Home > News > News in Brief: 20 December 2007

News in Brief: 20 December 2007

A brief list of news for the day:

ANC Leader Target of S. Africa Prosecutor. The National Prosecuting Authority has enough evidence to pursue criminal corruption charges against new ruling party president Jacob Zuma, and the decision on whether to file them is “imminent,” South Africa’s top prosecutor told a radio interviewer Thursday morning. Zuma has been battling corruption charges related to a multi-billion-dollar arms deal for several years. In 2005, President Thabo Mbeki fired him as deputy president when a court convicted Zuma’s financial adviser of soliciting a bribe on his behalf from an arms dealer. (Washington Post)

East-West positions harden on Kosovo. As a last-ditch effort for accord on Kosovo’s bid for independence failed yesterday in the United Nations Security Council, East-West tensions rose to one of their highest points since the 1999 war over the Serbian province. “We are ready to take steps toward a future declaration of independence of Kosovo together with our friends,” Fatmir Sejdiu, president of the UN-administered, mainly ethnically Albanian territory told reporters in New York yesterday, after a tense closed-door meeting. But Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, a moderate nationalist, said his country defended its sovereignty “strongly and firmly” and would consider any self-declared state of Kosovo illegal. (Toronto Star)

Defying France, EU opens two more chapters for accession. In what appeared to be open defiance of Paris, the European Union has opened two more chapters for the accession of Turkey to the 27-member club, sending out strong signals in support of Turkey’s full membership ambition. With the fourth accession conference with Turkey yesterday, the EU launched trans-European network, and consumer and health protection chapters with Turkey, marking six chapters that have been opened with Turkey since Oct. 3, 2005. (Today’s Zaman)

Africa: Regional Integration in Tatters Due to EPAs. The spectre of regional fragmentation is haunting the negotiations on the finalisation of interim economic partnership agreements (EPAs) between the European Union (EU) and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. This is despite one of the stated goals of the EPAs being “regional integration”. Non-governmental organisations, which are bitterly opposed to splinter talks between the EU and individual nations, had been concerned that EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson’s threats of trade penalties will see negotiators breaking ranks with the regional groupings and signing bilateral deals. (allAfrica)

Lowering Mexico’s Drawbridge to US Maize and Beans. On Jan. 1, the Mexican market will be thrown wide open to imports of maize, beans, powdered milk and sugar from the United States, completing a process that began 14 years ago, in which its impoverished rural sector must compete with a powerful and heavily subsidised foreign rival. (IPS)

Housing Minister backtracks, says no new E. J’lem housing plan. In an about-face from a day earlier, Israel’s housing minister on Thursday said he never intended to pursue a massive construction plan for East Jerusalem, a plan that sparked Palestinian outrage and a chilly reception from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Palestinians want Jerusalem’s eastern sector, which Israel captured from Jordan in 1967 and later annexed, for the capital of a future state. They view any plans for new Israeli construction there as undermining newly revived peace talks. (Haaretz)

For Turkey and U.S., delicate cooperation issue in combating Kurds. Turkey provided the United States with ample warning that it was making an incursion into Iraq this week, officials from the State and Defense Departments said Wednesday. While the United States provided Turkey with the intelligence to go after Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, there has been some mild grumbling from the State Department that not everyone up the chain of command was adequately informed beforehand. A senior administration official said most of that concern centered on Turkey’s decision to “chase some bad guys they followed over the border.” (International Herald Tribune)

Congress Sets Limits on Aid to Pakistan. Congress yesterday slapped restrictions on military aid to Pakistan and withheld $50 million of the administration’s $300 million request until Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice can certify that Islamabad is restoring democratic rights, including an independent judiciary. (Washington Post)

Thai election signals return of a new political power. No matter who wins the election, political analysts here say the country is headed into a period of continuing tension, with neither side willing to concede defeat in what is a deeper, more fundamental struggle over the character of a future Thailand. At the center of the struggle is a man who is not even here – whose face is banned from political posters – the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, 58, who was ousted by the generals in September 2006, but who remains the most popular and controversial political figure in Thailand. (International Herald Tribune)

China and India launch anti-terrorism exercise. China and India, who fought a brief border war in 1962, have started a week-long anti-terrorism military drill to improve trust and cooperation as the two rising powers seek to put aside decades of frosty relations. (Reuters)

Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant will not be ready before end of 2008. Iran’s first nuclear power plant will not be operational before the end of 2008, according to the Russian company building it. (Gulf News)

Chavez and allies accuse US of playing dirty politics in region. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and two Latin American allies accused the United States on Tuesday of conspiring to undermine the region’s leftist governments. The criticism followed a diplomatic firestorm set off by claims from a US prosecutor that Venezuela attempted to smuggle $800,000 (Dh2.93 million) in a suitcase to the election campaign of Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. (Gulf News/Reuters)

China raises rates again in inflation fight. China raised its benchmark interest rates on Thursday for the sixth time this year, the latest in a series of tightening steps to contain inflation and prevent the world’s fourth-largest economy from overheating. (FT/Reuters)

Uzbekistan’s Autocratic President Seeks 3rd Term, Despite Constitutional Term Limits. President Islam Karimov, the former communist boss who has ruled this former Soviet nation since independence, seems certain of winning re-election Sunday in a ballot his foes say will be little more than political theater. (AP)

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