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Published:November 21st, 2007 00:43 EST
November 20  Around the World

November 20 Around the World

By Krzys Wasilewski

AFRICA

BUJUMBURA, Burund- A chance for peace has appeared in this war-shattered country with the forming of a new coalition government. The United Nations' stabilizing mission in Burundi expressed its satisfaction with the democratic progress and hoped the new authorities would begin the healing process after years of tribal animosities. The government will work under the auspices of President Pierre Nkurunziza. Nkurunziza, a former Hutu rebel, who won the presidential election in 2005 on the promise to focus on the country's weak economy.

Burundi is a country inhabited by two tribes: Hutu and Tutsi. The latter ruled Burundi for decades, favored by the colonial power. Only in the 1990s were Hutu able to take power which resulted in mutual fights and atrocities that claimed over 300,000 lives.

AMERICAS

HAVANA, Cuba- Elections for local and national assemblies will be held on January 20, the Cuban authorities informed today. The announcement comes as a surprise since the elections had originally been scheduled for March or April. The fact that they will be held two months earlier may mean that the country's ailing dictator, Fidel Castro, is unable to rule and the need for a new leader is more imminent than previously thought.

Although Cuba has been a one-party dictatorship since 1959, elections, held every five years, are widely anticipated. Fidel Castro, in power for almost half a century, handed down his powers to his young brother, Raul, after falling ill last year.

WASHINGTON, DC, USA- Despite the constant terrorist threat, the number of tourists visiting the United States is rapidly growing. According to the statistics provided by the U.S. Commerce Department and quoted today by Reuters, as many as 54 million foreigners may have arrived in New York and other American cities by the end of 2007, an increase of five percent from last year's figures.

Among those who visit the United States, the highest percentage constitutes tourists from Europe and Asia. It is estimated that they spent almost $80 billions dollars in the first eight months of 2007, a number that will surely increase by December– that is the period when people travel to the U.S. to celebrate Christmas and New Year's Eve.

ASIA

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan- The Pakistani authorities decided that 3,416 political activists could leave prisons, the Associated Press reports. According to the news agency, among the released are lawyers and dissidents who were arrested during the first days of the emergency rule. However, according to various sources more than 2,000 people still remain in prisons, most of them are those who were taken from the streets after protesting against President Musharraf.

Despite today's decision, the situation in Pakistan is far from stable. Around 150 journalists are said to have been arrested today when they tried to stage an anti-government protest.

SINGAPORE CITY, Singapore- The Singaporean capital is not Brussels and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is not the European Union. Although representatives of 10 ASEAN members spoke of the creation of a political and economic union, the differences among the members still make it impossible to reach any agreement.

The charter accepted on Monday speaks of common regulations in trade and the creation of a human rights body. The latter issue surfaces as the most important considering the present situation in Myanmar, one of the ASEAN members. However, diplomats gathered in Singapore City refused to criticize the junta which is responsible for arresting dozens of protesters early this month. “We don't want to come across as being too confrontational in a situation like this,” the Associated Press quotes the ASEAN Secretary-General.

EUROPE

MOSCOW, Russia- President Putin is reported to have warned NATO that Russia's nuclear forces were ready to respond to any form of attack. During a televised meeting with his top military advisers, Putin once again reminded that Russia is a nuclear power and will not refrain from securing its national interests.

The Reuters agency quotes the president as saying, “We cannot allow ourselves to remain indifferent to the obvious 'muscle-flexing.'”

Although Putin fell short of naming the source of threat, it is an open secret that he meant the Bush Administration's plans to build an anti-missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. Central European countries are members of NATO and the European Union, but Moscow still perceives the region as its area of influence.

The anti-missile shield proposed by Washington, if built, could protect the United States and its European allies from nuclear missiles launched from Iran and other hostile states in northern Africa and the Middle East.

MIDDLE EAST

TEHRAN, Iran- The summits of presidents are always high-profile, but when those presidents happen to be Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the meeting is bound to spark controversies.

Both leaders are ferocious critics of America; both are famous for spectacular gaffes. On Monday, Ahmadinejad hosted his Venezuelan counterpart in Tehran to talk about oil prices and international relations. The two countries are oil exporters and profit from the unstable situation in the Middle East.

“Here are two brother countries, united like a single fist,” the Associated Press quotes Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying on Monday. Chavez, on the other hand, expressed his belief that the United States was a declining empire and would collapse in several years.