- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 22, 2006

SOUTH AFRICA

President fires intelligence director

CAPE TOWN — President Thabo Mbeki fired his intelligence chief yesterday, saying that their relationship of trust had “irreparably broken down” amid a scandal over surveillance and hoax e-mail.

National Intelligence Agency head Billy Masetlha was suspended last year after he reportedly sanctioned unauthorized surveillance of a leading local businessman close to Mr. Mbeki.

The president said at a Cabinet meeting yesterday that Mr. Masetlha, who is challenging his suspension in court, was dismissed with immediate effect, government spokesman Joel Netshitenzhe announced. Mr. Masethla was suspended in October after reportedly allowing the illegal surveillance of businessman Saki Macozoma, a confidant of Mr. Mbeki’s.

MOROCCO

Rabat may loosen Western Sahara rule

EL AYOUN, Western Sahara — Morocco will consult the people of Western Sahara on a plan to give the territory greater autonomy that is to be submitted to the United Nations soon, Moroccan Communications Minister Nabil Benabdellah said yesterday.

Rabat, which annexed the largely desert but phosphate-rich territory after colonial ruler Spain pulled out in 1975, is proposing wider autonomy but rejects U.N. demands for a referendum on self-determination.

On the other side is the Polisario Front, which fought a guerrilla war for the territory until a 1991 cease-fire.

ETHIOPIA

5 VOA reporters, 13 others released

ADDIS ABABA — Judge Adil Ahmed of the Federal High Court dropped charges of treason, attempted genocide and other crimes against 18 persons yesterday, including five Voice of America journalists accused of trying to overthrow the government.

Washington had pressed Ethiopia to drop charges against the five journalists from VOA, an arm of the U.S. government. The judge ordered the release of nine persons and told the court that charges against the others, who were being tried in absentia, also should be dropped.

The case, however, will continue against 111 opposition leaders, aid workers and journalists on charges stemming from the violence that erupted in November during protests over disputed May 15 elections that returned Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to power.

Weekly notes …

At least four persons were killed and 12 were wounded yesterday during fierce fighting in the northern part of Mogadishu, the Somali capital, witnesses and medical sources said. The clashes pitted gunmen backed by the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism — a coalition of warlords — against Islamic court militia. … The top 16 floors of a 24-story office block collapsed in central Lagos, Nigeria, yesterday, blocking the main commercial street through Africa’s biggest city and leaving at least one dead and 24 injured. Broad Street in the Lagos Island district was completely filled with rubble, and police cordoned off the area while firefighters searched for survivors.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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