Lyon, May 24 (AP/UNB) — An explosion Friday on a busy pedestrian street in the French city of Lyon injured seven people, local officials said.
The cause of the blast that occurred in or outside a branch of the bakery chain Brioche Doree wasn't immediately clear, according to Kamel Amerouche, the regional authority's communications chief. Authorities couldn't confirm French media reports that a small package had exploded.
The victims sustained leg injuries that weren't life-threatening, Amerouche told The Associated Press.
Live television images showed the Brioche Doree sign intact and police vans and an ambulance on the street, which had been cordoned off. The central area, the Presqu'ile, lies between the Rhone and Saone rivers that run through France's third-largest city.
Resident Jean-Pierre, who lives above the bakery and didn't give his last name, told BFMTV the noise from the explosion was "deafening" but it didn't cause the walls to shake. He said one window shattered and there was some debris on the street.
French President Emmanuel Macron called it an "attack" during a live interview about the European Parliament elections that run through Sunday, but the president of greater Lyon, David Kimelfeld, urged calm.
"We must remain prudent and wait for the analysis of the circumstances and not panic the Lyon population," Kimelfeld said on BFMTV.
Earlier, French officials said eight people were wounded, but later lowered the figure to seven.
The women's World Cup soccer tournament is scheduled to start in France on June 7. Lyon will host the semifinals, and then the final on July 7.
French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said in a tweet that he has sent instructions for Lyon authorities to strengthen "the security of public sites and sporting, cultural and religious events."
Macron sent his thoughts "to the injured and their families."
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe cancelled an appearance at a European elections-related meeting in Paris over the Lyon explosion.
London, May 24 (AP/UNB) — Theresa May became prime minister in 2016 with one overriding goal: to lead Britain out of the European Union.
Three years on, the U.K. is still in the EU, and May's time in 10 Downing St. is ending. She announced Friday that she will step down as Conservative leader on June 7, remaining as caretaker prime minister during a party leadership contest to choose her successor.
She will be remembered as the latest in a long line of Conservative leaders destroyed by the party's divisions over Europe, and as a prime minister who failed in her primary mission. But history may also see her as a leader who faced a devilishly difficult situation with stubborn determination.
The daughter of a rural Anglican vicar, May attended Oxford University and worked in financial services before being elected to Parliament in 1997.
She was quiet and diligent, but also ambitious. One university friend later recalled that May hoped to be Britain's first female prime minister, and "was quite irritated when Margaret Thatcher got there first."
She was not a natural political campaigner; her stiff public appearances as prime minister landed her the nickname "The Maybot." Her only touches of flamboyance are a fondness for bold outfits and accessories like brightly patterned kitten-heel shoes.
But she soon established a reputation for solid competence and a knack for vanquishing flashier rivals.
May served for six years in the notoriously thankless job of home secretary, responsible for borders, immigration and law and order. In 2016, she beat flashier and better-known politicians, including Brexit-backer Boris Johnson — now the favorite to succeed her — to become Britain's second female prime minister, after Margaret Thatcher.
May was the surprise winner of a Conservative leadership contest triggered when Prime Minister David Cameron stepped down after voters rejected his advice to remain in the EU, instead voting 52%-48% to leave.
In her first speech as prime minister in July 2016, May sketched out plans for an ambitious policy agenda. She spoke of giving the poor a helping hand and lifting barriers to social mobility.
But Brexit soon crowded out almost all other policies.
Like Cameron, May had campaigned to remain, but in office she became a champion of Brexit. "Brexit means Brexit" became her mantra — a meaningless one, said her detractors, as it emerged that undoing 45 years of ties with the bloc would be a fraught and complex process.
Attempting to win the support of Conservative Brexiteers suspicious of her past pro-EU leanings, May set out firm red lines in negotiations with the EU: Britain would leave the bloc's single market and customs union and end the right of EU citizens to live and work in the U.K.
For a time, May's resolve helped her unite the warring factions of her party, which for decades has been divided over policy toward Europe.
But she then gambled on a snap election in June 2017, in an attempt to bolster her slim majority in Parliament and strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations with the EU.
The move backfired. May ran a lackluster campaign on a platform that included plans to cut benefits to pensioners and change the way they pay for long-term care — quickly dubbed a "dementia tax." The Conservatives lost their majority, and May had to strike a deal with 10 lawmakers from Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party to stay in power.
The DUP's support became a complication when the border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland emerged as a major issue in Brexit negotiations. The unionist party strongly opposed special measures to ensure the border remained free of customs posts and other barriers, worrying they might weaken the bonds between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.
May pressed on and in November 2018 struck a divorce agreement with the EU, setting out the terms of Britain's departure and establishing a transition period of almost two years for the two sides to work out their future relations.
All that remained was for the British and European Parliaments to ratify it. And that is where May's best-laid plans came undone.
Her careful compromise of an agreement was rejected by both sides of the Brexit debate. Brexiteers felt it gave too much away and left Britain bound to EU rules. Pro-EU lawmakers wanted a softer Brexit that kept close economic ties to the bloc. In January, May's deal was rejected by 230 votes, the biggest government defeat in British parliamentary history.
Whatever her flaws, May was no quitter. Late last year she likened herself to Geoffrey Boycott, a cricketer who was famous for his dull but effective batting style.
"Geoffrey Boycott stuck to it and he got the runs in the end," she said.
She tried again to get her Brexit deal approved, losing by 149 votes. A third attempt narrowed the margin of defeat to 48.
She tried talks with the Labour Party about securing a compromise, but managed only to further alienate her own lawmakers with her concessions to the opposition. A promise to let Parliament vote on whether to hold a new EU membership referendum was the final straw.
By this time, a growing number of Conservatives had concluded that May was the problem and would have to leave before Brexit could be sorted out.
But she resisted the pressure, planning instead to try for a fourth time by bringing a withdrawal agreement bill to Parliament for a vote.
In the end, the pressure became irresistible.
London, May 24 (AP/UNB) — Bowing to the inevitable, Theresa May announced Friday that she will step down as U.K. Conservative Party leader in two weeks, admitting defeat in her attempt to take Britain out of the European Union and sparking a contest to replace her as prime minister.
May said she will quit as head of the governing party on June 7 but stay as caretaker prime minister until the new leader is chosen, a process the Conservatives aim to complete by late July.
The new Conservative leader will become prime minister without the need for a general election, and will take up the task of trying to secure Britain's exit from the EU.
May, who has been battling to unite her fractious party ever since she took the helm almost three years ago, said "I have done my best." But she conceded that had not been enough.
Her voice breaking, May said in a televised statement outside 10 Downing St. that she would soon be leaving a job that it has been "the honor of my life to hold."
May became prime minister the month after the U.K. voted in June 2016 to leave the European Union, and her premiership has been consumed by the attempt to deliver on that verdict.
May spent more than a year and a half negotiating an exit agreement with the EU, only to see it rejected three times by Britain's Parliament.
Many Conservative lawmakers came to see May as the main obstacle to leaving the bloc, although her replacement will face the same issue: a Parliament deeply divided over whether to exit the EU, and how close a relationship to seek with Europe after it does.
Now she has quit over her failure to take Britain out of the EU on the scheduled date of March 29. Britain is currently due to leave the EU on Oct. 31, but Parliament has yet to approve divorce terms.
"I negotiated the terms of our exit and a new relationship with our closest neighbors that protects jobs, our security and our Union," May said. "I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so."
"It is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort," she added.
Multiple contenders are already jockeying to replace her and take up the challenge of securing Britain's EU exit. The early front-runner is Boris Johnson, a former foreign secretary and strong champion of Brexit.
Pressure on May reached breaking point this week as House of Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom quit and several Cabinet colleagues expressed doubts about the bill she planned to put before Parliament in a fourth attempt to secure lawmakers' backing for her Brexit blueprint.
Leadsom, another likely contender to replace May, joined colleagues in paying tribute to the departing leader. She tweeted that May's "dignified speech" had been "an illustration of her total commitment to country and duty. She did her utmost, and I wish her all the very best."
Johnson, whose relentless criticism helped push May out of the door, tweeted: "Thank you for your stoical service to our country and the Conservative Party. It is now time to follow her urgings: to come together and deliver Brexit."
But Johnson, or any other successor, will face a tough challenge to unite a country and a Parliament still deeply divided over the country's relationship with Europe.
The next British leader is likely to be a staunch Brexiteer, who will try to renegotiate the divorce deal, and if that fails to leave the bloc without an agreement on departure terms.
Most businesses and economists think that would cause economic turmoil and plunge Britain into recession. Parliament has voted to rule out a no-deal Brexit, though it remains the legal default option.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, an opponent of Brexit, tweeted that May's exit "will not solve the Brexit mess that the Tories have created. ... The prospect of an even more hardline Brexiteer now becoming PM and threatening a no deal exit is deeply concerning."
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker praised May as "a woman of courage" for whom he has great respect.
EU spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said Juncker would "equally respect and establish working relations" with any new British leader. But the bloc insists it will not renegotiate the Brexit deal.
"We have set out our position on the withdrawal agreement and on the political declaration," Andreeva said.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte tweeted that the "agreement reached between the EU and the United Kingdom for an ordered Brexit remains on the table."
Angela Merkel's spokeswoman, Martina Fietz, said the German chancellor noted May's decision "with respect" and would continue to work closely with her successor for "an orderly exit."
In an emotional departure speech, with close aides and her husband Philip looking on, May said "I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honor of my life to hold - the second female prime minister but certainly not the last."
"I do so with no ill will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love."
London, May 24 (AP/UNB) — Increasingly isolated, Prime Minister Theresa May backed down Thursday from plans to seek Parliament's support for a Brexit bill already rejected by much of her Conservative Party, as expectations rose that she would cave in to demands that she resign and let a new leader try to complete the U.K.'s stalled withdrawal from the European Union.
Conservative lawmakers have given May until Friday to announce a departure date or face a likely leadership challenge. Several British media outlets reported that she would agree to give up the prime minister's post June 10, sparking a Conservative leadership contest.
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, treasurer of the committee that oversees Conservative leadership races, said that if May did not agree to leave, there would be "overwhelming pressure" for a no-confidence vote in her.
If May does name an exit date, she will likely remain prime minister for several more weeks while Conservative lawmakers and members vote to choose a successor.
May's spokesman, James Slack, said she would still be in office when U.S. President Donald Trump comes to Britain for a June 3-5 state visit.
"She looks forward to welcoming the president," he said.
Conservative lawmakers increasingly see May as an obstacle to Britain's EU exit, although her replacement will face the same dilemma: a Parliament deeply divided over whether to leave the EU, and how close a relationship to seek with the bloc after it does.
Few doubt this is the endgame for May's term, which has been consumed by Britain's decision to leave the EU. Senior Conservatives, including former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and several members of her Cabinet, are already jockeying for position in the coming leadership race.
With her authority draining away by the hour, May on Thursday delayed plans to publish the EU withdrawal bill — her fourth and likely final attempt to secure Parliament's backing for her Brexit blueprint.
House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom — another likely contender — helped seal May's fate when she resigned late Wednesday, saying she could not support May's withdrawal bill. The draft contains measures aimed at winning support from the opposition, including a promise to let Parliament vote on whether to hold a new EU membership referendum.
That concession, which could ultimately lead to Brexit being halted, was the final straw for many Conservative lawmakers and ministers, who also balked at May's offer of a close customs relationship with the EU, which would limit Britain's trade autonomy.
Leadsom said May's Brexit plan did not "deliver on the referendum result" that saw voters in 2016 opt to leave the EU.
"No one has wanted you to succeed more than I have, but I do now urge you to make the right decisions in the interests of the country, this government and our party," Leadsom wrote in a resignation letter to May.
May moved quickly Thursday to replace Leadsom with former Treasury minister Mel Stride.
But she also delayed the bill, which May previously said would be published Friday and put to a vote during the week of June 3.
On Thursday, the government only promised an "update" on the bill during that week.
The political turmoil weighed on the pound, which fell to $1.2601 on Thursday, its lowest point against the dollar since early January.
May met Thursday with two of her most senior ministers, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who underscored Cabinet concerns about her bill.
Slack said May was "listening to colleagues' views" and still hoped to secure backing for her Brexit deal.
But he said delivering Brexit had "proved more challenging even than she had imagined."
May became prime minister soon after the June 2016 EU membership referendum and has spent her entire tenure trying to deliver on that decision.
She seemed close to success when she struck a divorce agreement with the EU late last year. But lawmakers have rejected it three times, and Britain's long-scheduled departure date of March 29 passed with the country still in the bloc.
Many Conservatives blame May for the delay, and want her replaced with a more ardent Brexiteer such as Johnson or former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab.
May says another leader won't be able to strike a better deal with the EU, which insists it will not renegotiate Britain's departure terms.
Digital Minister Margot James stood up for May, saying the prime minister was being "hounded out of office because Parliament will not make a decision and the parties just have an inability to compromise."
If May stays on until next week, pressure is likely to increase when results come in from this week's elections for the European Parliament, with Conservatives expecting to receive a drubbing. Many British voters on both sides of the Brexit debate look set to use the election to the EU legislature to express displeasure over the political gridlock.
Opinion polls show strong support for the single-issue Brexit Party — largely from angry former Conservative voters — and for pro-EU parties including the Liberal Democrats and the Greens.
The election is being held on Thursday in Britain, but results won't be announced until all 28 EU countries have finished voting late Sunday.
British newspapers were unanimous Thursday in declaring that the end was nigh for May.
The Conservative-backing Daily Telegraph said in an editorial that "either Mrs. May must go as soon as humanly possible, or the Conservative Party must finally remove her."
The Daily Mail, which has been supportive of May, said that "despite her valiant efforts to deliver an honorable Brexit, she has finally run out of road."
London, May 23 (AP/UNB) — British Prime Minister Theresa May dug in Wednesday against a relentless push by rivals and former allies to remove her from office as her attempts to lead Britain out of the European Union appeared to be headed for a dead end.
May resisted calls to rip up her tattered Brexit blueprint and end her embattled premiership after her attempt at compromise was rejected by both her own Conservative Party and opposition lawmakers.
But it seemed only a matter of time. Amid a feverish mood as rumors and plots swirled through Parliament, Conservative lawmakers set up a showdown meeting with May for Friday, giving her less than 48 hours to announce she will go or face a renewed attempt to oust her.
And a senior Cabinet minister quit with an excoriating letter attacking May's failure to lead Britain out of the EU and hold her divided government together.
Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom alleged there had been "a complete breakdown of collective responsibility" in government, and said May's Brexit plan would not "deliver on the referendum result" that saw voters in 2016 opt to leave the EU.
Leadsom campaigned to leave the EU in the referendum and was a strong pro-Brexit voice in Cabinet.
Several other senior ministers were reportedly seeking meetings with May to express unhappiness with her Brexit plan — and possibly urge her to quit. But her spokesman, James Slack, said he was "not aware of any discussions" with Cabinet colleagues.
Lawmaker Tom Tugendhat, a leading Conservative moderate, said the only chance of delivering an orderly Brexit was for May "to go — and without delay."
"She must announce her resignation after Thursday's European elections. And the Conservative Party must fast track the leadership process to replace her," he wrote in the Financial Times.
In the House of Commons, May received a flurry of criticism and hostile questions as she implored lawmakers to support a bill implementing Britain's departure from the EU that she plans to put to a vote in Parliament in June.
Nearly three years after British voters opted to leave the EU, May said "we need to see Brexit through, to honor the result of the referendum and to deliver the change the British people so clearly demanded."
If Parliament rejected her deal, she said, "all we have before us is division and deadlock."
That could serve as a fair summary of Britain's current situation.
Lawmakers have already rejected May's divorce deal with the 27 other EU countries three times, and Britain's long-scheduled departure date of March 29 passed with the country still in the bloc.
In a last-ditch bid to secure support for her Brexit plan, May on Tuesday announced concessions including a promise to give Parliament a vote on whether to hold a new referendum on Britain's EU membership — something she has long ruled out.
"I have compromised. Now I ask you to compromise too," she said.
But there was little sign her plea was being heeded. Pro-EU and pro-Brexit lawmakers have only hardened their positions during months of political trench warfare, and they are in no mood to compromise.
Pro-Brexit Conservatives accused May of capitulating to pro-EU demands, and opposition Labour Party lawmakers dismissed her offer as too little, too late.
"The rhetoric may have changed but the deal has not," said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. "She did not seek a compromise until after she had missed her own deadline to leave, and by the time she finally did, she had lost the authority to deliver."
May's authority as Conservative leader has been shredded by her loss of the party's parliamentary majority in a 2017 election and her failure to lead Britain out of the EU as promised.
The party's powerful anti-EU wing wants to oust May and replace her with a staunch Brexit supporter such as former foreign secretary Boris Johnson.
May has said she will announce a timetable for her departure once Parliament has voted on her Brexit bill, but it looks increasingly unlikely she can hang on that long.
May survived a no-confidence vote among Conservative lawmakers in December, leaving her safe from challenge for 12 months under party rules. Some pro-Brexit lawmakers wanted the party's 1922 Committee, which oversees leadership contests, to change the rules when so that May can face a new challenge within days.
But the party committee decided instead to send its chairman Graham Brady to meet May on Friday before it decides whether to alter the rules.
If May stays on until next week, pressure is likely to increase when results come in from this week's elections for the European Parliament, with Conservatives expect to receive a drubbing. Many British voters on both sides of the Brexit debate look set to use the election to the EU legislature to express displeasure over the political gridlock. Opinion polls show strong support for the single-issue Brexit Party — largely from angry former Conservative voters — and for pro-EU parties including the Liberal Democrats and the Greens.
The election is being held Thursday in Britain, but results won't be announced until all 28 EU countries have finished voting late Sunday.
May insisted she would fight on. She said the Brexit withdrawal bill would be published Friday so that lawmakers can study it.
Despite speculation that May will scrap plans to bring it to a vote to avoid a crushing defeat, her office said a vote will be held during the week of June 3.
"In time, another prime minister will be standing at this despatch box," May told lawmakers, acknowledging that her days in the job are numbered.
But, she told Parliament, "in the end our job in this House is to take decisions, not to duck them.
"So I will put those decisions to this House. Because that is my duty and because it is the only way that we can deliver Brexit."