Explosion strikes Palestinian PM’s convoy in Gaza

JABALIYA, Gaza Strip (AP) — An explosion struck the convoy of the Palestinian prime minister on Tuesday as he was making a rare visit to Gaza, in what his Fatah party called an assassination attempt it blamed on Gaza militants.The blast further complicated what already is a troubled reconciliation process between Gaza's ruling Hamas militant group and the internationally backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. It also cast a cloud over a meeting later Tuesday at the White House, where international representatives were to discuss economic development and the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.The explosion went off shortly after the convoy entered Gaza through the Erez crossing with Israel. Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah was unharmed and went on to inaugurate a long-awaited sewage plant project in the northern part of the strip.There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Some officials in the Fatah movement quickly blamed rival Hamas for a "cowardly attack," while others said it was too early to say.Witnesses said the bomb was planted under an electric pole on Gaza's main north-south road and went off shortly after Hamdallah's 20-vehicle convoy had entered through the Israeli-controlled crossing."I could not see anything because smoke and dust filled the air. When the smoke cleared, the explosion was followed by heavy gunfire, apparently from police securing the convoy. When the dust cleared, I saw people running everywhere, and police were running around," said a witness who declined to be identified because of security concerns.Two vehicles were badly damaged and could not continue while at least four others were damaged, with windows or sunroofs blown out. One had signs of blood on the door. At least two bodyguards were lightly wounded.Hamdallah, who is based in the West Bank, arrived in Hamas-run Gaza to inaugurate the internationally funded sewage plant. He delivered a speech, and immediately left without sticking around for the Continue Reading

German museum to probe disputed provenance of Mondrian works

BERLIN (AP) — A city in western Germany said Wednesday it is opening an investigation into eight disputed works by Dutch artist Piet Mondrian that have been part of one of its museums' collections for decades.A spokesman for the city of Krefeld, Christoph Elles, said the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum strongly rejects allegations by lawyers for Mondrian's heirs that the works' presence at the museum had been deliberately concealed. He said the museum believes the artist himself donated eight works in 1929, though there is no clear proof for that.A lawyer for the heirs, Gunnar Schnabel, questioned whether the artist ever donated the works to the museum and said it illegally sold four of them."The fact that Krefeld had eight works from (Mondrian's) most important creative period ... was concealed until the summer of 2016," Schnabel wrote in a statement emailed to The Associated Press on Wednesday.The New York Times first reported about the dispute on Sunday.Mondrian, one of the most important artists of the 20th century, is famous for his abstract compositions of black lines and rectangles filled with bright colors.The museum said eight of his works surfaced there in 1950. While it is not clear how they came there, the museum said it's possible that the artist himself gave them the works in 1929, for an exhibition that never took place. Mondrian never reclaimed the works and after 1950, the museum swapped four of the artworks for works by other artists, it said. The remaining four Mondrian works are still in the Krefeld museum's possession.Schnabel, the lawyer for the Mondrian heirs, said it would have been "hopeless" for Mondrian to try to reclaim his works because they were deemed "degenerate art" after the Nazis took power in Germany in 1933. Mondrian himself left Europe for the United States and died in exile in New York in 1944.The museum said it would task an expert with shedding light on the disputed history of the eight works. Continue Reading

Tate Modern Picasso show charts one extraordinary year: 1932

LONDON (AP) — In 1932, Pablo Picasso was 50 years old and art critics were asking whether he was yesterday's man.He proved them wrong with an outpouring of creativity that is charted in the exhibition "Picasso 1932 — Love, Fame Tragedy," opening this week at London's Tate Modern gallery.More than 100 paintings, drawings and sculptures, all from 1932, show Picasso's influences, including his rivalry with Henri Matisse, his interest in psychoanalysis and his passion for younger lover Marie-Therese Walter.Walter inspired some of the Spanish artist's greatest portraits, one of which sold at Sotheby's last week for almost 50 million pounds ($70 million.)Three nudes of Walter, painted over a five-day period and not displayed together since 1932, are at the heart of a show that explores the interplay between Picasso's work and his life — especially his complicated love life.In 1932, the artist was living in Paris with his wife Olga Khokhlova and their son Paulo, while having a relationship with Walter, who was 28 years his junior.Co-curator Nancy Ireson said at a preview Tuesday that the exhibition offered "an incredible opportunity to get really close to Picasso.""We're used to seeing him as an iconic artist, but here we really get to the person and to the heart of his creativity," she said. "Without making judgment, it makes an iconic figure more relatable."Picasso's career lasted seven decades — he died at 91 in 1973 — but 1932 was one of his most fertile years. Walter, with her strong aquiline nose, inspired paintings, drawings and sculptures that absorbed and transcended styles including cubism and surrealism.In March alone he produced the three nudes — "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust," ''Nude in a Black Armchair" and "The Mirror" — as well another portrait, "Girl Before a Mirror," which is on loan from the Museum of Modern Art in New York.The show also includes "The Dream," a vividly colored portrait of Walter considered among Continue Reading

Head of Egypt media regulatory body decries TV host’s arrest

CAIRO (AP) — The head of Egypt's media regulatory agency says a pro-government talk show host arrested for insulting the police and disseminating false news should be released after he offered an apology.Makram Mohammed Ahmed's comments were published on Monday in the independent al-Shorouk newspaper, just hours after prosecutors ordered Khairi Ramadan detained for four more days pending the completion of the investigation.Ahmed said Ramadan's continuing detention hurts Egypt's image.Ramadan on his state television show last week said a police colonel's wife he interviewed off camera was considering work as a housekeeper to supplement her husband's income.The arrest is the latest in a series of measures by authorities against the media ahead of Egypt's presidential election this month that is virtually certain to be won by general-turned-president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. Continue Reading

Voting in Belgrade tests ruling populists’ grip on power

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — The Serbian capital of Belgrade held a municipal election Sunday that is being seen as a test of the ruling populists' firm grip on power in the country.The Belgrade vote was for local authorities only but it's considered important because of the city's key role in Serbia's economy and politics.President Aleksandar Vucic's governing center-right Serbian Progressive Party has led the polls ahead of the vote. But Serbia's fractured opposition parties hope to mount a challenge in the traditionally liberal capital city.They have accused Vucic's party of intimidating opposition supporters, registering phony voters and slinging mud at political rivals in media outlets that the party controls. The ruling party has rejected the accusations.Some 1.6 million voters will choose the 110-member city assembly, which appoints the mayor. Two dozen parties and groups are competing but only few are expected to pass the 5 percent threshold to enter the assembly.Apart from Vucic's Progressives and allied Socialists, main contenders include groups behind former Belgrade mayor Dragan Djilas, the center-left Democrats and several others.A former extreme nationalist, Vucic now says he wants Serbia to join the European Union following wars and crisis, while still maintaining close ties with historic ally Russia.Vucic has faced accusations of stifling democratic freedoms through pressure on opponents and independent media in Serbia, which he has denied. His party controls all positions of power in the Balkan country. Continue Reading

Serbia’s throne-less royals welcome baby boy into family

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia's throne-less royals have welcomed a new member into the Karadjordjevic family that once ruled Yugoslavia but was exiled for decades during communism.Prince Philip and Princess Danica Karadjordjevic presented their newborn son Stefan as they brought him home from a Belgrade hospital on Friday.The Serbian royals say Stefan Karadjordjevic is the first male child born in Serbia to the family in 90 years.The Karadjordjevics ruled Yugoslavia until communists took power after World War II and abolished the monarchy. Exiled during and after the war, they returned to Serbia around 2000.Philip is one of the sons of Crown Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, the heir to Serbia's now-defunct throne. He was born in Fairfax, Virginia, while his wife is the daughter of prominent Serbian painter Cile Marinkovic. Continue Reading

Greek museum strike shut sites in Athens, Crete

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Museums and archaeological sites in the wider Athens area and on the Greek island of Crete are shut for the day because of a strike by guards over a benefits dispute with the Culture Ministry.Sites affected by Friday's strike included Greece's famed Acropolis in Athens, where disappointed tourists hoping to visit the Parthenon headed instead to a nearby hill to view the monument from afar. The nearby Acropolis Museum, however, remained open.The museum guards' union described the 24-hour work stoppage as a "warning strike." Continue Reading

Dutch court approves man’s claim to Bourbon-Parma name

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A Dutch court says the son — born out of wedlock — of a member of the royal house of Bourbon-Parma can use his father's name and the title of prince. The country's highest administrative court, the Council of State, ruled Wednesday that 21-year-old Hugo Klynstra can now use the surname Bourbon-Parma. The court adds that Klynstra "may also use the title prince and the predicate 'Royal Highness.'" Klynstra is the son of Prince Carlos Bourbon-Parma, who is the eldest son Princess Irene and her ex-husband. Irene is the sister of former Dutch queen Beatrix. The court says that its decision does not automatically make Klynstra a member of the house of Bourbon-Parma, saying "that is a private decision for the house itself." Continue Reading

EU’s Juncker says Serbia must solve dispute with Kosovo

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Monday that Serbia must solve its dispute with Kosovo and implement a series of reforms before it can join the European Union. Juncker said following talks with Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic that the Balkan country is on the right path, but that the EU cannot accept any new members with unresolved territorial issues. "Serbia has already covered an impressive part of the (EU) path," Juncker said, before adding that a number of problems "still have to be solved." He singled out the need for judicial reforms and improvements in the rule of law before Serbia and others can join the EU. Juncker is visiting Serbia as part of a tour of the Western Balkans nations aspiring to join the bloc at a time Russia is looking to bolster its influence in the region, particularly in Serbia. The visit comes after the EU drafted a new expansion strategy that envisages Serbia and Montenegro could be the next to join the bloc in 2025. Vucic said he's urging compromise with predominantly-ethnic Albanian Kosovo, whose 2008 declaration of independence following a 1998-99 war Belgrade does not recognize. "We need a compromise or we will continue to live in the past," Vucic said. Juncker said the EU is seeking a "legally-binding" agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, but that the scope of the deal is up to the two nations. The EU is helping out in the talks on normalizing ties between the two. Juncker has already visited Macedonia and Albania. He will travel to Montenegro before proceeding to Kosovo and Bosnia. His trip ends with an EU summit with regional leaders in Sofia, Bulgaria, on March 1. Continue Reading

Around the world

Bolivia120-mile long flag stretched across nationLA PAZ — A narrow strip of blue has stretched for more than 120 miles across the nation of Bolivia as part of a demonstration of the country’s demand for an outlet to the sea.Bolivian officials say the Bolivian Navy ensign held by participants along a highway on Saturday is the world’s biggest — or at least longest flag. The navy ensign is mostly blue, but includes the country’s red, yellow and green flag.Thousands of people heeded President Evo Morales’ summons to take part in the demonstration.Bolivia lost its only seacoast to Chile in a war from 1879 to 1883. It has been demanding some sort of sea outlet for generations and has asked the World Court to order Chile to negotiate a settlement in good faith.Europe, JapanNo tariffs exemption so far, despite talksBRUSSELS — The European Union and Japan pressed U.S. President Trump’s trade envoy Saturday to exempt them, as longtime U.S. allies, from upcoming steel tariffs that have sparked fears of a new trade war.But they appeared to win no quick concessions.EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said after meetings in Brussels that she got “no immediate clarity on the exact U.S. procedure for exemption,” and that new talks are planned for next week.The tariffs come into force in two weeks. If the 28-nation EU cannot secure an exemption, it has threatened to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products such as peanut butter and orange juice. Japan has warned of the dangers of tit-for-tat measures.TurkeyPresident slams NATO for lack of supportISTANBUL — Turkey’s president has criticized NATO for not supporting his country’s ongoing military operation against Syrian Kurdish fighters in Syria.President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking to reporters Saturday, asked, “Hey, NATO, where are you?” and accused the military alliance of double standards. Erdogan said NATO member Turkey sent Continue Reading