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France’s left agrees in principle on rare coalition deal to take on Macron

France’s Socialist Party and the hard-left La France Insoumise (LFI) party reached an agreement in principle on Wednesday to form an alliance for June’s parliamentary election.

The coalition pact, which the Greens and Communists agreed to earlier this week, is an attempt to deprive President Emmanuel Macron of a majority in parliament in the June 12-19 vote and block his pro-business agenda, after he was re-elected president in April.

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“We can and will beat Emmanuel Macron and we can do it with a majority to govern for a radical program,” LFI lawmaker Adrien Quatennens told Franceinfo radio.

If the agreement between the LFI and the Socialists is confirmed, the French left will be united for the first time in 20 years.

The deal was shaped under the leadership of LFI’s firebrand chief Jean-Luc Melenchon, who broke from the Socialist Party in 2008 after failing to dilute its pro-European Union stance. He wants to “disobey” the bloc’s rules on budget and competition issues and challenge its free-market principles.

A source in the Socialist Party (PS) said that there was agreement on who would run in what constituency and on overall strategy, but that negotiators still needed to finalize details of the joint program itself.

In particular, the wording on what the platform for the new alliance, which will run under the banner of the “Social and Ecological People’s Union,” would say on Europe was still being debated, sources said.

The deal would then need to be approved by the PS’s national committee.

‘Complicated’

Policies of the new alliance include plans to lower the retirement age to 60, raise the minimum wage and cap prices on essential products.

If confirmed Melenchon’s success in striking a deal with the Socialists, so far the dominant force on the left, would mark a turning point for a party that gave the country two presidents since World War Two and has been a driving force for European integration.

PS veterans, including former party leader Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, have already called on fellow members to block the deal, saying it could mark the end of a pro-EU force on the left.

“It will be complicated to get it approved in the national committee,” Corinne Narassiguin, a former PS lawmaker, told Reuters.

But the Socialists had little leeway in the talks. Their candidate, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, garnered a meagre 1.75 percent of votes cast in last month’s presidential ballot. However, they still control many local authorities.

In a sign of the Socialist Party’s collapse, a source close to the talks said the deal – which sees only one lawmaker from each party that joins the alliance run in any constituency – foresees that the PS would only have 70 candidates in mainland France, and possibly a few more in oversees territories.

The French lower house has 577 lawmakers.

A recent Harris Interactive poll showed a united left and an alliance between Macron’s party and the conservatives neck and neck, with each garnering 33 percent of the legislative vote. However, in France’s two round election system, projections show this could still translate into a majority of seats for Macron.

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Dr. Mona Khashwani becomes UAE’s first Emirati physician to perform robotic surgery

Dr. Mona Abdulaziz Khashwani from Sharjah’s Al Qassimi Women and Children’s Hospital in the United Arab Emirates has become the country’s first Emirati physician to perform robotic surgery.

Khashwani, a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology, performed the robotic surgery using the advanced Da Vinci system, Emirates Health Services said in a statement on Wednesday.

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“I sincerely thank the wise leadership, who gave me the opportunity to be one of the few citizens who carry out this type of high-precision operations for patients using a robot,” she said.

Khashwani is one of the UAE’s most experienced doctors in the robotic surgery field. She graduated from London’s Queen Mary University in 2005 and was then nominated by the hospital’s Director of Laparoscopic Operations and Robotic Surgery Program, Dr. Zaki al-Mazki al-Shamsi, to join the women robotics surgeons’ program.

The Emirati doctor performs total hysterectomy, supra-cervical hysterectomy and the operations to remove of fibroid tumors, ovarian cysts, and adhesions, among others.

“I have spent countless hours after my shift using the surgical simulator for training and studying how the robotic system operates,” she said.

“This qualified me to receive a license to perform gynaecologic robotic surgery using the advanced Da Vinci surgical robot from the IRCAD Training Center in Strasbourg, France,” Khashwani added.

Launched in 1999, Da Vinci is an automated surgical system that performs minimally invasive procedures and is considered to be one of the most accurate systems of its kind in the world. It is the first FDA recognized safe and effective surgical tool that performs complex surgeries, often involving small incisions, which shortens patients’ hospital stays, ensures faster recovery, and reduces the need for pain killers after operation.

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Taiwan rejects Philippines complaint about South China Sea live fire drills

Taiwan on Wednesday rebuffed a complaint from the Philippines about live fire drills around a Taiwan-controlled island deep in the South China Sea, saying it had the right to do so and always gives issues a warning of its exercises.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, in a message on Twitter late on Tuesday, lodged a “strong objection over the unlawful live fire drills” to be carried out by Taiwan this week around the island, known internationally as Itu Aba.
Taiwan calls the island Taiping, and the Philippines calls it Ligaw Island.
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The department said the island belonged to the Philippines.
“This illegal activity raises tensions and complicates the situation in the South China Sea,” it said.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a statement the island was part of the territory of the Republic of China – Taiwan’s formal name – and that it enjoyed all relevant rights accorded by international law.
“Our country has the right to conduct routine exercises on Taiping Island and related maritime areas. In order to ensure the safety of maritime traffic and fishing boats operating in adjacent maritime areas, we notify the relevant regional countries in advance before each live-fire drill,” it said.
Itu Aba is the biggest feature in the Spratly Islands, a grouping of islets and other features also claimed, entirely or in part, by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
The Philippines normally complains most vociferously about China’s activities in the South China Sea, including what Manila says is illegal fishing.
The Philippines, like most countries, has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan but there are close cultural and economic links and Taiwan is home to about 160,000 Filipinos, most of them migrant workers.
The maps China bases its South China Sea claims on date to when Chiang Kai-shek’s Republic of China government ruled China before it fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong’s Communists.
Taiwan also controls the Pratas Islands at the very northern end of the South China Sea.
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Turkey to seek extradition of ‘terror’ suspects from Finland, Sweden

Turkey said Wednesday it would seek the extradition of 33 “terror” suspects from Sweden and Finland under a deal that paved the way for Ankara to back the Nordic countries’ NATO membership bids.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lifted his opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO after crunch talks ahead of Wednesday’s NATO summit, in return for written security guarantees.
Ankara immediately put the new agreement to the test, with the justice minister announcing that Turkey would seek the extradition of alleged Kurdish militants and members of a group that Erdogan blames for a failed 2016 coup attempt.
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“We will seek the extradition of terrorists from the relevant countries within the framework of the new agreement,” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag was quoted as saying by NTV television.
Bozdag said Ankara would now ask for the extradition of 12 suspects from Finland and 21 from Sweden who were either members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or alleged members of a group led by the US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen.
The PKK, which has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, is blacklisted by Turkey, the EU and the United States.
Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan, denies charges of plotting the 2016 coup attempt.
The three-way memorandum signed on Tuesday says that Finland and Sweden pledge to “address Turkey’s pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects expeditiously and thoroughly.”
The two countries also agreed to lift their embargoes on weapons deliveries to Turkey, which were imposed in response to Ankara’s 2019 military incursion into Syria.
Erdogan’s office hailed the agreement, saying Ankara had “got what it wanted.”
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