ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi is expected to appoint new ministers this week after being sworn in as Prime Minister by parliament Monday four months after a disputed landslide election win.
The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and allies won 545 seats in the 547-member parliament on May 23 in a vote that was criticized by the United States and the European Union.
Meles, in power since 1991, is expected to name a cabinet for his five-year term in coming days.
The country’s biggest opposition coalition, the eight-party Medrek, won just a single parliamentary seat. Medrek and the smaller All Ethiopia Unity Party (AEUP) demanded a rerun, alleging pre-poll intimidation and some vote rigging.
The calls were rejected by the country’s electoral board and Supreme Court.
In a preliminary report, a European Union (EU) observer mission said the poll was marred by the EPRDF’s use of state resources, putting the opposition at a disadvantage, but said this did not mean the count itself was invalid.
The U.S. said the election failed to meet international standards.
The EU’s full report, scheduled for July, has yet to be published, provoking criticism from Ethiopian opposition parties.
Diplomatic sources told Reuters the delay is because of wrangling over whether it should be released in Ethiopia or Europe and because of problems scheduling a meeting between Meles and EU chief observer Thijs Berman.
Meles said last month his government would pay no attention to the report.
“We have seen a glimmer of what it might look like and what we have seen is bad enough,” Meles told reporters. “So we aren’t interested anymore in the full package.”
The report is now expected in mid-October, diplomats said.
Ethiopia’s last elections in 2005 damaged its reputation and hampered investment when the opposition disputed the result and street riots erupted in capital Addis Ababa, killing 193 protestors and seven policemen.
By Barry Malone Barry Malone –REUTERS
AP – Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble listens during an Interpol - EU Symposium entitled ‘The External
BRUSSELS – Somalia and other African nations could soon pose more of a terrorist threat than Afghanistan, Interpol’s secretary general warned Thursday.
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Ronald K. Noble said many Somali militants had received training in Afghanistan and Pakistan and were using their homeland now as a base to seed terror. Somalia has been without a functioning government for about two decades, allowing Islamic militants to flourish.
Al-Shabab, an al-Qaida-linked movement which claimed responsibility for attacks in Uganda’s capital that killed 76 people during the World Cup final, has been at the heart of the Islamist insurgency in Somalia.
“For us, we believe that ‘the Afghanistan’ in the next five to 10 years will be Somalia and those parts of Africa (countries in the north and west),” the New Jersey native told the AP at a security conference in Brussels.
Noble’s comments came as more details emerged Thursday of terror plot against Europe — one that Pakistani officials said involved eight Germans and two British brothers and one that prompted a surge in CIA drone missile strikes against suspected al-Qaida hideouts in Pakistan. One of the Britons allegedly died in one of the strikes earlier this month.
Pakistan, Britain and Germany are now tracking the suspects and intercepting their phone calls, a Pakistani official told the AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information to the media.
The official is part of an intelligence team that has been tracking the two British brothers of Pakistani origin for nearly a year and the Germans for more than six months.
He said the suspects are hiding in North Waziristan, a Pakistani tribal region where militancy is rife and where the U.S. has focused many of its drone-fired missile strikes. British officials have said the plot is still active.
“They have been making calls to Germany and London,” the Pakistani official said. “They have been talking about and looking for facilitators and logistics they need there to carry out terror strikes.”
Noble declined to comment on Interpol’s role in tracking down potential suspects in the plot, saying the investigation was ongoing. He did, however, say one the biggest challenges for law enforcement officials was having countries check passenger passport details against national and Interpol databases.
Out of the nearly 1 billion passengers who traveled through airports last year, some 600 million were never checked against the Interpol database — a gap that could have allowed terrorists to enter multiple countries, he said.
Many countries simply lack the political will or resources to join databases, he said.
Noble said Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, also was of growing concern.
The group on Thursday released its first video of a group of hostages that was seized two weeks ago in Niger.
The terrorist group has invaded large swaths of the desert region spanning portions of Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Algeria. Famous tourists spots like Timbuktu, in Mali, are now on the no-go list of several embassies, including the U.S. and France.
In Europe and the United States, meanwhile, an increase in homegrown militants and suspects who had never appeared on the radar as potential threats were “unsettling and dangerous” new trends, Noble said.
Still, he said he believed it was right to warn citizens of potential or thwarted terror plots.
“You know, there has been a long-standing debate within the intelligence community and the anti-terrorist community about how informed the citizens really should be about potential terrorist attacks or foiled terrorist attacks,” he said.
“I’m on the side of getting the public informed, keeping the public informed and trusting that the public by and large wants to help us prevent terrorist activities, not support terrorist activity.”
Interpol is an organization that links law enforcement agencies in 188 countries to help cross-border policing and efforts to tackle major crime.By PAISLEY DODDS, Associated Press Writer Paisley Dodds, Associated Press Writer – Thu Sep 30, 3:39 pm ET
Viktor Bout is alleged to have sold arms to warlords in Africa and Afghanistan
A Thai court has rejected a request to drop charges of money laundering and fraud against suspected Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout, stalling his extradition to the US.
Mr Bout was to be extradited in August, to face trial for conspiring to sell weapons to a Colombian rebel group.
But it was postponed after the new charges led to legal complications.
The US and Russia have been squabbling over his fate since his 2008 arrest in a joint Thai-US sting operation.
After more than 15 years of allegedly running guns to African warlords and Islamic militants, Mr Bout was arrested at a Bangkok hotel by US agents posing as Colombian Farc rebels, after he allegedly tried to sell them weapons.
Mr Bout, dubbed the Merchant of Death by a British politician, is pleading not guilty to charges of conspiracy to sell arms to Colombian rebels.
He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted.
An appeals court ordered Mr Bout’s extradition on 20 August, and ruled that it must take place within three months.
His extradition was delayed by a legal bottleneck over the extra charges of money laundering and fraud, lodged by the US against Mr Bout in February.
The Bangkok Criminal Court rejected a US and Thai request to drop the charges, meaning new legal proceedings must be launched.
If the case drags out, the extradition order will expire and a two-and-a-half-year process will have to start all over again.
Moscow has been demanding his release, saying that Mr Bout is an innocent businessman.
Mr Bout, a former Russian air force officer, is thought to have knowledge of Russia’s military and intelligence operations.
Analysts say Moscow is perhaps worried he might turn state witness on trial in the US, and there may be some secrets they would rather not have him spill.
By JON GAMBRELL, Associated Press Writer Jon Gambrell, Associated Press Writer – Sat Oct 2, 4:08 pm ET
LAGOS, Nigeria – South African authorities have arrested an ex-leader of a militant group that claimed responsibility for a dual car bombing that killed 12 people in Nigeria, a Nigerian secret police spokeswoman said Saturday.
The arrest of Henry Okah, a former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, came as Nigeria’s secretive State Security Service acknowledged it received a warning about the impending attack long before the bombs exploded Friday.
Nonetheless, the militant group was still able to detonate the explosives only a 10-minute walk away from a ceremony in Nigeria’s capital Abuja attended by the president and other dignitaries in the oil-rich nation.
“Unfortunately, there’s no way security can be 100 percent foolproof,” State Security Service spokeswoman Marilyn Ogar told The Associated Press. “We are happy all the same that the event went on smoothly and it wasn’t interrupted.”
Ogar said a “foreign partner” provided her agency with information of an impending attack on the 50th anniversary celebrations. That information apparently involved Okah, a former militant leader who left Nigeria for Johannesburg after being released from prison in July 2009 while facing treason and gun running charges.
A day before the bombings, security agencies in South Africa raided Okah’s home and seized a laptop, though they did not arrest him, the militant group previously said.
It was unclear Saturday night if Okah faced any charges in South Africa. South Africa police spokeswoman Tumi Shai said police would have no comment on the matter for now, and referred queries to the Nigerian government. Saul Molobi, a spokesman for the foreign affairs ministry, also refused comment.
Ogar declined to elaborate on what evidence her agency had, saying officers continued to investigate the bombings.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, also known by the acronym MEND, issued a warning to journalists about an hour before the attacks Friday, telling people to stay away from festivities at Eagle Square in Abuja. It blamed Nigeria’s government for doing nothing to end the unceasing poverty in the delta as the nation receives billions of dollars from oil revenue.
One car bomb exploded, drawing police, firefighters and the curious to the street near a federal courthouse. Five minutes later, a second car bomb exploded, apparently intended to target those drawn to the scene.
A third, smaller explosion struck inside Eagle Square during the ceremony, apparently injuring one security officer. However, MEND has denied placing any explosives inside the venue.
In a statement Saturday night to the AP, MEND said it “deeply regrets the avoidable loss of lives.” It also said Nigerian authorities “were given five days prior notice” to the attack. The group did not explain how officials received that notice.
“Okah has never been involved in any MEND operations but has always been blamed for every attack which is strange to us,” the MEND statement read.
Saturday, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan visited a hospital where doctors cared for some of those injured in the blasts. Jonathan, who himself is from the oil-rich and restive southern delta, told gathered reporters that he went to school only a few kilometers (miles) away from where Royal Dutch Shell PLC drilled the nation’s first oil well. He criticized the bombers for using the struggles of his homeland to “camouflage criminality.”
“This is the first time somebody from the Niger Delta has the opportunity to be president of this country. … You have your own here, you should have hope,” Jonathan said. “Good things don’t happen overnight.”
Jonathan also acknowledged that there were “security lapses” that allowed the bombing, but declined to offer any specific plan to overhaul security agencies in the nation of 150 million people.
MEND has destroyed oil pipelines, kidnapped petroleum company workers and fought government troops since 2006. Violence in the delta drastically subsided after a government-sponsored amnesty deal last year provided cash for fighters and the promise of job training. However, many ex-fighters now complain that the government has failed to fulfill its promises.
The militant group appeared to splinter over the amnesty program, though it proved its operational abilities in March when it detonated two car bombs near a government building in the Niger Delta where officials were discussing the deal. The blasts wounded two people in an attack heard live on television. The group also used car bombs in several attacks in 2006 that killed at least two people.
Nigeria, which is vying with Angola to be Africa’s top supplier of crude oil, is a major supplier to the U.S. Violence in the delta can increase global oil prices drastically.
Associated Press writers Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria and Donna Bryson in Johannesburg contributed to this report.
South Africa deputy President Kgalema MotlantheS.Korea, S.Africa to sign nuclear power deal: report
SEOUL — South Korea will sign an agreement with South Africa in the coming week to design and build nuclear power plants in the African country, it was reported Saturday.
The agreement will be signed when South African Deputy President Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe comes to Seoul Friday for a two-day trip, Yonhap news agency said, quoting an unidentified South Korean foreign ministry official.
“The agreement will lay a legal ground for our advance into South Africa’s nuclear energy market,” the official was quoted as saying.
Motlanthe will meet with President Lee Myung-Bak and Kim Ssang-Su, chief executive of state-run Korea Electric Power Corp., the report said.
South Korea is seeking contracts in other countries, including Turkey, after it sealed a landmark 20.4 billion dollar deal with the United Arab Emirates to build a nuclear power plant.
South Korea, with few natural energy sources, operates 20 commercial reactors to provide 40 percent of its electricity needs.