throne after the death of 90-year-old king abdullah. the new monarch promises to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor. yemen's political turmoil deepens. the president and prime minister we sign as rebels tighten their grip on the capital. russian-backed rebels are in control of donetsk airport after the deadliest clashes in ukraine since september. those are the top stories we are following. also this hour in business --
in business, stephen carroll will have an update from. us as we wait to hear from french president francois hollande as he addresses the world economic forum. saudi arabia's king abdullah has died. the 90-year-old monarch had been admitted to hospital with pneumonia at the end of december. one of the most powerful and richest men in the world, king abdullah was considered a moderate reformer and -- in a highly conservative country. president barack obama called him a steadfast ally while the israeli president has praised his grounded, considered, and responsible leadership.
however, amnesty international says the human rights conditions under king abdullah were far from commendable. >> the saudi arabian regime seems insensitive to human rights and dignity. unfortunately, they are also protected by many western countries because they have oil and are seen as allies in the fight against terrorism. in fact, when you violate human rights at the level saudi arabia does, you are breeding terrorism. you're not fighting terrorism. >> king abdullah has been succeeded by his half-brother. the new monarch addressed his country this friday saying he will maintain the same approach as his predecessor. >> the announcement of abdalla's death made it official. after two .5 years as deputy prime minister and making state visits right here in september crown prince solman became king.
salmon is the seventh through it since the country was founded by his father in 1932. he is part of a real sub clan close to fundamentalist leaders many predict he will continue in the footsteps of his half-brother. >> i think the regional policy will not change for the foreign policy is stable. the new king will continue the policy of king abdullah. there will not be much change. we might see changes in domestic policy. but they are temporary. usually a monarchy policy has been stable for the last 40 or 50 years. >> before his brother's death, he addressed the counsel for the first time. he spoke of unprecedented challenges facing the kingdom, including conflicts in iraq and yemen as well as falling oil prices. those led to the biggest deficit
in saudi arabia's history in over 33 billion euros in 2014. one of the many tests he will be facing in the coming months. >> yemen is in a state of confusion after the president, prime minister, and his cabinet stepped down from power on thursday. resignations have thrown the country into deeper turmoil. since september, rebels have been tightening their grip on the capital while four provinces in the south have declared themselves independent. >> chaos and destruction. yemen thrown into turmoil following the resignation of its president. days after the militia took control of the capital retaliation against the group appears to be brewing. two blasts targeting the rebel leaders hit capital on friday morning. in his letter of resignation the president said he could no longer stay in office as the country was in total deadlock. >> we found we are unable to
achieve the goal for which we bear a lot of pain and disappointment. >> in the southern city, hundreds hit the streets to support him. >> we say to the president he must not run away from taking responsibility and must complete a peaceful transition of power. we, the people, will stand with him and help them. >> yemen's future has been brought into question with uncertainty remaining over who is running the country. meanwhile, parliament has announced it will hold crisis talks on sunday. >> japan says it has heard nothing from islamic state militants that might be holding two of its nationals hostage. the video gave a 72-hour deadline to pay a $200 million ransom. that deadline is believed to have expired this friday. the japanese prime minister has
been criticized of his handling of the situation. justin mccurry is in tokyo. he tells us why. >> there has been some chris is an of the prime minister's handling of this crisis. we know you was abducted, captured by isis last august because they released a video showing him shortly after he had been captured. we know from his family, he had been in touch with them at -- they had been in touch with them at the end of last year demanding a ransom. he was aware two japanese citizens were in isis hands. yet he still made a great play last week's speech in cairo of announcing this $201, exactly the same figure as the ransom demanded by isis, which he said will serve as nonmilitary assistance to countries waging war against isis. in the eyes of the islamic state, this allies them with
others in the war against isis. it seems that accusation is what has led to the ransom demands and the threat to do ahead -- behead the hostages perhaps sometimes today. >> democracy has died in thailand according to the former prime minister. the ousted leader was reacting to a ruling from authorities that banned her from politics for five years. embattled politician will also face criminal charges for negligence that could put her in jail. the move could stoke tensions in the politically divided country. thailand is still living under martial law after the military seized power in may. to ukraine separatists have gained the upper hand in the battle for control of donetsk's airport. the russian-backed rebels advanced during a recent surge in violence which has claimed the lives of nearly 50 people.
another site ukrainian forces are struggling to defend is the town an important rail and road junction from 70 kilometers northeast of donetsk. we have this report from the eastern town. >> this is the only road into the town from ukrainian-held territory. the town is surrounded on three sides by pro-russian rebels and by their artillery -- pummeled by their artillery. even the police station is vulnerable. >> better to wait. the shooting abates and we go to meet the police chief. >> them apartment is ongoing, as you -- the bombardment is ongoing, as you have heard. we have had two people wounded this morning. the police station remains open. people are waiting for passage into the bubble-held zone. ukraine says controlling movement is necessary for security, but it is not a
popular position. >> i have been waiting for three days. today they started bombing at 5:00. >> as we leave, the shooting starts again. we offer this woman a ride. >> i live in a five-story building. the fifth story got hit and collapsed. i had to take shelter in someone else's home. >> who do you blame? >> i blame both sides. >> a lot of people thought the hearts ukrainian winter would mean. fighting would not resume until springtime, if at all. it looks as if that was overly optimistic. >> this sunday, greeks will vote in a crucial parliamentary election. paul could determine the future in the eurozone -- the poll could determine the country's future in the eurozone.
it has vowed to renegotiate terms of the international bailout. as the election approaches, the party seems to be losing its edge. >> a final rally ahead of sunday's vote. confidence soars as the candidate takes the stage. riding high in the polls, he vows to end the country's humiliation. unemployment levels above 25,000 -- 25% have many unable to pay their bills. they gained popularity right going to break with current policies. they say that they have now dial down the far left rhetoric. >> between the elections of 2012, they are against austerity. put up the same time, they try to say they will follow the greek obligations.
>> they want to renegotiate the terms of the bailey -- bailout. the government has had to cut spending and enact painful reforms to keep the country afloat. while he insists it will put an end to the austerity measures, it does not want to leave the eurozone. >> everyone understands we do not want to go on a collision course with europe. we are also not prepared to leave our people to self-destruct. we believe we will find common ground. >> conservative prime minister has portrayed it as a party of dangerous risktakers who have put the future in the eurozone in danger. that is something they are trying to dispel as election day draws near. >> now to the thaw in relations between the united states and cuba. washington says it pressed havana to improve human rights
during high-level talks. the countries are trying to eliminate obstacles to normalize ties. >> the united states and cuba closed two days of historic talks in havana on thursday. the most senior u.s. official to set foot on cuban soil in 35 years, roberta jacobson, expressed concerns over human rights abuses in cuba. >> we are entering we raise those issues directly with the cuban government -- we are entering we raise those issues different -- directly with the human government. we have profound differences on that subject with the cuban government, and it was part of the conversation today. >> the u.s. wants restrictions on diplomats to be lifted and what's cubans to have access to the american embassy in havana. cuba wants to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism which washington has said it will consider. cuba admitted the two side stood not see eye to eye on all issues
but remained optimistic about the future of u.s.-cuba relations. >> we have deep-seated divisions. the we have seen how countries in the world with such differences can coexist peacefully in a civilized way. finding solutions to common problems. >> diplomatic ties between the nations had been frozen since 1961
until a surprise announcement last night made by raul castro and barack obama. >> we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date. >> both sides of knowledge it will take time to thaw negotiations, -- relations, but for the negotiations are already in the pipeline. >> saudi arabia has a new king. crown prince salmon takes to the throne after the death of 90-year-old king of della. the new monarch promises to follow in the footsteps of his
predecessor. turmoil deepens as the president and prime ministers resign as shiite rebels tighten their grip on the capital. russian-backed rebels are in control of donetsk airport after the deadliest clashes in ukraine since september. it is time for our business update. for that, we had to the world economic forum in doubles -- davos. steven terrell is on hand for the gathering. it brings together political and business leaders from around the world. we expect the french president to speak. he has arrived in doubles -- davos. what are we expecting to hear? >> he is scheduled to speak this morning. we are having a wintry day in davos. the snow has delayed his arrival at the world economic forum. he will take the stage in about an hour. there are a couple of things we know he will talk about. he will discuss climate change
ahead of the conference later this year. he will be discussing global governments, in particular coordination in the fight against terrorism in the wake of the paris attacks in recent weeks. is also going to be speaking about the french economy and reforms of his government that he is putting in place to boost france's competitiveness. he will be trying to impress business leaders and encourage them to come to set up in france pretty he is meeting with 20 major companies after his speech. they will include the chief executive of alibaba among many other companies. the davos gathering does deal with a range of issues, but it is primarily about business. we will talk with the managing director and senior partner of the boston consulting group based in tokyo. thank you for joining us on "france 24." you are based in japan.
talk to us about the business environment in japan. >> i think economics has change what we are trying to do. it has been well covered in the press. i won't repeat what you may have already read. but i do think there is a's sense of cautious but realistic optimism about the environment. we've seen the news about the monetary easing. the third a has affected us the mostrrowt. i think there is debate as to whether it is enough and going fast enough and all of that. i think we have to look at the data to see what we have achieved. >> there have been mixed assessments of how these policies by the prime minister have been effective. we have seen the stock market soaring. we had to pen falling back into recession after the sales tax increase -- japan falling back
into recession after the sales tax increase earlier in the year. >> the consumption tax has to be raised and will be. not right away, but as stated. part of what is going on in terms of structural and demographic changes are the increase of the participation of women in the labor force. we are 125 million people. the population is shrinking. half of the population is not being tapped. since he took over, about 750,000 women are now in the workforce. our labor participation rate is at parity to western compatriots. that is a lot of women back at work. i think it is a good start. >> this leadership is trickling down into the higher ends of company to more senior positions? >> he has stated a bold goal of 20-20-30. 20% managerial positions by women. it looks tough to achieve. but at least the number is out there. i think corporate and the public
sector are working together to see what is realistic and what they can achieve. i think the best and brightest of the leaders are committed to that cause. i look forward to continuing to support that cause. >> you have been involved in putting together a group of senior women in japan for a gathering earlier this year. tell us how that was received and how that may have had an effect. >> the world assembly for women was the first ever gathering of women. we are trying to do that he year from now. it is one conference, two days. it is not going to change the world. but to think about the leaders present from the public and private sector, including the minister of the government, i think it was a terrific gathering. it is just one meeting. but we need reforms to come together including additional tax incentives for women to go back to work. we need 400,000 spots of day care centers to be killed and
created some women can go back -- to be filled and created some women can go back to work. >> at the been able to raise any issues here -- have you been able to raise any of those issues here? >> of the 2500, only 91 of us are from japan. 10 are women. we are hovering around the 11% mark. there have been a lot of discussions around gender parity . the report that put us at 105 out of 106 was a shock and after the conversation. we will continue to talk. there have been substantive conversations i have been pleased to be part of. >> a different delegation this year. is there since that matters he gave last year are being carried on? >> there is a lot happening in our country as well. the delegates here are very committed.
as i said at the beginning i think there is a sense of cautious optimism. i think you have to believe that to be in the private sector. we will see what we can do to create change and growth. >> thank you from the boston consulting group based in tokyo. a quick look at the markets. european markets trading up again after the announcement by the european central bank they would begin quantitative easing to the tune of 60 billion euros a month. that is having a positive effect on european markets this afternoon. back to you. >> plenty more from one we can see is a very smelly swiss alps behind you -- very snowy swiss alps behind you. >> it is time for the press review. now for a look at what is
grabbing headlines around the world. >> will start with the passing of saudi arabia's king abdullah. >> at the age of 90, it is getting a lot of attention in the u.s. saudi arabia is a major u.s. are light the region. there was an interesting obituary which described him as a shrewd force who reshaped saudi arabia. he pointed out the king earned a reputation of being a cautious reformer, a force of moderation. his rein was a constant balance of traditions with the modern world. this could lead to contradictions. in terms of religion, he made little changes to the kingdom's conservative clerical establishment. but he did speak out against extremism and terrorism. there's the thorny issue of women's rights. the article points out he did make changes seen as important in the saudi context allowing
women to work and study alongside men, but he never allowed them to drive. >>'s death comes at a time of growing uncertainty in the region being faced by a number of crises. >> they say the saudi king dies and the world shudders. king abdullah's death comes at a critical moment when the kingdom is struggling with falling oil prices and rising islamist violence. but on top of that, for years saudi arabia has been a struggle with iran for regional dominance. his successor does have his work cut out for him and big shoes to fill. what is interesting is to see how the saudi press is reacting. many saudi papers are mourning the passing of their king. this paper applies the royal family for assuring a smooth transition to power. the monarch was succeeded by his brother, salmon, he is also
getting a lot of attention. the washington post had an interesting portrait. a lot of papers are calling him the mediator of the vast family. this article reports the 79-year-old is in poor health and suffers from dementia. this means his rule could be relatively short and this could lead to a complex succession process. >> puts turn attentions to france where the government has announced the education minister has announced a measure to train students in republican values. >> that is right. she put together this program in response to a series of disturbing incidents in the wake of the recent terror attacks in paris. you can see it is focusing on one part of the program which is to restore authority in schools. in the wake of the attacks there were some incidents where students did not want to take part in the minute of silence or
wanting to fight with other students over the attacks. this article points out people's will be given new courses in the importance of democratic institutions and symbols. one very important thing republican value a lot of tables -- papers are focusing on is secularism, one of the sacred values in france. the new program being put in place by the education minister is going to include new civic lessons to explain to people's -- pupils this principle of secularism. it is going to try to explain that it should not be seen as an attack on religion but rather a guarantee of equal rights for all religions. it is a sacred part of the french constitution. it has been enshrined in french laws since 1905. a lot of people think it is being threatened now. >> some are questioning whether it should be modified. >> absolutely.
an interesting piece wonders if the national five law should be modified because ever since the attacks in paris, they have been talking about secularism while avoiding the place of islam in france. this calls on the title to be broken. in 1905 when the law was placed, islam was hardly on the map in france. today, it is the second religion in france. this paper is very critical of the socialist party. it says it is closing its eyes on a very important issue. " other responsible --" other responsible politicians from the right wing that have been calling for the law to be modified. he says the government could help finance the training of imams. it is a very tricky debate. the paper says just because it is tricky does not mean it should be ignored. early this week, we were reporting the british tabloid