January 4th, 2008 13:25 EST
World Chronicle: January 4
DAKAR, Senegal. The world famous Dakar rally has been canceled due to terrorist threats in Northern Africa. In the race's 30-year long history, it is the first time that drivers from around the world will have to park their machines in garages. Quoted by the Associated Press, the Dakar authorities admitted on Friday that “no other decision but the cancellation of the sporting event could be taken.” Although terrorists, purportedly linked to al-Qaida, have been active in Northern Africa for years, the main reason of the race cancellation was the recent murder of three French nationals in Mauritania, through which the road to the finish in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, was led. Despite the promise of the Mauritanian government that the country was secure, an insurance company refused to insure the racers and their cars. Also the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, was said to have been pressuring the rally's organizers to cancel this year's edition.
DES MOINES, Iowa. Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee are the victors of the first of the 2008 presidential election primaries. Although they both were regarded as potential winners, the margin with which they defeated their rivals is surprisingly high. Obama, who runs on the Democratic ticket, scored 38 percent of the vote, leaving John Edwards and Hillary Clinton trailing with 30 percent and 29 percent respectively. The Iowan Republicans gave a chance to “a preacher with a positive message,” as Mike Huckabee calls himself. The former Arkansas governor garnered 34 percent, defeating Mitt Romney – until then seen as a sure-winner in Iowa – by nine percent. John McCain came in third, indicating that he is not out of race yet.
SANTIAGO, Chile. A 22-year-old student was shot dead when the police quelled a group of Mapuche Indians breaking into a farm. According to the Associated Press, over 20 Indians ransacked the farm, trying to “reclaim farmland they say belonged to their ancestors.” The student received a bullet in his stomach and died on spot. It was one of many similar incidents involving Chile's Indians, but the first one in four years in which there were casualties.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka. Hopes for peace in Sri Lanka wane as the island's central government says the 2002 peace accord with the Tamil Tiger rebels was “flawed from the start.” According to Agence France Press, the foreign minister implied that the Norwegian diplomats – who have been the main mediators between the two warring sides for over five years – should leave Sri Lanka as the new situation needed new ideas. “Now that there are new circumstances, we naturally expect the Norwegians to have a redefined role,” the minister told AFP on Friday. Violent clashes between governmental forces and the Tami Tiger rebels have been Sri Lanka's daily routine since 1972. In over 30 years, the conflict has claimed more than 60,000 lives, substantially destabilizing the region's fragile balance of power.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan. A week after Pakistan's opposition leader and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, experts from the British police arrived to help local authorities find the guilty party. President Musharraf had to bow to public pressure and let foreign investigators in the country, when it turned out that the Pakistani police were unable to solve the crime on its own. Seven days after the assassination of the widely popular Bhutto, it remains unknown who stood behind the attack. The government insists that al-Qaida and its affiliated organizations orchestrated the murder, but many ordinary Pakistanis suspects President Musharraf to have given the final order.
PRISTINA, Kosovo. Friday was the first day for the newly-elected Kosovo's 120-seat parliament. Although last year's election was won by the Democratic Party – the main separatist force in the province – it fell short of garnering enough seats to solely form a government. Experts predict it may be weeks until the Democratic Party finalize talks with its nemesis, the Democratic League of Kosovo, and to create a ruling coalition. Although Kosovo, dominated by Albanians, officially remains a Serbian province, it has enjoyed wide autonomy for almost a decade. In 1999, the United Nations forces marched into the province to protect Albanians against the nationalist Serbian army. In December 2007, the representatives of Kosovo and Serbia held talks in Vienna, but no working agreement was reached. It is expected that the province may unilaterally declare independence some time soon.
EAST TEL AVIV, Israel. The Associated Press reports that the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehmud Olmert, urged his countrymen to stop developing settlements in the West Bank. In the historical statement, the prime minister said that further Jewish build-up in the regions, traditionally regarded as Palestinian, could endanger the peace process. Olmert's words are a visible sign that the current Israeli government will push for a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority before the next American presidential election. As his second term is drawing to a close, US President George W. Bush has made it his goal to orchestrate a new peace deal which could end years of violent clashes between Israel and Palestine.