India election 2019: Narendra Modi votes in Ahmedabad

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cast his vote in his home state of Gujarat in the third phase of the country’s general election.

Mr Modi voted in Ahmedabad’s Ranip seat

He led what appeared to be a roadshow on his way to the polling booth in Ahmedabad, the city he lived in during his 13 years as chief minister.

He waved at the crowds that had gathered from an open-top jeep, which had replaced his usual bulletproof car.

Mr Modi is contesting from Varanasi, which goes to the polls on 19 May.

Around 180 million people are eligible to vote on Tuesday – 115 seats spread across 14 states and union territories are up for grabs. It is the largest stage of the whole election, which is being seen as a referendum on Mr Modi, who has been in power since 2014.

It’s also important for Mr Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as Gujarat is his home state and where his political career began. Mr Modi won his first parliamentary seat from Vadodadara in Gujarat in 2014 – but he vacated it as he also contested and won Varanasi.

On Tuesday morning, Mr Modi first travelled to the capital city of Gandhinagar to meet his mother before going to Ahmedabad to vote.

After voting in the seat of Ranip, he walked down the street along with a local BJP candidate. He was surrounded by his bodyguards as he displayed his inked finger and waved at people.

Here’s everything else you need to know about Tuesday’s vote.

Rahul Gandhi faces a crucial (first) ballot

India’s main opposition leader, Rahul Gandhi, is appearing on the ballot in Wayanad in the southern state of Kerala for the first time.

A win here is important to the Congress party, but Mr Gandhi is also standing in Amethi, his long-time constituency in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. He will be on the ballot there on 6 May and if he wins both seats, he will vacate one of them.

Supporters of Congress Party waits for Party President, Rahul Gandhi as he will arrive to file his nomination from Amethi Constituency, in Uttar Pradesh.
Image captionMr Gandhi’s supporters in Amethi, his family stronghold.

The Wayanad seat is considered “safe” for Congress: the party has won the two elections held there since the seat’s creation in 2009.

But Amethi is Mr Gandhi’s family stronghold. He has been an MP for the region since 2004 and his mother, father and uncle have all won it during their careers.

So his decision to stand in Wayanad – a lush, hilly area in the Western Ghats – was met with surprise. Congress has said it is a “message to southern states that they are deeply valued and respected”.

But opponents wondered aloud if this meant Mr Gandhi is unsure of winning Amethi. After all, his margin of victory in 2014 – a little over 100,000 votes – was seen as too close.

Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi wave at the crowd in the road show after Rahul Gandhi filing nominations from Wayanad district on April 4, 2019 in Kalpetta town in Wayanand
Rahul Gandhi is contesting from southern India for the first time

All of Gujarat is voting today

Mr Modi may not be on the ballot but there is still a lot interest in various seats – including Gandhinagar, where party president Amit Shah is contesting.

Among those hoping to unseat him is Vejli Rathod, a Dalit (formerly untouchable) man who says he is still waiting for charges to be brought following his son’s death in a police shooting back in 2012.

Fed up, he decided to run against Mr Shah, one of India’s most powerful politicians.

“Victory may come and go, but I am fighting against Amit Shah for justice,” Mr Rathod told BBC Gujarati.

Indian supporters of the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), with one wearing a mask of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, take a selfie
Image captionThis election is largely seen as a referendum on Mr Modi

Election-watchers are also likely to take an interest in Congress’s 37-year-old Sherkhan Pathan, the state’s only Muslim candidate.

Muslims account for around 9% of the state’s population, but Gujarat has not elected a Muslim MP since 1984. Only three of the five Muslim candidates who contested state polls in December won.

However, Mr Pathan argues that it isn’t his religion which won him his place on the ballot.

“I’ve been chosen to run because I’m young and represent a wide variety of voters here – not because I’m Muslim,” Mr Pathan told BBC Gujarati.

Will Sabarimala matter in Kerala’s vote?

In September 2018, the Supreme Court overturned a historic ban on women entering a prominent Hindu shrine, Sabarimala – and this sparked huge protests across Kerala.

So his decision to stand in Wayanad – a lush, hilly area in the Western Ghats – was met with surprise. Congress has said it is a “message to southern states that they are deeply valued and respected”.

But opponents wondered aloud if this meant Mr Gandhi is unsure of winning Amethi. After all, his margin of victory in 2014 – a little over 100,000 votes – was seen as too close.

Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi wave at the crowd in the road show after Rahul Gandhi filing nominations from Wayanad district on April 4, 2019 in Kalpetta town in Wayanand
Rahul Gandhi is contesting from southern India for the first time

All of Gujarat is voting today

Mr Modi may not be on the ballot but there is still a lot interest in various seats – including Gandhinagar, where party president Amit Shah is contesting.

Among those hoping to unseat him is Vejli Rathod, a Dalit (formerly untouchable) man who says he is still waiting for charges to be brought following his son’s death in a police shooting back in 2012.

Fed up, he decided to run against Mr Shah, one of India’s most powerful politicians.

“Victory may come and go, but I am fighting against Amit Shah for justice,” Mr Rathod told BBC Gujarati.

Indian supporters of the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), with one wearing a mask of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, take a selfie
This election is largely seen as a referendum on Mr Modi

Election-watchers are also likely to take an interest in Congress’s 37-year-old Sherkhan Pathan, the state’s only Muslim candidate.

Muslims account for around 9% of the state’s population, but Gujarat has not elected a Muslim MP since 1984. Only three of the five Muslim candidates who contested state polls in December won.

However, Mr Pathan argues that it isn’t his religion which won him his place on the ballot.

“I’ve been chosen to run because I’m young and represent a wide variety of voters here – not because I’m Muslim,” Mr Pathan told BBC Gujarati.

Will Sabarimala matter in Kerala’s vote?

In September 2018, the Supreme Court overturned a historic ban on women entering a prominent Hindu shrine, Sabarimala – and this sparked huge protests across Kerala.

The BJP, which argued that the ruling was an attack on Hindu values, was accused of exploiting the issue to court its mostly-Hindu support base.

The party has been trying to make inroads in the state for some time now but it has never won a seat in Kerala. This time its contesting 14 of the 20 parliamentary seats. The rest have been left to regional allies.

What are the key issues in this election?

The economy and jobs are perhaps the two biggest issues.

The government has invested heavily in infrastructure, but it hasn’t produced the desired economic boost – annual GDP growth has hovered at about 7%.

The farming sector has stagnated and a leaked government report suggests that the unemployment rate is the highest it has been since the 1970s

In fact, Mr Modi’s government has been accused of hiding uncomfortable jobs data.

A crowd waits to get their names registered at Lal Bagh Employment Office on March 13, 2012 in Lucknow, India.
Joblessness is a major issue as the number of unemployed graduates swells

Meanwhile, national security has been thrust to the fore following a deadly suicide attack by a Pakistan-based militant group in Indian-administered Kashmir in February.

Since then, the BJP has made national security a key plank in its campaign.

For some, this election is also a battle for India’s identity and the state of its minorities, while for others it’s about enhancing India’s position in the world.

Mr Modi is a polarising figure, adored by many but also blamed for the country’s divisions. Many accuse the BJP and its strident Hindu nationalism of encouraging violence against minorities, including the lynchings of Muslims suspected of smuggling cows.

Presentational grey line
Facts and figures about the world’s biggest democratic exercise

Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg dies aged 98

Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg has died at the age of 98, his son Henri has said in a statement.

Grand Duke Jean abdicated in favour of his son Henri in 2000

He had recently been admitted to hospital suffering from a pulmonary infection, and passed away surrounded by his family, the statement said.

Grand Duke Jean abdicated in favour of his son Henri in 2000, after nearly 36 years on the throne.

During his reign, he oversaw the transformation of the Grand Duchy into an international financial centre.

Grand Duke Henri announced the death of his father in a statement on Tuesday, saying: “It is with great sadness that I inform you of the death of my beloved father, His Royal Highness Grand Duke Jean, who has passed away in peace, surrounded by the affection of his family.”

Jean Benoît Guillaume Robert Antoine Louis Marie Adolphe Marc d’Aviano was born on 5 January 1921, the eldest child of Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Felix.

A graduate of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, he took part in the D-Day landings, and the liberation of Luxembourg from Nazi Germany.

He married Princess Joséphine-Charlotte of Belgium in 1953, and together they had five children.

During his reign, Luxembourg turned itself from an industrial backwater into a centre for financial services and satellite communications.

Map of Luxembourg

Grand Duke Jean’s decision to step down at the age of 79 followed a precedent set by his mother, who abdicated in 1964.

The head of state’s constitutional role is largely ceremonial, and in 2008 parliament further restricted it by rescinding the monarch’s right to veto legislation.

With about half a million inhabitants, Luxembourg is not only one of the smallest states in the European Union, but also the wealthiest in terms of per capita gross domestic product.

President Donald Trump: ‘set for June state visit to UK’

Buckingham Palace is expected to announce on Tuesday that US President Donald Trump will make a state visit to the UK in early June.

The president and First Lady Melania Trump will be a guest of the Queen and attend a ceremony in Portsmouth to mark the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.

He will also hold talks with the prime minister at Downing Street.

Mr Trump met the Queen at Windsor Castle when he came to the UK in July 2018 on a working visit.

First Lady Melania Trump, her husband and Theresa May are pictured on the steps of Blenheim Palace on July 12, 2018
First Lady Melania Trump, her husband and Theresa May on the steps of Blenheim Palace on July 12, 2018

He also held talks with Mrs May at Chequers before heading to Scotland, where he owns the Turnberry golf course.

The president was promised the visit by Prime Minister Theresa May after he was elected in 2016 – but no date was set.

Mrs May said that June’s state visit was an “opportunity to strengthen our already close relationship in areas such as trade, investment, security and defence, and to discuss how we can build on these ties in the years ahead”.

The White House said the visit will reaffirm the “steadfast and special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom”.

Other countries invited to the Portsmouth event on 5 June include Canada, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Luxembourg, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Greece, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

The gathering on Southsea Common will involve live performances, military displays and tributes to the Allied troops who fought in Normandy, including a flypast of 26 RAF aircraft and at least 11 Royal Navy vessels in the Solent.

After leaving the UK, Mr Trump and his wife will travel to France for a series of D-Day commemorative events on 6 June.

The Queen has hosted two previous state visits from US presidents – George W Bush in November 2003, and Barack Obama in May 2011.

BBC royal correspondent Jonny Dymond said Mr Trump avoided London on his last visit and made it clear he did not particularly want to come to the capital if he was going to face protests.

However, our correspondent said a key part of a state visit is the procession down the Mall in front of Buckingham Palace and it is thought protesters will gather there – not a first for a state visit.

Once inside Buckingham Palace, it is expected the Queen will host a banquet for around 150 guests in Mr Trump’s honour.

£18m policing costs

The president’s last visit to the UK was marked by demonstrations.

In London, thousands of people took to the streets to voice their concerns.

The Trump 'baby blimp' hovers above Parliament Square during a protest over the President's July 2018 visit to the UK
A Trump “baby blimp” hovered above Parliament Square during the 2018 protest

And in Scotland, people showed their displeasure, both in Edinburgh and at Turnberry.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council estimated that the police operation for the president’s 2018 visit cost nearly £18m.

It said 10,000 officers from across the country were needed to cover the occasion.

The campaigners behind the 2018 protests – the Stop Trump coalition and Stand Up To Trump – have vowed to mobilise “huge numbers” once again in response to the visit.

A spokeswoman for Commons Speaker John Bercow said a request for Mr Trump to address Parliament would be “considered in the usual way”, but did not say whether a request had yet been received.

Mr Bercow previously said he would be “strongly opposed” to Mr Trump addressing the Houses of Parliament during a state visit.

What is a state visit?

Queen Elizabeth II and US President Barack Obama during a State Banquet in Buckingham Palace on 24 May 2011
The Queen welcomed President Barack Obama to Buckingham Palace in 2011

A state visit is a formal visit by a head of state and is normally at the invitation of the Queen, who acts on advice from the government.

State visits are grand occasions, but they are not just ceremonial affairs. They have political purpose and are used by the government of the day to further what it sees as Britain’s national interests.

Once the location and dates are confirmed, the government, the visiting government and the royal household will agree on a detailed schedule.

So what is involved?

The Queen acts as the official host for the duration of the trip, and visitors usually stay at either Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle.

There is usually a state banquet, and a visit to – and speeches at – the Houses of Parliament may be included. The Speaker of the House of Commons is one of three “key holders” to Westminster Hall, and as such, effectively holds a veto over who addresses Parliament.

The Queen usually receives one or two heads of state a year. She has hosted 109 state visits since becoming monarch in 1952.

The official website of the Queen and the Royal Family has a full list of all state visits since then, including details of how the ceremonies unfold.


SS Iron Crown: WW2 shipwreck found off Australia

The SS Iron Crown was sunk by a torpedo in World War Two

The wreck of an Australian ship sunk by a Japanese submarine in World War Two has been found after 77 years, officials say.

The SS Iron Crown, a naval freight ship, was hit by a torpedo off the state of Victoria in 1942, killing 38 people. Its five remaining crew members survived.

The ship sank within 60 seconds of the attack in Bass Strait.

Maritime archaeologists called the find “an event of national significance”.

A search team from the Australian National Maritime Museum located the shipwreck about 100km (60 miles) off Victoria.

Measuring about 100m (330ft) long, the ship was found upright and “relatively intact” about 700m below the ocean surface, officials said. Its bow, railings and anchors were also found in place.

Underwater stills show the ship's intact bow, anchors and anchor chains
The ship’s bow and anchors were found intact

The team used sonar devices and a drop camera to scour the seabed and map the site.

Peter Harvey, a maritime archaeologist for Heritage Victoria, said it was the only ship to have been sunk by a torpedo in the state’s waters.

It had been transporting ore from South Australia to New South Wales when it was attacked. The five survivors were rescued from the water by another ship.

“Locating the wreck after 77 years of not knowing its final resting place will bring closure for relatives and family of those that were lost at sea,” Mr Harvey said.

Its oldest surviving crew member died in 2012. George Fisher told historians in 2003 that the attack had been “one of the saddest” events of his life, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

The wreck’s exact whereabouts have not been revealed in order to protect the site.

Authorities said they planned to hold a memorial service there.


Greta Thunberg: Teen tells UK politicians ‘listen to climate scientists’

Greta Thunberg sparked an international movement fighting against climate change

A teenage climate change activist has urged British politicians to “listen to the scientists” on climate change.

Greta Thunberg, 16, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that she did not expect to change their minds single-handedly, saying: “We need to do that together.”

The Swedish teenager, who inspired the school climate strikes movement, is expected to meet party leaders later.

She also praised the work of Extinction Rebellion, as climate change protests continued into their second week.

Miss Thunberg said her message for politicians was: “Listen to the science, listen to the scientists. Invite them to talk.

I am just speaking on behalf of them, I’m trying to say what they’ve been saying for decades,” she said.

‘Non-violent disruption’

The teenager sparked an international youth movement after she staged a “School Strike for Climate” in front of the Swedish Parliament in August last year.

Since then she has met Pope Francis and addressed the European Parliament. Speaking about her newfound fame, she said: “It’s unbelievable, I can’t really take it in.”

The interview comes as Extinction Rebellion activists took over part of the Natural History Museum on Monday.

More than 1,000 people have been arrested since the protests began in central London a week ago.

Miss Thunberg, who spoke to the crowds in Marble Arch on Sunday, told the BBC that disruptive action “definitely has a lot of impact”.

Asked whether it was necessary, she said: “As long as it’s non-violent, I think that could definitely make a difference.”

‘No point in anything’

Miss Thunberg said she first heard about climate change aged about eight years old. “I was just very moved,” she said.

“When I was 11 I became very depressed,” she added. “It had a lot to do with the climate and ecological crisis. I thought everything was just so wrong and nothing was happening and there’s no point in anything.”

After realising she could make a difference, she said she promised herself that “I was going to do something good with my life”.

The teenager also admitted that, when she first told her parents of her plan to miss school every Friday, they “weren’t very fond of that idea”.

In the wide-ranging BBC interview, Miss Thunberg said that having Asperger’s had helped her in life: “It makes me different, and being different is a gift I would say. It also makes me see things from outside the box.

“I don’t easily fall for lies, I can see through things. If I would’ve been like everyone else, I wouldn’t have started this school strike for instance.”

Asked what she would say if she met US President Donald Trump, she said: “I can’t really say anything to him that he hasn’t heard before.

“Obviously he’s not listening to the science and to what we have to say so I wouldn’t be able to change his mind.”

In 2017, Mr Trump announced the US would withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement on tackling climate change.


Theresa May: Cross-party talks to resume

Talks between the government and Labour on Brexit will resume later as MPs return to Westminster following the Easter break.

Cabinet ministers will meet senior opposition figures in an attempt to solve the impasse by finding a deal that could win the support of MPs.

But some Tory MPs are angry the talks with Labour are even taking place.

Leading backbencher Nigel Evans called on Theresa May to step down as prime minister “as soon as possible”.

The joint executive secretary of the back bench 1922 Committee told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The only way we’re going to break this impasse properly is if we have fresh leadership of the Conservative Party.

If there was an announcement today by the prime minister then of course we could start the process straight away.”

His comments came after it emerged that Mrs May faces a no-confidence challenge, from Tory campaigners.

More than 70 local association chiefs have called for an extraordinary general meeting to discuss her leadership and a non-binding vote is to be held at the National Conservative Convention EGM.

Under party rules, MPs cannot call another no-confidence vote until December 2019.

However, if the grass-roots vote showed a lack of confidence – it could put pressure on the 1922 Committee to find a way of forcibly removing the PM from office.

Mrs May is due to chair a cabinet meeting in the morning, and her de facto deputy, David Lidington, will attend the talks with Labour later.

Senior members of the 1922 committee will meet in the afternoon.

Ribble Valley MP Mr Evans said there were “severe problems” over Brexit and he hoped Mrs May “does accept the fact the call for her resignation now is growing into a clamour”.

Earlier, Mr Evans, told the BBC Mrs May “had been reaching out to the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn, when she should have been reaching out to the people”.

In separate news, Change UK will launch its European election campaign in Bristol, while Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party will unveil its candidates in London.

The UK has been given an extension to the Brexit process until 31 October, This means the UK is likely to hold European Parliament elections on 23 May.


Breaking Sri Lanka attacks: Mass funeral on day of mourning

Mourners attended a funeral near St Sebastian Church in Negombo

The first mass funeral has begun in Sri Lanka as the country marks a day of mourning for the victims of Sunday’s bomb blasts.

The death toll of the attacks on churches and hotels has increased to 310, police said on Tuesday.

The country has observed three minutes of silence and a state of emergency is in effect to prevent further attacks.

Sri Lanka’s government has blamed the blasts on local Islamist group National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ).

Police have now detained 40 suspects in connection with the attack, a spokesman said Tuesday.

The mass funeral is taking place at St Sebastian’s church in Negombo, north of Colombo, which was one of the places targeted in Sunday’s blasts.

Earlier, a moment of silence was observed at 08:30 (03:00GMT), reflecting the time the first of six bombs detonated.

Flags were lowered to half mast and people bowed their heads in silence in respect to the victims as well as the 500 people injured during the attacks.

Mourners in Sri Lanka
The death toll has risen to 310 victims and around 500 injured

The state of emergency gives police and the military sweeping powers to detain and interrogate suspects without court orders – powers that were last used during the nation’s civil war.

The government blocked access to Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram after the blasts.

NTJ, the group named by the government as the main suspect, has no history of large-scale attacks but came to prominence last year when it was blamed for damaging Buddhist statues.

However, neither NTJ, nor any other group, has admitted carrying out Sunday’s bombings.

Warnings ignored

Since Sunday, scrutiny has fallen on the rifts in Sri Lanka’s leadership, after it emerged authorities were warned about an imminent threat.

Security agencies had been watching the NTJ jihadist group, reports said, and had notified police about a possible attack.

But the prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and the cabinet were not informed, ministers said.

Police in front of St. Anthony's church
Authorities have declared a state of emergency

A rift between Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and President Maithripala Sirisena was why Mr Wickremesinghe has not been receiving security briefings, cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said.

It was not clear on Monday whether Mr Sirisena had been made aware of the warnings. “Our understanding is that it was correctly circulated among security and police,” Shiral Lakthilaka, a senior adviser to Mr Sirisena, told the BBC.

He said that the president had appointed a special committee led by a supreme court judge to investigate what had happened.

How did the attacks unfold?

The first reports of explosions came at about 08:45 local time on Sunday with six blasts reported within a small space of time.

How the Sri Lanka attacks unfolded

21 April 2019

Six near-simultaneous explosions at luxury hotels and churches holding Easter mass

08:45 local time-09:05 (03:15-03:35 GMT)

Blast damage at St Sebastian's Church in Negombo.
Blast damage at St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo.Image copyright byReuters

Three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo’s Kochchikade district are targeted during Easter services and blasts also rock the Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand hotels in the country’s capital.

Sri Lankan government closes school for two days.

Five hours after the initial attacks, a blast is reported near the zoo in Dehiwala, southern Colombo. This is the seventh explosion.

An eighth explosion is reported near the Colombo district of Dematagoda during a police raid, killing three officers.

A member of the Sri Lankan Special Task Force (STF) pictured outside a house during a raid

Sri Lankan government shuts down access to major social media messaging services

Sri Lanka’s government declares an islandwide curfew from 18:00 local time to 06:00 (12:30 GMT-00:30).

Reuters reports a petrol bomb attack on a mosque and arson attacks on two shops owned by Muslims in two different parts of the country, citing police.

Nationwide curfew is lifted.

A “homemade” bomb found close to the main airport in the capital, Colombo, has been made safe, police say.

Death toll leaps

At least 290 people, including many foreigners, are now confirmed to have died. More than 500 are injured.

Another curfew is imposed from 20:00 local time to 04:00 23 April as a precautionary measure.

Police in Colombo have recovered 87 low-explosive detonators from the Bastian Mawatha Private Bus Station in Pettah,

People flee after new explosion

About 16:18 local time (10:48 GMT)

Video footage from St Anthony’s Shrine, shared by Guardian journalist Michael Safi, showed people running from the area in panic. According to BBC Sinhala’s Azzam Ameen, the blast happened while “security forces personnel… tried to defuse a newly discovered explosives in a vehicle”.

Police did not release a breakdown of how many people were killed and wounded at each location.

All the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers, officials said.

Who were the victims?

Most of those who died were Sri Lankan nationals, including scores of Christians attending Easter Sunday church services.

The ministry of foreign affairs said it had identified 31 foreign nationals among the dead, with 14 unaccounted for. The death toll included at least eight British citizens and at least eight citizens of India.

Monique Allen was killed in one of the Sri Lanka attacks

They include three of the children of Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen, a family spokesman confirmed to the BBC. Mr Povlsen owns the Bestseller clothing chain and holds a majority stake in clothing giant Asos.

British lawyer Anita Nicholson died alongside her two children, Alex, 14, and Annabel, 11, when a suicide bomber detonated a device in the breakfast queue at the Shangri-La hotel in Colombo.

Her husband, Ben Nicholson, survived and praised his “wonderful, perfect wife” and “amazing, intelligent” children.

China on Tuesday issued an advisory to its citizens not to travel to Sri Lanka in the near future while the US State Department had already on Sunday warned of possible further attacks in a travel advisory.

Today newspapers Scotland: Families devastated by terror attacks

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Philippines earthquake: Eight deaths reported on Luzon

Rescuers are searching for trapped people at a building in Pampanga province

At least eight people have been killed after a powerful earthquake struck the main Philippines island of Luzon, officials say.

The magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit at 17:11 local time (09:11 GMT) on Monday, the Philippines Institute of Volcanology and Seismology reports.

An airport was seriously damaged and at least two buildings were destroyed.

Authorities fear dozens of people remain trapped underneath a collapsed building in the province of Pampanga.

The province – which is north-west of the capital, Manila – is believed to be the worst-hit area. Its governor, Lilia Pineda, told Reuters news agency that 20 people had been injured there.

“They can be heard crying in pain,” she said of those trapped under the rubble. “It won’t be easy to rescue them.”

Ms Pineda told ABS-CBN television that three bodies had been pulled out of a shop following the earthquake, while a woman and her grandchild were found dead in the town of Lubao.

Twenty people have so far been rescued and taken to hospital, she added.

The earthquake was felt in Manila, where skyscrapers were seen swaying for several minutes in the business district.

Clark International Airport, located about an hour’s drive north of the capital, suffered major damage, with at least seven people injured.

People evacuate a building in Manila
People evacuate a building in Manila

Martial arts instructor Dani Justo recalled the moment she felt the earthquake at her Manila home.

“The clothes hanging on our line were really swaying. My shih tzu (dog) dropped flat on the ground,” she told AFP.

Social media users on the northern island posted photos of the damage caused by the quake, including cracked walls and swinging light fixtures.

One video posted to Twitter showed water cascading down the side of a skyscraper from its rooftop pool.

Classes at Manila’s De La Salle University are being suspended on Tuesday while building inspections are conducted.

The Philippines is part of the Pacific “Ring of Fire” – a zone of major seismic activity which has one of the world’s most active fault lines.

A map of the Philippines

Herman Cain withdraws bid for Federal Reserve seat

Herman Cain made a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012

Former Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain withdrew his name for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board, US President Donald Trump has tweeted.

The president said he would respect the former pizza chain executive’s wishes and not pursue Mr Cain’s nomination to join America’s central bank.

“My friend Herman Cain, a truly wonderful man, has asked me not to nominate him”, Mr Trump wrote.

Mr Trump first announced he intended to nominate Mr Cain earlier this month.

Though the president did not formally nominate Mr Cain to the seven-member board, the announcement prompted backlash among Democrats and some Republicans in Congress.

It is unclear why Mr Cain withdrew his name for consideration.

The president has been accused of putting forward political loyalists to the Fed.

Arguably the world’s most influential bank, it is traditionally an independent body.

The president is a fierce critic of the central bank, and has also often called for lower interest rates – his predecessors have largely refrained from trying to sway monetary policy.

Mr Cain would have required almost total Republican support in the Senate to be confirmed. As of last week, four of 53 Republican senators announced they plan to vote against him.

Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Cory Gardner of Colorado and North Dakota’s Kevin Cramer all indicated they would vote no on the nomination.

Mr Cain, a former executive of Godfather’s Pizza, made a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, but dropped out amid allegations of sexual misconduct, which he denied.

He is often remembered for his 9-9-9 tax reform plan during his campaign, and this viral campaign video by an adviser.

He served as the chairman of the Kansas City Federal Bank from 1989 to 1991.

Housebound Parkinson’s patients have movement restored

Gail Jardine: “I can walk, I can turn… it’s really helped me”

A treatment that has restored the movement of patients with chronic Parkinson’s disease has been developed by Canadian researchers.

Previously housebound patients are now able to walk more freely as a result of electrical stimulation to their spines.

A quarter of patients have difficulty walking as the disease wears on, often freezing on the spot and falling.

Parkinson’s UK hailed its potential impact on an aspect of the disease where there is currently no treatment.

Prof Mandar Jog, of Western University in London, Ontario, told BBC News the scale of benefit to patients of his new treatment was “beyond his wildest dreams”.

Gail being tested
Scientists monitor their patients’ improvement using sensors on a specially made suit.

“Most of our patients have had the disease for 15 years and have not walked with any confidence for several years,” he said.

“For them to go from being home-bound, with the risk of falling, to being able to go on trips to the mall and have vacations is remarkable for me to see.”

Normal walking involves the brain sending instructions to the legs to move. It then receives signals back when the movement has been completed before sending instructions for the next step.

Brain Scans
The parts of the brain involved with movement (red on the left-hand scan) are not working properly, but three months into the trial those areas are now functioning

Prof Jog believes Parkinson’s disease reduces the signals coming back to the brain – breaking the loop and causing the patient to freeze.

The implant his team has developed boosts that signal, enabling the patient to walk normally.

However, Prof Jog was surprised that the treatment was long-lasting and worked even when the implant was turned off.

He believes the electrical stimulus reawakens the feedback mechanism from legs to brain that is damaged by the disease.

“This is a completely different rehabilitation therapy,” he said. “We had thought that the movement problems occurred in Parkinson’s patients because signals from the brain to the legs were not getting through.

“But it seems that it’s the signals getting back to the brain that are degraded.”

Countryside walks

Brain scans showed that before patients received the electrical treatment, the areas that control movement were not working properly. But a few months into the treatment those areas were restored.

Gail Jardine, 66, is among the patients who has benefited from the treatment.

Before she received the implant two months ago, Gail kept freezing on the spot, and she would fall over two or three times a day.

She lost her confidence and stopped walking in the countryside in Kitchener, Ontario – something she loved doing with her husband, Stan.

Now she can walk with Stan in the park for the first time in more than two years.

“I can walk a lot better,” she said. “I haven’t fallen since I started the treatment. It’s given me more confidence and I’m looking forward to taking more walks with Stan and maybe even go on my own”.

Guy and Barb Alden
Guy Alden used to rely on a wheelchair but after his treatment he had his first holiday in seven years with his wife, Barb

Another beneficiary is Guy Alden, 70, a deacon at a catholic church in London, Ontario. He was forced to retire in 2012 because of his Parkinson’s disease.

His greatest regret was that it curtailed his work in the community, such as his prison visits.

“I was freezing a lot when I was in a crowd or crossing a threshold in a mall. Everyone would be looking at me. It was very embarrassing,” he told me.

“Now I can walk in crowds. My wife and I even went on holiday to Maui and I didn’t need to use my wheelchair at any point. There were a lot of narrow roads and a lot of (slopes) and I did all of that pretty well.”

Dr Beckie Port, research manager at Parkinson’s UK, said: “The results seen in this small-scale pilot study are very promising and the therapy certainly warrants further investigation.

“Should future studies show the same level of promise, it has the potential to dramatically improve quality of life, giving people with Parkinson’s the freedom to enjoy everyday activities.”

Samsung Galaxy Fold: Broken screens delay launch

The Samsung Galaxy Fold was supposed to be released on 26 April

Samsung has postponed the release of its folding smartphone, days after several early reviewers said the screens on their devices had broken.

The company said it had delayed the launch of the Galaxy Fold to “fully evaluate the feedback and run further internal tests”.

In April, several early reviewers found the display on the Galaxy Fold broke after just a few days.

Samsung has not said when the £1,800 device will go on sale.

A new launch date will be announced in the “coming weeks”.

In a statement, Samsung said it suspected the damage experienced by some of the reviewers was caused by “impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge”.

It also said it found “substances” inside one of the review devices that may have affected its performance.

Launch events due to take place in Hong Kong and Shanghai this week have also been postponed.

Samsung Galaxy Fold: Broken screens delay launch
WATCH: Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Fold

The Galaxy Fold was due to be released in the United States on 26 April, and in the UK on 3 May.

The South Korean tech giant has said it is investigating what went wrong with the broken review units.

In some cases, reviewers had peeled off a layer of the screen’s coating, mistaking it for a disposable screen protector.

“We will also enhance the guidance on care and use of the display including the protective layer,” Samsung said in a statement.

Chinese rivals Huawei and Xiaomi are also developing foldable smartphones, but neither company has announced a release date yet.

Australian father and son lifesavers drown in tourist rescue bid

The Twelve Apostles are a popular attraction in the rugged Port Campbell National Park, Victoria

A father and son who were volunteer lifesavers have drowned while trying to rescue a tourist swept out to sea off the Australian state of Victoria.

The boat carrying Ross Powell, 71, and his son Andrew, 32, overturned as they tried to reach the man near limestone stacks known as the Twelve Apostles.

The 30-year-old tourist was winched to safety by a rescue helicopter along with a third lifesaver from the boat.

Australian PM Scott Morrison paid tribute to the Powells.

“Surf lifesavers are selfless and brave,” he said on Twitter.

“We thank them all for their service and extend our deepest sympathies to Ross and Andrew’s family and friends.”

Map locator

The incident has shocked the tourist town of Port Campbell, south-west of Melbourne, where the men were experienced members of the local surf lifesaving club. Floral tributes have been left at the club and flags there are flying at half mast, Australian media reported.

The tourist, who has not been named, was said to have got into difficulties while wading at the mouth of the Sherbrook River.

The lifesaving team set off in their boat but it flipped over in the rough surf, local officials said.

Andrew Powell’s partner, Amber Griffiths, described the father and son as “two of the most beautiful people to ever exist – always putting others first”.

The rescued lifesaver is in a serious condition in hospital, Australian media reported. The tourist suffered hypothermia and is in a stable condition.

Polish Judas ritual ‘anti-Semitic’ – Jewish congress

Children kicked the effigy and beat it with big sticks

The World Jewish Congress (WJC) has voiced outrage over a Polish town’s ritual beating of a Judas effigy which looks like a caricature Orthodox Jew.

The Good Friday ritual in Pruchnik, south-eastern Poland, was filmed and posted by a Polish news website.

“Jews are deeply disturbed by this ghastly revival of medieval anti-Semitism that led to unimaginable violence and suffering,” the WJC said.

More than three million Polish Jews were murdered during World War Two.

In total, Nazi Germany murdered about six million Jews in death camps in occupied Poland and killing fields in the former Soviet Union.

Judas effigy hanging, 19 Apr 19
The straw-filled effigy was later hanged and burned

In the Pruchnik ritual – part of Roman Catholic Easter celebrations – children crowded round the effigy beating it with sticks, as adults dragged it through the streets. The mock Judas had a big red nose, black hat and Orthodox-style ringlets.

In the past the Catholic Church in Poland had banned such practices.

Last year a diplomatic row erupted between Israel and Poland after the conservative Polish government made it an offence to allege that the Polish nation was complicit in Nazi crimes. US officials also criticised the new law.

Later the Polish government watered down the controversial law, by scrapping the prison sentences prescribed for such offences.

Research shows that thousands of Poles collaborated with the Nazis. But many other Poles risked their lives to help Jews.


Colombia landslide: At least 17 killed and five injured

At least 17 people have been killed by a landslide on Sunday in south-western Colombia, officials say.

Five others were injured and several houses destroyed in the town of Rosas in the Cauca region.

The landslide happened after days of torrential rains hit the region and authorities are continuing to search the rubble.

Landslides are common in the Latin American country, especially during the annual rainy season.

“Unfortunately this happens when you least expect it and, because of the rainy season that we have seen, this is what happens,” said the town’s mayor, Jesus Diaz.

As well as looking for survivors, authorities are clearing debris which is blocking a major local highway.

Colombian President Iván Duque visited the town on Sunday. He told reporters that medical assistance and alternative housing was being arranged for those caught up in the landslide.

“These are difficult times, but we are united as a country to help them,” said Mr Duque in a tweet.

A member of the Colombian Red Cross and his dog, Gretta, search for victims amid dolls

Members of the civil defence and firefighters search for victims

Residents search for survivors

A man shows a Christ found in the mud after a landslide

Firefighters and members of the army and Civil Defense look for survivors


Sri Lanka attacks: St Anthony’s ‘church of miracles’ a symbol of hope

St Anthony’s Church, the site of one of the deadliest Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka, is renowned as a place of worship open to all faiths, but the attacks have shut its doors for now.

For the first time in its 175-year history, people are being turned away.

The road to the shrine in Colombo’s Kochchikade district is a familiar one to many, who – regardless of their religion – would regularly come here to seek blessings.

Despite being a predominantly Roman Catholic church, its patron has acquired a reputation for being a “miracle worker”. No request, no matter how large, small or strangely specific, is left unanswered by St Anthony, people say.

On Monday, however, a day after the bomb blast ripped through its entrance, things are very different. The attack here was one of eight across the country which killed nearly 300 people and injured many more.

Police are fanned out near the turn-off to the church, marked by its distinctive large statue of St Anthony, mounted on a pedestal. The perimeter of the church itself has been cordoned off with yellow tape and is being guarded by armed security officers.

Special Task Force Bomb Squad officers inspect the site of an exploded van near a church that was attacked yesterday in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 22, 2019
Security has been stepped up across the country in the wake of the attacks

Despite this, a sizeable crowd is still gathered outside, veering as close to the perimeter as they dare, most just staring at the large white building. From a distance it looks untouched, but look harder and hints of the carnage that took place inside become more visible.

Near its entrance, half hidden by a wall, you can see bits of rubble and shards of glass. The clock on its left tower is frozen at 8.45 – the time the blast took place.

There were so many casualties here because such a large crowd had gathered. Even on a normal day, the church is filled with worshippers. For Easter Mass, the chief priest thought well over 1,000 people were in the congregation.

Aftermath of deadly Sri Lanka explosions

Scores are thought to have been killed at St Anthony’s – it’s not clear yet how many lost their lives.

Among those gathered outside the church is Prabath Buddhika. Although Mr Buddhika is Buddhist by religion, like many others, he is a strong believer in the power of St Anthony.

“My house is right here,” he said, adding that he’d been attending the church since he was a child and gone along with his family many times.

Prabath Buddhika
Prabath Buddhika says he cannot describe the carnage he saw

Like many others, Mr Buddhika ran to the church after hearing the explosions. The carnage he saw there could not be described, he says, but people fearlessly came forward from around the area in order to help.

Among them was Peter Michael Fernando, a Catholic who lives close to the church. He was asleep when the blast occurred, he says, waking up after his “bed shook” with the force of the explosion. He ran towards the church after seeing plumes of smoke rising into the sky.

There were bodies and parts of bodies everywhere. I saw there were two people who were still alive so I helped them to an ambulance. I was weeping.”

Mr Fernando says what stayed with him was the number of children he saw among the dead and injured. “They were screaming, they were bleeding. We tried to help as many as we could. I carried a little girl into one of the vans – she had lost a leg,” he said, breaking down again.

Peter Michael Fernando
Peter Michael Fernando says the force of the blast shook him awake

A little distance away stands Anuja Subasinghe, a nurse. She has been staring at the church for a long time.

“This church is for those who carry unbearable sadness – it gives them solace,” she says with tears in her eyes. “Who would do something like this? Why would they do this?”

She couldn’t come for Sunday’s Easter Mass because she had to report for duty, but on Monday morning she felt she needed to be there for the church.

“My husband died 12 years ago and the only thing that got me through that terrible tragedy was this church,” she says. “I didn’t need any other man. St Anthony was enough for me.”

Like Mr Buddhika, Ms Subasinghe was born a Buddhist, but converted to Christianity after discovering the church.

So what is it about this church and St Anthony in particular that has captured the imagination of so many people?

According to Father Leo Perera, a parish priest who serves nearby, part of it is to do with the fact St Anthony’s Church has always been associated with miracles.

In fact, its very origin has been attributed to one.

Father Leo Perera
Father Perera says the attacks will not erode faith in the church

According to local legend and the written history of the archdiocesan archives, St Anthony’s Church was built by a priest from Cochin in southern India, named Father Antonio. He secretly practised Catholicism during the Dutch rule of Colombo in the 18th Century, although it had been named a proscribed religion.

He was able to build the church, the legend says, after performing a miracle. The locals had come to him in panic after seeing the sea rising and asked him to pray for it to recede. He did, and the sea not only receded, but a sand bank suddenly emerged from the waters. So he planted a cross there and built a small mud church, in which he remained until his death.

The other reason, Father Leo says, is the fact that many people have testified that the church has answered prayers and restored faith.

“Everyone who goes there comes away with the happy feeling that their prayers have been heard,” he said, adding that on special celebratory feast days, the church was always full of grateful people who had come to give offerings as thanks for having their prayers heard.

But what next, I ask him? Will the attacks erode people’s faith in the power of this church?

“Absolutely not,” he says with emotion.

“You cannot keep people away from here just because of something like this. They will keep coming back because this is the time they want the presence of God in their life. There is no way this will affect the power of this church and the faith of its believers.”

This sentiment is echoed by Mr Buddhika.

Sign at St Anthony's reads "St Anthony pray for us"

“This is no ordinary church. Whoever did this didn’t know what they were messing with – they cannot simply get away with something like this.

“They will pay for this over generations.”

And this is because St Anthony’s is so much more than just a place of worship. It is a symbol of Sri Lanka’s plurality and tolerance. A reminder that in a country, still bruised by the memories of a brutal civil war and inter-religious violence, its diverse communities have traditionally lived together peacefully and embraced each other’s beliefs and differences.

That perhaps explains why so many of them still came together to stand in front of the church, to express sadness and horror at what took place within.

In its darkest hour, the church continues to be a symbol of hope – with many Sri Lankans choosing to stand together despite the hatred that has unfolded among them.


Asos billionaire loses three children in Sri Lanka attacks

Mr Holch Povlsen is one of Denmark’s richest men

Three of the four children of Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen died in the Sri Lanka bombing attacks, a spokesman has confirmed to the BBC

The family were visiting the country over the Easter holiday. The names of the children have not been made public.

Mr Holch Povlsen owns the international clothing chain Bestseller.

He is also the biggest single shareholder in clothing giant Asos and is the UK’s largest private landowner, according to the Times newspaper.

“Unfortunately, we can confirm the reports,” a Bestseller spokesman said in an email. “We ask you to respect the privacy of the family and we therefore have no further comments.”

Mr Holch Povlsen has a large property portfolio in Scotland, where he owns about a dozen estates including Aldourie Castle. He bought them through his company Wildland, which describes itself as a “landscape-scale” conservation project.

The Holch Povlsens
The Holch Povlsens own several Scottish properties

“It is a project that we know cannot be realised in our lifetime, which will bear fruit not just for our own children, but also for the generations of visitors who, like us, hold a deep affection the Scottish Highlands,” Mr Holch Povlsen and his wife Anne say on the website.

“We wish to restore our parts of the Highlands to their former magnificent natural state and repair the harm that man has inflicted on them.”

Victims unidentified

The death toll in the Sri Lanka attacks is now at 290, following a series of blasts at churches and luxury hotels on Sunday. Police have arrested 24 people, but no-one has claimed responsibility.

The vast majority of those killed are thought to be Sri Lankan nationals, including many Christians who died at Easter services.

Bestseller store
Image captionMr Holch Povlsen owns the clothing retailer Bestseller

Authorities say they believe 36 foreign nationals are among the dead, with most still unidentified at a Colombo mortuary.

The international victims include:

  • At least eight British citizens – including two with joint US citizenship
  • Three Danish citizens
  • One Portuguese citizen and six Indian nationals
  • Two engineers from Turkey, according to Turkish news agency Anadolu
  • Two Chinese nationals, according to the China Daily
  • Two Australians, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said
  • One person from the Netherlands
  • One person from Japan, according to Japanese media citing government sources


Algeria protests: Police ‘detain top businessmen’

Protesters in Algeria have been demanding that those close to the former president should also relinquish power

Five of Algeria’s richest businessmen, some seen as close to ousted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, have been detained by police, state TV reports.

They are being held over a corruption investigation, it adds.

One of those named, industrial tycoon Issad Rebrab, denied the arrest on Twitter, saying he went to the police to sort out a business matter.

Mr Bouteflika, who had been in power for 20 years, resigned three weeks ago following anti-government protests.

The four others who have been detained are brothers from the Kouinef family, named as Reda, Tarek, Abdel Kader and Karim. They are thought to have close links with the former president.

Fresh elections are expected in July.

CEO of Algerian conglomerate Cevital Issad Rebrab speaks during the 6th EU-Africa Business Forum on November 27, 2017
Issad Rebrab is the head of the Algerian conglomerate Cevital

Their detention comes after the head of the army, Lt Gen Gaïd Salah said last week that some among the ruling elite could be questioned over alleged corruption, Reuters news agency reports.

Protesters who had been demanding the resignation of Mr Bouteflika, had also been calling for the downfall of “Le Pouvoir”, or the establishment, meaning that all those around the former president should also go.

Algeria protests: Police 'detain top businessmen
Protesters say they are getting ‘closer’ to freedom


US to end sanctions exemptions for major Iranian oil importers

The sanctions on Iran’s oil industry have led to a sharp downturn in the country’s economy

US President Donald Trump has decided to end exemptions from sanctions for countries that buy oil from Iran.

The White House said waivers for China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey would expire in May, after which they could face US sanctions themselves.

This decision is intended to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the government its main source of revenue.

Iran insisted the sanctions were illegal and that it had attached “no value or credibility” to the waivers.

Mr Trump reinstated the sanctions last year after abandoning a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.

Under the accord, Iran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow in international inspectors in return for sanctions relief.

The Trump administration hopes to compel Iran to negotiate a “new deal” that would cover not only its nuclear activities, but also its ballistic missile programme and what officials call its “malign behaviour” across the Middle East.

The sanctions have led to a sharp downturn in Iran’s economy, pushing the value of its currency to record lows, quadrupling its annual inflation rate, driving away foreign investors, and triggering protests.

Why aren’t the waivers being renewed?

In November, the US reimposed sanctions on Iran’s energy, ship building, shipping, and banking sectors, which officials called “the core areas” of its economy.

However, six-month waivers from economic penalties were granted to the eight main buyers of Iranian crude – China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy and Greece – to give them time to find alternative sources and avoid causing a shock to global oil markets.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to reporters in Washington (22 April 2019)
Mike Pompeo said the US was “dramatically accelerating” its pressure campaign

Three of the eight buyers – Greece, Italy and Taiwan – have stopped importing Iranian oil. But the others had reportedly asked for their waivers to be extended.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Mr Trump’s decision not to renew the waivers showed his administration was “dramatically accelerating our pressure campaign in a calibrated way that meets our national security objectives while maintaining well supplied global oil markets”.

“We stand by our allies and partners as they transition away from Iranian crude to other alternatives,” he added.

We have had extensive and productive discussions with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other major producers to ease this transition and ensure sufficient supply. This, in addition to increasing US production, underscores our confidence that energy markets will remain well supplied.”

Oil pressure adds to US friction

In recent weeks, Japan and South Korea have either halted or sharply decreased Iranian oil imports. Both are heavily dependent on foreign oil and Mr Pompeo said the administration had been trying to find alternatives. But Monday’s move could strain relations – already tested over issues of trade and US policy towards North Korea – with these close allies.

It’s an even bigger problem for India, which is also under American pressure to cut oil purchases from Venezuela. Iran is one of Delhi’s main oil suppliers. But India also has deep cultural and political ties with Tehran, which make it difficult to join US efforts to isolate the Islamic Republic.

China is Iran’s other big customer: it has slammed the US decision, saying its trade is perfectly legal, and the US has no jurisdiction to interfere. The question is whether Beijing will try to skirt sanctions through companies not tied to the US financial system.

Turkey was most outspoken in lobbying for a waiver extension. Ankara argues that it badly needs the oil, that as a neighbour it can’t cut ties with Iran, and that the pressure campaign won’t work anyway.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said his country would co-ordinate with fellow oil producers to ensure “the global oil market does not go out of balance”.

Iranian exports are currently estimated to be below 1 million barrels per day (bpd), compared to more than 2.5 million bpd before Mr Trump abandoned the nuclear deal last May.

What has been the impact on oil prices?

The price of global benchmark Brent crude rose by 3.33% to $74.37 a barrel in trading on Monday – the highest since 1 November.

US oil – known as West Texas Intermediate – was meanwhile up 2.90% at $65.93.

In recent months, the price of oil has risen due to an agreement between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) cartel and its allies, including Russia, to cut their output by 1.2 million bpd.

How have the countries affected reacted?

A spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry dismissed Mr Trump’s decision, saying the country “did not and does not attach any value or credibility to the waivers”.

But Abbas Mousavi added that because of the sanctions’ negative effects, Iran was in “constant contact” with its international partners and would act accordingly.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted that the US move would “not serve regional peace and stability, yet will harm Iranian people”.

“Turkey rejects unilateral sanctions and impositions on how to conduct relations with neighbours,” he added.

China said earlier that it opposed unilateral US sanctions.

“China-Iran co-operation is open, transparent and in accordance with law. It should be respected,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, was quoted by the Financial Times as saying there should be no “negative effect on the operations of Japanese companies”. Its refineries reportedly halted Iranian imports in March.

India’s government was studying the implications of the US announcement, the PTI news agency cited sources as saying. The country had reportedly hoped to be allowed to continue to reduce its Iranian oil imports gradually.

South Korea stopped buying Iranian oil for four months in response, but resumed in January. In March, it imported 284,600 bpd.

PM to face grassroots no-confidence vote

Prime Minister Theresa May is to face an unprecedented no-confidence challenge – from Conservative grassroots campaigners.

More than 70 local association chiefs – angry at her handling of Brexit – have called for an extraordinary general meeting to discuss her leadership.

A non-binding vote will be held at that National Conservative Convention EGM.

Dinah Glover, chairwoman of the London East Area Conservatives, said there was “despair in the party”.

She told the BBC: “I’m afraid the prime minister is conducting negotiations in such a way that the party does not approve.”

The Conservative Party’s 800 highest-ranking officers, including those chairing the local associations, will take part in the vote.

Mrs May, survived a vote of confidence her MPs in December – although 117 Conservatives voted against her.

Under party rules, MPs cannot call another no-confidence vote until December 2019.

However, an EGM has to convene if more than 65 local associations demand one via a petition.

The current petition, which has passed the signature threshold, states: “We no longer feel that Mrs May is the right person to continue as prime minister to lead us forward in the [Brexit] negotiations.

“We therefore, with great reluctance, ask that she considers her position and resigns, to allow the Conservative Party to choose another leader, and the country to move forward and negotiate our exit from the EU.”

It is believed to be the first time the procedure has been used.