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Briefly

- - Wednesday, December 8, 2010

SOUTH AFRICA

Zuma gives aid to Cuba

JOHANNESBURG | South African President Jacob Zuma announced a $30 million credit package for Cuba and forgave Cuba's debt to South Africa during a state visit to the island nation, a decision his opponents criticized Wednesday.

Mr. Zuma also said Cuba would get trading credits to import South African goods.

The aid includes seeds and fertilizer to support agriculture in the aftermath of Cuba's 2008 hurricane and a grant from the African Renaissance Fund, which promotes good governance and cooperation between South Africa and other countries.

South African government officials said they aim to boost trade and investment between the two countries, which fell to $144,000 this year from $12 million in 2008.

South Africa's main opposition group, the Democratic Alliance, said it thinks improved relations with Cuba would offer little to South Africans or to the country's economy.

MAURITANIA

Two killed in desert drug raid

NOUAKCHOTT | Mauritanian troops in the desert bordering Mali killed two men and captured seven during a raid on drug traffickers wanted for trading with al Qaeda, the army said Wednesday.

"After clashing with members of this gang, our unit killed two men and captured seven others, including one who was seriously injured," the army headquarters said in a statement about Tuesday's raid.

A highly placed military source said Tuesday that the head of the gang was a Malian wanted by police in several countries for "drug trafficking and trade with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)."

According to experts, AQIM fighters — based around the borders of Algeria, Mali and Mauritania — guarantee the passage of convoys of cocaine and heroin destined for Europe in return for profits.

TUNISIA

Tunisians jailed for links to Islamist movement

TUNIS | A Tunisian court has given jail sentences to seven men found guilty of plotting to revive a banned Islamist opposition movement, their lawyer said Wednesday.

Tunisian authorities outlawed the Ennahda, or Renaissance, movement in the early 1990s after accusing it of a violent plot to overthrow secular rule. The movement says it is nonviolent and the victim of government repression.

Two defendants, Ali Ferhat and Ali Lehrabi, received six-month jail sentences for reviving a banned organization, and two students were given two-month prison terms. Three others were convicted in absentia and given prison terms of 15 to 21 months.

EGYPT

ElBaradei warns of unrest, urges boycott

CAIRO | Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei warned Wednesday that activists could resort to violence unless political reforms are made, and he called for a boycott of next year's presidential election.

Mr. ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N. atomic watchdog, made the comments in a video posted on his profile of the social-networking website Facebook as he returned to Egypt for the first time since September.

SIERRA LEONE

U.S. Embassy: Leader shielded aide

FREETOWN | A U.S. Embassy cable released by WikiLeaks says Sierra Leone's president shielded a Cabinet minister from arrest during a drug bust two years ago.

Transportation and Aviation Minister Ibrahim Kemoh Sesay was relieved of his duties during an investigation into a plane that was abandoned with 1,540 pounds of cocaine onboard.

The cable from the U.S. Embassy in Freetown said President Ernest Bai Koroma "directly ordered [Sierra Leone police] senior officers to refrain from arresting Kemoh Sesay."

The cable also was published Monday on the website of the British newspaper the Guardian.

Mr. Koroma's director of communications said the U.S. Embassy cable is a "subjective assessment which bears no truth to the reality."

From wire dispatches and staff reports