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ISLAMABAD, August 14, 2018 (News Wires) — Pakistan has kicked off a day of celebrations marking the country's 71 years of statehood and independence.

This year, the anniversary comes amid political change with a new government taking over following the July 25 general elections. Pakistan's former cricket-star-turned-politician Imran Khan is to become the next prime minister.

President Mamnoon Hussain hoisted the national flag at a ceremony in Islamabad on Tuesday while Pakistanis across the country raised the banner at their homes and on their cars.

Fireworks erupted over the capital, Islamabad, at midnight on Monday, ushering in the festivities. During the day, gun salutes were held in Islamabad and the four provincial capitals.

Festive rallies and school functions were also taking place.

Pakistan gained independence when British left India and split the subcontinent in 1947.

NEW YORK, July 4, 2018 (News Wires) — With fireworks thundering across night skies and backyard barbecues, Americans are celebrating Independence Day by participating in time-honored traditions that express pride in their country’s 242nd birthday.

But this quintessential American holiday will also be marked with a sense of a United States divided for some — evidenced by competing televised events in the nation’s capital.

From New York to California, July Fourth festivities will be at times lively and lighthearted, with Macy’s July Fourth fireworks and Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest.

The day’s events will also be stately and traditional, with parades lining streets across the country and the world’s oldest commissioned warship firing a 21-gun salute to mark the 242 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

For some Western states, however, the holiday will be a bit more muted as high wildfire danger forces communities to cancel fireworks displays.

MADRID (Reuters) - New Catalan leader Quim Torra on Tuesday called for an end to direct rule over the Catalan regional government by Madrid at a joint news conference held in Berlin with former regional leader Carles Puigdemont.

The first aim of the newly formed Catalan government would be to seek dialogue with Madrid, said Torra, who said he had traveled to Berlin to pay homage to former leader Puigdemont whom he called Catalonia’s legitimate president.

“I’ve asked (Spanish Prime Minister) Mr. Rajoy for the date and time to start talks, without conditions,” said Torra at the news conference held in a Berlin hotel.

SYDNEY, May 3, 2018, (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron arrived on Thursday in the French territory of New Caledonia on a visit likely to boost effort by those residents hoping a referendum will result in a rejection of independence, without reigniting conflict.

The nickel-rich island, 1,200 km (750 miles) east of Australia and 20,000 km from France, erupted in fighting in the 1980s between supporters of independence and those who wanted to remain French.

Talks on the island’s future began in 1988 and a 1998 deal provided for a referendum on independence to be held by the end of 2018.

The vote is set to begin on Nov. 4 and tension has been simmering as it approaches.

“There are elements, those who favor independence, that have threatened to boycott the vote,” said Denise Fisher, a former Australian consul-general in the territory.

“The last vote that happened in 1987 in the thick of the civil war was a disaster because the Kanaks all boycotted it, it wasn’t seen a genuine referendum.”Kanaks are the indigenous inhabitants of New Caledonia.

Macron is not expected to provide any voting recommendations, though Jonathan Pryke, director of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands Program, said his arrival would provide a boost to the remain campaign.

New Caledonia, one of five island territories spanning the Indo-Pacific held by France, is the centerpiece of Macron’s plan to increase its influence in the Pacific.

Australia and New Zealand have separately warned that China is seeking to exert influence through its international aid program in the Pacific. China denies that.

While not naming China, Macron said in Australia on Wednesday France’s expansion in the Pacific was to ensure a “rules-based development”.

“It’s to preserve necessary balances in the region. And it’s important with this - precisely this new context not to have any hegemony in the region,” Macron told reporters in Sydney.

Macron is expected to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the “Ouvea cave massacre” in which 19 indigenous separatists and two French soldiers were killed.