- - Friday, May 20, 2011

ZIMBABWE

Mugabe denies reports of illness, frailty

HARARE — Zimbabwe’s 87-year-old president scoffed at speculation over his health as “misplaced” and said Thursday that he and his wife are fitness enthusiasts.

Robert Mugabe also dismissed reports that his wife, Grace, his former secretary who is half his age, was also ill. He told state media that they were both in “sound health.”

In excerpts of an interview published Thursday by the state Herald newspaper, he said he exercises regularly and had only an eye cataract operation recently in Singapore. His wife was undergoing physiotherapy in China for a dislocated hip that may have been made worse by exercise, he said.

South Africa’s ruling party reported Tuesday that health problems facing Mr. Mugabe could jeopardize efforts to resolve the political crisis in Zimbabwe.

LIBYA

FIGHTING, NATO STRIKES GO ON; WITHDRAWAL OFFER REPORTED

BENGHAZI — Moammar Gadhafi’s forces hit rebel fighters with rockets Thursday in the formidable strongholds and training camps they have built up in the strategic mountain heights southwest of the Libyan capital, rebels said.

The two sides appeared to be fighting for control of the two highways to the north and south of Nafusa Mountain Range, which slices across the desert south of Tripoli to the western border of Tunisia.

NATO airstrikes resumed overnight, with an alliance official in Brussels saying early Friday that eight Libyan warships were sunk in coordinated attacks on the ports of Tripoli, Al Khums and Sirte.

Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told reporters at a late-night news conference that an envoy had given Russian leaders a “new offer” to “go as far as withdrawing our army from all Libyan cities and population centers” if the rebels do the same. There was no immediate comment by rebel leaders based in Benghazi.

Mr. Ibrahim also denied reports that Col. Moammar Kadhafi’s wife and daughter had fled to Tunisia and that oil minister Shukri Ghanem had defected.

EGYPT

MILITARY SETS ELECTIONS FOR PARLIAMENT BEFORE PRESIDENT

CAIRO — Egypt’s military rulers said Thursday that the country will hold its first parliamentary election since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak as scheduled in September and then prepare a constitution before a presidential vote.

Gen. Mahmduh Shahin, a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, said the parliamentary election will be held “no later than Sept. 30,” the official MENA news agency reported.

Gen. Shahin was speaking at the announcement of an amended law on political participation that will put judges in charge of monitoring elections.

ARGENTINA

22 dead in plane crash in Argentine Patagonia

BUENOS AIRES — A turboprop plane carrying 22 people crashed and exploded Wednesday in Argentina’s southern Patagonia region, killing all on board.

Sol Lineas Aereas said its Flight 5248 carrying three crew members and 19 passengers, including a baby, communicated an emergency while flying from Neuquen near the Andes to Comodoro Rivadavia along the coast of Patagonia.

The company confirmed that the wreckage was found about 15 miles southwest of the town of Los Menucos, and that local firefighters and police found no one alive.

Sol spokesman Horacio Darre said the twin-engine Saab 340 had taken off normally.

SWEDEN

Cold War terrorist calls bin Laden a martyr

STOCKHOLM — The notorious Cold War terrorist Carlos the Jackal says in an interview that aired Thursday that Osama bin Laden is a martyr who earned himself a place in history through terrorism.

In the interview with Swedish national television, the Venezuelan terrorist said the former al Qaeda leader will still be remembered in 100 years because “of what he has done, the example he gave.”

Carlos, or Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, is serving a life sentence in France for killing two French secret agents and a suspected informer in 1975.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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