- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 31, 2002

Loyalists recapture large parts of Bangui

BANGUI, Central African Republic Government troops in the Central African Republic have recaptured large parts of the capital, Bangui, held since Friday by rebels loyal to an exiled army leader, an Agence France-Presse correspondent reported yesterday.

The reporter said he saw only government forces and no rebel units as he toured many parts of the capital, including northern parts of the city, where the rebels had been concentrated.

Libyan planes bombed rebel positions in the capital on Tuesday before loyalist troops attacked the insurgents, diplomats and residents told Reuters news agency. The latest violence has inflamed tension with neighboring Chad, which Bangui accuses of helping rebels trying to oust President Ange Felix Patasse.

Witnesses confirmed at least 20 dead, including a nephew of the president, but said they believed the toll was higher.

Zimbabwe blocks whites taking tools

LUSAKA, Zambia Zimbabwe has prevented 125 evicted white farmers from moving their equipment across the border to Zambia, where they have been given land, says a Zambian official.

The white farmers from Zimbabwe lost their land under a controversial government program that redistributes most white-owned farmland to poor blacks. Some white farmers hoped to relocate to neighboring Zambia and Mozambique.

But Zimbabwe authorities are refusing to let farmers to take tools like tractors and irrigation equipment with them, said Zambian Vice President Enoch Kavindele. He said the Zambian government hopes to help resolve the dispute.

Khartoum opposition wants to join talks

KHARTOUM, Sudan The main northern opposition groups are divided over the merits of the ongoing peace talks between the government and southern rebels, but agree their own exclusion would invalidate any accord.

Umma, the main opposition party of the north led by former Prime Minister Sadek al-Mahdi, said it would welcome an accord at the talks in Kenya to end 19 years of civil war. But it insists on joining the talks.

"Umma is in favor of peace, and we are exerting every efforts to intervene in the events through political means," said Sara al-Fadil al-Mahdi of the party's political bureau and wife of the leader.

She said participation of northern parties is essential to "modify several questions being discussed in Machakos," Kenya, but complained that the government and [southern rebel leader John] "Garang are refusing because they want to control the process."

Weekly notes

The Ivory Coast government and rebels opened face-to-face talks yesterday in Lome, Togo's capital, seeking to end more than five weeks of bloody unrest in one of West Africa's wealthiest countries. Togo President Gnassingbe Eyadema, mediating the talks on behalf of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), met separately with each side and said that if the direct talks go well, "we will finish the talks [Thursday] unless they are manipulated by politicians." Austria will not take part in the Miss World 2002 competition in Nigeria, to protest the sentence of death by stoning imposed on an unmarried mother, an official for the Austrian pageant organizers told Agence France-Presse yesterday. A day earlier, Nigeria's minister of state for foreign affairs, Dubem Onyia, promised that "Nobody [in Nigeria] will ever be stoned as a result of Shariah law. Nobody."

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