The President's Take
In my second monthly column to accompany CrisisWatch, our unique conflict tracker, I look at how outside actors are now openly fighting not for Syria, but over it. I also note more bad news from Venezuela, and flag our upcoming report on how the outside world and regional governments can avert disaster there. Read more …
President & CEO
Ten conflict situations deteriorated in November 2004 according to the December edition of CrisisWatch. The rigged 21 November presidential runoff elections in Ukraine sparked mass protests and left the country in turmoil. Cote d'Ivoire took a dramatic step backward, with government planes breaking the ceasefire in the north, 19,000 fleeing to Liberia, and French destruction of the Ivorian airforce in retaliation for air strikes that killed nine French peacekeepers. The Democratic Republic of the Congo came under repeated threats of invasion by Rwanda as Kigali worried about rebels in eastern DRC. Despite positive movement in peace talks between the Sudanese government and southern rebels, Darfur experienced increasing violence. The situations in Central African Republic, Guinea, Kosovo, Nepal, Serbia & Montenegro and Uzbekistan also worsened in November.
Four countries saw their situations improve in November 2004. Macedonia's referendum on decentralisation failed to attract the minimum turnout, signalling approval of plans for new local government boundaries introduced under the Ohrid peace agreement. Iran pledged a full, if temporary, suspension of uranium enrichment, allowing more time for further negotiations to resolve the nuclear issue comprehensively. Ethiopia's parliament approved a government plan to accept "in principle" a disputed boundary commission ruling on the town of Badme, reversing a position that had stymied peace with Eritrea. And Burundi’s peace process got back on track.
For December 2004, CrisisWatch identifies Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kosovo, and Ukraine as Conflict Risk Alerts, or situations at particular risk of further conflict in the coming month. CrisisWatch labels Ethiopia/Eritrea, Northern Ireland and Ukraine Conflict Resolution Opportunities for December 2004.
Central African RepublicDemocratic Republic of CongoSudanCôte d’IvoireGuineaNepalKosovoMontenegroSerbiaUkraineUzbekistan
Democratic Republic of CongoCôte d’IvoireKosovoUkraine
Ethiopia/EritreaUkraineNorthern Ireland (UK)
Peace process back on track after so-called Tutsi parties agreed draft constitution 31 October. Hutu President Ndayizeye fired Tutsi Vice-President Alphonse-Marie Kadege 10 November accusing him of obstruction; move endorsed by Tutsi and Hutu leaders. Tutsi and UPRONA-member Federic Ngenzebuhoro appointed new vice-president. National Electoral Commission delayed constitutional referendum until 22 December citing logistical problems. Implementation and Monitoring Committee for 2000 Arusha accords said new schedule workable; voter registration underway. UN Security Council members visiting Bujumbura stressed “no alternative” to April 2005 presidential elections; disarmament and reintegration of some 55,000 former fighters began 28 November. UN mission expressed concern about looting by former rebel groups following incident Bujumbura 2 November.
At least 20 killed in raid in Birao, northeast CAR 23 November. Attack, blamed on opponents of President François Bozize, comes ahead of 5 December constitutional referendum and amidst fears of imminent influx of refugees from neighbouring Darfur.
Frustration and disease led to deteriorated security in refugee camps eastern Chad, particularly at Bredjing site; refugee numbers top 200,000. 152 northern Movement for Democracy and Justice in Chad (MDJT) rebels reportedly defected to army 17 November; MDJT disputed scale and significance of move.
Rwanda repeatedly threatened to relaunch military action against Rwandan Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels eastern DR Congo; former rebel commander Rwarakabije estimated FDLR forces at 12,000. Threats followed President Kagame’s strong criticism of UN proposals for voluntary disarmament of rebels blamed for 1994 genocide: “if you want peace, you have to make war”. Fears raised that Rwandan incursion in DR Congo would undermine fragile Kinshasa transitional government; spokesman for Kabila said up to 10,000 extra troops would be deployed to border areas while UN Security Council, calling for accelerated repatriation of foreign fighters, warned Rwanda against any attack. FDLR alleged Rwandan troops had already crossed into North Kivu 28 November heading for Masisi and Bunia. In earlier attempt to defuse Rwandan concerns, 3,260 members of Congolese army deployed with UN troops south of Bukavu 8 November to encourage disarmament and repatriation of foreign fighters. Leaders of central African countries met Dar- es-Salaam 20 November, committing themselves to regional peace and development. President Kabila fired 6 ministers accused of corruption.
Meeting with UN Security Council Kigali 21 November, President Kagame criticised UN-backed voluntary disarmament of DR Congo-based Rwandan Hutu rebels; called for tougher measures, warning Rwanda might launch attack against rebels to pre-empt any attack by them. Rwanda and Uganda exchanged diplomatic expulsions over charges Rwanda helped train Ugandan People’s Redemption Army rebels. Editor of Umuseso newspaper convicted of defamation but acquitted of more serious charges of “divisionism”.
Ethiopia’s parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of government plan to accept “in principle” disputed boundary commission ruling on Badme town 25 November; significant reversal of position held since September 2003. Parliament nevertheless called commission decision “illegal and unjust”. Remains to be seen whether move represents genuine step forward or aimed at pressuring Eritrea. Earlier Head of UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), Joseph Legwaila, repeated assurance UNMEE would stay until border demarcation complete (but would let sides demarcate border themselves).
Professor Ali Muhammad Gedi named PM 3 November, starting 30-day period for naming and confirmation (by parliament) of cabinet; reconciliation and security top priorities. President Yusuf’s Nairobi residence attacked by unidentified assailants 16 November; government plans relocation to Mogadishu early 2005. President’s request to UN Security Council for 20,000 foreign troops rejected for time being. Norwegian Refugee Council estimated up to 400,000 IDPs in Somalia.
Despite positive movement on IGAD-backed peace- talks between government and southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army rebels (with Security Council urging conclusion and parties signing memorandum 19 November agreeing to finalise peace modalities by year-end) month of increasing violence in Darfur and failing international response; at least 1.5 million now displaced and over 70,000 killed. UN envoy Jan Pronk said current African Union (AU) protection force insufficient. But UN Security Council meeting Nairobi 17-18 November backtracked on previous warnings to Sudanese government on Darfur, while UN position towards rebels hardened in face of declining security. AU-backed Darfur negotiations between government and 2 rebel groups resulted in Abuja protocols 9 November, including Darfur no-fly zone; protocols disregarded with ongoing government bombing campaign and accusations of ceasefire breaches on both sides. Having previously attacked Kalma and Geraida, 100 rebels stormed Tawilla 22 November. UN warned security situation disrupting humanitarian aid, with 300,000 cut off. Sides blamed each other for police station attacks northern Darfur. Assault on El Geer refugee camp by Sudanese police 10 November deemed “unacceptable” by U.S. Sec. State Colin Powell.
Doubt over potential peace talks between Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and government. President Museveni, initially sceptical, accepted LRA overtures 14 November, announcing 1-week unilateral ceasefire in Acholi. Ceasefire expired without progress but further ceasefire offer open until 3 December. Ugandan army intelligence officer reported killed 19 November by LRA forces while army claimed 10 rebels killed southern Sudan 23 November, feeding scepticism over peace prospects. LRA leader Joseph Kony reportedly demanded 100-day ceasefire and insisted talks take place with LRA’s chosen interlocutors at Nasitu, southern Sudan, 15 December; Museveni insisted talks take place within Uganda in declared demilitarised zone. LRA deputy Otti reportedly said Ugandan chief of defence staff position must be reserved for LRA candidate. Meanwhile, Uganda expelled Rwandan diplomat on claims Rwanda helped train Ugandan People’s Redemption Army rebels; Rwanda expelled Ugandan diplomat in retaliation.
Post-conflict recovery ongoing. Government promised clamp-down on diamond smuggling.
Tension in run-up to 1-2 December presidential election; at least 10 killed. Opposition said government involved in plot to assassinate opposition leader. Parliament adopted new constitution 17 November.
Morgan Tsvangiarai, leader of opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), named “enemy number 1” by Justice Minister Chinamasa for support of targeted sanctions against government. Chinamasa raised possibility of Tsvangiarai being barred re-entry from current European trip. Zimbabwe’s government said would expand youth camps in run-up to planned March 2005 elections; MDC claimed indoctrinated youth to be used for intimidation purposes. South African NGO Solidarity Peace Trust claimed 60 to 70% of productive adults had left country.
Dramatic deterioration following October political impasse. Government air attack on Bouaké rebel stronghold broke ceasefire 4 November; Korhogo attacked same day. Fear of attacks in west caused 19,000 to flee to Liberia. Nine French soldiers killed in north 6 November; French retaliated by destroying 7-plane Ivorian airforce, effectively ending offensive. Anti-French rioting Abidjan broken up by French gunfire; 64 reported dead in subsequent violence. French evacuated some 9,500 foreign citizens (including 8,000 French). President Gbagbo continued to gear up Ivorian military, naming hardliner Colonel Philippe Mangou army chief. African Union (AU) and regional ECOWAS representatives called for arms embargo 14 November; French-drafted Security Council resolution imposing embargo passed day after. Gbagbo claimed sanctions, imposed on both sides, help rebels. Gbagbo further isolated by criticism of 25 Francophone governments meeting Burkina Faso. South African President Mbeki expected to travel to Abidjan December to attempt AU mediation. UN genocide adviser suggested International Criminal Court could investigate incitements to violence in Ivorian hate media.
Situation continued to slip. Police killed 1 when they opened fire on demonstrators Pita, 350km northeast Conakry. Protesters were demonstrating against electricity prices and estimated 70% unemployment. Further uprisings took place Dabola. Guinean foreign minister denied reports Guinea supported Ivorian president Gbagbo, as country moved to seal border following unrest in Côte d’Ivoire.
Violence brought under control early November after clashes attributed to former rebels killed 16. Liberia’s demobilisation program officially ended 31 October; 96,326 disarmed since 2003. Symbolic disbanding of rebel groups 3 November officially opened path to 2005 elections. Scheme to repatriate some 300,000 refugees began 8 November. Meanwhile, 19,000 Ivorians fled violence to Liberia; food aid flown to Butuo to deal with crisis. Several former rebel leaders allegedly involved in recruitment of former soldiers to fight on behalf of Ivorian government.
Low-level sporadic violence continued across country, while repeat of October general strike averted by 10% fuel price cut. Fragile truce held in oil-rich Delta province, but 2 Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force rebels reported killed in militia violence early November. Rebels ceased cooperation with government-backed disarmament committee 16 November, claiming bias in favour of rival Niger Delta Vigilantes militia. Tear gas used to disperse Ogoni ethnic group protesters Port Harcourt 24 November; Ogoni protest military presence in Ogoniland, blamed on Shell. Fear of violence in Warri, Delta state led to postponement of 27 November local elections until 2 December. Local dispute between governor and Anambra state power-broker led to violence southeastern Nigeria, killing 27. President Obasanjo sought to remove Plateau governor accused of corruption; state of emergency imposed May following 600 deaths in Yelwa massacre lifted.
Trial of indicted former members of Civil Defence Force resumed at Special Court without defendants present; evidence heard on Kamajors conduct during war.
Yeung Sum, leader of Hong Kong Democratic Party, said will step down as chairman. Move follows party’s poor showing in September legislative elections.
U.S. held consultations with Russia, Japan, China and South Korea at APEC summit in Chile, urging early resumption of 6-party talks, though no date set for 4th round. Bilateral negotiations between Japanese and North Korean officials failed to satisfy former's request for information on abducted Japanese. Refugees and defections from North Korea have increased dramatically since U.S. President Bush signed North Korea Human Rights Act 18 October, making North Koreans eligible for U.S. asylum.
Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian stepped up peace overtures ahead of 11 December legislative elections. After similar proposal rebuffed October, again called for dialogue in 10 November speech. Centrepiece of proposals is 10-point code of conduct, including many points stated before, but ceding no ground on sovereignty or national identity. Beijing officials called proposals insincere and warned of escalating cross-Strait tension. Taiwan's legislature rejected for second time budget proposal for $18 billion arms purchase from U.S.: decision now deferred until after legislative elections.
Election results officially announced 4 November gave President Karzai 55% of votes. Inauguration planned for 7 December as talks over cabinet composition continue. Progress made on heavy weapons collection in north with release of 45 tanks by Abdul Rashid Dostum. Three abducted UN workers freed 23 November. Clashes between U.S./Afghan forces and Taliban intensified after end of Ramadan: separate mine blasts in Uruzgan province and attacks in Kandahar killed at least 12, including 2 U.S. soldiers. Taliban leader Mullah Omar vowed to regain control of country in 12 November statement. UN said land under opium cultivation increased by 66% in 2004, though yield up by 17%; opium income equal to over 60% of Afghan licit economy.
Bangladesh Rifles went on alert 21 November and called on Indian Border Security Forces to reduce troops. At least 3 killed and 50 injured in clash between Muslim Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and police in southeast refugee camp. More than 15,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar's western Arakan state over 2 weeks from late October. Anti-government movement planned further demonstrations against ruling BNP-Jaamat coalition.
Indian troops launched 5 November offensive on northeastern rebel camps of United National Liberation Front, People's Liberation Army and other smaller armed groups, killing at least 30 and arresting 50. PM Manmohan Singh visited troubled northeast in bid to ease tensions 19-22 November. Maoist rebels reportedly responsible for 20 November Uttar Pradesh land mine blast that killed 18 policemen.
India began limited withdrawal of troops from Kashmir 17 November, citing fall in guerrilla violence. Indian PM Manmohan Singh visited Kashmir Valley same day, ruled out any redrawing of India's borders or further division of Kashmir as suggested by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in his (informal) October proposals. Pakistani PM Shaukat Aziz met Singh New Delhi 24 November; agreed to continue talks. Eleven rebels and 3 Indian soldiers killed 6 November in several attacks, including grenade assault in Srinagar during visit by India's home minister Shivraj Patil. Kashmiri separatist All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) repeated longstanding demand their leaders be allowed to go to Pakistan to meet separatist leaders before formal talks occur. Indian soldiers shot dead 5 militants 3 November after mosque siege 45 km south of Srinagar.
Violence escalated after Dasain truce ended 28 October. Fierce 21 November clashes in Pandaun of Kailali district as security forces raided Maoist training camp; 10 soldiers killed, bodies of 26 rebels recovered. Previous week, clashes on major highway at Krishnabhir, close to Kathmandu, and in Kailali district killed at least 11. Further clashes in Khairi Khola area of mid-western Banke district 17 November and Kailali district 29 November. Political infighting also escalated. Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) position in coalition government uncertain after senior UML member publicly called on party to disown leadership. UML General Secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal added UML ready to form interim government including Maoists. Information Minister Mohammed Mohsin, royal appointee in cabinet, warned 11 November that authoritarian government cannot be ruled out if present government fails. PM Deuba’s 13 January deadline for Maoists to agree to peace talks rejected by Maoists. Deuba threatened to hold parliamentary elections should Maoists refuse.
Pakistani forces announced end of operations in South Waziristan, claiming to have killed at least 302 al- Qaeda-linked militants, arrested 600. Upper house of parliament passed bill 1 November allowing General Pervez Musharraf to remain as both president and army chief until 2007, to come into effect 31 December. Asif Zardari, husband of former PM Benazir Bhutto, released after 8 years in prison amid speculation he may revitalise opposition Pakistan People's Party and encourage Bhutto return from exile. Cinema blast in North West Frontier Province killed 2 and injured at least 29, while 2 explosions in Balochistan 24/25 November left 1 person dead.
Situation remains fragile as Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader Velupillai Prabhakaran said he had “reached the limits of patience”. Sinhala and Tamil communities clashed Trincomalee after 28 November grenade attack on bus left 1 dead; LTTE denied responsibility. Despite high-level visit by Norwegian foreign minister Jan Petersen, efforts to restart talks between President Kumaratunga’s government and LTTE failed. Kumaratunga reiterated her government’s principles for finding solution: “a united Sri Lanka, undivided, human rights to be guaranteed, political pluralism.” Chief LTTE peace negotiator Anton Balasingham said solution with present government impossible. LTTE insist talks be based on their blueprint for self-rule. High court judge Sarath Ambeypitia, responsible for 2002 sentencing of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran to 200 years prison, shot dead with bodyguard 19 November.
Police arrested 4 in connection with 9 September bombing outside Australia's Jakarta embassy, including field commander for attack, Rois; other main suspects, Malaysian JI members Noordin Mohamad Top and Azhari Husin, remain at large. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) extended emergency rule in Aceh for further 6 months; vowed to seek alternative methods to end violence. More violence in central Sulawesi: bomb on Poso bus 13 November killed 6; police found severed head of Christian chief of Pinedapa village 5 November; and clash between 2 Muslim groups in Donggala 3 November killed 2. Approximately 100 Papuans, apparently members of Free Papua Movement (OPM), ambushed convoy of officials from Puncak Jaya district 12 November, killing 1. Local human rights groups called for investigation, believe incident directed by military but evidence unclear. Two people killed and 5 wounded in separate land disputes involving plantations in Riau and Jambi provinces, Sumatra 23-24 November.
Military government released 500 of promised 9,300 prisoners wrongly imprisoned by disbanded military intelligence unit 25 November, including Min Ko Naing, now 42-year-old leader of student democracy protests suppressed in 1989. Out of total 500 only 38 were political detainees – though included senior members of opposition National League for Democracy (NLD). But NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD deputy chairman Tin Oo remain under house arrest and little belief in region that any change of regime direction involved. Burmese army commenced operations to remove northeast Indian rebels from western frontier region of Sagaing and Kachin 30 November.
MILF filed protest with Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team after military reportedly launched aerial assault on MILF area in Maguindanao province, Mindanao. At least 10 killed in attack, reportedly against Abu Sayyaf group and kidnapping gangs. Military chief claimed action not in violation of truce. Police-protester clashes over job cuts and land reform at plantation owned by family of former President Tarlac province left at least 7 dead.
UN Security Council unanimously voted to extend UN mission for final 6 months until 20 May 2005.
Insurgency continued in south. Academics from 18 universities called upon PM Thaksin Shinawatra to make personal apology for 25 October Tak Bai deaths, in which 79 protesters suffocated to death in custody of security forces. At least 35 killed in incidents throughout south, including 2 in hitherto relatively peaceful Songkhla province 16 November. Violence in south discussed at ASEAN summit despite Thaksin threat to walk out if internal affairs raised.
PM Fato Nano accused of involvement in arms- trafficking; parliament voted against launching special inquiry. Minister of Foreign Affairs Kastriot Islami said 19 November Albania will conclude Stabilisation Association Agreement with EU by 2005 - observers suggested target date only possible if May/June 2005 elections conducted without irregularities and opposition accepts result.
Bosnian Serb authorities apologised 10 November to relatives of 8,000 Muslims killed by Bosnian Serb forces in 1995 Srebrenica massacre. Transfer of peacekeeping tasks from NATO to EU set for 2 December.
Growing schism of former KLA along regional lines. Former west Kosovo KLA commander and Alliance for the Future of Kosovo leader Ramush Haradinaj’s coalition deal with Ibrahim Rugova’s Democratic League of Kosovo angered central Kosovo KLA circles and Kosovo Democratic Party (PDK) members; locks PDK out of government. Parliament to vote on coalition deal early December. Mass Pristina protest 22 November attested to growing Kosovo Albanian anger toward ICTY and international community: former PDK deputy leader Fatmir Limaj and 2 other former KLA members on trial in Hague; possible Haradinaj indictment before year-end likely to provoke reaction from supporters. UNMIK ruled out blocking Haradinaj as PM. Serbian media forecast repeat of March riots. Head of UN Mission in Kosovo Soren Jessen-Petersen announced approval of 3 new ministries, giving marginally more power to province's government. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan decided against Eide report’s advice that steps preparatory to final status talks needed prior to summer 2005.
7 November referendum on decentralisation plans failed with only 26% turnout, well short of 50% threshold. Result signalled approval of new local government boundaries introduced under Ohrid agreement. PM Hari Kostov, having previously vowed to resign should referendum succeed, resigned nonetheless 15 November, citing disputes over economic policy and lack of “teamwork” within ruling coalition. Main party in government, Social Democrats (SDSM), elected Vlado Buckovski new party leader 25 November; Buckovski appointed mandator (PM-designate) 26 November.
Apparent assassination attempt on President Boris Tadic 30 November as car tried to ram motorcade; Tadic unhurt; risk of further attempts as Vienna- based “Serbian Patriotic Organisation” issued death threats against Tadic, FM Vuk Draskovic and state union President Marovic. Serbian government rocked by scandals while Tadic in open conflict with PM Vojislav Kostunica; may try to bring down government. Serious questions arising about control over security structures. Hague Tribunal Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte briefed UN Security Council on 23 November - said Belgrade deliberately ignoring legal obligations. U.S. Congress conditioned Serbian aid for 2005 on arrest and extradition to ICTY of Mladic. Energy lobby leading to possible political shakeup in Montenegro. Relations between Belgrade and Podgorica increasingly frayed.
Dispute over election rules threatened to split governing coalition.
September law on creation of public television broadcaster published; widely criticised, including by Council of Europe, which requested further clarification on its substance. Major opposition newspaper Yeni Musavat suspended daily publication 16 November after failing to pay heavy libel fines. Municipal elections planned for 17 December: opposition parties threatening boycott. Court rejected appeals of 7 opposition leaders sentenced to jail for roles in October 2003 post-election violence.
Crisis over disputed 3 October presidential elections in Abkhazia persisted. Supporters of Sergei Bagapsh, opposition candidate, seized government buildings in Sukhumi 12 November in show of force. Election commission and Supreme Court had initially declared Bagaph victorious over government candidate Raul Khajimba, but Court later reversed decision under pressure from Khajimba supporters, ordering new elections within 2 months. Bagapsh rejected new election call and prepared to hold inauguration 6 December. Elsewhere, 20 November deadline for demilitarisation of Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone - set during 5 November talks in Sochi between Georgian PM Zurab Zhvania and South Ossetia leader Eduard Kokoity - not met. At 20 November meeting in Vladikavkaz sides agreed to multi- staged demilitarisation. But situation remains tense, with exchanges of gunfire between Georgian and Ossetian villages.
UN General Assembly agreed to include item on “occupied territories of Azerbijan” in its agenda, debating Azerbaijan-drafted resolution 23 November but deciding to suspend vote until unspecified later date. Azerbaijan and Armenian foreign ministers met Berlin 19 November; agreed to continue talks.
Crisis in neighbouring republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia narrowly averted following intervention of presidential envoy Dmitri Kozak. Protesters stormed office of republic president after 7 men found murdered in his son-in-law’s dacha.
Talks in Varna, Bulgaria 8-9 November on Transdniestria dispute ended without progress. U.S. and EU signalled support for President Voronin’s proposed Stability and Security Pact (SSPM), to be considered at December OSCE meeting Sofia. SSPM envisages bringing U.S. and EU in as observers to current 5-sided negotiations (OSCE, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Transdniestria). Russia opposes changing 5-sided format.
Political crisis gripped Ukraine after initial results of 21 November runoff presidential election had PM Viktor Yanukovych victorious over Western- oriented rival Viktor Yushchenko. Thousands demonstrated in Kiev to protest rigged results, declared fraudulent by international observers, U.S. and EU. Riot police on standby in Kiev but protests so far peaceful. Counter-protests staged eastern Ukraine. Tension between mainly pro-Yushchenko Ukrainian-speaking western regions and mainly pro- Yanukovych Russian-speaking eastern and southern regions, raising fears of civil war or possible division of country. Eastern regions threatened to secede if Yanukovych not declared president. Yushchenko called for repeat vote to be held 12 December under OSCE supervision; broke off talks 30 November. Parliament voted to oust Yanukovych government 1 December, as international mediators arrived in bid to defuse situation.
Madrid rejected peace pledge made 14 November by Arnaldo Otegi, leader of separatist Batasuna party, saying it did not condemn ETA violence. Explosion at military base Navarra region eve of rally - blamed on ETA - also undermined pledge. At least 15 ETA suspects arrested in police raids 16 November. Former ETA leader sent letter from prison 2 November calling on group to renounce violence.
Greek Cypriot leaders made first time call for direct talks with Turkey on latter’s accession to EU, on condition Turkey recognise Cyprus; Turkey refused. Turkish Cypriot president Rauf Denktash to form new government following failure of National Union Party leader to form coalition.
Possible breakthrough in peace process as high-level negotiations to restore devolution continued. British-Irish proposals (as yet confidential) for new power-sharing deal submitted to Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein 17 November. Parties responded positively but cautiously. Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said deal possible; while DUP leader Ian Paisley reiterated calls for proof of IRA decommissioning.
Landmine hit military convoy Sirnark province, killing civilian; separatist Kongra-Gel insurgents (formerly Kurdistan Workers Party) blamed. Two Kongra-Gel rebels killed by security forces Batman province in 2 separate incidents southeast Turkey 19 November.
Uzbek authorities said 3 suicide bombers responsible for July attacks in Tashkent were Kazakh citizens. Attacks targeted American and Israeli embassies, as well as Uzbek prosecutor’s office. Kazakh authorities, meanwhile, announced arrest of several suspected members of alleged terror group with links to al-Qaeda. Two explosions caused light damage to ruling Otan party headquarters 28 November.
Human rights activist Tursunbek Akun disappeared 16 November after having told family members he had been summoned by National Security Service. Interior ministry denied government role; opposition demanded investigation. Two died, including policeman, in 20 November Osh explosion. Incident occurred after police stopped car with 4 men inside, 1 of whom detonated explosive device in escape attempt. Unclear if men linked to radical underground groups.
Government continued to pressure independent Ruzi Nav newspaper, seizing copies of latest issue after it arrived in Dushanbe from printing house in Kyrgyzstan, ostensibly because of tax violations. Closed trial of former pro-government warlord Yoqub Salimov on treason charges began 23 November.
Major rioting – described as worst in decade – broke out in Kokand, Ferghana Valley 1 November after tax police attempted to impose new restrictions on traders at main market. Further incidents in markets of several other Uzbek towns followed. Authorities reportedly cracked down on alleged riot participants in subsequent weeks. Continuing discontent with government restrictions on already anaemic economic activity risks inciting further unrest. Parliamentary election set for 26 December; opposition not permitted to take part and calling for boycott.
Protesters in Santa Cruz and Tarija called for greater autonomy from La Paz and referendum on regional autonomy in 11 November strikes – referendum ruled out by president of parliament. President Mesa's hydrocarbon bill still not passed. Supreme Court ruled Mesa's designation of 6 Supreme Court judges unconstitutional. Renewed rumours about right-wing conspiracy to overthrow Mesa administration.
FARC rejected 7 November government offer to meet in neutral embassy to discuss prisoner exchange, reiterating demand for demilitarisation of 2 zones in Caquetá department. Ten police officers killed in ELN ambush Paimado, Choco department 16 November. Following AUC-government deal to disband 3,000 fighters, 450 “Bananero Bloc” AUC fighters turned in arms. New truth, justice and reparation bill rejected by President Uribe. After week-long mission to Bojaya, Choco, UNHCR said armed groups tightening stranglehold there with risk civilians could be forced to flee or trapped in crossfire. In 22 November visit to Cartagena, President Bush pledged continued aid. Congress passed bill 30 November allowing Uribe to stand for 2nd term.
Public prosecutor Danilo Anderson killed by car bomb 18 November; Anderson had been pursuing cases against opponents of President Hugo Chavez. Government and opposition parties condemned killing; many gathered in Caracas to protest death. At least 2 killed in heavy-handed government response.
Instability continued: violence and human rights violations in capital Port-au-Prince remained major concern; over 100 reported killed since 30 September. Much heralded parade of former military in capital cancelled after government and UN said only police and UN forces could carry arms. Haiti government reportedly planning to issue warrant for former president Aristide's arrest; likely to further antagonise Aristide supporters, making transitional process more difficult. UN Security Council extended peacekeepers’ mandate to 1 June 2005.
Retrial of Shining Path leader Abigael Guzman twice suspended: 5 November after chaotic scenes in courthouse; second time after 2 of 3 judges stepped down because of prior involvement in terrorism trials. New judges chosen but no new date set. Mining companies called on government to end violent anti-mining demonstrations after some 350 protesters broke into camp in northern Peru, setting fire to tents and vehicles.
Following U.S. election victory, President Bush pledged to promote Middle East peace process, raising hopes for end to Israeli-Palestinian impasse. But objective of Palestinian state postponed by Washington from Roadmap’s 2005 deadline to within president’s term (i.e. 2009). 11 November death of Yasser Arafat created new dynamic in conflict. Elections for new Palestinian Authority president to be held 9 January. Fatah former PM Mahmoud Abbas most prominent candidate, with imprisoned Marwan Barghouthi wavering on whether to run. U.S., EU and Israel promised cooperation to ensure smooth running of election – with Israel agreeing to ease restrictions in Occupied Territories, allow participation of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, and permit international observers to monitor voting – but many Palestinian groups, including Hamas, insist legislative and local elections be held as well. Fragile security and political situation could easily derail voting process: Gaza shooting incident at mourning tent for Arafat by Fatah gunmen 14 November left 2 Abbas guards dead. Israel assassinated at least 6 Palestinian militants late November. Israeli PM Ariel Sharon apologised to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak after IDF troops killed 3 Egyptians along Gaza border 18 November in apparent error.
Thousands of Jordanian citizens of Palestinian origin marched in Jordan’s refugee camps, mourning death of Yasser Arafat. Jordan said it had reached agreement with Syria on redrawing section of shared border. King Abdullah stripped half-brother Hamzah of crown prince title.
Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs continued to cause widespread discontent. New Lebanese cabinet, hand- picked by Syria and composed of largely unknown or second- rate politicians, received half-hearted vote of confidence by parliament, with smallest majority since 1990. Strikingly, even Syrian-backed Hizbollah abstained, possibly for fear of alienating own Shiite constituency. UN called for calm along Lebanon-Israel border after Hizbollah sent unmanned drone plane over Israel.
U.S. Sec. State Colin Powell, meeting with Syrian foreign minister Farouk al-Shara in Egypt, said Syria must do more to stem infiltration of foreign militants into Iraq. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad told United Nations special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen that Syria prepared to resume peace negotiations with Israel “without conditions”. Israeli officials said Syria must curb support for terrorism directed at Israel before meaningful talks can proceed.
Iran and EU-3 (France, UK, and Germany) signed agreement on nuclear standoff, with Iran pledging comprehensive but temporary suspension of uranium enrichment and EU offering economic rewards. Deal prevented issue from being referred to UN Security Council during crucial IAEA meeting 29 November, which issued softly-worded resolution welcoming enrichment freeze. But Iranian insistence that suspension will last only few months (pending outcome of negotiations with EU-3) and strong doubts in Washington that Iran negotiating in good faith likely to bring issue to head in near future.
Iraqi electoral commission set 30 January as date for nation-wide elections, despite continuing concern that postponement may be necessary to ensure effective representation of Sunni Arab Muslims. Head of UN electoral team said approximately 90 of 540 voter registration centres had to be shut due to security threats, particularly in Sunni Arab-dominated areas. Two-day conference of world leaders Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, concluded with communiqué backing 30 January date. Meanwhile, U.S. invasion of Fallujah, launched 8 November, brought city largely under control of U.S. and Iraqi government forces, but wave of attacks in central Iraq and northern city of Mosul cast doubt on claims insurgency significantly weakened as result. U.S. said over 50 troops and approximately 1,600 insurgents died in invasion. Paris Club of creditor nations agreed to forgive 80% of Iraq’s multibillion dollar debt. 957 Coalition soldiers, including 872 Americans, and thousands of Iraqis killed by hostile fire since declared end of combat operations on 1 May 2003.
Voter registration began 23 November for next year’s municipal elections, scheduled to take place in three rounds beginning in February. Activists arrested last March for proposing constitutional monarchy remain jailed; several supporters of London-based Saudi dissident Saad al- Faqih arrested while on his satellite radio show.
Algeria continued peace consolidation, with President Bouteflika suggesting general amnesty during ceremonies for 50th anniversary of independence war; amnesty would cover both Islamists and army. IMF report same day pointed to positive economic growth outlook. But Salafi Group for Preaching and Combat remained active; 2 soldiers killed and 3 wounded in separate attacks Jijil province 460km east Algiers and Sidi Bel Abbas province 400km west Algiers.
Death of (Egyptian-born) Yasser Arafat brought full military funeral Cairo 12 November before transfer of body to Ramallah (see Israel/Occupied Territories). Three Egyptian policemen killed by Israeli forces in Rafah region along Gaza border 18 November; PM Sharon apologised for incident.
Trial began 22 November of 181 people accused of plotting against President Taya, including former president and 2 opposition leaders. Defence lawyers walked out after 1 detained for “insolence”; 2 non-lawyers appointed as new defence. Trial seen as attempt to silence opposition.
Morocco denied reports it asked Zimbabwean president Mugabe to help mediate on Western Sahara status. Spanish PM Zapatero met with Polisario leader Mohamed Abdelaziz in Madrid 26 November, signalling firming of Spanish position on Western Sahara question.