African nations sign free trade area pact
KIGALI (Rwanda) • Forty-four African countries have signed an agreement establishing a free trade area seen as vital to the continent's economic development, the head of the African Union (AU) said yesterday . The creation of a free trade area - billed as the world's largest - comes after two years of negotiations, and is one of the AU's flagship projects for greater African integration.
However, the agreement will still have to be ratified at a national level, and is only due to come into force in 180 days.
Singapore leaders congratulate Putin
SINGAPORE • President Halimah Yacob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have written to Russian President Vladimir Putin to convey their congratulations on his re-election victory, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement yesterday. Describing Russia as a valuable dialogue partner of Asean, Mr Lee also invited Mr Putin to attend the East Asia Summit, which Singapore will be hosting as Asean chair in November. Mr Putin won a record victory in the presidential election on Sunday, giving him another six years in the role.
BMW offices raided by German police
FRANKFURT • Prosecutors in Munich have searched BMW's headquarters as part of their continuing investigation into an emissions-cheating scandal that has badly damaged other German car-makers.
The raids on Tuesday, in which about 100 investigators targeted BMW offices in Munich and an engine factory in Austria, suggested that all of Germany's top domestic automakers may have evaded emissions rules.
Vatican communications chief quits
VATICAN CITY • The Vatican's communications chief resigned yesterday amid a controversy about the alleged manipulation of a letter written by retired pope Benedict XVI about his successor Pope Francis.
Monsignor Dario Vigano stepped down over the row - that has since become known as "lettergate" - in which he was accused of manipulating a private letter by Benedict XVI to help publicise part of the celebrations marking Pope Francis' five years as pontiff.