- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 27, 2008

GUINEA

Coup leaders eulogize Conte

CONAKRY | Tens of thousands of people Friday paid an emotional tribute to the late dictator Lansana Conte as the military junta that seized control in the wake of his death sought to gain international legitimacy.

Men in uniform wept and collapsed, and women sobbed at the funeral of Mr. Conte, whose death Monday at age 74 has left Guinea in turmoil.

The junta’s second-in-command, Gen. Toto Camara, paid homage to Mr. Conte, who ruled for 24 years.

“We will accompany him to his last resting place and we pray God to give us the courage to continue his work of tolerance and peace for the welfare of Guinea,” the general said at a national stadium packed beyond its 20,000 capacity.

The body was later flown for burial to Moussayah, the town where Mr. Conte was born.

Capt. Moussa Camara, the junta head who now styles himself president, was nowhere to be seen. However, the presidents of Guinea’s neighbors did attend, along with top officials of the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States.

Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade called on the international community to recognize the junta. However, former colonial power France urged Guinea to organize free elections within six months. South Africa and the United States also have called for a swift return to civilian rule in the country of 10 million people.

CHINA

Six go on trial in melamine scandal

BEIJING | Six Chinese suspects went on trial Friday accused of making and selling an industrial chemical blamed for killing six children and sickening nearly 300,000 others.

Among those in court Friday was the owner of a workshop that was reportedly the country’s largest source of melamine, the substance responsible for the crisis that saw Chinese food products pulled from stores worldwide, state media said.

Police say Zhang Yujun, 40, ran a workshop on the outskirts of Jinan in eastern Shandong province that manufactured and sold a “protein powder” composed mainly of melamine and malt dextrin, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The powder was added to watered-down milk to make it appear higher in protein content.

Prosecutors in the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People’s Court said Mr. Zhang produced 776 tons of the additive powder from October 2007 through August, making it the largest source of melamine in the country. He purportedly sold more than 600 tons with a total value of about $1 million, the court heard.

Melamine can artificially inflate protein levels and was apparently added to milk to fool quality inspectors while boosting profits. The chemical poses little danger in small amounts, but larger doses can cause kidney stones and renal failure.

SPAIN

Prime minister nixes Basque talks

MADRID | Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Friday his government would not give the Basque armed separatist group ETA any more chances to end a conflict through dialogue.

“Democracy has given ETA three opportunities to finish its dreadful campaign of senseless crimes,” Mr. Zapatero said, referring to the attempts at negotiations made by him and his two predecessors.

“ETA has wasted the three opportunities. There will not be any others,” the Socialist leader said at a news conference following the last cabinet meeting of 2008.

The government began talks with ETA after the group declared a “permanent cease-fire” in March 2006, but the government called them off after ETA detonated a car bomb at Madrid airport nine months later, killing two people.

ETA officially announced the end of the cease-fire in June 2007, and is accused in six assassinations since then.

The group is blamed for the deaths of 825 people in a 40-year campaign for an independent Basque country in parts of northern Spain and southwestern France.

AZERBAIJAN

Referendum aims for 3rd Aliyev term

BAKU | Azerbaijan’s parliament on Friday voted to hold a referendum March 18 on constitutional changes that would allow President Ilham Aliyev to stay in power in the hydrocarbon-rich country when his second five-year term ends in 2013.

The amendments would remove a two-term limit on the president, theoretically allowing an Azeri head of state to govern indefinitely.

The opposition condemned the vote as a “step towards authoritarianism” in Azerbaijan, an ex-Soviet republic of 8 million people that has been ruled by Mr. Aliyev since the death of his father, former President Heidar Aliyev, in 2003. The elder Mr. Aliyev dominated politics in Azerbaijan for 30 years.

Ali Akhmedov, a member of parliament from the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan party, told lawmakers ahead of the vote that the measure is “aimed at strengthening the lawful state and human rights.” Several protesters were arrested outside the constitutional court Wednesday after it ruled that holding the referendum would be legal.

The United States has sought friendly ties with secular and Sunni Muslim Azerbaijan as a bulwark against the Islamic Republic of Iran next door. The Azeri regime balances increasing economic ties with Washington with traditional links with Moscow.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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