- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2008


Defiant Bashir visits Darfur

KHARTOUM | Sudanese President Omar Bashir, in a show of defiance, made his first visit to Darfur on Wednesday since the International Criminal Court prosecutor accused him of genocide and war crimes and sought his arrest.

Dancing to traditional music and chanting Islamic slogans, Mr. Bashir addressed thousands of Darfuris in the regional capital El-Fasher, his promises of development and peace drawing cheers from onlookers who surged forward to get closer to him.

“We all know that injustices happened [here],” he said, in a speech broadcast live on state television. “But from Day One we have been working to provide stability for all the people of Darfur.”

“We want to send this message to the world: we are the people of peace, we want peace … we are the only ones who can achieve peace in Darfur.”

Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in the remote western region in early 2003, accusing the government of neglect. To quell the revolt, Khartoum mobilized mostly Arab militias who are accused of atrocities including widespread rape, murder and looting.

International experts estimate some 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have had to flee their homes during the Darfur conflict, sparking the world’s largest humanitarian operation.


Rebels threaten to hit main pipelines

LAGOS | Nigeria’s main militant group threatened Wednesday to initiate a new wave of attacks on the volatile West African nation’s oil pipelines within 30 days to counter allegations it had struck a $12 million deal with the government to protect them.

The state-run oil company, however, denied the existence of such a deal and said local media misquoted company officials.

A spokesman for the militant Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, said the director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. asserted his state-run organization paid militants millions of dollars to protect pipelines instead of attacking them.

To prove “we are not a part of this deal, the Chanomi Creek pipeline and other major pipelines will be destroyed within the next 30 days,” the militant statement said.

The Chanomi Creek pipeline is owned by Nigeria’s state oil company and is a strategic line that supplies crude from the western Delta to two major refineries.

Militants say their campaign of oil-infrastructure attacks is aimed at forcing the federal government to send more money to the six states comprising the southern Niger Delta. Such attacks have slashed this West African nation’s oil output by almost a quarter in the past two years, helping push world crude prices to historic highs.


Rivals to start full talks Thursday

JOHANNESBURG | Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change and President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party will begin negotiations on a power-sharing deal in earnest Thursday, officials said Wednesday.

The rivals opened preliminary talks Tuesday, South African President Thabo Mbeki’s spokesman said, but he declined to say what was discussed.

Mr. Mbeki, mediating in the crisis, secured a framework deal between Mr. Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Monday for talks to end the deadlock since Mr. Mugabe’s re-election June 27 in a vote boycotted by the opposition because of violence.


Islamist takes over opposition

NAIROBI, Kenya | A fundamentalist Muslim suspected by the U.S. of collaborating with al Qaeda took over as head of Somalia’s exiled opposition movement, pushing out a relative moderate who tried to strike a peace deal with the government, officials said Wednesday.

Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys - who denies any links to terrorism - said the opposition voted out the former chairman, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, because he agreed to a U.N.-brokered agreement with Somalia’s weak administration last month.

“From now on I will be the leader,” Mr. Aweys said by telephone from Eritrea, where he and the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia are based. He added that the alliance decided to remove Mr. Ahmed “because of his misuse of the leadership.”

Mr. Ahmed denounced the decision to remove him.

“I only performed my duty, which is to help my people and my country get a lasting peace by all means,” Mr. Ahmed said from Djibouti.

Mr. Ahmed and the government agreed to end months of violence and agreed in principle to the eventual withdrawal of Ethiopian troops supporting Somalia’s fragile government. But the deal has had no effect on the ground in this bloodstained country, where a vicious insurgency has killed thousands of civilians since 2007.

Opposition spokesman Zakariye Haji Mohamoud said more than 100 out of 191 members of the group’s central committee voted against Mr. Ahmed on Tuesday night.

From wire dispatches and staff reports



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