- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 11, 2009

SOUTH AFRICA

Vote slated for April 22

CAPE TOWN | South Africans will vote in a general election on April 22 in what is expected to be the most closely contested vote since apartheid ended in 1994.

South Africa’s ruling ANC, in power since then, is widely seen winning the election, but faces an unprecedented challenge from the new Congress of the People (COPE) party.

COPE, formed by ANC dissidents in December, may gain enough votes to deny the ANC a two-thirds parliamentary majority, which enables the ruling party to easily push through changes to the constitution.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe said the formal proclamation of the election day would take place later.

CHINA

State broadcaster apologizes for fire

BEIJING | The pyrotechnics that set fire to a new luxury hotel, gutting the structure and killing a firefighter, were so powerful that a special permit was needed - but it was never obtained, China’s state broadcaster said Tuesday.

China Central Television, which organized the Lunar New Year fireworks at its striking new complex, apologized for a celebration that went horribly wrong.

The unfinished, 520-foot Mandarin Oriental hotel, its charred metal skin now twisted and peeled, stands in a complex housing the network’s Z-shaped headquarters - a project that helped transform the capital’s skyline for the Olympics.

The complex, designed by Dutch architects Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren, had been due to open in May and cost 5 billion yuan ($731 million). There was no immediate word on damage to the CCTV tower.

RUSSIA

Details needed for Afghan supply

MOSCOW | U.S. diplomats tried to work out details in talks with Russian officials Tuesday on plans to ship Western supplies bound for Afghanistan across Russia, the U.S. Embassy said.

The delegation’s visit to Moscow comes a week after Kyrgyzstan’s president said his Central Asian country would evict U.S. forces from an air base crucial to American operations in nearby Afghanistan.

U.S. officials suspect that Moscow is behind the decision to close the Manas base, which could be confirmed by Kyrgyzstan’s parliament this week.

Russia, which has denied involvement in the Kyrgyz decision, has agreed to let U.S. and NATO supplies cross its territory on their way to Afghanistan.

BRITAIN

Terrorist leader cheats death

LONDON - A top al Qaeda leader originally thought to have died last year has released a video warning India of future terror attacks similar to those in Mumbai in November, the BBC reported Tuesday.

Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, an Egyptian al Qaeda leader based in Afghanistan, also called on the people of Pakistan to overthrow their president and government, the British broadcaster said.

Ties have been strained between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India since the Mumbai attacks.

Al-Yazid was thought to have died in the Bajaur tribal region of Afghanistan in August when Pakistani helicopter gunships carried out an offensive in the area, a haven for al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony said the country’s million-strong military was ready to counter external threats.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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