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EU to Johnson: Britain has to honour Northern Ireland agreement

G7 Summit in England - UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (C) holds a bilateral meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Cornwall, which is held from 11 to 13 June. - Peter Nicholls/PA Wire/dpa

Top EU officials and French President Emmanuel Macron called on London to stand by its promises to Europe and respect relevant treaties during meetings with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday.

"We negotiated a Protocol that preserves this, signed and ratified by Britain and the EU," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council chief Charles Michel said in identical tweets.

The two presidents met Johnson on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Cornwall in south-western England on Saturday.

"Both sides must implement what we agreed on," they said, adding that there was "complete EU unity" on this.

Macron echoed the assessments, reiterating that Britain had to stand by the agreements, according to a statement by the Elysee Palace.

In a slightly more positive tone, Macron said in his own meeting with the British premier that he wants to reset Franco-British relations.

The comments come at a sensitive time: just a few weeks earlier, a fishing dispute between London and Paris escalated off the Channel Island of Jersey, which is a British crown dependency but not part of the United Kingdom.

While tensions have ebbed since then, disagreements remain between Britain and the European Union over Northern Ireland, with neither side satisfied with the implementation of trade arrangements in Northern Ireland since Britain's departure from the bloc.

Brussels complains London is yet to put in place a number of checks on goods agreed by both sides as part of Britain's withdrawal from the EU, while London accuses the bloc of inflexibility as it grapples with a major transition.

An EU official hinted at heated debates. The "rhetoric [needs] to be toned down and we need to actively look for the solutions which are in the protocol," the official said on Saturday after the meetings.

According to the EU official, the EU did "understand the need for solutions," while insisting that the agreements had to be implemented.

But Johnson's official spokesman said a different approach was necessary, saying that the premier wanted to find "radical changes and pragmatic solutions."

"We keep all options on the table," he was quoted by Britain's Press Association (PA) as saying.

"Currently as implemented, the protocol is having a damaging impact on the people of Northern Ireland. We need to find urgent and innovative solutions," he said.

The G7 comprises the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Canada. The EU is also joining the meetings, which are due to continue through to Sunday.

G7 plans infrastructure initiative to counter China's 'New Silk Road'

G7 Summit in England - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, European Council President Charles Michel, US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, French President Emmanuel Macron, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend the G7 summit in Cornwall. - Filippo Attili/Italian Government/dpa

The Group of Seven (G7) economic powers are planning a massive infrastructure initiative in poorer countries, in a bid to provide a counterweight to China's multitrillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative dubbed the "New Silk Road."

US officials announced the initiative on Saturday, on the sidelines of the three-day G7 summit held in an English seaside village.

There is an estimated 40-trillion-dollar infrastructure gap in parts of the world that this would be intended to help other countries fill, the officials said.

The initiative, called Build Back Better for the World, is expected to be included in the leaders' final communique on Sunday.

While no concrete financial commitments were made, the officials said the US, G7 partners, the private sector and other stakeholders would "soon" collectively mobilize hundreds of billions for infrastructure investments in low and middle-income countries.

The infrastructure development would be carried out in a "transparent and sustainable manner — financially, environmentally, and socially" and offer recipient countries and communities "a positive vision and a sustainable, transparent source of financing to meet their infrastructure needs," a statement said.

"This is not about making countries choose between us and China; this is about offering an affirmative, alternative vision and approach that they would want to choose," the official said.

It contrasts "sharply with the way some other countries are handling infrastructure efforts," he said.

The official accused Beijing of lacking transparency, poor environmental and labour standards and an approach that left many countries worse off in the end.

Macron: Britain should stand by commitments, respect Brexit treaty

G7 Summit in England - UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) receives French President Emmanuel Macron for a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Cornwall, which held from 11 to 13 June. - Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/dpa

French President Emmanuel Macron called on London to stand by its promises to Europe and respect treaties with the EU, in a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday, according to a statement by the Elysee Palace.

Macron wants to reset Franco-British relations, he said in the meeting on the sidelines of a G7 summit in Cornwall in south-western England.

Macron's comments come weeks after a fishing dispute between London and Paris escalated off the Channel Island of Jersey, which is a British crown dependency but not part of the United Kingdom.

While tensions have ebbed since then, disagreements remain between Britain and the European Union over Northern Ireland, with neither side satisfied with the implementation of trade arrangements in Northern Ireland since Britain's departure from the bloc.

Brussels complains London is yet to put in place a number of checks on goods agreed by both sides as part of Britain's withdrawal from the EU, while London accuses the bloc of inflexibility as it grapples with a major transition.

In his talks with Johnson, Macron emphasized that France and Britain shared a vision and interests on important global issues, and also take a united approach to issues such as arms control.

The G7 comprises the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Canada. The EU is also joining the meetings, which are due to continue through to Sunday.

German election polling suggests Greens continuing to lose ground

Annalena Baerbock interview with dpa in Berlin - Annalena Baerbock, federal leader of Alliance 90/The Greens (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) and a candidate for chancellor, speaks during an interview with reporters of the German Press Agency (dpa). - Kay Nietfeld/dpa

The latest Forsa poll on voting intentions for Germany’s parliamentary elections suggests the centre-right coalition of the Christian Democrats and Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) has further extended its lead over the Greens.

The poll, which was commissioned by RTL and ntv and published on Wednesday, has the CDU/CSU on 27 per cent - an increase of two points - while the Greens share fell two points to 22 per cent. All other parties remain unchanged compared with last week’s figures. These suggest the SPD and FDP would come in at 14 per cent, the AfD at 9 and the Linke (Left Party) at 6.

The polling began on June 1 and lasted through Monday.

If the figures were to translate into real votes in September’s election, three government combinations would be possible: CDU/CSU/Greens; A so-called traffic light coalition of Greens, SPD and FDP; and a coalition of CDU/CSU, SPD and FDP.

The lead of the Greens' candidate for chancellor, Annalena Baerbock, against her rivals Armin Laschet and Olaf Scholz has narrowed. Compared with the previous week, she lost three percentage points and comes in at 21 per cent. Laschet now stands at 20 per cent (plus 1), and Scholz’s standing has risen to 16 per cent (plus 2).

In the Sunday trend, which is compiled by the polling institute Insa for the "Bild am Sonntag” newspaper, the CDU and CSU came to 26 per cent last weekend, with the Greens at 21 per cent.

Election polls are generally always fraught with uncertainty. Among other things, weakening party ties and increasingly short-term election decisions make it difficult for polling institutes to accurately weight the data they collect. Forsa gives a statistical margin of error of 2.5 percentage points. In principle, polls only reflect the opinion at the time of the survey and are not forecasts of the election outcome.

Four killed in car attack in Canada — police say it was premeditated and 'motivated by hate'

Following a car attack that killed four people from a Muslim family in Canada, police say they are assuming it was motivated by hatred.

"Investigators believe that this was an intentional act and that the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith," a statement from police in London, Ontario, said on Monday.

"There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate."

The incident had occurred on Sunday evening in London, not far from Toronto. In that incident, the 20-year-old driver of a pick-up truck had hit several people and was subsequently arrested.

According to the police, three adults and one teenager died, one child survived the attack.

"The victims were all members of the same family. The deceased include a 74-year-old female, a 46-year-old male, a 44-year-old female, and a 15-year-old female. One 9-year-old male remains in hospital with serious, but non-life-threatening injuries," police said.

The alleged perpetrator was charged with "four counts of first degree murder and one count of attempt murder."

He appeared in a London court on Monday in relation to the charges.

US to donate 750,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses to Taiwan

US Senators visit Taiwan - Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (R) receives US Senators Dan Sullivan (L), Tammy Duckworth(C), Chris Coons, after arriving at Taipei Songshan Airport to visit the island on bilateral relations and regional security amid rising tensions with China. - Pool/Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs via ZUMA Wire/dpa

The United States will donate 750,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses to Taiwan, Senator Ladda Tammy Duckworth said on Sunday.

"It was critical to the United States that Taiwan be included in the first group to receive vaccines, because we recognize your urgent need and we value this partnership," Duckworth said at Taipei Songshan Airport according to state-run Central News Agency.

On Friday, the American Institute in Taiwan, which acts as the de facto US embassy, said that Taiwan would be included in the first tranche of the more than 80 million Covid-19 vaccines set to be donated by the US, without mentioning details.

Duckworth and fellow US senators Dan Sullivan and Chris Coons on Sunday arrived at Taipei airport and were greeted by Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.

Wu said Taiwan was "very grateful" for being included in the Biden administration's plan to export coronavirus vaccines to other countries.

Coons also noted that Taiwan was prevented from joining the world health alliance and has encountered roadblocks in its access to safe and effective vaccines.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen later also expressed her appreciation to the delegation for the donation, which she said shows the bipartisan support of the US Congress for Taiwan.

The US senators stayed in the capital for about three hours before leaving.

Tsai said Japan and the US sharing vaccine doses recently have been a major help in Taiwan's fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Since May 15, Taiwan has tightened its coronavirus control measures as it saw a surge in new cases. The Covid-19 vaccination rate for the island's 23.6 million people remains lower than 3 per cent.

Mexico begins biggest election in history - also one of the bloodiest

Parliamentary and regional elections in Mexico - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador leaves a polling station after casting his vote for Mexico's general and regional elections. - -/El Universal via ZUMA Wire/dpa

Never before have so many offices been at stake on an election day in Mexico: Citizens of the Latin American country will be casting their ballots on Sunday for over 20,000 positions.

All 500 seats of Mexico's lower house of parliament are up for grabs, as are 15 of the country's 31 governorships.

The remaining positions are mostly at the municipal level, including nearly 2,000 mayoral offices.

Since the campaign began, at least 89 politicians, including 35 candidates, and dozens of their relatives and associates have been killed, according to figures from the consulting firm Etellekt.

The International Crisis Group think tank points to competition between criminal groups for influence over the state's corrupt institutions as the cause of the violence, according to a report.

Observers also see the elections as a referendum on how President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador stacks up nearly halfway through his six-year term. It's not looking good: So far he has failed to get a grip on the violence that's part of an ongoing drug war, and Mexico is also one of the countries worst affected by the pandemic.

Nevertheless, Lopez Obrador is enjoying approval ratings of around 60 per cent in opinion polls, mainly thanks to his popular image.

Merkel's conservatives see off far-right challenge to win state poll

Saxony-Anhalt state election in Germany - Supporters of the Christian Democratic Union react after the first polls results for the state election of Saxony-Anhalt. - Bernd Von Jutrczenka/dpa

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives saw off a strong challenge from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) to return to power in a key state election with a big gain in support.

Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) under Premier Reiner Haseloff in the small eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt won 35 per cent, according to exit poll projections, significantly higher than the 29.8-per-cent vote it scored in the last year election in 2016.

After a neck-and-neck race with the CDU during the election campaign, the AfD saw its support slip to 23.5 per cent from the 24.3 per cent it reached in the state election five years ago.

However, it remains the second-biggest bloc in Saxony-Anhalt's parliament.

Netanyahu challenger: Still obstacles to new Israeli government

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid - Leader of the Yesh Atid opposition centrist political party Yair Lapid holds a press conference. - Ilia Yefimovich/dpa

Opposition leader Yair Lapid still sees numerous obstacles on his way towards forming a new government in Israel.

"Maybe that's a good thing because we'll have to overcome them together," Lapid said at a meeting of the parliamentary faction of his Yesh Atid (Future) party on Monday, according to a spokesman.

"That's our first test: To see if we can find smart compromises in the coming days to achieve the greater goal."

The possibility of replacing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by a coalition led by Lapid had moved closer on Sunday. The leader of the ultra-right Yamina (Rightwards) party, Naftali Bennett, announced he would do everything possible to forge an alliance with Lapid. He is seen as a kingmaker.

Lapid wants to rally several small parties behind him that are far apart on the political spectrum. It would presumably be a minority government tolerated by Arab lawmakers.

The parties are united above all by their rejection of Netanyahu, who is the subject of a corruption trial.

Lapid's mandate to form a government ends on Wednesday.

Why US experts are convinced most vaccinated people don't need masks

Face mask - Do vaccinated people still need to wear face masks? Even in the rare cases where vaccinated people get the virus, scientists say they're far less likely to transmit it. - Julian Stratenschulte/dpa

Optimism about the extraordinary effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccines is growing and causing even the most cautious health experts to stop wearing face coverings in more settings.

Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of the University of California, San Francisco Department of Medicine, said he ate indoors last weekend at a restaurant with out-of-town friends.

Wachter had previously been concerned about the rare chance that he would encounter an unvaccinated infected person who could transmit the virus to him, and then the virus "breaking through" his vaccine-induced immunity. While he was confident that he wouldn't die from Covid-19 because he's been vaccinated, he worried about the chance of experiencing long-lasting symptoms.

But increasingly convincing evidence about the effectiveness of the vaccines and California's continuing low daily coronavirus case rates started to change his mind. The final push was San Francisco's infamous chilly, windy weather in May, which drove him inside.

"The true unpleasantness of shivering your way through dinner — while you're wearing four layers and there's a heater going full bore — just made me say: 'I think I've crossed my threshold,'" Wachter said. "Of course, once you cross it, you're going to keep doing it."

The new confidence comes as an increasing number of studies underscores how effective the vaccines are — at preventing not only severe disease and death, but also infections. And even in the rare cases where vaccinated people get the virus, scientists say they're far less likely to transmit it.

Those are among the reasons why University of California, Los Angeles epidemiologist and infectious disease expert Dr. Robert Kim-Farley said he has little reason to be anxious about getting sick if he doesn't wear a mask inside the supermarket when California ends that requirement for vaccinated people on June 15.

"Given the extraordinary efficaciousness of this vaccine, one can again follow the science and say that it's very low risk if you've been vaccinated," Kim-Farley said. The vaccines approved in the U.S. have been quite effective not only against conventional strains of the coronavirus, but variants as well.

Another key factor is the progress toward herd immunity, also known as community immunity, in which enough people have immunity to the virus to disrupt widespread transmission.

"As we get to extremely low levels of disease in the community — because of community immunity — the risks of you even being near someone who is infected becomes diminishingly small as well," Kim-Farley said.

Coronavirus daily case rates in California are at rock bottom. In Los Angeles County in the past week, there have been about 200 new confirmed cases a day in a county of 10.1 million residents — a rate of 2 new cases a day for every 100,000 residents. By contrast, at the peak of the pandemic, when hospitals and mortuaries were overwhelmed, L.A. County was recording more than 15,000 cases a day, or 150 for every 100,000 residents.

San Francisco is averaging 16 new cases a day in a city of 870,000 people, or 1.9 per 100,000 residents. San Diego County is averaging 73 new cases a day in a region with 3.4 million residents, which translates to 2.2 cases per 100,000 residents.

And Orange County now has one of the lowest rates in the state — an average of only 28 new cases a day in a county of 3.2 million residents, or just 0.9 cases per 100,000 residents.

The relatively fast pace of vaccinations also is a reason it's OK to drop masks, said Dr. Monica Gandhi, a UC San Francisco infectious disease specialist.

Across the US, 50 per cent of residents have at least one dose of vaccine; in California and L.A. County, 53 per cent of residents do. By contrast, in India, which has far higher case rates than California, only 11 per cent of the population is at least partially vaccinated.

Those factors would explain why vaccinated people don't need to wear masks in California and the US but should still mask up in India. "Context matters," Gandhi said.

So much has changed in California in a matter of months. Estimates by the L.A. County Department of Health Services in December estimated that as many as one in 80 residents had Covid-19. This week, the county estimates one in 2,600 residents are infectious.

Optimism is so high that the county is ending its projections on hospitalization demand. "Because of the low level of community transmission and the expected increase in herd immunity associated with ongoing vaccination, the risk of a future large increase in transmission appears to be low," the county said. "We anticipate this to be the final projection model update."

Federal officials are also confident in the vaccines' effectiveness. The director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, had a cheerfully simple message for fully vaccinated people: "If you are vaccinated, you are protected and you can enjoy your Memorial Day."

But "if you are not vaccinated ... you remain at risk of infection. You still need to mask," Walensky said.

A number of studies provide reassurance that vaccinated people are unlikely to fall ill with Covid-19.

Data released by the CDC this week showed that out of 101 million Americans who had been fully vaccinated, there were 995 people who were hospitalized between January and April. That represents 0.00099 per cent of all fully vaccinated Americans. And of the 995, about 300 were either asymptomatic or were in the hospital for reasons unrelated to Covid-19.

This is "continued evidence of the power of vaccines in the US, which will certainly get even better the more of us get immunized and protect the rest of the herd. The small odds of hospitalizations and deaths are so rare," said UC San Francisco infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Chin-Hong.

There is also good news for those worried about breakthrough infections resulting in "long Covid," a condition that includes a range of symptoms such as fatigue, difficulty concentrating and muscle pain that can last months after an infection.

While there have been reports that long Covid can occur in cases where the initial infection was mild or asymptomatic, Gandhi said the latest authoritative studies have shown that it's symptomatic or severe disease that produce the kind of "disorganized, innate, inflammatory response that can give you symptoms that lasts a while."

By contrast, if the body is exposed to the coronavirus after vaccination, the immune system is now primed to generate "a very organized response to the virus," making long Covid unlikely, Gandhi said.

This would account for why some people suffering from long Covid symptoms feel better after getting vaccinated.

The improving conditions have led Gandhi, who touted the protective power of masks early in the pandemic, to recommend that masking now isn't needed outdoors for any children — including those not vaccinated. She also suggested mask requirements be lifted indoors for all schoolchildren when classes begin in the fall.

California could follow the lead of the United Kingdom, which never required masks for schoolchildren younger than 12, Gandhi said. Compared to adults, the noses of younger children have far fewer ACE2 receptors — proteins on the surface of cells to which the coronavirus adheres. The lack of ACE2 receptors generally explains why children are less likely to get or transmit the coronavirus to the same degree as adults, she said.

Gandhi also suggested that mask use not be required for adolescents and teenagers when daily coronavirus case counts fall below a certain daily rate, such as 3 new cases a day for every 100,000 residents — a threshold already reached in many parts of California. The U.K. on May 17 lifted its mask requirement for students 12 and older, even though most are not yet vaccinated.

In April, Gandhi said evidence showing the effectiveness of vaccines and the low case rates was so striking that she was comfortable with her fully vaccinated parents, who are in their 80s, flying in from Utah for a visit, which was capped off with a dinner at an indoor San Francisco restaurant with her two children, who were unvaccinated at the time.

When it comes to his own decision making on whether to continue wearing masks even when it's not required in public, Chin-Hong said he suspects he'll still wear one when it feels crowded, particularly indoors.

"I'll kind of look around and I'll probably see a little bit more data after we open before I like rush out and burn my mask," Chin-Hong said.

Still, there are questions. Some parents with children who have underlying conditions and are too young to be vaccinated wonder whether they should still mask up and avoid going into workplaces or social gatherings. Some experts say it's prudent to wear a mask if you're around a lot of people who may not be vaccinated; others say the chance of fully vaccinated parents getting sick, becoming infectious and then transmitting the coronavirus to their children is slim.

While everyone will have a different threshold, Wachter said he would stick with Covid-19 precautions in other areas — he won't dine with someone who is not vaccinated. And he plans to wear a mask at the supermarket or waiting in line at a cafe even after June 15.

"I'm a physician; I've worn masks for 30 years. On the list of things that really bother me, walking through the Safeway with a mask on ... doesn't bother me," Wachter said. Of "things that cause me anxiety, the concern of a breakthrough infection still is higher than the benefit I would accrue from taking the mask off."

Still, he said, the chances of a person sitting near your dining table at a restaurant in San Francisco with Covid-19 is "really extraordinarily low."

"And then you multiply the probabilities of that chance, times the chance that you're going to get a breakthrough infection, times the chance that the breakthrough infection is going to be something that you'll regret. And you end up with a number where it really doesn't make sense anymore to avoid that activity unless you're at special risk, immunosuppressed, very old, perhaps," Wachter said.

"Or you're very anxious about it," he added. "Nobody should feel rushed on this."

Deadly TikTok craze prompts calls for ban on tiny magnetic balls

Deadly TikTok craze prompts calls for ban on tiny magnetic balls - More and more TikTok users are posting videos of themselves with two small metal balls in their mouths and wiggling their tongues around, making it look as though they have a tongue piercing. - Jens Kalaene/dpa

Britain's National Health Service (NHS) has issued a plea for a ban on the sale of magnetic balls due to a deadly trend on the video platform TikTok.

Tiny magnetic balls, which are typically sold as toys, have become the focus of a recent TikTok viral challenge, which has seen hundreds of teenagers wear them as fake facial piercings.

For the so-called magnet challenge, which the NHS is calling a "viral prank," more and more young people have been making videos with two small metal balls on their tongues and wiggling their tongues around, making it look as though they have a tongue piercing.

The NHS initially issued a patient safety alert after at least 65 children were admitted to British hospitals for urgent surgery after swallowing magnets over the last three years.

The danger is that the magnetic objects are forced together in the intestines or bowels, squeezing the tissue and cutting off the blood supply. Ingesting more than one can be life-threatening and cause significant damage within the space of hours.

Now, England’s top children’s doctor wants them banned altogether to prevent further accidents.

Professor Simon Kenny, paediatric surgeon and national clinical director for children and young people at NHS England, said while magnets may be fun, they ultimately aren’t safe and shouldn’t be for sale.

“There is nothing fun for children or their parents about surgery to remove magnets that have been swallowed and become stuck together through different parts of the intestines, or the long-term physical problems and internal scarring that can be left behind," he said.

"Ultimately, the only way we can prevent future incidents is to stop these items being sold altogether."

An 11-year-old recently swallowed five beads, and it took doctors several hours of emergency surgery to save his life by removing several centimetres of his intestines. His mother warned other parents to be careful.

French investigators interrogate Carlos Ghosn in Beirut

Carlos Ghosn - Carlos Ghosn speaks during a press conference. A team of French investigative judges on Monday started questioning former Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn in Beirut over suspicions of financial misconduct, a judicial source said. - Marwan Naamani/dpa

A team of French investigative judges on Monday started questioning former Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn in Beirut over suspicions of financial misconduct, a judicial source said.

The questioning is taking place at the Lebanese Justice Palace, where most court hearings are held, and is scheduled to take five days, the source said without elaborating.

The source added that the interrogation took place in the presence of a Lebanese prosecutor and Ghosn's defence team, which includes French lawyers.

According to the source, Ghosn will be also questioned about certain lavish parties that he held at the Versailles Palace in France.

Ghosn, who holds Brazilian, Lebanese and French passports, was employed by Nissan International Holding between July 2012 and April 2018.

The former head of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Motors alliance was arrested in Tokyo in November 2018 and was charged with breach of trust and falsifying financial documents to under-report his income for years.

He was released on bail in April 2019. Ghosn, who denies the allegations, fled Japan for Lebanon at the end of 2019 under dubious circumstances. Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan.

Germany and France demand explanation after wiretapping allegations

Franco-German Council of Ministers from Berlin - German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds a press conference via video with French President Emmanuel Macron after a plenary session of the Franco-German Council of Ministers, held via video conference. - Michael Sohn/POOL AP/dpa

Berlin and Paris on Monday called for an explanation from Copenhagen after a report that Danish authorities helped the US National Security Agency (NSA) wiretap some of their senior politicians.

"I want to say that this is unacceptable between allies. That's clear," said French President Emmanuel Macron after a meeting of the Franco-German council of ministers.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had been among those wiretapped, said she could "only agree."

Macron demanded "complete transparency and resolution of the matter by our Danish and American partners."

Earlier on Monday, the Danish government distanced itself from certain spying practices, after investigative journalists reported that Denmark allegedly supported the United States' wiretapping of high-ranking European politicians about a decade ago.

"Systematic wiretapping of close allies is unacceptable," Danish Defence Minister Trine Bramsen told dpa.

Merkel said she was "relieved" that the Danish government clearly expressed its attitude towards the allegations. "In this regard I see a good basis not only for the resolution of the matter, but also to really come to trusted relations."

Investigative journalists from Danish broadcaster DR, together with German media outlets like NDR, WDR and the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, on Sunday revealed that the NSA had allegedly wiretapped leading politicians' phones with the help of software created by the Danish military intelligence service FE.

The research was based on anonymous sources and an internal analysis of the FE, from 2012 and 2014.

Aside from Merkel, other German politicians - such as President Frank-Walter Steinmeier as well as leaders in France, Sweden and Norway - were targeted.

The investigation revealed for the first time the extent of alleged military intelligence collaboration between Denmark and the US, and expanded the list of names of the politicians targeted.

Bramsen said she could not comment on speculation about possible intelligence activity. FE also did not comment on the allegations.

Wounded wilderness: The ugly remains of Trump's 'beautiful wall'

The fence in the small Texas town of Del Rio along the border with Mexico had existed long before Donald Trump had even considered becoming president. The black fence, about three-and-a-half metres high, runs for just over 3 kilometres.

But Trump wanted to make a big gesture and so ordered a wall built along long stretches of the border. In Del Rio, the new barrier was supposed to replace the previous fence. But since the end of January, and Trump's departure from office, nothing has happened at the site.

As one of his first acts, US President Joe Biden shut down his predecessor's pet project by halting funding, calling it a waste of money that draws attention away from real threats to US security.

Workers in Del Rio also left. Now, the original fence runs parallel in several places with the sections of the new border wall. Deep trenches wait in vain for more sections of the wall to be embedded.

Local Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez is particularly annoyed about two spots where gaps between the fence and wall have been temporarily joined with fine wire mesh fencing. "It's an eyesore," he complains.

Martinez says that in principle, he could do without the new fence.

"The structure we have there did its job. Were people able to climb up? Yes, but I don't think we had that many crossings because of it."

The fence, he said, ensured that criminals couldn't disappear into residential neighbourhoods at any point after crossing the river.

That, he said, has ensured safety in the city, and the crime rate has dropped. If Martinez had his way, the new fence should now either be completed - or the old fence should be put back together.

Trump had promised before his election as president in 2016 to build a "beautiful wall" along the US' roughly 3,200-kilometre southern border to keep out immigrants, drug-smugglers and other criminals.

After Congress denied him funding for the controversial project, Trump circumvented the blockade and had funds from the defense budget reallocated to the wall. Part of Trump's promise had been that Mexico would pay for the construction, but that never ended up happening.

According to official figures, just under 730 kilometres of Trump's project have been completed. For the most part, the wall replaces existing and outdated border installations - as seen in Del Rio.

Biden's decision to stop the project had won praise from environmentalists, among others. Activist Laiken Jordahl spoke of "horrible wounds" the project had caused Arizona's wilderness.

From Sheriff Leon Wilmot's point of view, however, Biden is putting national security at risk with his decision. Planned work has also ground to a halt in Wilmot's Yuma County in the western state of Arizona, but not before 185 kilometres of the wall had already been built, he says.

Wilmot's main concern is Mexican drug cartels, which he says exploit the openness of the deserts to bring narcotics into the US.

The new administration is doing the opposite of what Border Patrol experts thought was needed to secure the border, he says, adding that Biden would be ill-advised to undo everything Trump pushed through.

Biden has broken with Trump's crackdown on the southern border: Underage migrants will no longer be deported, families separated at the border will be reunited. While Biden generally adheres to an immigration freeze ordered by Trump due to the pandemic, according to media reports, exceptions are being made for the vulnerable.

The opposition Republicans say these more liberal migration policies have encouraged people to try to cross the border illegally. Would Trump's border wall have helped? It seems that it'll never be known.

Pyongyang blasts termination of US-South Korea missile guidelines

South Korean President in USA - US President Joe Biden (R) and South Korean President Moon Jae-in hold a joint press conference after their meeting at the White House. - -/YNA/dpa

North Korean state media on Monday blasted the recent termination of US guidelines limiting South Korea's missile range, accusing Washington of "hostile policy" and "shameful double-dealing."

"It is apparently deliberate and hostile act that the U.S. lifted the firing range limit, not content with the removal of the warhead weight limit through the approval of several revised 'missile guidelines'," said an article carried by state news agency KCNA and written Kim Myong Chol, which the agency describes as an international affairs critic.

"The termination step is a stark reminder of the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK and its shameful double-dealing," the article said.

Earlier this month Seoul and Washington reached an agreement giving South Korea more independence regarding the scope of its missile arsenal.

As part a deal dating back to 1979, South Korea agreed to limit the range of any of its missiles to 180 kilometres, in exchange for having access to US missiles and missile technology.

The two countries have refined the 1979 agreement multiple times in light of the nuclear threat from North Korea. Recently, South Korea had been allowed to use missiles with a range of up to 800 kilometres with warheads of up to 500 kilograms.

The two countries last year also removed restrictions keeping South Korea from using solid fuel, the use of which allows rockets to be made readier faster. The change in policy should clear the way for South Korea to launch its own espionage satellites.

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