- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2008

ISRAEL

Court questions settlement status

JERUSALEM | Israel’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the government to explain why it won’t evacuate one of the largest unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank - a decision hailed by watchdog groups as a step toward the court-ordered removal of the outposts.

Settlers have established dozens of squatter camps since the 1990s as part of a West Bank land grab and Israel has failed to keep a promise under the U.S.-backed “road map” peace plan to dismantle all outposts built since 2001.

At issue in Wednesday’s landmark case is the Migron outpost, established without government permission in 2001 on what the state acknowledges is private Palestinian land. The Palestinian landowners demand the immediate dismantling of Migron, where 45 families live in mobile homes and two permanent houses.

On Wednesday, more than two years after the case began, the government told the court it wants to leave Migron in place until alternate housing is built for its residents. The new homes would be built east of the nearby government-sanctioned settlement of Adam, according to an agreement between the Defense Ministry and the Yesha Council, a settlers’ umbrella group.

GEORGIA

U.S. messages helped trigger war

TBILISI | Georgian authorities mistook messages from the U.S. administration as encouragement to use force against Georgia’s breakaway provinces - an action that triggered war with Russia, a former Georgian diplomat said Wednesday.

Erosi Kitsmarishvili, who was ambassador to Moscow in the months before the August war, said the Georgian government’s actions had launched the conflict.

The allegations stirred debate over what or who started the five-day war - a debate Georgia said should be resolved by an international investigation.

The war strained U.S.-Russia relations, and U.S. officials have denied Russian claims that Washington encouraged Georgia to send forces into South Ossetia province.

On Wednesday, the Georgian government said Mr. Kitsmarishvili’s comments were false.

Georgian leaders have said Russia started the war.

RUSSIA

Mayor assassinated in Caucasus region

VLADIKAVKAZ | A suspected sniper killed a city mayor in Russia’s North Caucasus on Wednesday, the most high-profile murder of an official in years in a region rocked by a violent insurgency.

Vitaly Karayev, mayor of Vladikavkaz, was shot as he left his home and got into his silver-colored Mercedes car. A single bullet hole could be seen in the vehicle’s rear passenger window, Reuters reporters said at the scene.

Vladikavkaz is capital of the North Ossetia region, which along with the nearby regions of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan is the scene of frequent bombings and ambushes by rebel gunmen, some of them linked to militant Islam.

President Dmitry Medvedev, who is on a tour of Latin America, asked law enforcement agencies to take all possible measures to investigate the attack, a Kremlin statement said.

No one has taken responsibility for the shooting.

CHINA

Dalai Lama flap nixes Europe summit

PARIS | China has indefinitely postponed a summit scheduled for next week with the European Union because of European leaders’ plans to meet with the exiled leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, EU president France announced Wednesday.

The Chinese decision was a dramatic example of the lengths to which Beijing is prepared to go to try to internationally isolate the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who wants greater autonomy for his Himalayan homeland, which China insists is part of its territory.

Among those who plan to meet with the Dalai Lama next week is President Nicolas Sarkozy of France. Because his country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, Mr. Sarkozy was also to host the EU-China summit in Lyon, southern France, on Monday that the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, was to have attended.

That meeting is now postponed, at China’s request, the French Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday. It said no date for a future summit has been set and that the EU regrets the Chinese decision.

China is fiercely opposed to foreign governments hosting the Dalai Lama and bristles at foreign criticism of its rule over Tibet.

LONDON

Obama invited to April crisis summit

LONDON | British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Wednesday that London will host an April meeting of the Group of 20 industrialized and emerging economies on the financial crisis.

Mr. Brown told lawmakers that U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has said he expects to attend the talks - which could be the incoming U.S. leader’s first visit to Europe.

The meeting on April 2 will likely bring together the 21 nations and four international organizations which met for emergency talks in Washington on Nov. 14-15.

Leaders have said they need a summit early next year to check progress on promises to cooperate more closely, toughen supervision of banks and give bigger roles to fast-rising nations.

The London talks will come ahead of NATO’s 60th anniversary summit on April 3-4, being held jointly by the neighboring cities of Strasbourg in France, and Kehl, Germany.

DENMARK

Greenland votes for more autonomy

COPENHAGEN | Greenland voters overwhelmingly approved a plan to seek more autonomy from Denmark and take advantage of oil reserves that may lie off the glacial island, official results showed Wednesday.

The Arctic island’s election commission said 76 percent of voters supported the referendum, which sets new rules on splitting future oil revenue with Denmark. The vote was seen as a key step toward independence for the semiautonomous territory, which relies on Danish subsidies.

The referendum supported by Denmark calls for the small, mostly Inuit population to take control over the local police force, courts and coast guard and to make Greenlandic, an Inuit tongue, the official language.

Voters turned up at voting stations in 18 municipalities across the island, from the capital, Nuuk, just below the Arctic Circle to the remote northern outpost of Siorapaluk, where 24-hour darkness prevails during wintertime. About 72 percent of Greenland’s nearly 40,000 voters turned out despite subfreezing temperatures in many places.

The plan is now expected to be approved by the Danish and Greenlandic parliaments and go into effect on June 21, the giant island’s national day.

NETHERLANDS

Europe to fund 30 space missions

THE HAGUE | In spite of the global economic crisis, European ministers pledged $12.8 billion to an ambitious list of 30 space missions, including one to put a robotic rover on Mars.

European Space Agency director general Jean-Jacques Dordain said the agency’s 18 member states agreed to underwrite projects that include creating a network of satellite “sentinels” to monitor climate change, updating the successful Ariane 5 rocket that blasts satellites into space, and conducting a raft of experiments on the International Space Station.

The Enhanced ExoMars mission now due to blast off in 2016 - three years behind schedule - will cost the agency just under $1.28 billion.

Scientists say the Mars shot could be crucial to discovering life on the red planet because it will be equipped with a drill capable of boring 6 feet under the inhospitable surface.

SOMALIA

Gunmen kidnap Western journalists

BOSASSO | Somali gunmen Wednesday kidnapped two Western journalists in the northern province of Puntland, police said, in the latest attack on foreigners working in the lawless Horn of Africa nation.

Somalia has been immersed in civil conflict for 17 years. The government is fighting a 2-year-old Islamist insurgency, while the chaos has fueled piracy in Somalia’s waters, bringing foreign warships rushing to the area.

“I think both the journalists are British, but we shall investigate. … We are sending police to free them,” Puntland’s police spokesman Abshir Said Jama told Reuters news service.

Two freelancers, an Australian and a Canadian, are still being held after being seized in the capital, Mogadishu, in August. Foreign aid workers have also been increasingly targeted this year, with a string of assassinations and kidnappings.

CONGO

Indian peacekeepers told to stay away

KINSHASA | Congo refuses to accept Indian troops in the reinforcements planned for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country, government spokesman Lambert Mende said Wednesday.

Mr. Mende confirmed the government had written to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last weekend rejecting any Indians in the 3,000 extra troops planned for the mission known as MONUC.

He refused to give a reason, saying that Congo had every right to reject the deployment on its territory of forces from a particular country “for reasons of sovereignty.”

India has the largest contingent in MONUC with some 4,400 men and has said it is willing to provide 1,500 more.

Indian peacekeepers have been accused of sexual abuse, and MONUC admitted in August that some Indian troops could have been involved.

ZIMBABWE

Neighbors threaten to close borders

JOHANNESBURG | Zimbabwe’s neighbors should close their borders in an attempt to bring down President Robert Mugabe, Botswana’s foreign minister said Wednesday in the strongest call yet for action from Africa.

Foreign Minister Phandu Skelemani told British Broadcasting Corp. World News television that southern nations have failed to move Mr. Mugabe with mediation and they should now impose sanctions.

The leaders should “tell Mugabe to his face, ‘Look, now you are on your own, we are switching off, we are closing your borders,’ and I don’t think he would last. If no [gasoline] went in for a week, he can’t last,” Mr. Skelemani said.

Botswana and Zambia have been the lone African voices against Mr. Mugabe as Zimbabwe has undergone an economic and political crisis.

Mozambique and South Africa also border Zimbabwe.

NIGERIA

Drugmaker tied to children’s deaths

LAGOS | Regulators shut down a pharmaceutical company and ordered its teething formula pulled from shelves after 25 children who took it died, officials said Wednesday.

Nigeria’s food and drug administration said that 11 other children were being treated after being given “My Pikin Baby Teething Mixture,” which listed paracetemol, or acetaminophen, and an antihistamine agent as ingredients. The agency said it was investigating what caused the deaths.

The afflicted children were stricken with fever, convulsions, diarrhea and vomiting and were unable to urinate, the agency said. The first case was reported Nov. 19.

The agency said that the manufacturer, Lagos-based Barewa Pharmaceuticals Ltd., has been closed and the formula ordered removed from shelves across the nation of 140 million people.

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