in Tuesday's decree, which set a parliamentary election for July 21. Zelenskiy's landslide victory reflected Ukrainians' exasperation with the country's economic woes, rampant official corruption and the country's political elite. The election to Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada legislature was originally scheduled for Oct. 27. That would have left Zelenskiy facing a parliament dominated by supporters of the man he beat, former President Petro Poroshenko, and unable to pursue his anti-corruption agenda for months. Zelenskiy, who has become famous for playing the role of a Ukrainian president in a widely popular TV sitcom, was gambling that his popularity will allow his party to make a successful showing in the parliamentary vote. 'Zelenskiy is trying to act as quickly as possible, because he realizes that voters' excitement will cool down in half a year,' said Volodymyr Fesenko, head of the Kiev-based independent think-tank Penta. His foes in parliament had sought to push Zelenskiy's inauguration past the May 27 deadline by which the parliament could be dissolved, but eventually had to submit to public pressure. Zelenskiy already has asked several top ministers to step down, but he would likely have trouble getting their successors appointed by the current parliament. On Tuesday, he asked the parliament speaker to call an emergency session to discuss amendments to Ukraine's electoral law. Zelenskiy has called for electing the next parliament entirely on party lists, arguing that the current system in which part of parliament is elected in single ballot races foments corruption. In his inaugural speech, Zelenskiy said the main goal of his presidency is to bring peace to eastern Ukraine, where government troops have been fighting Russia-backed separatists for five years in a conflict that has left at least 13,000 dead. On Tuesday, Zelenskiy dismissed the nation's top military officer, Gen. Viktor Muzhenko, replacing him with Lt. Gen. Ruslan Khomchak. Khomchak, 51, has served as the chief of staff of the military's ground forces and took part in the fighting in eastern Ukraine. __ Isachenkov reported from Moscow. Yuras Karmanau in Minsk, Belarus contributed to this report.
  • North Macedonia's new president has cleared a backlog of legislation adopted by parliament that his predecessor had refused to sign into law because of a dispute with the center-left government. The office of Stevo Pendarovski, whose candidacy was backed by the governing Social Democrats, said Tuesday that he signed 21 decrees on laws including reforms to the security services and investment. Pendarovski was elected earlier this month. His conservative predecessor, Gjorge Ivanov, had refused to sign off on new legislation for months, objecting to the deal with neighboring Greece that saw the country previously known as Macedonia renamed North Macedonia. Pendarovski is a strong supporter of the name deal finalized in February that ended a decades-long dispute over the country's name, in exchange for Greece backing its NATO membership.
  • A last-ditch appeal to the United Nations forced French doctors to resume life support Tuesday for a man who has been in a vegetative state for years and whose case has drawn attention across Europe. Vincent Lambert was critically injured in a 2008 car accident, and his parents and wife disagree on whether to keep him alive artificially. After years of legal battles, a team of doctors decided last year to stop giving him food and liquids and allow him to be sedated until death. Doctors stopped feeding him on Monday. But his parents appealed to the U.N. Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, arguing the 42-year-old should be treated as disabled. And in a surprise twist just hours after his feedings were halted, a Paris court ordered a freeze on previous rulings while the U.N. committee considers the case. That process could take years. Doctors resumed feedings Tuesday, the parents' lawyer told French media at the hospital in Reims east of Paris. The parents want Lambert transferred to facility for the disabled instead. The Lambert case has provoked national soul-searching over how to deal with terminally ill patients, and has drawn attention around Europe. It was central to the debate leading up to France's 2016 law on terminally ill patients. The law allows doctors to stop life-sustaining treatments, including artificial hydration and nutrition, and to keep them sedated until death. It stops short, however, of legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide. The European Court of Human Rights and France's top administrative body had upheld the doctors' earlier decision to stop Lambert's life support, with the court finding the move did not violate Lambert's rights. Commenting on the case Tuesday, two top Vatican officials issued a joint statement saying that the provision of food and water to the sick was an 'inescapable duty.' 'Suspending such care represents a form of abandonment, based on a pitiless judgment about the quality of life and an expression of a throwaway culture that selects the most fragile and defenseless people, without recognizing their individual, immense value,' said Cardinal Kevin Farrell, in charge of Catholic laity, and the Vatican's top bioethics official, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia. ___ Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed.
  • The Latest on Ukraine's politics (all times local): 6 p.m. Ukraine's new president has signed a decree dissolving the parliament and calling a snap election in two months. Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced his intention to disband the legislature minutes after being sworn in Monday. His decree dissolving the Verkhovna Rada and setting early elections for July 21 was posted on the presidential website Tuesday. The current parliament is dominated by allies of former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and Zelenskiy hopes to ride the wave of his electoral success to get his supporters into parliament. ___ 2:40 p.m. An adviser to the new Ukrainian president says that he will sign a decree formally dissolving the parliament and calling snap elections within days. Andriy Bohdan, adviser to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said in televised remarks Tuesday that the president would send the decree in the coming days. He said he hopes that parliament would vote for changes to the electoral law before it is disbanded. Moments after he was sworn into office, Zelenskiy dropped a bombshell when he said he is dissolving the parliament, dominated by allies of the former Ukrainian president. Zelenskiy sat down with political leaders Tuesday morning to discuss the dissolution. Bohdan said the meeting with the lawmakers showed that they would be willing to adopt the electoral changes Zelenskiy has proposed.
  • Argentina's former President Cristina Fernández appeared in court Tuesday for the first in a series of corruption trials ahead of a planned run for the vice presidency. The trial comes just days after Fernández surprised Argentines by announcing that she would seek the vice presidency, with her former Cabinet chief Alberto Fernández at the top of the ticket. She had been expected to run directly against conservative President Mauricio Macri during the October election. Security agents cordoned off the federal courtroom in Buenos Aires as Fernández arrived to face charges of heading 'an illegal association' for embezzlement involving public works projects during her 2007-2015 presidency. She denies any wrongdoing and she remains a highly popular if divisive figure among Argentines. 'A new trial where I should have never been summoned is beginning,' Fernández said on Twitter. 'This is a new act of persecution with only one goal: to place a former president who opposes the current government in the defendant's bench during a presidential campaign.' At the courtroom, she listened to the charges against her while she sat at the defendant's bench, but she did not comment. Outside, dozens of sympathizers chanted her name. In separate cases, Fernández faces formal investigations into allegations of money laundering and criminal association during her administration and that of Nestor Kirchner, her late husband and predecessor. Although several former Argentine presidents have faced trials, Fernández is the only one to do so while having a clear chance of returning to power. The weekend announcement that Alberto Fernández — no relation — would instead lead the ticket shook up the election race and forced political parties to rethink their strategies. Analyst Roberto Bacman of the Buenos Aires-based Center for Public Opinion Studies said that Fernández's announcement shifted the spotlight from the trial and softened her image before the judges. 'It's not the same, the photo (of her) sitting on the bench as a candidate for president, as the photo of Alberto Fernández on some act on the campaign trail,' he said. Many voters are frustrated by Argentina's recession and one of the world's highest inflation rates and blame Macri for policies that they say have deepened the crisis. The Argentine peso also lost more than half of its value versus the U.S. dollar last year. Cristina Fernández is known for her populism and unorthodox economic policies, and while some credit her for leading Argentina out of an economic crisis, others blame her for creating its current turmoil. Macri promised to curb inflation and end poverty, but so far has failed on both counts. He was forced to seek a record $56 billion bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund to try to tame the crisis. Fernández is accused of receiving bribes on public works contracts in the southern province of Santa Cruz for Lazaro Báez, a businessman who was close to her and her late husband. Her running mate, who also served as Cabinet chief during her late husband's presidency, is now one of the at least 150 witnesses in the case. If found guilty she could face up to 15 years in prison, although her senatorial immunity protects her from arrest. The Supreme Court ruled last week that it would review the federal court file to evaluate legal arguments presented by the Fernández and others who are accused. But the top court later said the trial would start as scheduled governing-party politicians complained that the ruling seemed aimed at protecting Fernández. Many Argentines also took to the streets of the capital banging pots in protest to demand the trial.