- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 13, 2006

SUDAN

U.N. rights body plans Darfur mission

GENEVA — The new U.N. human rights watchdog agreed yesterday to send a high-level mission to Sudan’s Darfur region to investigate charges of worsening abuse in what activists called a “timid” first step to confront the crisis.

The 47-state U.N. Human Rights Council, after a first special session on Darfur, approved a consensus plan that called for the dispatch of five “highly qualified” team members along with the world body’s special Sudan investigator.

The council, established in June as part of U.N. reform, was under pressure to show that it can act effectively on Darfur, where aid officials say more than 200,000 have died in violence in the past three years.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Tony Blair said the British prime minister suggested during a meeting with President Bush in Washington last week that Britain would agree to a no-fly zone over Darfur as part of a U.N.-sanctioned “Plan B” to halt violence and the humanitarian crisis in the region if the Sudanese government does not agree to a U.N.-led peacekeeping force.

NIGERIA

Opposition parties unite for challenge

ABUJA — Two main opposition parties agreed yesterday to join forces for the April elections, raising the prospect of a serious challenge to the ruling party in Africa’s most populous nation.

The alliance between the All Nigeria People’s Party and the Action Congress could be the first step to building a broad coalition against the ruling People’s Democratic Party, its leaders said. If the alliance wins, it should lead to the first transition from one elected president to another since 1960 independence from Britain.

GAMBIA

Former presidents given perks for life

BANJUL — The parliament of Gambia, one of the world’s poorest countries, enacted legislation yesterday to give former presidents free foreign vacations, cars and personal staff for life after they leave office.

The bill entitles ex-leaders of the West African nation to have three cars with drivers and fuel, vacations abroad each year, personal secretaries and $2,000 a month, courtesy of the state.

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, an authoritarian former coup leader, won a third term of office in September. He has said he wants to rule the former British protectorate — where 60 percent of people live on less than $1 a day — for another three decades.

Weekly notes …

Zambia yesterday vetoed a $200 million project for a South African firm to build a hotel and golf course in a national park near Victoria Falls after fierce opposition from environmentalists. … Defeated Congolese presidential contender Jean-Pierre Bemba will run for a Senate seat next month in the capital, Kinshasa, where he commands fanatical support, his spokesman said this week. The former rebel leader lost to incumbent President Joseph Kabila in a tense Oct. 29 runoff vote after an election process marked by sporadic violence.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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