- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 31, 2002

Kinshasa, rebels set Feb. 4-7 Geneva talks
GENEVA Congo government officials and rebels will hold peace talks here Feb. 4-7 aimed at ending years of bloody conflict in their country, a United Nations spokesman said yesterday.
Ibrahima Fall, U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs, will chair the meeting, other sources said.
Rebels of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), which is supported by Rwanda, said earlier yesterday they agreed to take part in the meeting with officials from the Kinshasa government. The RCD had initially refused to partcipate in the meeting, originally scheduled to start Jan. 30.
The meeting will also involve the other main rebel group, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, which is backed by Uganda, RCD President Adolphe Onusumba Yemba told Agence France-Presse in Kigali, the Rwandan capital.

Sudan panel puts off referendum in south
KHARTOUM, Sudan A council of government representatives and former rebels charged with overseeing affairs in war-torn southern Sudan has postponed for two years a referendum on the region's independence, Al-Rai Al-Am newspaper reported yesterday.
The South Sudan Coordination Council (SSCC) adopted a proposal extending for two more years a four-year interim arrangement that was due to expire in March, thereby postponing the referendum to March 8, 2004, the independent newspaper said.

Eritrean assembly meets in private
NAIROBI, Kenya Eritrea's national assembly began meeting this week for the first time since September 2000 under the chairmanship of President Isaias Afeworki, the ruling party's Web site said yesterday.
The three-day closed-door meeting, which began Tuesday amid political dissidence and preparations for forthcoming elections, was convened to debate relations with Ethiopia after the two-year border war with the nation.

Weekly notes
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday canceled plans to attend the World Economic Forum in New York this weekend as he defended his absence from Lagos after an explosion at an arms depot in the city that left more than 700 dead. Newspapers in Nigeria have suggested that up to 2,000 people may have died in the mass stampede that followed the explosion at an armory in a densely populated part of Lagos. Annual development aid from the United States to South Africa will increase by 8 percent this year to 280 million rand, or $24.5 million, U.S. Ambassador Cameron Hume announced yesterday in Pretoria. Mr. Hume said the U.S. Agency for International Development provided about 260 million rand last year. The launch of South African millionaire Mark Shuttleworth, who is to become the world's second space tourist, has been delayed by five days until April 25, Russian space agency officials said yesterday. Mr. Shuttleworth, 28, who has been training in Russia for nearly six months, is expected to pay $20 million for his 10-day space excursion the same fare paid by Dennis Tito, 60, of the United States last April.

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