Home > Uncategorized > Politics this week: 27th January – 2nd February 2007

Politics this week: 27th January – 2nd February 2007

Politics this week

Feb 1st 2007
From The Economist print edition

Scores of Iraqi Shias were killed by Sunni insurgent bombs and mortars during the Shias’ main religious festival, Ashura, while tit-for-tat killings in Baghdad and elsewhere continued. Earlier, near the Shias’ holy city of Najaf, American and Iraqi troops fought an advancing force of a breakaway Shia sect, killing at least 260 of them. The newly appointed overall American commander of troops in Iraq said that “time was short” for turning things round. See article


In the first successful suicide-bombing for nine months inside Israel, a Palestinian from Gaza killed three people in a bakery located in a residential area in the Red Sea resort town of Eilat.

At the African Union’s annual summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, the president of Chad, Idriss Déby, denounced the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, who failed in his attempt to win the organisation’s chair for the coming year; it went instead to Ghana’s president, John Kufuor. Mr Déby also assailed the AU itself for being “deaf and blind to ethnic cleansing” in Sudan’s western region, Darfur, where the killing has spilled over into Chad.

Also at the AU summit, Somalia’s interim president, Abdullahi Yusuf, agreed to hold a conference to try to reconcile his country’s many rival clans. But no agreement was reached on sending an AU peacekeeping force to take the place of the Ethiopian troops who recently invaded the country to sweep Islamist militias from power.

As a token of China’s growing interest in Africa, its president, Hu Jintao, began an eight-country, 12-day tour of the continent. Attention will be focused on his trip to Sudan where he will discuss international efforts to make peace in Darfur. See articleE+

Nicolas Sarkozy, the centre-right candidate for the French presidency, made an election-campaign visit to London, where there are thought to be some 300,000 French residents. A poll showed Mr Sarkozy pulling ahead of the Socialists’ candidate, Ségolène Royal. See article

Police in Britain arrested nine men suspected of planning to kidnap and murder a Muslim British soldier on leave from Afghanistan. See article

Germany ordered the arrest of 13 suspected CIA agents over the kidnapping, for five months, of a German national of Lebanese descent. Meanwhile, the foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, was embarrassed by revelations that he had opposed the release of a German-born Turkish citizen held in Guantánamo Bay for four years. Investigators found no evidence of terrorist activity by the Turk, Murat Kurnaz. See article

Carla del Ponte, the United Nations war-crimes prosecutor at The Hague, urged the European Union not to resume talks with Serbia until it took steps to hand over Ratko Mladic, a Bosnian Serb general wanted for war crimes. The EU suspended talks last year in protest at Serbia’s failure to arrest Mr Mladic.

With threats of subpoenas hanging in the air, America’s attorney-general, Alberto Gonzales, agreed to hand over classified documents about the government’s (recently abandoned) domestic spying programme to a committee in Congress. Only selected legislators will be allowed to review the top-secret files.


Washington, DC, witnessed its biggest anti-war rally in a while. By some estimates around 100,000 people protested in the capital against George Bush’s plan to send extra troops to Iraq. Meanwhile, a Senate committee held a hearing to confirm Admiral William Fallon as Mr Bush’s top commander in the Middle East. The main topic of conversation was Iran.

The former White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, testified for the prosecution (under an immunity deal) at the trial of Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Mr Libby, a former chief of staff to Dick Cheney, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he obstructed an investigation into the leaking of a CIA officer’s name to the press.

More bad news on AIDS. Trials of a vaginal microbicide called cellulose sulphate, which was intended to stop women becoming infected, were halted when it was found that those receiving the treatment were more susceptible to infection, rather than less so.

An official inquiry into hundreds of murders of opposition activists, priests and journalists in the Philippines concluded that the army killed most of them. But it rejected claims by human-rights groups that top military chiefs had sanctioned the murders.

Bangladesh’s High Court ordered that elections in the country could not be held for three months, when it expects an overhaul of the election process to be completed. The country’s election commissioners resigned as part of the reform process. An election scheduled for last month was postponed amid protests that the ballot would be rigged.

Six policemen and a civilian were killed by a roadside bomb in eastern Sri Lanka, the scene of recent fighting involving rebel Tamil groups.

Nepal’s prime minister, Girija Prasad Koirala, pledged that the country would be a federal state in the future. Eight people have died in protests by southern Nepalese demanding the change over the past couple of weeks.

Venezuela’s National Assembly granted powers to President Hugo Chávez to legislate by decree for the next 18 months. See article


The first video images of Fidel Castro, Cuba’s ailing president, released since October showed him looking stronger though still frail, and chatting with Venezuela’s Mr Chávez. Mr Castro’s health is a “state secret”, but he is said to have suffered complications after intestinal surgery.

Canada’s government said it would pay C$11.5m ($9.8m) to Maher Arar, a Canadian software engineer who was detained by American officials and flown to Syria where he was tortured. An inquiry found that Canadian officials had falsely told their American counterparts that Mr Arar was a terrorist.

Ecuador slipped towards mob rule. Thousands of protesters, organised by the new president, Rafael Correa, stormed the Congress, where a majority of newly elected legislators are opposed to plans for a constituent assembly.

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