- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 20, 2006

SOMALIA

Factions to resume talks amid clashes

MOGADISHU — Somalia’s interim government and Islamists agreed to resume peace talks yesterday after their forces battled each other with rockets and heavy weapons at two frontline areas fueling fears of war.

After meeting both sides in a day of shuttle diplomacy, European Union aid chief Louis Michel said the government and Islamists were committed to a political solution to the crisis that threatens to suck in other regional players.

“They have both decided to resume the Khartoum dialogue process unconditionally,” Mr. Michel told reporters in Nairobi, Kenya, giving no time frame for the Arab League-mediated talks.

The announcement was in stark contrast to two days of clashes that have heightened fears of a Horn of Africa conflict a day after the expiration of an Islamist deadline for government-allied Ethiopian troops to leave.

NIGERIA

Vice president eyes opposition candidacy

LAGOS — Dogged by corruption charges and an increasingly fractious relationship with the country’s leader, Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar was tapped yesterday by the opposition Action Congress party to run in next year’s presidential election.

President Olesegun Obasanjo’s deputy since 1999, Mr. Abubakar’s chances of competing under the banner of the ruling People’s Democratic Party were dashed with his suspension from the party in September, after being indicted for corruption by the country’s anti-graft body.

On Sunday, the ruling party picked as its candidate Umaru Yar’Adua, a previously little-known governor of a northern Muslim state.

Gen. Obasanjo must step down after elections in April, which should mark the first transfer of power from one elected president to another since independence from Britain in 1960.

CONGO

U.N. agency airlifts Angolan refugees

KINSHASA — The U.N. refugee agency this week began to fly home 1,800 Angolan refugees who have lived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for many years.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said 50 refugees left Monday afternoon on the first flight from Kinshasa, Congo, to Mbanza Kongo, in the north of Angola. Until Dec. 30, there will be three daily flights carrying Angolans who have volunteered for repatriation, the agency said.

Angolan refugees moved into Congo during the course of a civil war that ravaged their southwest African country from independence in 1975 until 2002. The Angolan government paid for Monday’s first airlift.

LIBERIA

Diamond-sale ban to be extended

NEW YORK — Liberia still cannot adequately track diamond mining on its territory, U.N. specialists reported this week, recommending the Security Council leave in place its ban on Liberian diamond exports.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has pushed hard for an end to the five-year-old diamond embargo, saying the money from gem sales was badly needed to finance reconstruction in her war-ravaged West African country.

But the panel of outside specialists told the Security Council that Liberia had not yet met the requirements of the Kimberley Process, a program intended to prevent so-called “blood diamonds” from entering the mainstream diamond market.

The embargo was imposed in 2001, two years before the end of Liberia’s 14-year diamond-fueled civil war.

ZIMBABWE

Mugabe warns against ‘anarchy’

HARARE — President Robert Mugabe warned his critics yesterday not to stir up “anarchy” after the main opposition leader vowed to lead resistance to a planned two-year extension to the veteran Zimbabwean strongman’s rule.

In an address to Parliament days after the ruling party gave him the green light to prolong his presidency, the 82-year-old Mr. Mugabe insisted calm would prevail and Zimbabwe’s troubled economy was on the road to recovery.

The speech was delivered hours after his archrival Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main Movement for Democratic Change, told reporters the country could not tolerate Mr. Mugabe in power until 2010.

Over the weekend, the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party voted to delay the 2008 presidential elections by two years in order to coincide with legislative elections in 2010.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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