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October 20, 2009

Zimbabwe cabinet meets without MDC ministers after boycott

Zimbabwe cabinet meets without MDC ministers after boycott

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

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Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe led a cabinet meeting on Tuesday without the presence of unity partner Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who was out of the country on a regional tour to appeal for help with mediation. This comes after Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party pulled out of the unity government several days ago, protesting what they called “dishonest and unreliable” behaviour by Mugabe.

Robert Mugabe

Morgan Tsvangirai

Zimbabwe state media reported on Tuesday that President Mugabe will not recognise Tsvangirai’s suspension of ties with the government until he is formally informed. The state-owned daily newspaper, The Herald, quoted Mugabe’s spokesman, George Charamba, as saying Tsvangirai is still prime minister and is expected to attend cabinet meetings.

“Government is not run through media statements. In the same way that President Mugabe formally appointed him to the post of Prime Minister he must also communicate any decision to disengage or whatever it is they are calling it, in a formal manner,” Charamba said.

“This can be done orally or in writing but in a formal manner. From that point of view nothing has happened. Until the communication is done formally the president has no reason or any grounds to think or know otherwise,” he said.

Tsvangirai, who “disengaged” from the country’s unity government last week, was accused by the newspaper of traveling without cabinet approval. The leader of the MDC party is on a ten-day trip of Southern African Development Community countries, who helped to negotiate the troubled power sharing agreement in Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai is not due to return to Zimbabwe until sometime next week.

According to The Herald, government officials said that Tsvangirai had attempted to obtain cabinet authority for his trip while en route to the airport, but was told that it was too late to receive it.

However, University of Zimbabwe political science professor John Makumbe said he believed Tsvangirai’s partial withdrawal from the national unity government was long overdue and ZANU-PF’s reaction is mere posturing. “Morgan Tsvangirai has done the right thing, he must light fires and make ZANU-PF run around putting the fires out. What he has been doing to date is agreeing to be treated like a tea-boy, he has been told what to do and he has done it without asking questions,” Makumbe said.

He said that Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party couldn’t risk going it alone, as Tsvangirai has a stronger claim to legitimacy as his party won the elections in March 2008.

Ministers from a splinter faction of the MDC led by Arthur Mutambara attended the cabinet meeting. Mutambara, who is one of two deputy prime ministers, said at a news conference on Monday that he was talking to both Mugabe and Tsvangirai. He said the national unity government is Zimbabwe’s only hope of moving forward. “We are determined to give this government a fighting chance because in our mind there is no plan B,” Mutambara said.

Tsvangirai announced last week that his party would not withdraw from the unity government altogether, but would boycott the executive branch whose ministries it shares with the ZANU-PF party. He cited the reluctance of Mugabe to implement matters that had been agreed to in the so-called Global Political Agreement, which brought the national unity government to power.

Among the outstanding issues is the appointment of governors and the alleged harassment of his party members and Members of Parliament. His announcement came two days after agriculture deputy minister designate Roy Bennett was arrested and re-detained on charges of insurgency and terror. Bennett has since been released on bail, but Tsvangirai has said his party will not participate in government until all the issues he raised have been resolved.



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US scientist from Maryland accused of spying for Israel

Filed under: Crime and law,United States — admin @ 5:00 am

US scientist from Maryland accused of spying for Israel

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stewart D. Nozette, 52, from Chevy Chase, Maryland in the United States, was arrested Monday on charges of espionage and is being held until a court hearing on Tuesday. He is accused of spying for Israel.

Aerial view of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Nozette, who received a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had several high profile jobs in the U.S. government and access to classified materials. He worked for the Energy Department’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 1990 to 1999 and was the President of the Alliance for Competitive Technology, which was formed in 1990 by Nozette. Both of these organizations had contracts with the U.S. government, providing advanced technology. Nozette also worked for NASA and the Department of Defense. During the course of these jobs, authorities say Nozette had access to classified information. The last time he is alleged to have had regular access to any such information was as late as 2006.

According to court notes made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, an undercover agent pretending to be an Israeli intelligence officer contacted Nozette on September 3, 2009 and asked for information, and later that day Nozette confirmed his willingness to give the officer classified material in exchange for money and an Israeli passport. During another meeting with the officer, Nozette allegedly pointed out that he no longer had access to classified documents but might recall information from them.

The notes detail that Nozette received two envelopes after a month containing US$11,000 and lists of questions they wanted Nozette to answer. Nozette allegedly returned envelopes containing information labelled as “top secret” about U.S. military satellites, the nation’s early warning systems against missile attacks, and the ability of the U.S. to withstand and defend itself from a large-scale attack.

Nozette faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. “The conduct alleged in this complaint is serious and should serve as a warning to anyone who would consider compromising our nation’s secrets for profit,” said U.S. Assistant Attorney General David Kris.



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New Gabonese president names new government

New Gabonese president names new government

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

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Gabon’s new president Ali Ben Bongo has named his first government, after winning the country’s recent presidential elections.

Bongo has kept interim Prime Minister Paul Mba, who has served in the post since July when his predecessor stepped down to run against Bongo.

Paul Tongui remained the foreign minister. Jean Francois Ndoungou kept his job as interior minister. Angelique Ngoma was moved from her position as minister of families to the defense minister — the first time that a woman has held that post in Gabon.

President Bongo was defense minister in the previous government of his father, Omar Bongo, who died in June after ruling for forty years.

In all, a dozen members of the new government are veterans of the previous administration. However, Bongo has trimmed its size. Including himself and the prime minister, there are just 30 members of the new government. The previous administration had 44. Prime Minister Mba said the move “is aimed primarily at efficiency”.

Francois Engongah Owono is the secretary general of the presidency. Owono said that the new, smaller government will be more efficient and includes people determined to get everyone in Gabon working together for a better country.

Bongo was sworn in Saturday after a lengthy review of the August election that brought him to power. Opposition candidates filed suit to overturn the results, accusing electoral officials of vote fraud to benefit the ruling party. Gabon’s constitutional court recounted returns from more than 2,800 polling stations and confirmed Bongo’s win.

Most election observers believe the vote was fair, despite irregularities that included security forces at polling stations, some ballot boxes not being properly sealed, and the absence of opposition representatives during some vote counting.

Bongo has promised to improve health, education, and housing in Gabon and more equitably distribute oil revenue. Under his father, Gabon became the world’s sixth-largest oil exporter, but 70% of the population still live in poverty.



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ECOWAS suspends Niger in dispute over constitution

ECOWAS suspends Niger in dispute over constitution

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has suspended Niger for refusing to postpone a legislative election. The regional alliance wanted Niger to delay the vote, which was held on Tuesday, to allow for political dialogue following a controversial referendum that has extended the president’s time in office.

“ECOWAS will not recognize the outcome of today’s elections in Niger,” the alliance said in a statement.

ECOWAS followed through on its threat to suspend Niger after President Mamadou Tandja went ahead with legislative vote. Tandja ignored last-minute appeals by ECOWAS leaders to delay the poll, saying that election preparations were too far advanced.

Niger president Mamadou Tandja

The regional alliance asked him to indefinitely suspend the election in favor of political dialogue to resolve a political crisis sparked by an August referendum that changed the constitution to extend the president’s time in office.

“ECOWAS is already in touch with the African Union to put the Niger file also on the agenda of the African Union Peace and Security Council, which would also lead to the United Nations taking a similar decision,” said Abdel Fatau Musah, the political director of the ECOWAS alliance. “And we know that our partners, like the European Union, are also considering very severed measures against President Tandja and the authorities in Niger for blatantly casting aside their constitution, which actually forbids their president from going beyond two terms.”

Opposition parties have been boycotting this vote for 113 legislators to replace the parliament Tandja dismissed when it said his constitutional referendum was illegal. The president dismissed the country’s constitutional court when it reached the same conclusion.

Alat Mogaskiya, one of the founders of Niger’s Party for Democracy and Socialism, said that Tandja had the legal authority to dismiss parliament, but ignored the constitutional mandate to have new elections to replace those lawmakers within 90 days. He claimed that the new Tandja government is illegal and illegitimate, because the referendum extending the president’s term was unconstitutional.

Ruling party communications secretary Issoufou Tamboura said the opposition boycott will have no impact on the vote, just as its boycott of the referendum had no effect on changing the constitution. Tamboura said the boycott will not stop the new government from continuing its work and electing a new assembly. Parties are free to join or boycott the vote as they choose.

He added that the boycott will not affect the credibility of this vote, because the ruling party is the country’s largest and it is taking part. Some other smaller parties are also participating. He said his party believes this election will be credible.



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