February 19th, 2008 12:26 EST
World Chronicle: February 19
KIGALI, Rwanda. While visiting Rwanda – the country remembered for its 1994 genocide when around 800,000 people were brutally and systematically murdered – U.S. President George W. Bush said the killings in the Darfur region of Sudan had to be stopped. At the same time, the president criticized the United Nations for being too sluggish in responding to the conflict that has already claimed over 200,000 lives. Although Bush refused to send American troops to Darfur, the United States sponsored and paid for training of Rwandan soldiers who are now part of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Sudan.
HAVANA, Cuba. Fidel Castro has resigned as Cuba's president, 49 years after he assumed the office. In a statement first published by the Granma newspaper, the dictator listed his advanced age and failing health as the main reasons behind the decision. It is expected that his younger brother Raul, 76, will take over the presidency, an important step to replace Fidel as the indisputable leader of Cuba.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan. President Pervez Musharraf turned out to be the biggest loser of the February 17 parliamentary elections, but his grip on power seems uncontested. The Pakistan People's Party won 86 seats in the 252-seat parliament due to the immense popularity of its founder and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in December. The Pakistan Muslim League, led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, came in second with 65 seats. President Musharraf's camp will be represented by only 39 legislators, but as the third political force in the country, it can play an important role in forming a new coalition government.
Kosovo is still the number one topic in Europe, two days after it proclaimed independence from Serbia. Although the majority of the European Union has either already recognized the new republic or will do so in the near future, at least five member states have refused to follow the pattern. Among them are two EU freshmen – Bulgaria and Romania, which were admitted in 2007. Both are located in the closest neighborhood of the Balkans and host a number of national minorities. They fear that if Kosovo becomes an officially accepted country, it will open a Pandora's Box of demands for independence. Similar fears have been expressed by Cyprus, Spain, Slovakia, and Russia, which may veto Kosovo's admission to the United Nations.
LONDON, England. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who came to power in July of last year, is expected in Brussels, the unofficial capital of the European Union. Unlike his predecessor, Tony Blair, Brown is regarded as a less pro-European politician with almost inherited disdain for the Byzantine institutions and highly regulated economies that are common on the continent. Brown will meet with the European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso to discus economic reforms and other issues.
JERUSALEM, Israel. The future status of Jerusalem cast a shadow over the Tuesday talks between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The meeting is the result of the US-sponsored conference, organized in November, and is hoped to be the beginning of a difficult but vital peace process that could end up in the creation of an independent Palestinian state. But as the two statesmen seem to agree on the general premises, they fail to find consensus on many details. With holy sites of all main religions, Jerusalem is claimed by both nations. The eastern part of the city was incorporated by Israel in 1967.
WASHINGTON, DC. Tuesday is a primary day in Wisconsin, where Democrats will cast their votes for either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. The similar choice will face their colleagues in Hawaii, where a caucus will decide which presidential hopeful will be awarded 20 delegates. The Associated Press provides figures that show both candidates locked in a highly-contested race in Wisconsin. Any result is also possible in Hawaii – the birthplace of Sen. Barack Obama.
Meanwhile, Republicans will be competing in Wisconsin and Washington. With John McCain being an unquestionable front-runner, it is expected that the Arizona senator will score both states. His main rival, Mike Huckabee, is highly dependant on Evangelical voters who are in the minority in Wisconsin and Washington. His stubborn presence in the race seems to be more about securing his future position inside the Republican Party rather than posing a serious threat to McCain.