- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 2, 2003

ETHIOPIA

African chief calls AIDS, peace top goals

ADDIS ABABA The chief executive of the African Union, Amara Essy, urged Africans in his New Year's address to show determination in the fight against HIV/AIDS and in bringing peace to the continent.

Mr. Essy urged Africans "to demonstrate more purposeful determination at this dawn of 2003" in bringing an end to the numerous conflicts ravaging the continent, to fight against the spread of AIDS and to protect democratic institutions."

"The scourge of war remains one of the greatest impediments to progress in our continent," he said.

Mr. Essy was Ivory Coast's foreign minister in the 1990s.

Turning his attention to HIV/AIDS, Mr. Essy called on Africans "to wage a real war on the pandemic."


IVORY COAST

Rebels begin new attack

SAN PEDRO Rebels in western Ivory Coast began a new attack near the Liberian border yesterday, taking the fight 125 miles out from the vital cocoa port of San Pedro, residents said.

The latest violence is a major expansion of the front in a war that blew up after a failed coup Sept. 19 and now pits three rebel groups against President Laurent Gbagbo.

An official of an oil-palm plantation at the village of Neka said that the rebels struck early in the morning and appeared to have crossed from Liberia.

The seaport ships about half the cocoa from the world's top grower.


CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

Warnings ignored on celebratory shots

BANGUI New Year's celebrations in the capital of the Central African Republic were marked by a two-hour-long cacophony of automatic-weapons fire, despite a ban on such activities.

It was still uncertain at noon yesterday if the random gunfire had claimed any victims.

Last year, at least five persons were wounded in Bangui by soldiers who fired into the air for more than an hour on New Year's Eve, despite the military's appeal to them not to upset residents of the capital, the scene of numerous coups and mutinies.

On Tuesday, the deputy defense minister warned that the government would deal harshly with anyone who marked the passage to the new year by randomly firing into the air, national radio reported.


CONGO

Kabila calls for reconciliation

KINSHASA President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo vowed yesterday in his New Year's address to support the peace pacts signed by the vast central African nation in 2002 and called on the Congolese people to promote democratic institutions.

"I invite the entire population to actively take part in promoting democratic practices in all fields," Mr. Kabila said.

He spoke at length about the peace accord signed in Pretoria, South Africa, last month among all parties in DRC's war, calling the agreement "a good foundation for definitively ending the war and reuniting and reconciling the country."

Delegates to talks on the future of the DRC signed an accord in South Africa in mid-December to end the war and set up a government of national unity.


LIBERIA

Monrovia denies al Qaeda-gem link

MONROVIA Liberia yesterday denied European reports that it sheltered al Qaeda operatives before and after the September 11 terror attacks and sold diamonds worth up to $20 million to the group.

"Liberia's position on al Qaeda is very clear: We have no links with any terrorist organization of any kind," said Vaani Paasewe, President Charles Taylor's press secretary.

"We have offered our cooperation in America's fight against terrorism. We have even banned photos of Osama bin Laden and threatened to arrest and prosecute anyone wearing the al Qaeda leader's T-shirts in Liberia," he said.

A report by European investigators said Mr. Taylor had taken $1 million from al Qaeda members for permission to stay in his country and shuttle to nearby Burkina Faso.


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