Kofi Annan is Chair of the Africa Progress Panel. The panel launched the 2011 Africa Progress Report


Annan warns of ethnic violence ahead of polls

FORMER UN general secretary Kofi Annan said yesterday he was “deeply concerned” by recent bouts of ethnic violence in Kenya as it prepares for polls early next year.

Annan was speaking while on a four-day visit to Nairobi. He is part of the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation panel which brought a shaky peace to the nation after elections in December 2007 led to the deaths of more than 1000 people in a wave of ethnic clashes.

“The panel is deeply concerned by an increase in tensions and violence in the run-up to the elections,” said Annan, who most recently led failed UN and Arab League efforts to bring peace to Syria.

“The violence in northern Kenya, the Tana River delta and the coast are a cause of great concern,” the visiting diplomat said. – Sapa-dpa


19 killed and hundreds of fishermen missing

AT LEAST 19 people were killed and an estimated 1500 fishermen are missing after tropical storms smashed into Bangladesh’s southern coastal islands and districts early yesterday, police said.

Police said at least 1500 mud, tin and straw-built houses were also levelled in the storms that swept Bhola, Hatiya and Sandwip Islands and half a dozen coastal districts on Wednesday.

At the worst-hit island of Hatiya, at least seven people were killed after they were buried under their houses or hit by fallen trees, said local police chief Moktar Hossain. More than 1000 houses were flattened.

“More than 100 fishing trawlers, each carrying at least 10 fishermen, have been missing since the storm,” he said, calling it one of the most powerful in decades. – Sapa-AFP


Hezbollah sent downed drone, says Netanyahu

ISRAELI Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday a drone aircraft, which flew about 55km into Israel before being shot down last weekend, was sent by Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah.

Netanyahu said during a tour of the southern frontier with Egypt that Israel would “act with determination to defend its borders”, just as “we thwarted over the weekend Hezbollah’s attempt” to penetrate Israeli airspace.

Under surveillance by Israeli fighter jets, it was shot down on Saturday over a forest near the occupied West Bank. Defence officials did not, at the time, directly accuse Hezbollah – who fought an inconclusive war with Israel in 2006 – of sending it.

The military released a 10-second video clip of the strike. – Reuters


King swears in new govt to prepare for elections

KING Abdullah swore in a new government yesterday led by reformist politician Abdullah Ensour and charged with preparing for Jordan’s first post-Arab Spring parliamentary elections.

Prime Minister Ensour, 73, has held a string of senior ministerial posts in more than two decades of public office but has backed opposition calls for wider reforms.

He was appointed by the king on Wednesday to replace Fayez al-Tarawneh, a week after the tribal parliament was dissolved half-way through its four-year term. Elections must be held within four months.

Foreign Minister Nasser Joudeh and Finance Minister Suleiman al-Hafez, who negotiated a $2-billion IMF loan, kept their posts in a smaller, 21-member conservatives-dominated cabinet. – Reuters


Danish archaeologists in ancient warships find

DANISH archaeologists in Greece have uncovered the remains of ancient slipways that may have launched the Greek trireme warships that defeated the Persians at the Battle of Salamis, officials said.

The six slipways have been dated to between the end of the sixth century BC and the early fifth century, meaning they are more than 2500 years old, the Greek culture ministry said yesterday.

They were found at a depth of over 2m at the yacht marina of Mikrolimano, near the main Greek port of Piraeus, that was known as Munichia in ancient times.

“The slipways were constructed in the early years of the Athenian democracy and the possibility that some of the triremes that took part in the Battle of Salamis were housed here is interesting,” it said. – Sapa-AFP


Chief investigator at US embassy shot dead

THE chief of investigations at the US embassy in Yemen was shot dead yesterday, reported local media, a month after the embassy was attacked.

Masked gunmen on a motorcycle intercepted the car of Qassem Aqlan, a Yemeni national who had worked for 20 years at the US embassy, fired on him and fled, reported the independent newspaper Al Watan.

The assailants targeted Aqlan as he was on his way to the embassy in central Sana’a, said the paper.

Aqlan acted as a coordinator between the Yemeni government and the US in connection with investigations into an attack by protesters angered by an anti-Islam video on the embassy last month.

Insurgents linked to al-Qaeda executed three soldiers in eastern Yemen. – Sapa-dpa

The Vatican

Lapsed Catholics warned of ‘desertification’

POPE Benedict urged lapsed and lukewarm Roman Catholics yesterday to rediscover their Church and stop the advance of “spiritual desertification”.

The pope made his comments in the homily of a Mass before tens of thousands in St Peter’s Square on the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, a far-reaching event in the Church’s 2000-year history.

“Recent decades have seen the advance of a spiritual destertification,” he said, opening a worldwide “Year of Faith”.

“We see it all around us … the void has spread.”

The Mass was attended by hundreds of Catholic bishops as well as officials of other Christian churches such as Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. – Reuters


Beijing defends its IMF no-show as ‘appropriate’

CHINA’S foreign minister yesterday described as “completely appropriate” a decision not to send two top finance officials to global economic talks in Japan, which Beijing is involved in a bitter territorial spat with.

China has not given official reasons for the no-shows at the annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank, but Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said “the arrangement of the delegation for the meeting was completely appropriate”.

Yang made the brief comment in response to a reporter’s question during a joint press appearance with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle after the two held talks on their bilateral relations.

Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan had been due to deliver a lecture on Sunday . – Sapa-AFP


Scientist who helped clone sheep Dolly dies

KEITH Campbell, a prominent biologist who worked on cloning Dolly the sheep, has died at 58, the University of Nottingham said yesterday.

Campbell, who had worked on animal improvement and cloning since 1999, died on October 5, university spokesman Tim Utton said

Campbell began researching animal cloning at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh in 1991. The experiments led to the birth in 1996 of Dolly the sheep, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell.

The sheep was named after voluptuous singer Dolly Parton.

Researchers at the time said that the sheep was created from a mammary gland cell, and that Parton offered an excellent example. -Sapa-AP


Governor gives phone sex number for hotline

IN AN embarrassing mistake, Florida Governor Rick Scott gave out a phone sex hotline number to Floridians seeking information on a deadly fungal meningitis outbreak.

Scott was providing an update on the outbreak at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday when he announced what he said was the toll-free phone line, but gave out the wrong number.

The governor’s office was alerted by a public radio station in Tampa, WUSF. The station said it was “quickly notified by a reader that the number instead connected to an adult telephone line”.

Callers are greeted with the recording of a woman’s voice saying: “Hello boys, thank you for calling me on my anniversary.”

Scott’s spokes man, Jackie Schutz, said the governor inadvertently misread the number . – Reuters