International Briefs

Cheers, protests as German court lets cities ban diesel cars

BERLIN (AP) — Handing environmentalists a landmark victory, a German court ruled Tuesday that cities can ban diesel cars and trucks to combat air pollution, a decision with far-reaching and costly implications in the country where the diesel engine was invented in the 1890s.

The ruling by the Federal Administrative Court stirred fears from motorists, auto dealers and other businesses worried about the financial impact. And Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government scrambled to reassure drivers it would seek to prevent such drastic measures by pushing other ways to reduce urban pollution.

Diesel automobiles are a popular alternative to gasoline-powered ones in Germany, with about 9 million diesel cars and several million trucks, buses and other vehicles affected by the ruling.

Overall, 1 in 3 passenger cars in Germany, home to such automakers as Daimler, Volkswagen and BMW, are diesel-powered, though the cleanest, most modern models would probably still be allowed even if cities decided on a ban.

“It’s a great day for clean air in Germany,” said Juergen Resch, head of the group Environmental Action Germany, which had sued dozens of German cities for failing to meet legally binding emissions limits.

While diesel cars produce less carbon dioxide and tend to get better mileage than gas-powered vehicles, they emit higher levels of nitrogen oxides, or NOx, contributing to respiratory illnesses and 6,000 deaths annually, according to government figures.

Two German states had appealed lower court decisions that suggested bans on particularly dirty diesel cars would be effective. Germany’s highest administrative court rejected that appeal Tuesday, effectively instructing two cities at the center of the case — Stuttgart and Duesseldorf — to consider bans as part of their clean air plans.

What comes next is an open question.

It’s not clear whether cities will actually move to ban diesels. And if they do so, it remains to be seen whether automakers will be forced to upgrade exhaust and software systems or buy back vehicles; if the government will offer consumers incentives; or if owners will be left on their own, forced to bear the costs.

Saudi military leaders replaced amid stalemated war in Yemen

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia replaced its military chief of staff and other defense officials early on Tuesday morning in a shake-up apparently aimed at overhauling its Defense Ministry during the stalemated and ruinous war in Yemen.

The kingdom also announced a new female deputy minister of labor and social development as it tries to broaden the role of women in the workplace.

Saudi Arabia made the announcement in a flurry of royal decrees carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency. As with many announcements in the ultraconservative Sunni kingdom, it was short on details.

King Salman “approved the document on developing the Ministry of Defense, including the vision and strategy of the ministry’s developing program, the operational pattern targeting its development, the organizational structure, governance and human resources requirements,” one statement said.

That restructuring was part of a “multi-year effort,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan, a senior adviser at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, wrote on Twitter.

Prominent among the personnel changes was the firing of military chief of staff Gen. Abdulrahman bin Saleh al-Bunyan. Another announcement said the general would become a consultant to the royal court.

Al-Bunyan was replaced by Gen. Fayyadh bin Hamid al-Rwaili, who once had been the commander of the Royal Saudi Air Force, among the nation’s premier military forces.

Also appointed as an assistant defense minister was Khaled bin Hussain al-Biyari, the CEO of the publicly traded mobile phone and internet service provider Saudi Telecom Co.

COMMENTS