Mugabe assails U.N. envoy
HARARE — In a personal attack, President Robert Mugabe called a U.N. envoy “a liar” yesterday for saying humanitarian conditions in Zimbabwe are nearing disaster.
U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland, who ended a three-day fact-finding trip Wednesday, expressed alarm about massive food shortages and an AIDS epidemic that is killing an estimated 3,000 people a week.
Addressing a ruling party conference in the western Zimbabwe town of Esigodini, Mr. Mugabe called Mr. Egeland, “a hypocrite and a liar,” and accused him of raising political rather than humanitarian matters, in poor English, when the two met in private Tuesday.
Mr. Egeland is Norwegian.
Islamists ready for talks with U.S.
CAIRO — Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which controls one in five parliamentary seats after spectacular gains in recent elections, says it is ready to break a long-standing taboo and engage in contacts with Washington.
The Islamist movement’s spokesman, Issam al-Aryan, told Agence France-Presse he welcomed the comments of a senior State Department official who said Washington was likely to seek contacts with the brotherhood.
The Bush administration has gone to great lengths to not even mention the name of the Islamist movement — still officially banned in Egypt — in reacting to the election results. But a senior State Department official said Thursday: “I would expect us to meet with the independent candidates.”
Hamas says truce with Israel will end
DAMASCUS — The head of the Islamist group Hamas’ political branch, Khaled Meshaal, said yesterday the group would not renew its fragile truce with Israel when it expires at the end of the year.
“We will not enter a new truce while our people are surrounded and are preparing for a new round of conflict,” Mr. Meshaal said during a rally at the al-Yarmouk quarter in Damascus, home to the largest Palestinian community in Syria.
His announcement came amid heightened violence in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with Israel carrying out lethal raids after Monday’s suicide bombing in the northern Israeli city of Netanaya in which five persons died.
Putin to soften ban on NGOs
MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin signaled yesterday he would scrap some of the harshest provisions of a much-criticized bill that would severely restrict the work of foreign-funded nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia.
The United States and European Union expressed concern about the draft legislation, warning that it would curtail groups that are critical to a functioning democracy. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have said they might have to shut down their Russian operations if the bill becomes law.
Nun’s killer asserts mistook Bible for gun
BELEM — The man accused of killing American nun and rain forest defender Dorothy Stang told a jury yesterday that he acted in self-defense after mistaking her Bible for a gun.
Rayfran das Neves Sales is accused of killing Sister Stang, 73, with six shots from a .38-caliber revolver on Feb. 12 on a muddy road deep in the Amazon rain forest.
Mr. Sales testified he and Sister Stang had an argument over who owned the land he was working. “She said, ‘The weapon I have is this,’ and reached into her bag,” Mr. Sales said. “I didn’t know what she was going to pull out of her bag, so I shot her.”
From wire dispatches and staff reports