- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 31, 2009


Cuba offered loans, energy deals

MOSCOW | Russia moved Friday to rebuild ties with Cold War ally Cuba, granting it loans and signing deals on energy and industrial cooperation.

Cuban President Raul Castro held talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. His weeklong trip is the first visit by a Cuban leader to the Russian capital in nearly 25 years and highlighted Kremlin efforts to expand its global clout and reinvigorate Soviet-era alliances.

After the talks, Mr. Medvedev and Mr. Castro signed a “memorandum of strategic partnership.” Officials also signed a deal for Russia to provide a government loan to Cuba and other credits intended to finance purchases of Russian construction, energy and agricultural equipment.


Islamist takes lead in president race

DJIBOUTI | Somalia’s prime minister pulled out of a presidential election in Djibouti on Saturday after rival candidate and moderate Islamist leader Sheik Sharif Ahmed won the first round of voting among legislators, a Reuters witness at the session said.

The withdrawal of Nur Hassan Hussein at a parliament meeting meant Mr. Ahmed would almost certainly win the election for president, although parliamentarians took a 15-minute break immediately after his announcement to the session. Parliament is meeting in neighboring Djibouti because of security fears at home.

Under a U.N.-brokered peace process, the new president is to fly at the weekend to an African Union summit in Ethiopia before beginning the daunting job of bringing peace to Somalia after 18 years of civil conflict.


25 dead, many missing in fire

NAIROBI | Twenty-five people were confirmed dead and others were still missing Friday, two days after a massive fire swept through a supermarket in downtown Nairobi, officials said.

Thiagarajan Ramamurthy, operations director of the Nakumatt supermarket chain, confirmed the death toll. A spokesman for Kenya’s Disaster Management Center said earlier that 47 people have been reported missing since the blaze, which started at midday Wednesday when the streets were packed with people. Rescue workers continued sifting through the rubble Friday. The debris continued to smolder, making it difficult to properly search parts of the store.


Prime minister quits, citing health

TBILISI | Georgia’s prime minister resigned Friday, citing health reasons after just three months on the job as President Mikhail Saakashvili’s second in command.

Mr. Saakashvili later nominated the outgoing prime minister’s top deputy to become his fifth prime minister in the five years since his election after Georgia’s Rose Revolution.

Grigol Mgaloblishvili said health problems and medical treatment have made it difficult for him to give the job his full effort as Georgia struggles to recover from its August war with Russia and to keep the economy going.

He was succeeded by Niki Gilauri, who also is finance minister of the small Caucasus Mountain nation.


AU opposes Sudan indictment

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia | The African Union urged the International Criminal Court on Friday to suspend its indictment of Sudan’s president on genocide charges, saying it could jeopardize any peace process in Darfur.

The court’s chief prosecutor has accused Omar Bashir of masterminding attempts to wipe out African tribes in western Sudan’s Darfur region with a campaign of murder, rape and deportation.

The ICC still must decide whether to issue a warrant for Lt. Gen. Bashir. There have been no rulings on the warrant yet and a court decision is expected early this year. The U.N. has the power to grant a one-year suspension.


Oil delta militants say truce to end

PORT HARCOURT | Nigeria’s main militant group warned of a “sweeping assault” on the country’s oil and gas industry Friday, saying it was calling off a cease-fire after a military strike on one of its camps.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said the army had carried out an unprovoked attack on the camp of militant leader Ateke Tom and that it would end a four-month cease-fire Saturday.


Suicide bomber gets 18-year term

LONDON | A Muslim convert who injured himself in a failed suicide attack on a restaurant in Britain was sentenced to life Friday, and ordered to spend at least 18 years behind bars.

Nicky Reilly, 22, accidentally set off a homemade nail bomb in a toilet cubicle as he prepared to target more than 30 diners and staff in a restaurant in Exeter, southwest England.

Described during his trial as the “least cunning” person ever to have been charged with terrorism, Reilly injured only himself in the blast in May.

Reilly, who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome and has learning difficulties, had pleaded guilty to attempted murder and preparing an act of terrorism.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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