Friday, August 31, 2007


Mr Mugabe has brought the new rules in unilaterally. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has banned all pay rises and price increases in a new bid to curb the country's runaway inflation.
With Zimbabwe's annual inflation now at more than 7,600% - the highest in the world - the latest move was announced by the state-run Herald newspaper.
Anyone who breaks the freeze, which applies for six months, will get a jail sentence of up to the same length.
Shops have previously been told to cut prices, but most have little to sell.
'Pushing down inflation'
"No one in private or public sectors can now raise salaries, wages, rents, service charges, prices and school fees..." said the Herald.

Q&A: Zimbabwe's economic crisis

The changes have been made by Mr Mugabe without going before the Zimbabwean parliament.
The decree has to be confirmed within six months to remain in force.
Any pay increases can now only be authorised by the government's National Incomes And Prices Commission, which the president heads.
"The net effect of the charges will be to push inflation down since all increases will be by less than the current inflation rate," added the Herald.
Independent Harare-based economist John Robertson said the latest move was a result of plummeting government revenues.
"I just wonder when they will try and reverse the laws of gravity, because this does not work," he said. Mr Robertson also questioned whether the country's armed forces - which have so far been loyal to Mr Mugabe - would accept the pay freeze.
Other analysts predicted that the wage and prices freeze would be impossible for the government to implement.
Once the bread basket of southern Africa, Zimbabwe's economy is now in crisis.
The economic woes date back to 2000, when the government and its supporters began to forcibly seize white-owned farms.







1977: Smith keeps power in Rhodesia.

Ian Smith's ruling Rhodesian Front has won an overwhelming victory in the country's general election.
The party made a clean sweep of all the 50 seats reserved for whites in the 66-seat parliament.
The result represents a decisive defeat for 12 right-wingers who split from Mr Smith's party because of his plans for constitutional change.
Mr Smith advocates a phased introduction to black-majority rule.
Last year he accepted a US plan to introduce black rule to Rhodesia within two years.
However, the newly-formed Rhodesian Action Party campaigned on an anti-majority rule platform.
Their defeat in all the seats they contested is seen as strengthening Mr Smith's position.
Ideas being proposed by Britain and America which call for a swift transition to black rule were backed by the left-of-centre National Unifying Force.
Nobody but a fool would disregard the kind of result we witnessed today
Ian Smith
At the polls their candidates were also trounced by the Rhodesian Front.
Speaking after the election count, Mr Smith told journalists he believed the scale of his victory would give him more leverage to produce an internal settlement.
"I am satisfied it has strengthened my hand tremendously. Nobody but a fool would disregard the kind of result we witnessed today," Mr Smith said.
But the prime minister promised to give the Anglo-American proposals careful consideration.
Mr Smith said: "No matter how unpalatable at first sight, we will give them very careful thorough consideration and investigation before attempting to pass judgement."
In spite of Mr Smith's preference for a phased handover to black rule, Wednesday's election is widely expected to be the last time a white-majority parliament will be returned in Rhodesia.
Under the current voting system, the country's 85,000 white voters elect 50 white MPs.
However, just eight black MPs are elected to represent the country's 6m black people - because only 7,000 of them are eligible to vote.
Ian Smith has been Rhodesia's prime minister since 1964.
He unilaterally declared independence from Britain the following year.


The Democratic Republic of Congo has sent troop reinforcements to try and put down a rebellion in the east.
The government has also ordered rebels loyal to a renegade general to lay down their arms and go to training centres of the national army.
The call came shortly after the rebel soldiers allied to General Laurent Nkunda attacked government troops in the troubled North Kivu province.
Thousands of people have fled their homes since the clashes intensified.
A UN military spokesman confirmed that the government troops are being sent on Monuc helicopters to an area near Katale, the headquarters of the brigade that was stormed by General Laurent Nkunda's rebel soldiers on Thursday.
Since Monday, hundreds of rebel troops loyal to the ethnic Tutsi general have launched three attacks.
The BBC's Arnaud Zajtman in Kinshasa says witnesses at the airport in the eastern regional capital Goma have seen the government troop reinforcements flying in.


Elusive peace in east Congo

DR Congo Defence Minister Tshikez Djemu said late on Thursday that if the former rebels refused to lay down their arms, they would be considered bandits and be dealt with accordingly by the army.
Tension is nothing new to North Kivu but it has suddenly increased after the government's decision to dismantle what are known as the mixed brigades, our correspondent says.
These brigades, created earlier this year, were made up of government soldiers and more than 7,000 former rebels.
They joined the brigades on condition that they would remain deployed as a group to protect their own community, the Tutsis, against Rwandan Hutu rebels, some of whom took part in the 1994 genocide of Tutsis.
But since the beginning of this year, military operations launched by the mixed brigades against the Hutu rebels have created more instability and the UN says more than 170,000 civilians have been displaced.
Mr Djemu said the mixed brigades would now be dismantled and the former Tutsi rebels deployed to other parts of DR Congo.
But so far most of those rebels have refused to lay down their arms or to leave the protection of their community to other units of the Congolese army, our correspondent says.
Last year's historic elections, which saw Joseph Kabila elected president, were supposed to mark the end of years of conflict and mismanagement in DR Congo.



Archbishop Ncube says Zimbabweans are desperate. Zimbabwe's Roman Catholic bishops have publicly pledged their support for the Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, a prominent government critic.
The nine bishops took out a full-page advert in the official Herald newspaper, in which they said he had "exposed the evils" of the government.
The move comes after accusations that Archbishop Ncube had had an affair with a married woman in his parish.
His lawyers called the allegations an orchestrated attempt to discredit him.
Meanwhile, South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki has again ruled out any attempt to try to change the government in Zimbabwe.
"We are not going to be involved in any regime change," Mr Mbeki told South Africa's parliament on Thursday.
"We are not going to do it. We think it is fundamentally wrong."
Mr Mbeki has been tasked to try to mediate Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis.
He has been criticised for his policy of "quiet diplomacy" towards Zimbabwe.
The Catholic bishops said attacks on Archbishop Ncube by the government and state media were "outrageous and utterly deplorable and constitute an assault on the Catholic Church".
They urged Zimbabwe's Catholics - the country's largest religious grouping - to remember the archbishop in their prayers.

Born: 1946
Archbishop of Bulawayo
Worked in Matabeleland during massacres in the 1980s
Has called for protests against Mugabe
Profile: The turbulent archbishop

"For years, he has courageously and with moral authority advocated social justice and political action to overcome the grievous crisis facing our country."
The husband of the woman with whom he allegedly had an affair has filed a lawsuit, demanding 20bn Zimbabwe dollars (about $160,000, or £80,000, on the black market exchange rate) in damages from the archbishop.
The archbishop, who denies the allegations, has openly denounced Mr Mugabe as a "megalomaniac".
Last month in an interview with the BBC, he argued that a case could be made for the overthrow of the president.
He has said the political and economic situation in Zimbabwe has reached "life-threatening proportions", and that regional political intervention was now needed.
Earlier this year, Archbishop Ncube called for mass street protests and said people must be prepared to stand in front of "blazing guns" to force Mr Mugabe from power.
President Robert Mugabe has warned the country's bishops they were on a "dangerous path" if they became too political.
Zimbabwe has the world's highest rate of inflation - currently about 7,500% - and just one in five adults are in work.



German Chancellor Angela Merkel has topped a list of the most powerful women in the world for the second year.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is fourth in the Forbes magazine list, which is assessed using a mix of media "reach", influence and economic impact.
The Queen - among only three UK women listed - rose 23 places to 23, partly because of the length of her reign and her "increasing media favourability".
Businesswomen have performed strongly, taking five of the top 10 places.
Ho Ching, head of Singapore's Temasek Holdings was at number three while Pepsi's chief executive Indra Nooyi was fifth in the list of 100 women.


1. Angela Merkel (German chancellor)
2. Wu Yi (Chinese vice-premier)
3. Ho Ching (Temasek Holdings)
4. Condoleezza Rice (US Secretary of State)
5. Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo)
6. Sonia Ghandi (Indian National Congress Party)
7. Cynthia Carroll (Anglo American)
8. Patricia Wortz (Archer Daniels Midland)
9. Irene Rosenfeld (Kraft Foods)
10. Patricia Russo (Alcatel-Lucent)
Source: Forbes magazine

Second highest Briton after the Queen was London Stock Exchange boss Clara Furse, at 54th.
In another strong showing by the world of business, chief executive of mining giant Anglo American, Cynthia Carroll was the highest ranking newcomer, placed seventh.
Other City-based high-flyers included the chief executive of publishers Pearson, Marjorie Scardino, who was ranked 17th and Angela Ahrendts, the chief executive of fashion label Burberry, who placed 66th.
However, Margaret Beckett, who was placed 29th last year in her role as foreign secretary slipped out of the top 100 list completely after being replaced in the job by a man - David Miliband.
And Cherie Blair also failed to make the list, having been named as 62nd most powerful woman in 2005.



Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are hitting the road for their first major tour of the US and Europe in almost five years.
The tour, which will start in the US on 2 October, will support the release of Springsteen's new album Magic.
They will play 31 dates in the US, Canada, Spain, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Ireland, France and the UK.
Springsteen, 57, made many of his early records with the E Street Band.
But after 1987's Tunnel of Love album he used the band less often, often touring solo or with different musicians.
The singer-songwriter's upcoming album was recorded with the group, and features ten new Springsteen compositions.
On tour, the E Street Band will include Roy Bittan on keyboards, Clarence Clemons on saxophone and percussion, Danny Federici on keyboards, Nils Lofgren on guitars, Patti Scialfa on vocals and guitar, Garry Tallent on bass, Steven Van Zandt on guitars, and Max Weinberg on drums.
The concerts kick off in Hartford, Connecticut, on 2 October, ending in London on 19 December.



The parents of missing Madeleine McCann are to launch a libel action against a Portuguese newspaper which claimed they killed their daughter.
Last week, Tal & Qual reported that the "police believe" Kate and Gerry McCann killed her, with the paper suggesting Madeleine may have died in an accident.
The McCanns' lawyers will file for defamation, saying the "untrue" story had caused "suffering and humiliation".
Police have stressed that the McCanns, of Rothley, Leics, are not suspects.
Four-year-old Madeleine vanished from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Algarve, on 3 May while her parents were eating at a nearby restaurant.
Earlier this month the police said there were indications that Madeleine might have died.
The newspaper's front-page story, headlined "The police believe the parents killed Maddie", claimed the couple had either caused a fatal accident or given drugs to their daughter.
Evidence analysed
The allegations were attributed to a "source close to the investigation".
However, the director of police has said publicly that the McCanns have never been viewed as suspects.
Lawyers for the couple will file a seven-page defamation complaint against the journalist who wrote the article and the newspaper's director. The legal case says the story was completely untrue.
Media speculation has been rife in Portugal since the police declared that Madeleine might have died.
The BBC's Steve Kingstone, who is in Praia da Luz, said the McCanns had previously held back from responding to the speculation, but now felt "a line had been crossed" and "enough was enough".
The newspaper's claim was based on the discovery of suspected traces of blood inside the family's apartment.
The UK's Forensic Science Service is continuing to analyse evidence recovered from the apartment.
Last week, Mr McCann asked the media to end the constant speculation about his daughter's whereabouts.
He said there had been "huge amounts written with no substance" and that it was not necessary to "bombard people on a daily basis" with Madeleine's image.



Thousands of people have fled from clashes in the east of DR Congo between government troops and soldiers allied to a renegade general, the UN says.
A UN spokeswoman said rebels loyal to General Laurent Nkunda battled for five hours to seize a military base in Nord Kivu province early on Thursday.
Several people were hit by bullets but the army did not confirm casualties.
About 165,000 people have fled clashes between government forces and rebels since January.
The rebels were members of a mixed brigade created to integrate rebels into the Congolese army, but which fell apart after a series of desertions.

Elusive peace in east Congo

The attack, by about 1,500 rebels, targeted a military base in Masisi, a few kilometres from the city of Goma.
"Monuc [the UN mission in DR Congo] has reinforced its troops in Masisi and spent the night ceaselessly calling on both sides to end hostilities", UN spokeswoman Sylvie van den Wildenberg told AFP news agency.
General Nkunda has been leading a rebellion in the east against the country's elected government, which he accuses of promoting ethnic hatred.
The dissident general argues that his troops are protecting the ethnic Tutsis from an extremist Hutu militia accused of leading the 1994 Rwandan genocide, who operate freely in the east.
The government has called off operations against the militias, sparking protests from General Nkunda and the Rwandan government.
Last Friday the UN warned that increasing violent unrest in the east of the country could spark a huge increase in the numbers of people fleeing the fighting.
And last month, UN peacekeeping head Jean-Marie Guehenno warned that forces allied to General Nkunda posed a serious threat to stability in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Last year's historic elections, which saw Joseph Kabila elected president, were supposed to mark the end of years of conflict and mismanagement in DR Congo.


Thursday, August 30, 2007


Brian May and Roger Taylor helped launch the 46664 campaign. Queen stars Brian May and Roger Taylor have signed up to perform at a concert in London next year to mark Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday.
The charity concert is being held to raise awareness of Mandela's 46664 HIV Aids campaign, set up to help those "on the frontline to fight HIV".
May and Taylor helped found the 46664 campaign in 2003, alongside fellow music stars Dave Stewart and Bono.
The former President of South Africa will attend the concert on 27 June.
A worldwide music-led campaign, 46664 takes its name from the prison number Mandela was assigned during his 18-year-sentence on Robben Island in South Africa.
Bono and Beyonce Knowles headlined the first concert in South Africa in November 2003.
Spain and Norway have also played host to concerts, in addition to a second gig held in South Africa in 2005.
In January of the same year, Mandela lost his son to Aids.



By Michael Bristow Business reporter, BBC News, Beijing

Rising pork prices have pushed up inflation in China. At the Chunxiu Road Vegetable Market in central Beijing, shoppers and stallholders are grumbling about the price of food. Pork laid out on plastic slabs has increased from about 7 yuan (92 cents, 46 pence) a jin (500 grams) last year to 11 or 12 yuan now.
Food price increases this year have led to a sharp rise in the consumer price index, the main gauge of inflation which jumped to 5.6% in July, its highest level in 10 years.
In a country where inflation and social unrest are historically linked, that statistic cannot be ignored by China's leaders.
On several occasions in the past, rising food prices in China have led to political problems for the government.
Inflation in 1988 is thought to have contributed to the demonstrations in Beijing's Tiananmen Square the following year.
Arthur Kroeber, director of economic research firm Dragonomics, says the current level of inflation is no way near as politically serious as it was in the late 1980s.
"We are far away from that kind of scenario," says the economist, whose firm specialises in China.

The Chinese government appears to have inflation - caused by supply problems and increasing demand - under control, says Mr Kroeber.
Last week it raised interest rates for the fourth time this year to curb lending and encourage saving. Incomes are also growing at a rapid pace, meaning people can afford more expensive goods, he says.
And despite complaints about price rises, shoppers at the Chunxiu Road market seem to confirm this view.
"The price rises haven't affected what I buy," says Li Guizhen, as she leaves the market clutching a bag of minced pork which she is planning to use to make dumplings.
"If pensions keep going up steadily then it doesn't matter if prices also go up," adds the 58-year-old retired woman. Her pension went up in July.
Other shoppers, many of whom come to the market daily for fresh produce, give similar comments.
But outside relatively affluent Beijing, even small increases in the cost of everyday food items can have a major impact on people's lives.

Vegetable prices could rise further if floods destroy crops. Just this week there were reports that migrant workers in the southern Chinese boom city of Shenzhen staged a protest, demanding higher wages.
One worker was reported to have complained that employees are not making enough money to compensate for soaring food prices.
Even Mr Kroeber admits that Chinese officials cannot afford to ignore the latest bout of inflation - driven mainly by rising food prices.
"There is no question that in China the connection between inflation and social unrest is very important for historical reasons," he says.
Another Chinese commentator, Liang Jing, believes current conditions make unrest even more likely than in 1989.
"The number and proportion [of people] who are extremely sensitive to the price of basic consumer goods has greatly increased," the commentator wrote in an article posted on Radio Free Asia's website.
This group includes tens of millions of migrant workers who have flocked to towns and cities to find work, and those left unemployed by China's economic restructuring.
Officials certainly seem keen to show they are taking the issue seriously.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao signalled his concern over inflation's effect on ordinary people by visiting a vegetable market.
And there is widespread publicity given to measures being taken by the government to keep price rises in check.
Most economists believe the government's current tactics will bring inflation under control at somewhere near the 2007 target of 3% by the end of the year.
But floods and drought mean this autumn's harvest could be 10% down on last year's. This could further fuel inflation.
If that happens, the grumbling at markets like the one in Chunxiu Road could become more audible.



Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf says corruption is the public enemy number one. Liberia's government says it has found more than 7,000 'ghost' workers on its payroll - employees who do not actually exist, or do not work for it.
The discovery was made when the government embarked on a civil service overhaul to improve efficiency.
The Civil Service Agency head, William Allen, told the BBC that the ghost workers "got there through the usual avenue, which is corruption".
He said they had cost Liberian tax payers about $2.6m (£1.3m) a year.
All the fake names have now been removed from the payroll and a biometric identity system is being introduced, he said.
"The biometric (system) is about 99.9% foolproof so once we install this technology we hope once and for all that we will be able to save the Liberian tax payers a huge sum of money," Mr Allen said.
Liberia, under the helm of Africa's first woman president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, is in the process of re-building following its 14-year civil war.



By Richard Black Environment correspondent, BBC News website.

About 50 million people are affected in Bangladesh. About 140 million people, mainly in developing countries, are being poisoned by arsenic in their drinking water, researchers believe.
Speaking at the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) annual meeting in London, scientists said this will lead to higher rates of cancer in the future.
South and East Asia account for more than half of the known cases globally.
Eating large amounts of rice grown in affected areas could also be a health risk, scientists said.
"It's a global problem, present in 70 countries, probably more," said Peter Ravenscroft, a research associate in geography with Cambridge University.
"If you work on drinking water standards used in Europe and North America, then you see that about 140 million people around the world are above those levels and at risk."

Arsenic consumption leads to higher rates of some cancers, including tumours of the lung, bladder and skin, and other lung conditions. Some of these effects show up decades after the first exposure.
I don't know of one government agency which has given this the priority it deserves
Allan Smith"In the long term, one in every 10 people with high concentrations of arsenic in their water will die from it," observed Allan Smith from the University of California at Berkeley.
"This is the highest known increase in mortality from any environmental exposure."
The international response, he said, is not what the scale of the problem merits.
"I don't know of one government agency which has given this the priority it deserves," he commented.
The first signs that arsenic-contaminated water might be a major health issue emerged in the 1980s, with the documentation of poisoned communities in Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal.

Rice plants absorb arsenic from the soil as they grow In order to avoid drinking surface water, which can be contaminated with bacteria causing diarrhoea and other diseases, aid agencies had been promoting the digging of wells, not suspecting that well water would emerge with elevated levels of arsenic.
The metal is present naturally in soil, and leaches into groundwater, with bacteria thought to play a role.
Since then, large-scale contamination has been found in other Asian countries such as China, Cambodia and Vietnam, in South America and Africa.
It is less of a problem in North America and Europe where most water is provided by utilities. However, some private wells in the UK may not be tested and could present a problem, Mr Ravenscroft said.

Once the threat has been identified, there are remedies, such as as digging deeper wells, purification, and identifying safe surface water supplies.
As a matter of priority, scientists at the RGS meeting said, governments should test all wells in order to assess the threat to communities.
"Africa, for example, is probably affected less than other continents, but so little is known that we would recommend widespread testing," said Peter Ravenscroft.
His Cambridge team has developed computer models aimed at predicting which regions might have the highest risks, taking into account factors such as geology and climate.

Arsenic contamination can be a problem in parts of the US. "We have assessments of the Ganges and Brahmaputra river basins, for example, and then we look for similar basins elsewhere.
"There are similar areas in Indonesia and the Philippines, and very little evidence of tests; yet where there has been some testing, in (the Indonesian province of) Aceh for example, signs of arsenic turned up."
Asian countries use water for agriculture as well as drinking, and this too can be a source of arsenic poisoning.
Rice is usually grown in paddy fields, often flooded with water from the same wells. Arsenic is drawn up into the grains which are used for food.
Andrew Meharg from Aberdeen University has shown that arsenic transfers from soil to rice about 10 times more efficiently than to other grain crops.
This is clearly a problem in countries such as Bangladesh where rice is the staple food, and Professor Meharg believes it could be an issue even in the UK among communities which eat rice frequently.
"The average (British) person eats about 10g to 16g of rice per day, but members of the UK Bangladeshi community for example might eat 300g per day," he said.
The UK's Food Standards Agency is currently assessing whether this level of consumption carries any risk.




Eight Australian racehorses have tested positive for equine influenza, forcing the suspension of Sydney's spring carnival racing.
The horses are based at Randwick racecourse in Sydney, the headquarters of racing in New South Wales.
The racecourse will be quarantined for 30 days to try to contain the outbreak.
The flu was first detected in recreational horses in Sydney last week, forcing a ban on horse movements and the cancellation of race meetings.
The primary industries minister for New South Wales, Ian Macdonald, said the flu could spread quickly through the Randwick stables, where some 700 thoroughbreds are based.
Some of Australia's finest thoroughbreds are stabled at Randwick and it is also home to some of the country's leading trainers.
The flu was found in eight of 10 horses from the stable of Randwick trainer Anthony Cummings.
The outbreak is devastating blow to the racing industry, reports the BBC's Nick Bryant in Sydney.
The suspension of racing will cost millions of dollars, not just to the horse industry but to the bookmakers. There are fears of major job losses.

Jobs at the Randwick racecourse are threatened"It is more than a disaster, it is a grim, black day," Racing New South Wales Chief Executive Peter V'Landys told reporters.
He said the cancellation of Sydney races would have a significant impact on the Melbourne spring carnival, including the Melbourne Cup, Australia's most prestigious horse race which takes place in November.
"The cream of the horses are based at Randwick and Warwick Farm (in Sydney). You have leading trainers at Randwick. None of those horses now will be able to compete in Melbourne," he said.
Meanwhile, about 100 people, 30 of them children, remained quarantined following an outbreak in Warwick, Queensland state. Equine flu does not affect humans, but can be carried on clothing or footwear.



Chaswe Nsofwa helped Zambia win the Cosafa Cup in 2006. Zambia's Chaswe Nsofwa has died in an Israeli hospital minutes after collapsing during a training session.
The 27-year-old was training with his Israeli second division side Hapoel Beersheba when the tragedy struck.
Rescue workers tried to restart his heart for several minutes on the field before taking him to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba.
Paramedic Carmel Cohen said that he rushed to the field when he received the emergency call.
"When we arrived we found the soccer player lying on the grass," he explained.
"We found his friends trying to help him.
"We gave him first aid, electric shocks and an external pacemaker, but despite all our efforts, he was declared dead at the hospital."
It was not known what caused the player's collapse.
Nsofwa was part of the Zambia squad at the 2002 African Cup of Nations in Mali and last year had helped the Chipolopolo win the Cosafa Cup, scoring one of the goals in the final 2-0 win over Angola.
On Tuesday Spain and Sevilla's Antonio Puerta died three days after collapsing during a league game.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007





By Barbara Plett BBC News, Islamabad.

Could Benazir Bhutto co-operate with a Musharraf government?
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has given President Musharraf 48 hours to respond to her demands for a power-sharing deal, media reports say. The embattled military ruler is seeking support for presidential elections that would give him another five-year term.
But his options have narrowed after a series of Supreme Court decisions.
Ms Bhutto wants a clear statement the general will resign as army chief of staff before year end, some say before a presidential vote due in the autumn. She also wants a pledge to remove legal obstacles currently preventing her from becoming prime minister.

Beginning of the end?
Exiled PM to return

The railways minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, told reporters on Wednesday that the deal was 80% done. He said the crucial issue over Gen Musharraf's dual role as president and army chief had been resolved.
Ms Bhutto made a similar comment to a British newspaper, although neither she nor Mr Ahmed elaborated.
Until now Gen Musharraf has said he will abide by the constitution when it comes to his dual role as president and army chief.
Some say this means he will take off his uniform by year's end.
But Ms Bhutto wants a public declaration. So why has she upped the ante now?

Analysts say she was alarmed by the Supreme Court's decision last week allowing the exiled opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, to return to Pakistan, perhaps as early as next month.
Mr Sharif has gained much support for opposing army rule and vowing to force President Musharraf out of office.
Ms Bhutto on the other hand has been losing public support by negotiating with the general.
It is not clear whether the military leader can accept her demands.
At the moment he has enough votes in parliament to win another five-year term.
But there are growing defections from the ruling party and crucially, the Supreme Court might rule that his re-election from existing assemblies is unconstitutional.



The Mehdi Army is believed to have some 60,000 fighters. The radical Iraqi Shia cleric, Moqtada Sadr, has announced the "rebuilding" of his Mehdi Army militia over a maximum period of six months.
He called on all its offices to co-operate with the security forces and exercise "self-control", in a statement issued by his office in Najaf.
The order was read out at a conference in Karbala, where fierce fighting on Tuesday killed more than 50 people.
Police blamed the Mehdi Army for the violence, but it denied involvement.
The militia is strongly opposed to the US presence in Iraq and took part in two uprisings against US-led forces in 2004.
It has also been linked to many sectarian attacks on Iraq's Sunni Arabs and on UK forces in the south of the country.



Some 650 million small arms are reportedly in the hands of civilians. Civilians around the world hold more guns, handguns and rifles than previously thought, a new survey says.
Three times more weapons are held by civilians than by all the world's armies and police forces together, the study from a Geneva-based group says.
The Graduate Institute of International Studies' report calls for greater world co-operation to combat urban gun crime.
Uncontrolled urbanisation is leading to decreased public safety and increased levels of armed violence, it adds.
The survey on the spread of small arms says that out of the 875 million firearms circulating around the world, 650 million are held by civilians - some 200 million more than previous estimates.
What concerns the Geneva-based researchers most is the changing relationship between society and weapons, especially in big cities, says the BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva.
In the vast urban centres of Africa, Asia and Latin America, wealthy citizens are buying guns to protect themselves, while outside the gated communities in which they live, drug-related crime and gang warfare are on the increase, our correspondent adds.
In Brazil's cities, the number of gun-related deaths is higher than that of many countries at war.
More control
The report also calls for more controls on arms sales, pointing out that many of the world's weapons exporters - among them Germany, Italy and the UK - could do more to ensure the guns they sell do end up in the right hands.
Keith Krause, director of the small arms survey, says countries need to be sure the weapons they export go where they are supposed to.
"Here there has been a lot of attention on the sale of American weapons to Iraq to re-equip the Iraqi forces. And the US government accounting office has expressed great concern over the fact that the United States cannot actually account for all of the weapons that they have transferred.
"That doesn't mean they have been lost, but it means we no longer know whether they are still with the people who legally acquired them."



The floods are said to be the worst in living memory. The Sudanese Government and the UN have launched an appeal to raise $20m (£9.9m) to help more than 400,000 people hit by floods across Sudan.
The UN says at least three-and-a-half million could be at risk from water-borne diseases such as cholera.
Sudanese officials described the floods as the worst in living memory, with heavy rains killing at least 89 people and destroying 73,000 homes.
Experts say they believe there will be more floods over the next few weeks.
A further quarter of a million people could be affected in at least 12 states including Red Sea state, the Blue Nile and Upper Nile as well as the capital, Khartoum.

The appeal money will be used to provide clean water as well as emergency shelter and food to those who are at risk.
"These funds will enable us to save lives, to assist families who lost everything in gradually restoring their livelihoods, to prevent deadly epidemics, and to help children get back to school," UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Relief John Holmes said in a statement.
The money will go towards 48 projects to be carried out around the country by seven UN agencies.
Money already committed has enabled the UN and its partners to provide clean water to more than a million people and shelter to 200,000 homeless.
About 50 people were killed in a cholera outbreak resulting from the floods in the north-east of the country, the World Health Organization says.



A statue of former South African President Nelson Mandela has been unveiled in London.
Mr Mandela, 89, his wife Graca Machel, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown were among those at the unveiling in Parliament Square.
Mr Brown hailed Mr Mandela as the "greatest and most courageous leader of our generation".
The late South African anti-apartheid activist Donald Woods had the idea for the 9ft-high (2.7m) bronze statue.
Talking to crowds who gathered for the unveiling, Mr Mandela said: "Though this statue is of one man, it should in actual fact symbolise all of those who have resisted oppression, especially in my country."
Lord Richard Attenborough, trustee of the Mandela Statue Fund, introduced Mr Mandela at the unveiling and spoke of Mr Woods's "bravery".

Mandela speech

"He fled his country with his wife and five children and came here as a refugee, thrown out by the apartheid system," said Lord Attenborough.
"He would have given anything to have been here today because it was his concept."
Wendy Woods, wife of the late Donald Woods, said: "This statue will remind the world of the human qualities that Mr Mandela has.
"These are qualities which have helped South Africa put paid to its past and helped us on our first step towards a future where all people can flourish and lead happier lives."

The statue had been dogged by arguments over where it should go as well as its artistic merit.
Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, who was also at the ceremony, had wanted it to stand on the north side of Trafalgar Square.
However, in 2005 Westminster Council refused permission saying it would clutter the space needed for large events.
It was finally agreed the statue should face the Houses of Parliament, and stand alongside images of other great leaders such as Winston Churchill, Benjamin Disraeli and Abraham Lincoln.
"Long after we are forgotten, you will be remembered for having taught the world one amazing truth," said Mr Livingstone.
"That you can achieve justice without vengeance. I honour you and London honours you."


Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi has backed his successor Mwai Kibaki's bid for a second presidential term in elections later this year.
The former leader said he had been observing the country's politics and was convinced that President Kibaki was the best candidate to unite Kenya.
Mr Moi stood down after 2001 elections, in which his Kanu party was defeated by a coalition led by Mr Kibaki.
The endorsement is a major boost for the incumbent's re-election bid.
The former leader, who ruled Kenya for 24 years, still wields great political influence.
Mr Moi said he was disappointed that "tribalism and selfish individual interests have been entrenched in our society".
"After very careful assessment, informed by my political experience spanning half a century, I am convinced that Mwai Kibaki ought to be given the chance to complete the constitutionally accepted two-term tenure," Mr Moi said during a news conference.
Unity hope
"You have seen President Kibaki's development agenda that he has shown. He is not tribalist, he is development-minded and he is for the unity of the people of this country," he said, adding that he would be campaigning for President Kibaki in the run up to the December elections.

The move will be a blow for ex-Moi aide Nicholas Biwott.
Mr Moi also lashed out at the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), saying it was a divisive party.
"Above all, all of them are driven by hate. I don't want Kenya to end in chaos," said the self-styled professor of politics.
Politicians allied to the ODM accused the former president of trying to scuttle the opposition movement.
In July, Mr Kibaki appointed Mr Moi as a special peace envoy to Sudan to help facilitate a peace deal in southern Sudan where Kenya has strong economic interests.
Political analysts have seen the thawing of relations between Mr Moi and the incumbent president in recent months as a sign that they may have been planning a loose coalition.
Kenya has enjoyed growing economic strength under President Kibaki, but this has been marred by endemic corruption which has continued to thrive despite the government's pledges to end it.



By Peter Greste - BBC News, Johannesburg.

Experts say the find would be the stone of the century, if genuine. A small South African mining company has claimed to have discovered the world's biggest-ever diamond.
A shareholder in the unnamed mine told the BBC the stone had been unearthed at their operation in the north-west province on Monday afternoon.
He said the giant gem was about 7,000 carats - which would be twice the size of the Cullinan Diamond, centre-piece of the British crown jewels.
But industry experts are sceptical about the unconfirmed claim.
Brett Jolly, a shareholder at the mine, said the stone had been taken to a bank vault in Johannesburg.
Mr Jolly said he hoped tests on Tuesday would prove its worth.
In a photograph emailed to the BBC, the 'stone' appears to be about the size of a coconut, and has a greenish tinge.
But a spokesman for De Beers, the world's biggest diamond mining company, said the north-west province was not known for producing gems and greenish stones were even rarer.
The firm also said that if the find were genuine it would be the stone of the century.



Robert Pickton has been in custody since 2002. Defence lawyers for alleged serial killer Robert Pickton are due to begin calling witnesses, seven months after his trial began in Vancouver, Canada. Mr Pickton is accused of murdering 26 women but is initially being tried for six murders. He has pleaded not guilty.

The prosecution wrapped up its case this month after calling 98 witnesses. But the trial, which was due to resume on Monday, was delayed for at least a day, as the judge said both legal teams needed more time to prepare arguments. The defence team, who expect it will take about three weeks to question witnesses, have not said whether Mr Pickton will take the stand.

Most of the women Mr Pickton is accused of murdering were prostitutes and drug addicts who disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside over more than a decade. Mr Pickton, 57, was arrested in 2002 and has been in custody since then. Prosecutors alleged that Mr Pickton butchered the women after he killed them and disposed of their remains on his pig farm outside Vancouver.

The prosecution case included DNA evidence from the farm, statements he made to the police and an undercover police officer in his cell, and witnesses who testified about what they had allegedly seen on the farm or heard from Mr Pickton. The defence challenged the witnesses' credibility and the reliability of the evidence linking Mr Pickton to the murders.

At the trial's opening in January, defence lawyer Peter Ritchie called on the jury to keep an open mind about the case. He urged them to pay "close attention to where Mr Pickton's DNA does not appear in relation to those exhibits (recovered form the property)". He also told jury members to think of the farm as a "busy hive of activity". "Pay attention to...the number of people that go there; the identity of people that go to the property; people who have residence on the property and they type of activities and nature of activities that took place on the property."

Under Canadian law, the prosecution is required to inform the defence about their witnesses but there is no such obligation for the defence team. It is therefore not known whether the defence will call Mr Pickton to testify.



Whole websites, including media sources, are eliminated from Yahoo. A human rights group in the US is suing Yahoo for alleged complicity in rights abuses and acts of torture in China. The World Organization for Human Rights says Yahoo's sharing of information with the Chinese government has led to the arrests of writers and dissidents.
One journalist cited in the case was tracked down and jailed for 10 years for subversion after Yahoo passed on his e-mail and IP address to officials.
Yahoo insists it must comply with local laws in areas where it operates.
But it acknowledges that providing Chinese officials with information has enabled them to make arrests.
In a statement, Yahoo said it supported privacy and free expression and added that it was working with other technology companies to find a way to address human rights concerns.
The human rights group has brought the case in San Francisco on behalf of the journalist, Shi Tao, and another named Wang Xiaoning.
The men's defence lawyer said Yahoo should have asked the Chinese government why it wanted information about the two men before handing it over. He said Yahoo had failed to live up to its ethical responsibilities.
The BBC's David Willis in California says the case has prompted debate about the responsibility of US internet companies to protect the anonymity of users in the countries in which they operate.
Strict laws exist in China to regulate the internet. Shi Tao was jailed for posting comments critical of government corruption on the web.
Yahoo is not the only internet company accused of collaborating with Chinese authorities. Rivals Google freely admit to blocking politically sensitive items on their China website.
Whole websites - including media sources - are eliminated from Yahoo and Google in China.
De-listed sites are skipped over when the search engine trawls the web for results.
The internet firms argue it is better to offer Chinese users some information than none at all.



UN troops remain in the east despite peace and elections. Regional military chiefs are meeting in Rwanda's capital, Kigali to plan joint operations against militia groups operating in eastern DR Congo.
Militia groups operating in DR Congo's troubled east include extremist Hutu fighters involved in Rwanda's genocide and Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army.
Rwanda says the Hutu FDLR rebels are regrouping and it may launch attacks.
DR Congo recently halted a seven-month military campaign against armed groups - a decision that has angered Rwanda.
The Rwandan special envoy in the Great Lakes, Richard Sezibera, has urged the DR Congo government to maintain its campaign against the rebels. Mr Sezibera told the BBC that neighbouring countries were ready to assist through limited joint military operations.

Rwanda has twice invaded DR Congo, saying it wants to wipe out the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR).
But DR Congo's government is unlikely to welcome any military assistance from Uganda and Rwanda, whom it accuses of mass looting during their last intervention in the East
Renegade General Laurent Nkunda, has also criticised the move to suspend the military onslaught against Hutu militias.
General Nkunda, who led an uprising in DR Congo's volatile North Kivu Province, in 2004 has accused the government of supporting the FDLR.
But the government says its priority should now be peace, development and the creation of a strong united army, rather than causing further instability.
Some 165,000 civilians have fled fighting in the North Kivu province since February, when General Nkunda's army brigades launched operations against the FDLR.
Last year's historic elections were supposed to mark the end of years of conflict and mismanagement in DR Congo.



By Peter Greste - BBC News, South Africa.

Zimbabweans are suffering severe shortages of food and fuel. Zimbabwe's annual agricultural showcase has begun in the capital, Harare. More than 200 farmers from across Zimbabwe are exhibiting maize, wheat, cotton, vegetables, honey and livestock, the show's organisers say. Since the government introduced price controls in June, those goods and many more have vanished from stores.

Meanwhile, the black market prices have continued to soar at an estimated 20,000% - well beyond the reach of the 80% of workers now without a job. Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has blamed economic sanctions by the West for the crisis. But critics say it is President Mugabe's own land reform policy that has turned one of Africa's most productive farming states into one of its hungriest.

The Harare show's theme this year is "To feed the nation, time for innovation". It is to be officially opened by Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the President of Equatorial Guinea. The two countries were linked together in 2004, when mercenaries - allegedly on their way to stage a coup in Equatorial Guinea - were arrested in Zimbabwe. Since then, ties between the two countries have grown.

Human-rights organisations have accused President Obiang of running a dictatorship responsible for gross human rights violations.


Monday, August 27, 2007





By Fidelis Mbah BBC News, Port Harcourt

Port Harcourt residents raise their hands as they approach road blocks. All waterfront buildings and shacks in Nigeria's oil capital, Port Harcourt are to be demolished, officials say.
Rivers State government says the shacks have become hideouts for the armed militants who are behind the violence in the oil-rich Niger Delta.
Although the government plans to build modern houses to replace the shacks, the villagers have rejected the move.
Some 25 coastal villages are to be affected by the clean up ordered by the governor, Celestine Omehia.
But villagers want the government to provide alternative shelter for them before setting the bulldozers on their shanty towns, home to about one million low income families.
They also say the demolition will "deface" their cultural heritage as they have lived in these seaside slums for hundreds of years.

Port Harcourt has been the scene of recent gun battles between rival gangs locked in a turf war in the oil city where crime rates are very high.
Security forces have set up roadblocks and mounted patrols in some areas of the city.
Some of the villages marked for demolition are built with wood and are poorly planned.
Mr Omehia says the demolition of the slums is a price the villagers have to pay if peace is to return to the violence-torn oil-rich southern state.

"We won't allow that because such a move will deface the culture of our people", Derek Achisomie, president of Port Harcourt aborigines said.
The governor also says the villagers have been harbouring armed militants who are behind the recent upsurge in violence in the state capital Port Harcourt.
Nigerian militants have caused havoc in Port Harcourt.
Nigeria, Africa's top oil producer is also the third largest exporter to the US.
The bulk of the oil comes from the Niger Delta, a heavily impoverished region where oil explorations have led to environmental problems and spawned violence.
The security situation in southern Nigeria's oil-producing region has deteriorated since early 2006 with attacks on oil installations and foreign workers kidnapped for ransom.
The main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), agreed to a ceasefire last month but recently threatened to resume attacks.
The unrest has led to a 25% cut in oil output from Nigeria - Africa's largest producer.
President Umaru Yar'Adua has said tackling the unrest in the south is one of his top priorities.



Military helicopters have been used to fight the fires. Firefighting aircraft from several countries are helping Greece tackle devastating forest fires that have killed at least 60 people. Large swathes of Greece - from the island of Evia north of Athens to the Peloponnese in the south - have been ravaged by the inferno since Friday.

Greek police have arrested 32 arson suspects, as investigations continue into the origins of the blazes. A 1m euro (£678,000) reward has been offered to help catch fire-starters. Dozens of new fires continue to break out, fanned by hot, dry winds.

The BBC's Malcolm Brabant, in Athens, says the police and intelligence services will be keen to discover if there is any link between the suspected arsonist, and whether they are part of an organised scorched earth campaign. Greece has the feel of a country on a war footing, our correspondent says.

See map of affected areas

Soldiers are patrolling suburban neighbourhoods trying to catch arsonists in the act and anti-terrorist squads have been questioning some suspects. Meanwhile, a top Greek prosecutor has ordered an inquiry into whether arson attacks can be considered terrorism, and prosecuted under Greece's anti-terror laws. Treating arson as a potential act of terrorism would give authorities broader powers of investigation and arrest.

The fires have gutted hundreds of homes, forcing thousands of villagers to flee and blackening hillsides. Water-bombing aircraft from France, Italy and Canada are in action, with more international aid expected.

Ancient Olympia, birthplace of the Olympics, was in danger on Sunday, but firefighters managed to keep it safe. The hill of Kronos, overlooking Olympia, was engulfed by fire.

In pictures: Greek inferno

Culture Minister George Voulgarakis went to Olympia, in the Peloponnese, to oversee the emergency effort. "All the people, the firefighters, the policemen, the volunteers, they fought with the fire and the museum is as it was." The BBC's Dominic Hughes on the island of Evia says several massive fires are burning in the thickly wooded hills. On Sunday five bodies were found on the island. "Over the weekend the sky was grey-brown over Athens and Kifissia, the air full of smoke and the sun - a dim spot," said Gabriella Gosevits, an Athens resident, in an e-mail to the BBC News website. "There was ash all over the place and the smell of burnt wood was everywhere."

Thousands of Greek firefighters are being supported by 20 water-bombing planes and 19 helicopters. At least 11 countries are helping Greece fight the fires with planes, helicopters and specialist firefighters.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has declared a nationwide state of emergency. The reward, put up by the Greek government, is for anyone providing information which leads to the arrest of an arsonist. One theory is that the fires could have been started as a way of getting around Greek law which forbids development on areas designated as forest land.

The head of the conservation charity WWF Greece, Demetris Karavellas, told the BBC's World Today programme that Greece lacked a forest registry, "so in many cases it's not entirely clear what is forest and what is land for construction". "There is strong pressure for tourism, for more and more development... I hope the public, at least, with the amazing damage that we are going through right now, will really create a lot more political pressure," he said.

At ancient Olympia, flames licked the edges of the original Olympic stadium and scorched the yard of the museum, home to one of Greece's greatest archaeological collections. Athens itself was shrouded in smoke that obscured the sun as several fires threatened the city's outskirts. The rapidly advancing fires caught many people unaware. Those who left the decision to flee too late were caught in their houses, cars, or as they stumbled through olive groves.

At least 39 people were reported to have been killed in the worst affected region, around the town of Zaharo in the western Peloponnese, by a fire that broke out on Friday and quickly spread.

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Some people with HIV/Aids in Papua New Guinea are being buried alive by their relatives, a health worker says. Margaret Marabe said families were taking the extreme action because they could no longer look after sufferers or feared catching the disease themselves. Ms Marabe said she saw the "live burials" with her own eyes during a five-month trip to PNG's remote Southern Highlands.

PNG is in the grip of an HIV/Aids epidemic - the worst in the region. An estimated 2% of the six million population are believed to be infected, and HIV diagnoses rise by around 30% each year.
International health agencies have warned action must be taken to prevent hundreds of thousands of people becoming infected.

Margaret Marabe, a known local activist in PNG, carried out an awareness campaign in the Tari area of the Southern Highlands earlier this year. "I saw three people with my own eyes. When they got very sick and people could not look after them, they buried them," she told reporters. She described how one person called out "mama, mama" as the soil was being shovelled over their head. Villagers told her that such action was common, she said.

Ms Marabe, who works for the Igat Hope organisation in the capital, Port Moresby, said people in remote parts of the country remained ignorant about HIV/Aids and urged the government to take action. "There are no voluntary counselling training centres in Tari. There are also no training programmes on HIV," she was quoted by PNG's Post-Courier newspaper as saying. PNG's Secretary for Health Dr Nicholas Mann admitted to the BBC in an interview last year that the multitude of cultures and languages in the country made it difficult to get the HIV/Aids message across.

But he said Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare had brought the issue under his remit, and the government was working with agencies on a co-ordinated approach to tackling the crisis.



Anna Politkovskaya was killed as she left her apartment building. Ten people have been arrested in Russia over the murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Russian TV showed prosecutor general Yuri Chaika telling President Putin of the arrests, informing him that those held would soon be charged.
Mr Chaika said "serious progress" had been made in the investigation into the killing, which was widely condemned.
The journalist, a harsh critic of President Vladimir Putin, was shot dead at her Moscow apartment block in 2006.
At the moment there is no information about the identity of the suspects.
Anna Politkovskaya was killed as she left for work. Closed circuit television footage showed a single gunman carried out the murder.
The BBC's Rupert Wingfield Hayes, in Moscow, says that at the time it was rumoured the killer could have been a member of a Chechen criminal gang or even have a connection to the Russian security services.
The Russian government has always strenuously denied any connection to the murder.
Anna Politkovskaya made her name reporting from Chechnya for Russia's liberal newspaper, Novaya Gazeta.
She was also the author of two books in English, A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya (2001), and Putin's Russia (2004).
Her writing was often polemical, as bitter in its condemnation of the Russian army and the Russian government as it was fervent in support of human rights and the rule of law.



More than 70 people, including 57 soldiers, have died when a truck overturned in east Uganda's mountains. The army says the soldiers and their families were being moved from the border with Kenya to their base when their truck hit a concrete barrier. The accident is one of Uganda's worst in recent history. There are 31 seriously injured soldiers now in nearby hospitals, the army says.

One local official says the truck's brakes may have failed on an incline. The army is still trying to ascertain how many people were travelling on the truck at the time and the condition of the vehicle. The BBC's Sarah Grainger in Kampala says the road between Kapchorwa and Sironko in the east of the country winds through the foothills of Mount Elgon, Uganda's second highest peak, and its hairpin bends and steep gradients make for treacherous driving conditions. As many as 2,000 people are estimated by police to die on Uganda's roads each year - with poorly maintained roads and vehicles often blamed.

Uganda Army spokesman Felix Kulayigye said investigations into the cause of the accident have begun. "It is really tragic and apparently nobody escaped unhurt," Major Kulayigye told the BBC News website "The brakes of the truck failed as it was driving down hill, it hit the pavement and overturned killing most of the soldiers instantly," Nicholas Ngonzi, the district police chief told Uganda's New Vision newspaper.

Most of the injured soldiers and their spouses are undergoing treatment at Mbale and Kapchorwa hospitals in the east of the country. The soldiers had been stationed at Bukwa, close to the border with Kenya and were returning to their battalion headquarters having completed their tour there. About a month ago, the Ugandan army sent a fresh deployment of soldiers to the border because of renewed threats from Kenyan Pokot cattle herders who cross the border into Uganda to raid cattle.


Sunday, August 26, 2007


The hill of Kronos, overlooking Olympia, was engulfed by fire. Forest fires are burning inside ancient Olympia, birthplace of the Olympics, but firefighters have kept the site safe, Greek officials say.
Flames licked the edges of the original Olympic stadium and scorched the yard of the museum, home to one of Greece's greatest archaeological collections.
Fires have ravaged large parts of Greece, affecting the Peloponnese, areas around Athens and Evia island.
On Sunday five bodies were found on Evia, bringing the death toll to 56.
Five fire trucks are protecting the archaeological museum, which houses sculptures from the Temple of Zeus and artefacts from the ancient Olympics, and anti-fire systems have been switched on, according to the secretary general of the culture ministry, Christos Zahopoulos.
A new fire protection and sprinkler system was installed at the Unesco World Heritage site for the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Culture Minister George Voulgarakis has arrived in Olympia to oversee the emergency effort.
"We don't know exactly how much damage there is in the Olympia area, but the important thing is that the museum is as it was and the archaeological site will not have any problem," he told Associated Press news agency as he visited the area.
A fire brigade spokesman said that six planes, two helicopters, 15 fire engines and 45 firemen had participated in the effort to protect the site.
However, villages and woodlands in the surrounding area were not so fortunate. The BBC's Malcolm Brabrant in the nearby village of Pelopi says that village after village succumbed to the flames and people began to flee for their lives.

An ancient Greek religious site dating back 10 centuries before Christ
Home of the ancient Olympics, first held in 8th Century BC
Was location of giant ivory and gold Statue of Zeus, one of seven wonders of the world
Olympics continued until banned by Roman Emperor Theodosius I in 394 AD
Place where Olympic flame is still lit

Inside a fire starter's mind

At one stage, the flames were racing at more than a mile every few minutes, our correspondent said.
One local villager, speaking to Greek television by telephone, told of the battle to save homes:
"We have no water, we are at God's mercy," they said. "Please tell someone we are putting out the fire with our own hands, we have no help. The village will disappear from the map."
Angela Katsiki, a resident of the village of Kolliri, near to Olympia, told the BBC that she was devastated about the damage the fire had caused to the surrounding area.
"Horrified, absolutely... sad, really really sad. This is the worse I've seen - I've seen other fires here, but this is the worse. It's completely destroyed the area."
Sun obscured
The rapidly advancing fires caught many people unawares. Those who left the decision to flee too late were caught in their houses, cars, or as they stumbled through olive groves.
On Sunday, officials announced that five more people had been killed by fires in Evia, an island north of the capital Athens.
Towns on the island of Evia were being evacuated on Sunday, with ferries carrying people to the mainland near Athens.
"The fire is racing towards the town," a resident of the island town of Aliveri told Greek TV.

In pictures: Fires unabated
Witnesses tell of fire horror

"We are leaving or else we will burn to death. There is no one to help us," he said.
Meanwhile Athens itself was shrouded in smoke that obscured the sun as several fires threatened the city's outskirts.
Houses and industrial buildings in the suburbs of Keratea and Kalyvia were destroyed.
"This is complete hell," said Kalyvia mayor Petros Filippou.
"The front is 30km (19 miles) long and has now reached the first houses. That's it."
At least 39 people were reported to have been killed in the worst affected region, around the town of Zaharo in the western Peloponnese, by a fire that broke out on Friday and quickly spread. Another four bodies were discovered in the central Peloponnese region of Arcadia.

The Greek PM has implied that many fires were started deliberately.
In a nationally televised address, Costas Karamanlis said: "So many fires breaking out simultaneously in so many parts of the country cannot be a coincidence.

The Greek fires are seen from space in this Nasa picture"The state will do everything it can to find those responsible and punish them."
A 65-year-old man has been charged with arson and murder relating to a fire which killed six people in Areopolis, in the far south of Greece.
Two youths were also detained on suspicion of arson in the northern city of Kavala.
Mr Karamanlis has declared a nationwide state of emergency and said the country had to "mobilise all means and forces to face this disaster".
"Fires are burning in more than half the country," fire department spokesman Nikos Diamandis said.
"This is definitely an unprecedented disaster for Greece."
Emergency workers and fire-fighting planes from other European Union countries have joined the battle against the fires, and more help is expected from countries outside the bloc.
"Thirty-one planes and helicopters from various European countries and from Israel will be sent. We also have an offer of assistance from the American and Russian governments with whom I communicated yesterday evening," Greek Foreign Affairs Minister Dora Bakoyannis said.




Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in 1997.
The Duchess of Cornwall has decided against attending a memorial service for the 10th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, Clarence House said.
Camilla had accepted her invitation by Princes William and Harry to the event.
But she has now pulled out of Friday's service, fearing her attendance "could divert attention from the purpose of the occasion".
The hour-long service will be held by Buckingham Palace, in the Guard's Chapel in London's Wellington Barracks.
The Duchess is said to have talked at length with Prince Charles and her family about whether she should attend the thanksgiving service.
Difficult decision
In a statement explaining her decision, Camilla said she was "touched" at her invitation from Princes William and Harry.
Camilla said her presence could 'divert attention' from the event
"I accepted and wanted to support them," she said.
"However, on reflection I believe my attendance could divert attention from the purpose of the occasion which is to focus on the life and service of Diana."
"I'm grateful to my husband, William and Harry for supporting my decision." An aide said: "It was never going to be an easy decision either way."
Dickie Arbiter, former press secretary to the Queen, told the BBC the Duchess of Cornwall should have acted earlier.
"It could have quite simply been done right at the very beginning when the idea was first mooted to have a service, with a short statement saying the Duchess of Cornwall would love to support her husband, would love to support William and Harry, but she feels that it was inappropriate to attend.
"That would have been the story of the day. It would have been done and dusted ... without all this shilly-shallying, all the way up to the memorial service, which is literally five days away."
Around 500 guests are expected at the thanksgiving service, including more than 30 royals and celebrities such as Sir Elton John, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Princes William and Harry are to give readings along with Diana's sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale.
Princess Diana died, aged 36 - along with her companion Dodi Al Fayed, 42, and chauffeur Henri Paul - when the Mercedes they were in crashed in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris on 31 August 1997.



Snippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. The number of pounds in circulation doubles every 15 years due to economic growth and inflation.
More details

2. Each slug eats twice its body weight a day.
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3. Performers cannot even smoke herbal cigarettes on stage in Scotland, which has no dispensation for "artistic integrity" in its smoking ban, unlike other parts of the UK.
More details

4. Voyagers 1 and 2, launched in 1977 and still beaming back data from billions of miles from the solar system's edge, run on generators that produce 300 watts - which would power several standard light bulbs.
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5. Chickens can be diagnosed with depression.
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6. There are almost four times more knife-related killings as firearms killings.
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7. You can be arrested for using someone's wi-fi network without permission.
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8. One in 10 people claim to have had out-of-body experiences.
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9. More than half the books on the fiction charts are crime titles - a genre predominately read and written by women.
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10. Queen Victoria and Pope Leo XIII were among the celebrities to endorse charities.
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Despite an economy in turmoil, four-figure inflation and the exodus of millions to neighbouring countries, Zimbabwe's president can rely on the support of his African peers. Peter Biles spoke to one of them in a bid to discover Robert Mugabe's secret.
Mr Mugabe has been in power for over 27 years.
The photographers and cameramen had been waiting patiently outside the Mulungushi conference centre in Lusaka.
Southern African leaders were arriving thick and fast but the man everyone was waiting to see was Mr Mugabe.
He may be a pariah in the capital cities of the European Union but here in the heart of southern Africa he knows he can count on a fair degree of undying loyalty.
When the Mugabe motorcade eventually swept in there was a noticeable tightening of security.
A small pick-up truck bore three heavily armed soldiers in the back, and bodyguards surrounded the black limousine as the 83-year-old president emerged.
He smiled and stepped forward with his wife, Grace, to meet his Zambian hosts.
There was certainly no hint that this was a head of state under intense domestic pressure.
Zambia is a place that all the southern African leaders know pretty well.
On this occasion, they had come for a routine summit but, for some, Lusaka is like a home from home.
President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa lived here for years when he was an exiled member of the ANC.
Zambia has always offered a hand of friendship to refugees, especially during the days of the liberation struggle in South Africa and what was Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.
Robert Mugabe spent his time in Mozambique during the bush war but a warm welcome is still assured when he meets his fellow leaders.
He is the longest-serving head of state in the region - bar one - and he clearly relishes his position as one of the elder statesmen.
You have to appreciate the bonds of loyalty that defined the struggle for independence in post-colonial Africa to understand why it is that Robert Mugabe is still treated with so much respect, even when his country is collapsing around him and he is largely to blame.
African tradition dictates that he should not be criticised in public whatever private thoughts his peers might harbour.
In Lusaka, I ran across Kenneth Kaunda - independent Zambia's first president. We first met 20 years ago when he occupied State House. Having been the nation's founding father, he had led the country since 1964.

Not unlike Zimbabwe, Zambia's post-colonial era was characterised by optimism to begin with, but then came economic mismanagement, social unrest, and the emergence of political opposition.
But Kenneth Kaunda did something unusual. He fought an election in 1991, lost and stepped aside gracefully after 27 years in power.
That is exactly how long Robert Mugabe has been around.
Mr Kaunda was never the greatest leader but he was - and still is - a well-meaning man with real charisma.
As we sat talking the other afternoon, there seemed to be no better person to shed light on Robert Mugabe. Kenneth Kaunda is near enough the same age, just two months younger. They were both born in 1924.
These days, KK - as he has always been known - enjoys his retirement with dignity and seems to command genuine respect.
As we chatted a stream of passers-by - most of them young enough to be his grandchildren - lined up to greet him and shake his hand.
I tried to picture Robert Mugabe in a similar situation but, to my mind, he and Kenneth Kaunda were poles apart - the despot clinging to power and the happily retired politician, once renowned for his national ideology of humanism.
An improved spirit?
So I asked Dr Kaunda if he could help explain Robert Mugabe's popularity in the region.
"I'm glad you noticed it," he replied.
He was referring to the huge round of applause for President Mugabe during the opening session of the leaders' summit.
"People see him as a hero," he said.
"Not just in Zimbabwe or here in Zambia but across the whole of southern Africa."
And Kenneth Kaunda speaks for many in the region in blaming not Mugabe for Zimbabwe's troubles but successive British governments.
"It's no good demonising Robert Mugabe," he says.
"We should all put our heads together, talk to him, and work with him on a solution."
But that is not to say that even those closest to the Zimbabwean president want him to seek another term in office in his 84th year. Because by all accounts they do not.
My last glimpse of President Mugabe during his brief visit to Lusaka was on a wind-swept parade ground at the city's military airport.
He and the other southern African leaders had come to inaugurate a regional brigade - a key component in a new African standby peacekeeping force.
As the presidents stood shoulder to shoulder they released a bunch of green, blue, and white balloons.
It was a symbol of what this region aspires to - an improved spirit of togetherness and closer integration designed to stimulate economic growth and development.
But because of Zimbabwe, southern Africa is facing its most serious crisis in years. And love him or loath him, it is Robert Mugabe who holds centre stage.

From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Saturday 25 August, 2007 at 1130 BST on BBC Radio 4. Please check the programme schedules for World Service transmission times.






Allegations of widespread abuse dog Egypt's police force despite government denials. As the BBC's Jon Donnison reports from Cairo, experiences with the legal system are not always straightforward.
The Egyptian police station was more of a shed than a station.
A small, dimly lit and dusty room with a couple of chairs, a moth-eaten sofa and a desk. The only decoration a faded, slightly lopsided picture of President Hosni Mubarak looking down from the wall, surveying proceedings.
At the desk, Officer Sabry, as I shall call him, a tall, thick-set man with a balding pate, peered over his glasses and looked me up and down.
"You've been robbed," he said, flashing me a not entirely sympathetic smile.
I nodded sheepishly and sat down on the rickety chair beside him.
The statement
People here will tell you that Cairo has more police per head of population than any other city in the world.
Walking down the chock-a-block streets, that is not hard to believe. There are thousands of them in their crisp white uniforms, an unfortunate colour in a city where pollution, dust and sweat make a potent cocktail.
That cocktail had clearly got the better of Officer Sabry's uniform and he dabbed his brow and scratched his crotch before handing me a blank sheet of paper on which I was to write my statement.
I took the paper and carefully began to write out what had happened. The description of the two men, their age, height, distinguishing features, how they had jostled me in the street and nimbly slipped my wallet from my pocket before darting into a waiting taxi and speeding away.
It had been a Friday, a day of rest here, and the only day in Cairo where the traffic subsides enough to make it remotely possible to do any speeding.
Once finished, Officer Sabry took the paper and, peering through his thick glasses, winced at my messy handwriting.
He again dabbed his brow with his handkerchief, picked up his pen and started to transcribe the statement into Arabic.
I watched as his hand slowly shuffled across the page, right to left, leaving behind it a trail of elegant figures and characters. Once two copies had been written out - no photocopiers here - he sat back in his chair, let out a long sigh and admired his handiwork.
As I walked out of the hot dusty police station, clasping my Arabic statement, I felt a little better, as if I was at least some way to justice being done.
Lost in translation
I met up with an Egyptian friend and over a sweet tea I began to recount my minor drama as graphically as possible.

As his eyes darted over the police statement a wry smile crept across his face.
"But there's no mention of a robbery here," he laughed.
"There is no crime, you've been had. It says simply that you dropped your wallet in the street."
Five minutes later we were both back at the police station, the fan circling above our heads struggling in vain to keep us cool.
Officer Sabry looked a little awkward as he realised that his interpretation of the truth had been exposed.
My friend looked a little uneasy. He told me this was only the third time in his life he had been in a police station. And he did not like it.
Crime? What crime?
Egypt's police have a bad reputation.
Many people here feel that, unlike their uniforms, the force is not whiter than white.
Almost everyone you meet has a story about the police, be it of petty bribery and backhanders, brutality or, at worst, torture.
This month three officers are being investigated on murder charges for allegedly beating a man to death.
In a second incident, a 13-year-old boy died after being detained by the police. His family say he too was beaten and badly burned.
In both cases officers deny any wrongdoing.
Human rights groups have long claimed that abuse of power is endemic within the Egyptian police. The government says such claims are exaggerated.
However, most people here in Egypt are, if not scared, then certainly wary of the police. Nobody wants to get on the wrong side of the law.
It is may be one reason why - locals will tell you - there is actually so little crime in Cairo.
In the end, my minor incident was properly filed.
The fact that I had had a media pass in my wallet, giving me access to government events, seemingly whirred Officer Sabry into action. He even told me he had a fair idea who the culprits might be.
But as I left the small police station and stepped out onto Cairo's bustling streets, I suddenly felt a little uneasy and could not help but hope that Officer Sabry and his colleagues did not try too hard to catch up with the men who stole my wallet.

From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Saturday, 25 August, 2007 at 1130 BST on BBC Radio 4. Please check the programme schedules for World Service transmission times.


Cathy Buckle's Weekly Letter From Zimbabwe !

Seventh Spring !

Saturday 25th August 2007

Dear Family and Friends,

The view from Zimbabwe's window is absolutely gorgeous this week. Evidence of spring and renewal is all around us. The sky is cloudless and blue, the temperatures are rising and the blue headed lizards are out basking in the sun again. The indigenous woodlands that have survived the army of winter woodcutters are breathtaking as the Msasa trees go from red and burgundy to caramel and a shiny butterscotch colour before finally preparing to shade our land for another year. After nearly two months of government price controls and the ugly mess they have created, the beauty and warmth around us is the only thing keeping many people sane in this seventh spring of Zimbabwe's turmoil. This week, after a long silence, government inflation figures were announced and, as expected, the price controls have not helped at all - exactly the opposite in fact. Inflation which stood at 4530% in May, soared to 7634% in July.
I went to visit an elderly couple this week and we exchanged delights about the season and the climate and then they showed me the letter which had just arrived. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the news about their pension. The letter was from a senior executive in one of the largest pension fund companies in the country and read as follows:"We confirm that you are entitled to a monthly pension of $0.85 cents. This pension is currently suspended. As the monthly pension has now been eroded by inflation, the company has now decided to pay out the balance of your pension as a lump sum. The lump sum payable to you is: $2.9 million dollars."
I can't think of words that adequately describe the outrage of this. A monthly pension representing a person's working life and the result of years of payments being now worth just 85 Zimbabwe cents. There is not a single thing you can buy for eighty five cents in Zimbabwe, not even one match stick; in fact there aren't any coins in circulation in the country anymore. The couple told me they had agreed to accept the lump sum payment because they really had no other option but they knew that even this amount would only pay for 4 days of their board and lodge.
Young or old there is just one way to survive these bleak times in Zimbabwe and that is one day at a time. We have all been forced into short term thinking and even shorter term planning as we try and keep food on the table in these days of government induced famine. There is still almost no food to buy in our shops - no oil, margarine, flour, rice, pasta, maize meal, biscuits, cold drinks or sugar. No soap, washing powder, candles or matches. No meat, eggs, dairy products or confectionary. In a weeks time our children go back to school but even this fact does not seem to inspire our government into action. How do they think schools are going to feed the children who stay for lunch or are boarders? How do they think that parents who have been forced to run their businesses at a loss for the last two months are going to be able to even pay school fees? How do they think pensioners can survive on eighty five cents a month? There are no answers to the questions at any level.
Even more worrying is that glorious as the weather is, it is almost planting time again and yet there is no seed to buy in our empty shops and our day at a time thinking caused by our governments day at a time planning is condemning us to even harder times ahead. It hardly bears thinking about and so we try not to and hope and pray that there may be an end to this, just an end.

Until next week, thanks for reading ,
love cathy.



Gerry McCann was speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival.
McCann interview

The father of missing four-year-old Madeleine McCann has asked the media to end the constant speculation about his daughter's whereabouts.
He said there had been "huge amounts written with no substance" and that it was not necessary to "bombard people on a daily basis" with Madeleine's image.
Gerry McCann told the BBC the media campaign to find her would be scaled down and take on a "low-key format".
Madeleine, of Rothley, Leicestershire, disappeared in the Algarve on 3 May.
Mr McCann, who is originally from Glasgow, described coverage of the abduction from his family's Algarve apartment as being "10 times greater than we ever possibly imagined".
Although he acknowledged that he and his wife Kate had initially sought publicity, there was now a "lack of control" in the coverage, he said.
He told the Edinburgh TV festival his family had deliberately "tried to withdraw" from the public spotlight and signalled the coverage of the campaign to find his daughter would be scaled down.
"The compromise has always been do we do something because it will help Madeleine," he said.
"Unfortunately the human interest side of this is enormous now and that's been very difficult."
It was not necessary for the media to "bombard people on a daily basis with Madeleine's image" and the couple did not expect to sustain the same level of coverage throughout their campaign, he said.
Everything the family did was being scrutinised, he added, and this had become "very unpleasant".
Madeleine's parents say they still believe their daughter is alive.
Police in Portugal have dismissed press allegations that Mr and Mrs McCann were involved in their daughter's disappearance, saying the couple were not suspects in the case.
Mr McCann said that although the British media and photographers had been "very respectful and kept their distance" from his family in Portugal, the pressure on journalists to find a story was leading to "absolutely wild speculation" about what had happened.
"Even early on, there was saturation coverage with nothing to report, and there are commercial decisions being made with filling column inches and time on TV," he said.
"Particularly in the last six weeks, other than the recent searches, there has been nothing."
He said it was the responsibility of TV producers and editors to make it clear when reporters were "talking about speculation".
Mr McCann, interviewed by Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark, said he first realised the scale of media interest when he and his wife returned from the police station soon after Madeleine's disappearance to find "about 150" journalists outside their apartment.
However, he said in order to fill a "void" in details from the police investigation, he and his wife had conducted a series of interviews to raise awareness of Madeleine's disappearance.
The difficulty we have is leaving Portugal as a family of four, when we arrived as a family of five
Gerry McCann
But Mr McCann said he now wanted the story to be "reported responsibly and only newsworthy material" used.
"Staying in Portugal may be counter-productive because of the attention on Kate and I, and that generates pressure on people to write things," he said.
He added that he had now started thinking about returning to the UK and his job as a consultant cardiologist in Leicester. "I've spent such a long time training and I have got a lot of sub-specialist expertise, and there aren't a lot of people who have that. "The difficulty we have is leaving Portugal as a family of four, when we arrived as a family of five."
Madeleine disappeared from her family's apartment room in the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz while her parents were eating with friends at a nearby restaurant.


Saturday, August 25, 2007


Friday 24th August 2007.

Dear Friends.

If there is one message that has come out of the events of the last two weeks for ordinary Zimbabwean people, it is this: You are on your own! There is no one who is going to going to rescue Zimbabwe. Some of us have been saying that for a very long time and now maybe it has finally sunk in. Certainly none of the southern African countries are going to lift a finger; the Americans have their hands full in Iraq and anyway it was Bush who nominated Mbeki as the 'pointman' on Zimbabwe; the EU appears divided and indecisive on the issue and the Brits apart from plans to evacuate their own nationals in the event the situation further deteriorates are unwilling to provoke Mugabe's rage and hysterical sloganeering of 'Zimbabwe will never be a colony again' Ironically, colonial mastery is precisely what the Brits do not want! They cannot yet face up to their colonial past. They're very good at the guilt and wringing of hands but not so good at accepting their moral responsibility to the inhabitants of their former colony.

Even if it is true, as reported in some UK and South African papers this week, that behind the scenes the SADC leaders spoke very sternly to Mugabe about the economic collapse in his country, anyone who still believes - as the MDC appears to - that SADC has done enough to justify our hope for a just solution to the current impasse is, in my view, guilty of dangerous self-delusion. It is dangerous because it is based on the false premise that the other side, ie. Zanu PF and, by extension Thabo Mbeki are sincerely committed to honest negotiation. The likely result of such false and unsubstantiated optimism is that it raises the hopes of millions of Zimbabweans that maybe there is the possibility that their lives will get better. Those hopes are bound to be dashed again on the rock of Mugabe's intransigence and a desperate starving people with nothing else to hope for may resort to violent change which no one can control.

It is naivety that has been the downfall of the opposition parties in Zimbabwe; they continue to believe that they are dealing with a man and a party who can be trusted to keep their word. The problem I believe is that the MDC in calling for democratic change through the ballot box has failed to see that in addition to the ballot box there are other non-violent ways to bring about change. The civic organizations such as WOZA, the NCA and the churches have demonstrated time and again that it is possible to get ordinary men and women out on the street peacefully demonstrating their anger and displeasure at the continuing misery of their lives. Without that public display of disaffection Zimbabwean ministers and their South African counterparts will continue to claim that all is well in the country. There is no evidence they can claim that the mass of Zimbabweans are dissatisfied with their lives under the Mugabe regime because, they say, we do not see the people out on the streets. But Zimbabweans and the leadership of the opposition parties would do well to remember that 'one little brown man in a dhoti' as Churchill described Mahatma Ghandi, brought the entire might of the British empire to a standstill when he led millions of Indians on the great salt march and then on to Indian independence. In America, Martin Luther King got thousands of African Americans out on the streets in the Civil Rights Movement. Nearer to home, the children of Soweto were instrumental in bringing an end to apartheid when they took to the streets in June 16th 1976. In all of these struggles against tyranny it was the people, armed only with their courage and longing for freedom who initiated change.

My question to the opposition parties in Zimbabwe is why have you so little faith in your own people? They have shown that they are capable of courageous resistance but what they desperately need now is leadership, someone who will organize and lead them from the front. Then the whole world will see Zimbabweans in their thousands demonstrate their longing for freedom and a new beginning. I believe that Africa and the west would then be forced to come to the aid of the people, not just with words and gestures but with a UN resolution and action to follow. I can hear the cynics asking, 'What did the UN ever do about Rwanda, Dafur or the DRC?' and their cynicism is justified. My point is that until Zimbabweans stand up and demonstrate publicly how desperately they want change, the rest of the world has every excuse for continuing to turn a blind eye. For surely even the opposition must by now see that the ballot box alone will not bring about change because Mugabe has already rigged the result. MDC can never win while Mugabe sets the rules.

Until the opposition parties in Zimbabwe harness the strength of people's power, Mugabe and his cronies in SADC will continue to claim that all is well in the country and no change is needed. By their continued failure to provide leadership for a genuine people's revolt the opposition makes it possible for Mugabe and his ministers to go on telling their nonsensical lies about the state of the country; they will be believed because there is no evidence to the contrary. The sight of determined people peacefully demonstrating on the streets might waken Africa and the world to the tragedy that is Zimbabwe. To quote Robert Nesta Marley: None but ourselves can free ourselves.

Ndini shamwari yenyu. PH