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Published:November 23rd, 2007 13:46 EST
News Summary:  Friday, November  23

News Summary: Friday, November 23

By Krzys Wasilewski

AFRICA

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa-- Controversial as he is, former vice president Jacob Zuma is still widely popular among his party members. Zuma, who was dismissed from his post when charges of corruption surfaced, turns out to be one of the main contenders for his party's leadership. Today he was backed by the African National Congress Youth League-- an organization comprised of young activists, which becomes more and more influential inside the African National Congress (ANC). According to the South African constitution, the president is elected by the parliament, whoever becomes the chairman of the ANC, the party which has won all the parliamentary elections since the fall of apartheid in 1994, is bound to assume the presidency. Zuma's main rival during the December conference, which will choose the party's new leader, appears to be the incumbent president, Thabo Mbeki. Although Mbeki, now in his second term and banned by the constitution from running for a third term, could rule South Africa behind-the-scenes as the ANC chairman.

KHARTOUM, Sudan-- Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said today that his government would never allow non-African peacekeeping forces to be deployed to the southern province of Darfur. The 26,000-strong military contingent was to be composed of both African Union and United Nations forces. As more and more countries which pledged to contribute to the Darfur peacekeeping mission withdraw their support, the presence of highly-skilled units from Scandinavia, Thailand and Nepal become of crucial importance. However, the Sudanese president refused to give his permission to their participation in the mission that was to take off early next year.

“Even if there is a shortage of troops from the African continent, we are not going to accept those people. Because we were not consulted about it," the Associated Press quotes Bashir, who held a press conference today.

Earlier this year, the United Nations, together with the African Union, made a decision to form a military force to stabilize the war-torn province of Darfur. In a decades-long conflict, the black tribes of Darfur have been fighting for greater autonomy and an equal participation in Sudan's vast natural resources.

AMERICAS

CARACAS, Venezuela-- Venezuela's controversial president, Hugo Chavez, said today that although he was building socialism, the country's private business had nothing to fear. The Associated Press cites Chavez as saying, “How can someone believe that we're going to eliminate private property, personal property, if what we're doing is multiplying it?" The words are perceived as the president's response to the growing public unrest and the news spread across the country that all the private property was to be confiscated.

Chavez, who won the presidency in 1999 and has ruled Venezuela with an iron fist ever since, hopes to amend the constitution in order to be able to stay in power for as long as he wishes. If in a referendum scheduled for December 2, the majority of Venezuelans support his plans, the article which sets the presidency limit to two terms will be erased; whereas, the constitution will include the words on socialism.

ASIA

KABUL, Afghanistan-- Seven beheaded Afghan policemen have been found today in the southern province of Kandahar. The policemen served at checkpoints, scattered across the country, to prevent Taliban rebels from sneaking into big cities. According to the Associated Press, a Taliban group attacked one such checkpoint and abducted as many as 13 policemen. The fate of the remaining six is unknown.

Also, today an Australian soldier has been killed after a bomb exploded in a small town in Uruzgan province. Pvt. Luke Worsley, 26, is the third Australian soldier who has lost his life since the US-led coalition forces entered Afghanistan to purge it from Taliban rebels. Together with Worsley, three civilians were killed.

EUROPE

WARSAW, Poland-- Polish troops will leave Iraq by the end of 2008, Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced today. In a three-hour long speech before parliament, the new premier skirted around all the main issues that trouble Poland-- limping health care service, massive immigration of young people and poor infrastructure-- but, he was plain as to his decision to pull out the 1,000-strong Polish contingent from Iraq.

“We will carry out that operation with the conviction that we have done more than what our allies— especially the U.S.— had expected from us," the Associated Press quotes Tusk.

Tusk's liberal Civic Platform won an early parliamentary election in October after the bickering nationalist conservative coalition crumbled under the charges of corruption and incompetence. Although the Civic Platform garnered more than 40 percent of the ballot, it fell short of winning the majority in parliament and had to form a coalition with the agrarian Polish Peasants' Party.

MIDDLE EAST

BEIRUT, Lebanon-- Thousands of troops have been deployed to the streets of all main cities today to maintain order as president, Emile Lahoud, introduced the state of emergency. Lahoud supported his decision by saying that the inability of choosing his successor threatened the country's integrity. Friday was the last day when two rival parties-- US-backed ruling party and pro-Syrian Hezbollah-- could strike a compromise and elect a new president. According to the Lebanese constitution, the president is elected by parliament; however, neither of the parties has two thirds of all the seats needed to choose the new head of state.

The government refused to accept the state of emergency, arguing that the president had no right to do it without the prime minister's consent. “It has no value and is unconstitutional and, consequently, it is considered as if it was not issued," the Associated Press quotes a governmental spokesman.

The current political crisis resembles the one from the 1970s which led to a 15-years-long civil war. It is estimated that as many as 150,000 people could have been killed during the conflict.