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World Digest: May 16, 2022

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Johnson hears from Sinn Fein on trade

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald said her party had a “fairly tough” meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday in which they told him taking unilateral action over post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland would be wrong.

Johnson says the European Union must make concessions on the rules — known as the Northern Ireland protocol — to win over the province’s unionist community loyal to the United Kingdom, and has threatened unilateral action that the E.U. says could start a trade war.

McDonald, whose party seeks a united Ireland and is the region’s largest after an election this month, said Johnson did not give details of any proposed legislation that would effectively ditch parts of the protocol.

“We’ve had what we would describe as a fairly tough meeting,” she said after the talks in Northern Ireland. “ ... We have said directly to him that the proposed unilateral act of legislating at Westminster is wrong. It seems to us absolutely extraordinary that the British government would propose to legislate to break the law.”

Johnson agreed to the protocol in 2019 to allow Britain to leave the E.U.’s single market and customs union without controls being reimposed on the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic,
a vital part of the 1998 Good Friday peace deal that ended three decades of violence.

But the plan effectively set up a customs border between Britain and Northern Ireland, incensing many unionists.

— Reuters

Premier: Nation down to last of its gasoline

Sri Lanka’s new prime minister said Monday that the crisis-hit nation was down to its last day of gasoline, as the energy minister told citizens not to join the lengthy fuel lines that have triggered weeks of anti-government protests.

Ranil Wickremesinghe, appointed prime minister on Thursday, said in an address to the nation that it urgently needed $75 million in foreign exchange to pay for essential imports. “At the moment, we only have petrol stocks for a single day. The next couple of months will be the most difficult ones of our lives,” he said.

Two shipments of gasoline and two of diesel using an Indian credit line could provide some relief, he added, but there is also a shortage of 14 key medicines.

The economic crisis led to widespread protests against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his family, culminating in the resignation of his brother as prime minister last week after fighting between government backers and protesters left nine people dead and 300 wounded.

— Reuters

Mali says it foiled countercoup: The Malian government headed by a two-time coup leader announced that security forces had thwarted a countercoup that it said was supported by a Western government. The announcement was the latest turmoil in Mali, where Col. Assimi Goïta led coups in 2020 and 2021 before becoming president. Mali didn't name the country it was accusing, but ties with former colonizer France have deteriorated significantly under Goïta's rule, prompting the French military to pull out forces that had been fighting Islamist extremists.

Cyber-gang further threatens Costa Rica: A ransomware gang that infiltrated some Costa Rican government computer systems has upped its threat, saying its goal now is to overthrow the government. The Russian-speaking Conti gang attacked Costa Rica in April, accessing critical systems in the Finance Ministry. President Rodrigo Chaves declared a state of emergency after being sworn in last week. The U.S. State Department has offered a $10 million reward in the case.

Woman chosen as No. 2 on Kenyan presidential ticket: Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga has chosen a former justice minister as his running mate in August's election, making her the first female candidate on a major presidential ticket in the East African country. Martha Karua has a reputation for speaking her mind and could prove a popular choice among voters excited to see a woman among top leaders.

Trains collide near Barcelona: The driver of a suburban passenger train died and dozens were injured when two trains crashed near Barcelona, Catalan regional authorities said. About 85 people were hurt, with eight going to hospitals. The crash happened when a freight train derailed and hit the other train.

— From news services