- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 16, 2009

NIGERIA

Rebels call halt to oil attacks

ABUJA | Nigerian militants called a halt Wednesday to their campaign of attacking oil installations and kidnapping foreigners, then said reports that military gunboats and troops were heading toward a rebel camp threatened to upend the deal.

The military quickly denied the allegation, saying it had no plans to attack rebels from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the country’s main militant group.

Earlier Wednesday, the militants called the cease-fire, saying the government had met one of their demands and released an ailing rebel leader Monday. Both sides had welcomed the prospect of negotiations to end the years of violence that have cut Nigeria’s daily oil output by 25 percent to about 1.6 million barrels per day.

SOUTH AFRICA

Soccer World Cup workers end strike

JOHANNESBURG | Construction workers have agreed to end a weeklong strike that threatened to derail the completion of already tightly scheduled projects for the soccer World Cup, union officials and employers said Wednesday.

Workers agreed on a pay increase of 12 percent, below the earlier demand of 13 percent, and work at sites across South Africa was to resume Thursday.

About 70,000 workers began striking on July 8, stopping work on stadiums, airports, freeways and Johannesburg’s new high-speed rail link - projects that are scheduled to be finished by December. The World Cup championship is to be held in South Africa next summer.

SOMALIA

Suspects arrested in kidnappings

MOGADISHU | Somali authorities have arrested suspects in the kidnapping of two French security advisers in the Somali capital, Somalia’s defense minister told French RFI radio Wednesday.

Mohamed Abdi Ghandi said troops also have gone to areas where the hostages might be. He said “contact” had been made with the kidnappers but gave no further details.

The French advisers were on a mission to train Somali government forces, which are fighting Islamist militiamen. They were abducted Tuesday from a hotel in Mogadishu, one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

ANGOLA

Presidential vote may be delayed

LUANDA | Angola’s long-awaited presidential election, expected later this year, could be delayed by six months after state media reported Wednesday that work on a new constitution was dragging past deadline.

The country held its first legislative election in 16 years in September and a presidential vote was expected to follow this year.

But in December the government announced a new constitution would have to be drawn up first. The constitutional commission had been given a Sept. 23 deadline to finish the new charter, but the state news agency Angop reported that the drafters have requested a 180-day delay.

After the document is finished, Angola needs additional time to approve the charter before setting the election campaign period. That means if the delay is approved, the elections would be put off until at least July 2010.

CONGO

Swiss court frees Mobutu funds

GENEVA | Switzerland’s top court ordered that $7.11 million of assets of the late Zairian leader Mobutu Sese Seko be unfrozen, clearing the way for their return to his heirs.

The move Tuesday is likely to embarrass the Swiss government, which is trying to keep Switzerland off an international blacklist of financial centers whose tax rules facilitate money laundering.

The Swiss government initially froze the funds in 1997 at the request of the African state, now named the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and extended the freeze in 2008 to allow a lawyer representing Congo to launch a case to block the funds.

But the public prosecutor rejected the case, arguing that under Switzerland’s statute of limitations people surrounding Mr. Mobutu, who died in 1997, could no longer be considered a criminal organization.

Mr. Mobutu’s dictatorship of more than 30 years impoverished the mineral-rich former Belgian colony and turned it into a kleptocracy - a state ruled by thieves.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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