- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Niger president to lead African group

ACCRA — Nigerien President Mamadou Tandja was chosen yesterday to lead the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) at its annual summit to discuss the region’s security needs.

“I will work diligently on regional and international fronts to promote adequate political stability,” Mr. Tandja said after he edged out Yahya Jammeh of Gambia in a vote of 10 of his counterparts at the summit in Ghana.

Departing ECOWAS leader John Kufuor, president of Ghana, opened the summit with reflections on his two terms as a time of significant achievement, both in stability and economic growth. He noted, however, that these achievements were offset by the conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast.


Conte survives assassination attempt

CONAKRY — Gunmen fired on a convoy carrying Guinean President Lansana Conte here yesterday, officials said.

Mr. Conte was not hurt in the assassination attempt, but a member of his security team riding a motorcycle in the convoy was gravely wounded and taken to a hospital, a government security official said.

Security forces increased protection around the presidential palace and other important installations, but the city was otherwise calm, residents said. Mr. Conte has ruled the former French colony since seizing power during a 1984 military coup. He is rarely seen in public.

Guinea has had only one other leader since gaining its independence from France in 1958. Dictator Ahmed Sekou Toure died in 1984 during heart surgery at a hospital in the United States. Mr. Conte, then an army colonel, declared himself president a week later.


7 election hopefuls left off Feb. 13 ballot

BANGUI — The constitutional court yesterday put off indefinitely a ruling on an appeal by seven candidates that it had barred from next month’s presidential election, state radio reported. The report gave no reason for the court’s action and did not say when it might rule.

The country plunged into crisis on Dec. 30 when the court approved only five of 12 candidates for the Feb. 13 election, including current President Francois Bozize, his deputy Abel Gouba and former President Andre Kolingba.

Excluded were former President Ange Felix Patasse, who was ousted by Mr. Bozize in March 2003, his one-time defense minister Jean-Jacques Demafouth and five others.

Three of the five — former Prime Ministers Jean-Paul Ngoupande and Martin Ziguele and ex-minister Charles Massi — later were declared eligible by Mr. Bozize in the face of protests, but the court refused to accept the president’s action.

Weekly notes

The top U.N. envoy to Sudan postponed talks yesterday with rebel officials in southern Sudan until he can meet with their leader to negotiate the deployment of up to 10,000 peacekeepers to monitor the peace accord. John Garang, chairman of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, was expected to arrive in Rumbek yesterday, but by midafternoon, there was no sign of him, and U.N. envoy Jan Pronk flew to Ethiopia to meet with African Union officials. … Somalia’s transitional government in exile said yesterday that it would start moving back to Mogadishu by the end of the month, despite threats of attack by Islamist militants. Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi will lead a team of Cabinet members and lawmakers based in Kenya back to Somalia in the next two weeks to assess security, political and logistic conditions, presidential spokesman Yusuf Ismail said.

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