JOHANNESBURG, South Africa. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said today in Cape Town that he expected South Africa to contribute more troops to an international peacekeeping mission in the war-shattered region of Darfur. Agence France-Presse quotes one Sudanese official as saying that “Sudan wants South Africa to increase the number of South African soldiers in Darfur.” Bashir’s call was greeted with a mild reception from his host, South Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki. The foreign minister in his government is reported to have said that the situation in Darfur was “complicated.”
Bashir’s visit to South Africa has sparked strong protests from some human rights organizations. People find it shameful that the Sudanese president, accused of being responsible for the thousands of deaths in Darfur, was welcomed as a world statesman. Upon his arrival in Cape Town, the representative regiment of the national guard made a 21-salute and President Thabo Mbeki threw an official party for his guest.
BOSTON, Mass., USA. Massachusetts may soon resemble Europe, at least when it comes to using biofuels. Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat, announced today that he would pursue all opportunities to turn his state into one of the most ecological-friendly regions in the United States. The Associated Press cites Patrick as saying at a news conference, “For the sake of environment, our economy and our nation security, we must act and we must act now.” He proposes that heating oil used in homes should be enriched with biofuel blends and that there should be tax cuts for those who use more ecological means of producing energy.
The bill introduced today assumes that by the year 2010 all diesel and heating oil should contain a two percent blend, increased to five percent in 2013.
YANGON, Myanmar. Political crisis in this tiny Asian country continues as United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari was refused a meeting with the government’s top officials. Gambari has been trying to orchestrate a conference between the ruling junta representatives and opposition leaders, namely Aung San Suu Kyi. Despite not being able to leave her home for 12 years, the Nobel Peace Prize winner may play the key role in the stabilization of Myanmar.
It’s been the fourth week since Gambari left for Asia to talk to the region’s leaders and win their support for UN sanctions on Myanmar. Although he has received support from Japan, he failed in winning China’s agreement. Beijing is the only country with enough influence on the Myanmar government.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan. Despite the emergency rule, which was introduced on Saturday, the political situation in the country is boiling. In a phone address to around thirty lawyers, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudry – the chief justice fired by President Musharraf after Chaudry called the emergency illegal – told his supporters not to give in to the police violence and to refuse to take part in trials led by Musharraf’s appointed judges. The Associated Press cites Chaudry as saying, “Don’t be afraid. God will help us and the day will come when you’ll see the constitution supreme and no dictatorship for a long time.”
Yesterday the police brutally dispersed around one hundred lawyers when they tried to march through the streets of the capital city to protest against the emergency rule.
President Musharraf introduced the emergency rule on Saturday to “save Pakistan, to put it back on the right track.” Musharraf, who came to power in 1999 in a military coup, won the presidential election early October this year, but the Supreme Court had doubts whether he could combine the functions of president and army general. The emergency rule allows the president to suspend the constitution. Parliamentary elections that were scheduled for January 2008 may be delayed up to one year.
VATICAN CITY, Italy. Pope Benedict XVI received King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia today in what was the first meeting between the head of the Catholic Church and a Saudi ruler. According to Vatican officials, the king was granted the audience at his personal request and it lasted half an hour. Although it was not revealed what the two leaders had been discussing, it is thought that the pope had raised the issue of Saudi Christians’ rights to practice their religion. Saudi Arabia observes the strict rules of Islamic law – Sharia. All Saudis are supposed to be Muslims and the country cannot have diplomatic relations with a Christian state.
King Abdullah presented the pope with an exquisitely ornamented sword – a typical gift in the Saudi tradition – and traditional figures. Benedict XVI highly praised the gifts but refrained from touching the sword.
BRUSSELS, Belgium. The European Commission – a government-like organ of the European Union – proposed an introduction of new measures against terrorism. Among the measures are easier access to the database of Internet providers and tougher control of people entering the European Union by plane. The proposal is an official response of the European Union to signals that terrorists may plan new attacks in one or more member countries. Only several days ago, the British intelligence reported that Islamist groups could have been plotting bombings similar to those that happened in Madrid in 2004 and London one year later.
The European Union consists of 27 countries and has one of the most liberal laws on immigration. In some of the member states, Muslims constitute a considerable percentage of the entire populations and are growing rapidly restless with their new homelands.
ANKARA, Turkey. Turkish President Abdullah Gul announced Tuesday that his government had made a decision on how to proceed with the rebels of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK). Although he refused to provide any details, it is expected that Turkey could invade northern Iraq where PKK has its installations. “Iraq’s stability cannot be limited to fighting terrorism in Baghdad or other regions,” the Associated Press quotes of Gul.
On Monday US President George W. Bush met in Washington with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. After the meeting, Bush said that Washington would consider the PKK an enemy of the United States and would share intelligence information with Ankara.
Tensions between Turkey and Kurds have recently intensified as 40 Turkish soldiers have been killed in the last two months. In retaliation, the government in Ankara ordered the air force to bomb Kurdish settlements in northern Iraq.