Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Crunch time for Zimbabwe

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Southern African leaders have decided at a summit that Zimbabwe should form a unity government next month but the opposition said it was disappointed with the outcome, raising doubts over chances for ending the crisis.

The 15-nation SADC grouping said after the meeting in South Africa – its fifth attempt to secure a deal on forming a unity government – it had agreed that opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai should be sworn in as prime minister by Feb. 11.

All parties agreed control of the hotly disputed Home Affairs Ministry, which has been a major obstacle to a final agreement, should be divided between President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and Tsvangirai’s MDC for six months, said South African President Kgalema Motlanthe.

But the MDC quickly issued a statement after the SADC communique was read out, making clear its disappointment and raising the possibility that deadlock would drag on as Zimbabweans face growing economic hardship. The MDC said its national council would meet this weekend to define its position on the summit.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Afghanistan and the breakdown of the balance of power

Keeping track of the many countries with a stake in Afghanistan -- and the shifting alliances between them -- is beginning to feel awfully like one of those school history lessons when you were supposed to understand the complex and tenuous balance of power whose breakdown led to World War One.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer became the latest to call for a regional solution to Afghanistan when he said this week that the United States and its NATO allies must directly engage with Iran if they are to win the war there. “If we are going to succeed in this game, we need to be playing on the right field,” he said. “And that means a more regional approach. To my mind we need a discussion that brings in all the relevant regional players: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China, Russia and, yes, Iran.”

from FaithWorld:

Soviet touches mark Russian Orthodox patriarch vote session

(Photo: Russian Orthodox prelates vote for candidates for patriarch, 26 Jan 2009/pool)

There was a slightly Soviet air to the proceedings as bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church voted on Sunday for three candidates to be considered as their new patriarch. Meeting in the gold-domed Christ the Saviour cathedral overlooking the Moskva River, just a few hundred metres from the Kremlin, about 200 metropolitans and bishops had delegates badges dangling from their necks along with their usual pectoral crosses. A Soviet-style "presidium" of 16 top prelates presided over the session in the Hall of Church Councils. The proceedings started with voting for an election committee, a drafting committee and a credentials committee. Journalists covering the session couldn't help but think of the old communist party conferences.

Seated in the middle of this "presidium," Metropolitan Kirill -- the acting patriarch and frontrunner for the top post -- added to the atmosphere by chairing the meeting with a distinctively firm hand. But there were differences, of course. Voting for the three candidates was secret. And when it came time to announce the results of the vote, there was no official stamp to validate the protocol.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

The scramble for Central Asia

Central Asia is much in demand these days, whether as a transit route for U.S. and NATO supplies to Afghanistan as an alternative to Pakistan or for its rich resources, including oil and gas.

So it's worth noting that India has been hosting Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev as its guest of honour at its Republic Day celebrations while signing a bunch of trade deals in the process. According to reports in the Indian media, including in the Business Standardthe Week and the Times of India,  India is seeking supplies of uranium for its nuclear plants and access to Kazakhstan's oil and gas and in return would be expected to support Kakazhstan's bid for membership of the World Trade Organisation. (India's state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) said on Saturday it had signed a deal to explore for oil and gas in Kazakhstan.)

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

U.S. missile strikes on Pakistan : more of the same under Obama or worse to come?

The first U.S. missiles have struck Pakistan since U.S. President Barack Obama  took office, dispelling any possibility that he might relent on these raids that have so angered Pakistanis, many of whom think it only engenders reprisal attacks from militants on their cities.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari protested to the U.S. ambassador over Friday's twin raids in South and North Waziristan and  newspaper editorialists and commentators are worried this is just a foretaste of things to come. The strikes, the first since Jan 2, have led the Dawn newspaper to recall Obama's statements during the presidential camapaign when he repeatedly said he would "take out high value terrorist targets" inside Pakistan if it was unable or unwilling to do so.

from Africa News blog:

Putting Africa on trial?

Look down the list of the cases the International Criminal Court is pursuing – Congo, Central African Republic, Darfur, Uganda – and it doesn’t take long to spot the connection.

Of the dozen arrest warrants the court has issued, all have been against African rebels or officials. On Monday, the court begins its first trial - of Thomas Lubanga, accused of recruiting child soldiers to wage a gruesome ethnic war in northeastern Congo. Earlier this month, former Congolese rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba was in court for a decision on whether to confirm charges of ordering mass rape to terrorise civilians in the Central African Republic.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Obama’s South Asian envoy and the Kashmir conundrum

Earlier this month, I wrote that the brief given to a South Asian envoy by President Barack Obama could prove to be the first test of the success of Indian diplomacy after the Mumbai attacks. At issue was whether the envoy would be asked to focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan or whether the brief would be extended to India, reflecting comments made by Obama during his election campaign that a resolution of the Kashmir dispute would ease tensions across the region.

That question has been resolved - publicly at least -- with the appointment of Richard Holbrooke as Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. No mention of India or Kashmir.

Is this Georgia’s answer to Hugo Chavez?

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Reuters News correspondent Matt Robinson filed this post from Tbilisi:

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is back. In a marathon Q&A session on Georgian television on Friday he said he himself was in great shape, but that the parliament speaker’s heart had recently stopped beating after suffering an allergic reaction to medication.

“As a result his heart stopped, he was in collapse,” Saakashvili said, tanned and relaxed. “But then they managed to save him.” He pulled his mobile phone from his pocket and read out text messages from his poorly colleague.

Talking about talking to Hamas

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Should Israel and/or its allies talk to men like these, the Palestinian Islamists of Hamas, who run the Gaza Strip?

That’s a question that has been revived this week following the end of Israel’s 22-day war in Gaza, which left Hamas rule apparently intact and 1.5 million people in desperate need, and the arrival in the White House of President Barack Obama, who has indicated he might be willing to talk to people his predecessor George W. Bush had shunned.

from Africa News blog:

Kenya’s new finance minister: Positioning for next election?

President Mwai Kibaki's naming of a key ally, Uhuru Kenyatta, as his new finance minister to replace another supporter, Amos Kimunya, does not come as a surprise to some.
Kimunya, who stepped down last July after he was accused of corruption in the handling of the sale of a luxury hotel, has also returned to parliament -- replacing Kenyatta as trade minister.
Kimunya was not reinstated even after he was cleared by an official enquiry into the controversial sale of the luxury Grand Regency Hotel in the capital.

The long wait for someone to fill the finance position suggested to some that Kibaki was not comfortable bringing his ally back, given his tainted name.
His appointment to the trade ministry could mean Kibaki did not want to lose him from the cabinet altogether, although some analysts say it was a move to save face.
Pundits also say Kibaki did not have much room to manoeuvre in picking Kenyatta. Many MPs who support the president are parliamentary neophytes without much experience in running a powerful ministry like the treasury.

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