Briefly: U.N. chief calls for sanctions against Islamists

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MALI

UNITED NATIONS — U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday called on the Security Council to impose sanctions against Mali extremist groups accused of terrorism and desecrating Muslim religious shrines.

He made the call at a Security Council meeting at which a West African envoy said militant groups that control the north of Mali want to set up a haven for “continental terrorist networks.”

Mr. Ban said the 15-nation council should “give serious consideration to the imposition of targeted travel and financial sanctions against individuals or groups in Mali engaged in terrorist, religious extremist or criminal activities.”

He called the destruction of nine of the 16 shrines in Timbuktu a “callous” act by the Islamist Ansar Dine group, which controls northern Mali with al Qaeda-linked fighters.

A March 22 military coup in the West African country set off a chain of chaotic events that led to Tuareg rebels and Ansar Dine taking over the north of Mali.

The Economic Community of West African States has proposed sending an intervention force to Mali to help the transitional government. It has asked for U.N. backing.

EQUATORIAL GUINEA

Human rights groups slam foundation’s summit

DAKAR, Senegal — Human rights groups are calling on a foundation named for a late U.S. civil rights leader to cancel an upcoming summit in Equatorial Guinea, where the government is accused of torturing political opponents and other human rights abuses.

The Leon H. Sullivan Foundation has organized an Aug. 20 to 24 gathering at a lavish complex that includes an 18-hole golf course, a five-star hotel and a spa in a West African country where many lack access to electricity and running water.

Among the stated objectives is to “create an atmosphere of open dialogue about the state of human rights” in Africa. Activists say that’s unlikely to happen in Equatorial Guinea, which has one of the worst human rights records on the continent.

“The Sullivan Foundation is destroying the legacy of its namesake by working hand-in-hand with one of the most repressive, exploitative regimes in Africa’s history,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of the Washington-based Human Rights Foundation.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema has ruled Equatorial Guinea since seizing power in a 1979 coup, and is Africa’s longest-serving ruler.

The most recent human rights report from the U.S. State Department notes widespread official corruption, along with the denial of basic political rights and other human rights abuses.

Republic of Congo

Ruling party wins run-off elections

BRAZZAVILLE — The ruling Congolese Labor Party of President Denis Sassou Nguesso won a large majority in run-off legislative elections last weekend, with 89 of the 136 seats, final results showed this week.

The party, in power since 1997, had taken 57 of the 69 seats that were won outright in the first round July 15, with another 10 going to its allies and just one to the opposition and another to an independent candidate.

In Sunday’s second round, the Labor Party won another 32 of the 67 seats still up for grabs, Interior Minister Raymond Zephirin Mboulou said.

Independent candidates close to the Labor Party won 12 seats, against seven for the allied Congolese Movement for Democracy and Integral Development. Overall, the Labor Party and its allies took 117 seats.

The main opposition Pan-African Union for Social Democracy, which held 11 seats in the outgoing legislature, now has just seven deputies.

Kenya

Parliament opens with plush leather seats

NAIROBI — Parliament opened this week newly refurbished at a cost of more than $11 million with plush red leather seats for lawmakers each with a price tag of $2,400.

A parliamentary official said the cost was actually lower than expected because the chairs were made by prisoners. The original budget allocated for the seats was twice the amount actually spent.

President Mwai Kibaki opened the 350-seat renovated parliament, calling it an “institution for governing as well as defending the rights of Kenyans, particularly the underprivileged.”

Kenyan lawmakers are some of the best paid in Africa, with a tax-free monthly salary of $13,000.

The national minimum wage is $145, with a per capita gross domestic product of $774, according to the World Bank.

South Africa

People dance in street as snow falls on city

JOHANNESBURG — People poured out of offices, pointed cellphone cameras to the sky and opened their mouths to taste a rare snow fall that fell on Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city.

The snow started falling Tuesday morning, sending workers rushing outside. Some twirled and danced as the flakes fell. The snow grew heavier in the afternoon, covering rooftops and slicking roads.

Snowflakes are a rare commodity in Johannesburg, even as South Africa endures its winter months. The South African Weather Service said snow last fell here in June 2007.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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