December 10th, 2007 17:23 EST
World Chronicle: December 10
KHARTOUM, Sudan. Sudan supports the African Union peacekeeping mission, which is to be deployed to Darfur early 2008, and will welcome African troops on its soil, said a Sudanese deputy foreign minister Sunday. At a press conference, Sammami Wassila said that “we have acted and we continue to act with responsibility to apply (UN Security Council) Resolution 1769.” He also criticized the United Nations for being unable to live up its previous plans which spoke of the military force consisting of 26,000 African troops. Sudan refused to allow soldiers from other continents to participate in the peacekeeping mission (the Scandinavian countries, as well as some Asian states offered their help). Although the European Union promised to finance the mission, so far it has failed in delivering the military equipment such as helicopters, which the U.N. finds crucial to the success of the entire mission.
The conflict in Darfur began in the early 2000s and so far has claimed over 200,000 lives and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes. The 8,000 Ugandan soldiers, who were sent last year to protect the refugees, need to patrol an area bigger than their home country and are unable to secure peace.
CARACAS, Venezuela. Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez was not able to convince his people to embrace socialism, but he has not given up his megalomania. By a presidential decree issued on Sunday, the country will have its own time zone, which should help “improve the development of Venezuela and allow children to sleep longer.” But as many South American experts say, Chavez's new idea may complicate economic relations with the region because different time zones will further complicate trade with Venezuela's neighbors.
Also last weekend the Venezuelan president hosted his Belarusian counterpart. During his welcome speech, Chavez said that “the international media dictatorship ... calls him 'Europe's last dictator,' and me the last dictator of Latin America. Here we are, the last dictators.” The two presidents signed a trade deal, from which Venezuela and Belarus will create an oil company.
BANGKOK, Thailand. During his visit to Thailand, United Nations General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon said Monday that it was high time for the Myanmar military junta to introduce democracy. Quoted by the Associated Press, Ban Ki-moon told reporters at a press conference that “the people of Myanmar have suffered from isolation for such a long time and it's high time now that the Myanmar authorities and the people ... enjoy democracy and freedom.”
It is estimated that over 30 people have been killed in Myanmar since September, when the first opposition protesters took to the streets. As around 650 dissidents remain in prisons, the military junta continues to rule the small mountainous country with an iron fist.
Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) won independence from Great Britain in 1948 and soon fell under the communist spell. In 1962, the socialist government was ousted by a military junta, which has been ruling ever since.
SEUL, South Korea. Good children can expect nice presents this Christmas – so can ductile governments, like North Korea. As news agencies inform, in response to dissolving its nuclear program, North Korea will receive 5,000 tons of steel plate this month, sent from its southern neighbor and enemy as the two Koreas have remained in the state of war since 1950. According to the South Korean news agency, the steel worth around $4.8 million should have arrived in a North Korean harbor by December 17.
Earlier this year, North Korea agreed to get rid of its nuclear installations and provide the United States with all the details about the program in exchange for humanitarian and economic aid, as well as for diplomatic recognition.
LISBON, Portugal. A meeting between the European Union and African states ended as a failure with the majority of African representatives turning down the trade agreement proposed by the Europeans. The presidents of Senegal and South Africa, who led the opposition to the deal, said that what the Europeans offered Africa was unfair and would only deepen the economic gasp between the two continents. According to the former, the trade agreement was “not in Africa's interest.”
The first high-level conference was organized after the World Trade Organization (WTO) demanded that the European Union sign a new trade deal with its African partners, as the previous one – signed shortly after colonial empires crumbled – favored Africa, which had easier access to the European market than other regions. The European Union warned that the refusal to sign the deal would turn them against Africa: the old agreement expires on January 1, 2008, and without a new one, African countries may be unable to successfully export their goods to Europe.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was conspicuously absent from the conference. The leader of the former colonial power refused to come to Lisbon when it turned out that Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, would also attend the meeting. Both countries have been at odds since the late 1990s, when Mugabe expelled thousands of white farmers and accused Great Britain of conducting an imperial policy towards Zimbabwe. The European Union closed its borders to the president; however, the ban was lifted after some African countries demanded Mugabe be present at the conference.
MOSCOW, Russia. Four months before the March presidential election in Russia, the victor has already been chosen. At a meeting with parliamentary parties, President Vladimir Putin said Monday he would back his first deputy prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev. As opinion polls give Putin the unchallenged position – the incumbent president is supported by around 70 percent of the population – whomever he appoints as his successor is bound to win the March election. Medvedev, who has connections with the Russian gas giant, Gazprom, has remained backstage so far and lacks public recognition. However, the deputy prime minister is said to be blindly loyal to Putin and guarantees to maintain the policies of his predecessor.