- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 6, 2010


President, premier worlds apart in Tanzania

HARARE | Zimbabwe’s president and prime minister both may be in Tanzania this week, but they didn’t even share a flight to get there. The agendas of the longtime rivals are worlds apart, too, raising more questions about their struggling coalition government.

President Robert Mugabe was attending a meeting Wednesday to combat Western “neocolonialism,” while Prime Minister Morgan Richard Tsvangirai sought investment in Zimbabwe’s ailing economy from Western business leaders and international agencies.

The separate trips show how deep divisions remain in Zimbabwe’s power-sharing coalition government, which was forged last year as a compromise after disputed national elections in 2008.

Mr. Mugabe, 86, is attending a summit of African liberation leaders who fought for independence from colonial-era rule. Zimbabwean state radio, which is controlled by Mr. Mugabe’s party, says the meeting is aimed at finding ways to combat the resurgence of Western imperialist threats to developing nations.

Mr. Tsvangirai flew separately for a meeting of the World Economic Forum on Africa, a Western-backed conference on investment and development aid, his office said.


Pirates board tanker, warship en route

NAIROBI | Somali pirates armed with automatic weapons boarded an oil tanker with $50 million of oil and 23 Russian crew members on board Wednesday, and a Russian warship was rushing to intervene, a European Union naval spokesman said.

The pirates launched the attack on the Liberian-flagged ship, named the Moscow University, at dawn. Cmdr. John Harbour, the EU Naval Force spokesman, said the crew evaded the pirates for several hours while sending out distress calls.

The pirates are on board the 106,000-ton ship, but it is unclear if they are in control of the ship or the crew. The ship is carrying 86,000 tons of crude oil, worth roughly $50 million.

A Russian warship is heading to the ship at full speed, said Cmdr. Harbour. He declined to say how long the warship would take to arrive or what action it might take, citing security.

The attack occurred about 500 miles east of the Somali coast. The ship was not registered with the Maritime Security Center, Cmdr. Harbour said. The ship’s route was from the Red Sea to China, the ship’s owner said.

The owner, Novoship, said in a statement that the captain sent a distress call to the Russian anti-submarine warship the Marshal Shaposhnikov before communications were severed. It said the pirates attacked using automatic weapons.

Novoship is a subsidiary of Sovcomflot, which is owned by the Russian government.


Authorities probe reformer after return from exile

ABUJA | A former Nigerian minister seen as a potential candidate in upcoming presidential elections has been questioned by the country’s anti-corruption agency after returning from two years of self-imposed exile.

Nasir El-Rufai, a reformer under ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo who returned to Nigeria at the weekend, was questioned for nine hours on Tuesday by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission before being released on bail.

“He said that he was coming to Nigeria to clear his name, he has submitted himself willingly, he has answered all the questions, and that is it,” his lawyer, Abdulhakeem Mustapha, told reporters late Tuesday.

“The two parties appeared to be satisfied,” Mr. Mustapha said, adding that Mr. El-Rufai had been bailed pending a hearing on Thursday.

Mr. El-Rufai was one of the most senior members of Mr. Obasanjo’s team, serving as minister for the capital, Abuja, and heading the privatization agency.

After denouncing high-level corruption, he himself was accused of wrongdoing in government. He dismissed the accusations as politically motivated and left the country, remaining critical of President Umaru Yar’Adua from afar.


Bus crash kills 23, including children

JOHANNESBURG | A South African official says 23 people have died after a bus headed to Cape Town overturned on a highway.

Department of Community Safety spokesman Xenophone Wentzel told the South African Press Association that four children were among the victims.

The driver of the bus was seriously injured but survived the early Wednesday crash.

Mr. Wentzel said the bus involved was not road-worthy and had been suspended by the Eastern Cape traffic department.

Road accidents are common in South Africa, often the result of speeding drivers and vehicles in bad repair.

The country is preparing to host the World Cup, which begins next month. Hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists are expected to attend.


Shell spilled tons of oil

LAGOS | Royal Dutch Shell PLC spilled nearly 14,000 tons of crude oil into the creeks of the Niger Delta last year, the company has announced, blaming thieves and militants for the environmental damage.

The amount of oil spilled by Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary was more than double what poured into the delta in 2008 and quadruple what was spilled in 2007 — highlighting the worsening situation the oil major faces in Nigeria.

The oil giant faces regular attacks by militants who have targeted pipelines, kidnapped petroleum company workers and fought government troops since 2006. Its chief executive officer even has hinted that the company can no longer depend on Nigeria as a profit-maker despite its 50-year history in the country.

Shell blamed the majority of last year’s spills on two incidents — one in which thieves damaged a wellhead at its Odidi field and another in which militants bombed the Trans Escravos pipeline. In all, some 13,900 tons spilled into the swamps, but Shell said it was able to recover nearly 10,000 tons of that.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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