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
Conflict situations deteriorated in seven countries in September 2004 according to October's CrisisWatch bulletin. Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev claimed responsibility for the terrorist siege of a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, which ended catastrophically with at least 339 dead. The incident demonstrated the continued capacity of Chechen terrorists to strike beyond Chechnya and sparked instability fears across the Caucasus. Nigeria also worsened in September with hundreds killed in fighting between the government and a self-appointed rebel leader in oil-rich Rivers province. Iraq slipped further into chaos with violence and daily kidnappings unchecked by major U.S. operations in Fallujah, Samarra and Sadr City. The cycle of violence escalated in Israel/Occupied Territories with series of Palestinian suicide bombings and Israeli tank incursions in the Gaza Strip. The situations in Haiti, North Korea and Sri Lanka also deteriorated in September.
Two conflict situations improved in September. Somalia's newly-inaugurated transitional parliament was not blown off-course by sporadic violence, electing a speaker and progressing towards the election of a president. Libya continued its path back to respectability in the international community as Libya's foreign minister met U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in New York.
For October 2004, CrisisWatch identifies Guinea and Afghanistan as Conflict Risk Alerts, or situations at particular risk of further conflict in the coming month; CrisisWatch identified Northern Ireland as a Conflict Resolution Opportunity.
NigeriaKorean PeninsulaSri LankaRussia/North CaucasusHaitiIsrael/PalestineIraq
Northern Ireland (UK)
Unlikely Burundi able to hold elections by 31 October Arusha Agreement deadline. President Ndayizeye summoned extraordinary session of National Assembly and Senate 15-20 September to vote on draft constitution, achieving necessary majority. Members of 10 minority Tutsi parties who refused to sign Pretoria power-sharing agreement in August stayed away and claimed convocation illegal, calling for court ruling. Ndayizeye called 20 October referendum on draft constitution. Although only remaining active Hutu rebel group in Burundi, Forces Nationales de Libération, claimed sole responsibility for 13 August massacre of 160 Congolese Tutsi refugees at Gatumba refugee camp in Burundi, questions still remain about involvement of Congolese forces. UN began implementing plans to transfer refugees further into Burundi; many refused, returning to DR Congo despite violent protests Uvira, DR Congo.
Humanitarian efforts continued to support some 190,000 Darfur refugees in camps eastern Chad. Crisis increasingly destabilising, with concern over camp infiltration by armed groups, risk of cross-border clashes, and tensions over scarce resources between locals and refugees. Zaghawa tribe upset over insufficient protection provided by Chadian President Déby for kin in Darfur. Run-up to year-end referendum on whether Déby can serve third presidential term marked by N'djamena security operations against suspected disloyal soldiers. Chadian officials expressed hope 23 September that world would “share the burden” of Darfur refugees with Chad.
UN Security Council agreed 29 September to enlarge UN peacekeeping (MONUC) presence from 10,800 to 16,700; less than 23,900 called for by UN Secretary General. Situation DR Congo remained tense. Troops loyal to Kinshasa transitional government took control of Nyabibwe, Duti and Minova towns South Kivu province 11- 12 September; previously held by mutinous Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) rebels led by General Nkunda. RCD rebels retreated to North Kivu stronghold but fighting continued 19 September around mineral-rich Numbi. Clashes between RCD-Goma and Mai-Mai factions, both supposedly integrated into Congolese army, killed 15 around Walikale mining district, also South Kivu. UN-backed program to disarm 15,000 fighters in Ituri province started Bunia 1 September; few weapons collected. In positive development, DR Congo and Rwanda agreed 22 September to set up Joint Verification Mechanism (JVM) to monitor common border October.
Tensions on DR Congo/Rwanda border eased somewhat; countries agreed 22 September to set up joint border monitoring. President Kagame indicated 11 September Rwanda could waive death penalty in trials transferred from Arusha- based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; Prosecutor Hassan Jallow said August 40 cases could be transferred early 2005. Defendants boycotted proceedings in protest. Government requested Attorney General to investigate parliamentary claims of continuing “genocide ideology” in civil society groups; opposition claim probe excuse for crackdown.
Progress report of UN Secretary General suggested Ethiopia-Eritrea war still possible. While UN mission (UNMEE) commander Major-General Singh expressed optimism for eventual solution, Eritrean government re- imposed restrictions on important UNMEE supply route. UN Security Council renewed UNMEE mandate to 15 March 2005. U.S. military chiefs met with Eritrean President Isaias 9 September to brief him on Horn of Africa anti-terrorism efforts. UN Special Envoy Lloyd Axworthy held talks with Ethiopian PM 28 September.
Transitional parliament, inaugurated in Nairobi in August, elected Shariff Hassan Sheikh Adan speaker 15 September. Somali women complained parliament did not respect agreed quota for female members. Parliament delayed election of president until 10 October citing need for further preparation. Africa Union welcomed Somalia’s progress towards peace. Meanwhile, despite IGAD regional body warning, General “Morgan” sparked 3-day factional clashes Juba valley near Kismayo, killing 12, forcing 500 to flee to Kenya. Morgan returned to talks 27 September expressing support for peace-process and for parliamentary speaker Adan. Clashes between forces of self-proclaimed autonomous regions of Puntland and Somaliland reported 23 September in disputed Sool region.
No end in sight to crisis in Darfur: U.S. Sec. State Colin Powell termed situation genocide, UN increased displaced persons estimate to 1.8 million. Thirty-day deadline for action passed 30 August without result. UN Special Envoy Jan Pronk described “culture of impunity” to UN Security Council 2 September - observers criticised report citing lack of recommended international action. After drawn-out negotiations Security Council agreed weakened resolution 18 September threatening consideration of possible oil industry sanctions if situation unimproved; requested creation of international commission of inquiry to investigate human rights abuses. Meanwhile, Africa Union-backed Abuja peace talks between Justice and Equality Movement, Sudan Liberation Movement and Khartoum government broke up 17 September; will resume October. Attack on West Kordofan police station outside Darfur killed 8 late September. UN mission to Sudan claimed 30 September “large-scale and systematic” war crimes had occurred and could recur; called for Sudan to accept AU offer of thousands of extra peace monitors. Meanwhile, Khartoum said it averted Islamist opposition coup plot 25 September. President Al-Bashir accused U.S. of funding Darfur rebels. Final talks between government and southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army to resume 7 October.
President Museveni rejected Acholi Religious Leaders’ Peace Initiative to end 18-year conflict with Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels northern Uganda. Museveni continued to seek military victory; army claimed 30 LRA rebels killed in operations southern Sudan 18 September, further 21 killed northern Uganda 28 September. Presidency won Supreme Court reversal of earlier decision nullifying 2000 referendum which prolonged Uganda’s one-party rule. Museveni likely to seek constitutional referendum to allow him to stand in 2006 elections for third term.
Embattled separatist factions in oil-rich Cabinda province agreed merger 8 September. Cabindan separatists hoped step will force substantive negotiations with Luanda. UN began voluntary repatriation program for Angolan refugees with air-lift from Namibia; process to be completed before rainy season makes transport impossible.
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition figures said Zimbabwe in further breach of Southern African Development Community guidelines agreed August, claiming constituency re-districting commission bias. MDC said breach justified election boycott. Parliamentary elections planned March 2005. Amidst media crackdown and protests against proposed restrictive NGO law, Zimbabwean court dropped charges against directors of Daily News, shut down 1 year ago, for lack of evidence.
Situation remained frozen with July “Accra III” deal reforms unimplemented by 30 September deadline; parliament will return to issue 6 October. Forces Nouvelles unlikely to disarm from 15 October as stipulated. Charles Blé Goudé, supporter of President Gbagbo and militia leader, warned French troops to withdraw to barracks by 2 October or face unspecified consequences; demand came after 12 French soldiers arrested for bank robbery 20 September.
Country chronically unstable, with rising risk of conflict. Prices for petrol and rice continued to rise, having doubled already this year. Growing number of militia groups in Conakry, and reports of recruitment of fighters, including from Liberia, for possible rebellion in Forest region around N’Zerekore and Macenta. Series of student and opposition marches in Conakry against ailing President Lansana Conté, in power since 1984, broken up by police with tear gas.
Disagreement continued over end date for Liberia’s disarmament program. UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) opened first disarmament site in Lofa County 8 September at Voinjama. Lofa county stronghold to some 5,000 Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy rebels. UNMIL set up site at Harper 29 September – stronghold for Movement for Democracy in Liberia rebels. UNHCR announced resettlement of IDPs beginning November. UNMIL mandate extended for 1 year by UN Security Council 17 September.
Violence worsened around Port Harcourt oil-rich Rivers state. Separatist Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF) said government corrupt and warned crackdown on turf wars would result in attacks on oil installations. Some 500 reported killed since August. NDPVF leader Moujahid Dokubo- Asari flew to Abuja 29 September for talks with President Obasanjo; temporary truce 30 September. Neighbouring Delta State tensions between Ijaw and Itsekiri remained high with Ijaw allegations of military harassment. Six killed in Al Sunna wal Jamma Islamic group attack on Borno state police station northeastern Nigeria 20 September; army reported 27 militants killed 24 September. Government delayed handover of parts of oil-rich Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon.
Guinean troops pulled back to border 6 September, ending long-standing Yenga dispute. UN Security Council extended mandate of UN Mission in Sierra Leone to 30 June 2005; presence and tasks to be reduced early 2005. UN handed over security of Freetown to government 23 September. Human Rights Watch warned Special Court for Sierra Leone needed more funds to function fully.
Despite winning 60% of vote, Hong Kong democrats won fewer seats than expected in 12 September legislative elections. Citing concern over global terrorism, China held anti-terror exercises in Tibet and Xinjiang province.
Vice Foreign Minister Choe Su Hon announced to UN General Assembly 27 September North Korea has already reprocessed 8,000 fuel rods and “transformed them into arms”. Six-party talks remain on hold. Revelations of South Korean nuclear experiments in 2000 complicated issue, led to Pyongyang’s accusation of U.S. double standards. International concern following 9 September “mountain demolition” and military activity around Rodong missile launch sites 23 September. Bilateral talks with Japan over kidnap issue held 25-26 September; lack of progress led to postponement of aid shipment from Japan.
Communist Party leader Hu Jintao assumed leadership of China’s military after Jiang Zemin stepped down 19 September, sparking some optimism for cross-Strait relations. Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian warned against "unrealistic expectations" Hu would take more conciliatory line. Chen’s plan to purchase $18 billion worth of arms from U.S. led to protests in Taipei, rhetoric from Beijing.
Security concerns deepened in run-up to 9 October presidential election. President Karzai forced to abandon first election rally outside Kabul 16 September after rocket attack on his helicopter in Gardez; Vice President Shahrani escaped assassination attempt 20 September. U.S. announced additional deployment of up to 1,000 troops for election security 22 September, bringing total to approx. 19,000. President Karzai sacked powerful Herat governor Ismail Khan 11 September, prompting violent demonstrations that killed 7 and destroyed UN and aid agency offices. Attacks in southern Zabul province included beheading of 5 local officials 15 September and 3 Afghan soldiers 20 September; 28-30 September incidents killed 19 Afghan soldiers. U.S./Afghan operations continued in southern Kandahar province: 21 militants reportedly killed 12 September; 3 U.S. soldiers died 20 September in clashes in Paktika and Paktia provinces.
Anti-government protests continued in wake of 21 August grenade attack on opposition Awami League (AL) rally. Opposition movement for national unity gained momentum with 23 September peaceful Dhaka protests. At least 2,000 reportedly arrested since September 22 ahead of 3 October AL rally; High Court passed injunction against mass arrests 29 September. PM Khaleda Zia’s coalition government accused by opposition of incompetence and support for Islamic extremists.
Protests continued in north eastern Manipur state against Armed Forces Special Powers Act; 16- day blockade launched 20 September. Congress party government in Andhra Pradesh offered to hold unconditional talks 2 October with leftist People’s War Group. President Abdul Kalam repealed controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act 22 September (which gave security forces powers to arrest, interrogate and detain suspects for 30 days without court appearance). India increased diplomatic pressure on Bangladesh to shut down anti-Indian militant camps. First meeting between PM Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf took place 24 September.
Indian PM Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf met for first time on sidelines of UN General Assembly in New York 24 September. Both leaders pledged commitment to dialogue. Foreign ministers previously met New Dehli 5-6 September; claimed modest progress, mainly on normalisation process. Major obstacles remain - Pakistan’s insistence on time frame for resolving dispute, India’s insistence Pakistan do more to stop cross- border infiltration of militants. Violent clashes continued, including incidents 18 September that killed 18.
Under pressure for democratic reform, President Gayoom relinquished key defence and finance portfolios 1 September; move met with scepticism from Maldivian Democratic Party. EU resolution 16 September called for release of pro-democracy protesters, end to state of emergency, halt of non-humanitarian aid and travel ban on Maldivian government.
Maoists placed tough conditions for talks in response to offer from PM Sher Bahadur Deuba. High Level Peace Talks Committee ended discussions 29 September without decision on way forward. Maoists called general strike 28-29 September in protest at killing of 2 senior leaders. Deuba met Indian counterpart PM Manmohan Singh 9 September seeking further support against insurgency, received promises of military supplies. Five-day Kathmandu curfew lifted 6 September after anti-Muslim protests against killing of 12 Nepalese by Islamic militants in Iraq - at least 2 killed, over 50 injured in clashes with riot police. All Nepal Federation of Trade Unions, responsible for August hotel bombings, withdrew threat of further violence after government agreed to free 2 jailed leaders and provide information about 22 others union claimed as missing. U.S. Kathmandu information centre bombed 10 September prompting withdrawal of Peace Corps.
Operations intensified in South Waziristan tribal region where security forces reportedly killed 70 al-Qaeda- linked militants in 9, 13 September attacks; alleged heavy civilian casualties, human rights abuses by army. Security forces killed Amjad Farooqi 26 September, said to have plotted President Pervez Musharraf assassination attempts and involved in killing of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl. Nation divided over Musharraf’s position as chief of army staff - despite January 2004 deal with Islamist coalition (MMA) to retire by 31 December. Balochistan National Party continued call for protection of rights and withdrawal of army from province; blast in capital Quetta killed 1, 28 September. First meeting between Musharraf and Indian PM Manmohan Singh 24 September.
Factional violence worsened as latest Norwegian attempts to rekindle peace process failed. Brother of breakaway rebel leader V. Muralitharan, a.k.a. Karuna, killed with 3 others 23 September; Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) denied responsibility. At least 12 LTTE rebels killed in 25, 28 September factional clashes. Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP) protestors left coffin containing remains of EPDP politician Thambithurai Sivakumar at Norwegian embassy gate 20 September, demanding action from Norwegian mediators.
Former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) defeated incumbent Megawati Sukarnoputri in landslide election victory with 61% of votes. Optimism, but not yet clear SBY’s acknowledgment of need for non-military solutions to Aceh and Papua will lead to new policies. On downside, major bombing outside Australian Embassy Jakarta 9 September highlighted continued terrorist threat. Bomb killed 9, injured over 180. Appears to be work of Malaysian JI bomb experts Azhari Husin and Noordin Mohamad Top in collaboration with non-JI group from West Java. Police arrested more than 12 suspects, but Azhari and Noordin, on run since Bali, continue to elude capture. Fighting continued in Aceh; Free Aceh Movement’s (GAM) Eastern commander Ishak Daud killed Peureulak 8 September; first senior GAM commander killed since military operation began May 2003. Human Rights Watch report accused government of torture, ill-treatment and unfair trials. Five districts in southeast Aceh granted permission to create separate province, Aceh Leuser Antara, in repeat of ill-fated Papua process, but timetable remains unclear.
Cabinet reshuffle strengthened General Than Shwe, chairman of military junta's State Peace and Development Council. Foreign Minister Win Aung replaced by inexperienced Major General Nyan Win. EU agreed to attend 8-9 October Asia-Europe meeting (ASEM) in Hanoi on condition Myanmar represented by low-level delegation. EU vowed sanctions if National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi not released and NLD given role in creating constitution. Suu Kyi and NLD deputy chairman Tin Oo remain under house arrest; constitutional assembly remains adjourned.
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and government to formally resume peace talks early October, including long-delayed discussion of political and economic issues; MILF to propose autonomous rule. Persistent reports linking MILF to Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) denied by MILF. Government to hold separate talks with MILF on how to remove JI and criminal gangs from Mindanao. Malaysian inspection monitors advance team arrived Mindanao 10 September; scheduled inspection of MILF base in Cararao mountains postponed until after Ramadan. Military attacked base of New People's Army, military wing of communist National Democratic Front (NDF), 23 September, killing 9. Attack came after August breakdown of talks between government and NDF.
Maritime boundary talks with Australia continued. New framework whereby Timor-Leste foregoes boundary claims in return for oil/gas revenue may make December deadline achievable.
Troop deployment in restive south to be increased as killings continued, despite disagreement within government over strategy. Raids on Muslim schools continued, exacerbating tensions. PM Thaksin Shinawatra ordered special security protection for judges after Pattani Province judge shot dead 17 September. Imam in Yaring district shot by sniper 18 September. Teachers, civil servants and police also attacked.
EU Presidency noted, 14 September, insufficient progress on organised crime and corruption, lack of electoral and general reform.
Former Bosnian Serb Deputy PM Radoslav Brdjanin sentenced to 32 years by Hague war crimes tribunal 1 September. Forensic experts continue to unearth mass graves: 182 bodies found near Prijedor 24 September. More than 16,000 people remain unaccounted for. UNHCR announced 21 September 1 million refugees (45% of those that fled) returned to their homes. EU announced plans 17 September to replace NATO's peacekeeping troops mid- December with own "ALTHEA" mission. Religious leaders lobbying for nationalist parties, increased tensions ahead of 2 October local elections.
Contact Group and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan agreed new position on Kosovo following meeting 22 September; appeared to rule out return to Belgrade rule, authorising further transfer of competencies to Kosovo government - but so far not endorsing UN envoy Kai Eide’s recommendations to expedite preparations for final status process. NATO sent 2,000 extra troops to boost security for 23 October parliamentary elections. French General Yves de Kermabon assumed command of KFOR 1 September. Belgrade and Pristina representatives met 27-28 September in Vienna, for consultations on decentralisation. Belgrade provocatively appointed hard-line Milosevic loyalists to key posts in Kosovo's illegal parallel structures; yet to approve Serbian participation in Kosovo's elections.
Campaign for 7 November referendum to formally begin 7 October. Plebiscite aims to block government decentralisation plans that would result in ethnic Albanians gaining majority status in some areas. Over 50% of total 1.6 million electorate need to vote for referendum to succeed.
Mistreatment of minorities in northern Vojvodina provoked EU, Council of Europe criticism. Montenegro’s representatives in National Council for Cooperation with ICTY resigned 23 September citing Serbian obstruction. Milosevic trial adjourned until 12 October following controversial ruling to impose defence lawyers on defendant; decision led to approx. 300 defence witnesses refusing to testify. In response to dysfunctional state union, EU proposed “twin track” approach to Serbia and Montenegro. Serbian government provocatively appointed hard-line Milosevic loyalists to key posts in Kosovo's illegal parallel structures; yet to approve Serbian participation in Kosovo's elections. 19 September municipal elections resulted in no one-party local government in any municipality. Split-vote, mainly between Boris Tadic’s Democratic Party (DS) and Serbian Radical Party (SRS), led to coalition agreement between DS and PM Vojislav Kostunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia for 3 October second round elections. Serbian government reportedly conducted extensive search for war crimes indictees, seen by some observers as effort to deceive international community into thinking government cooperating with The Hague.
Proposed amendments to Armenia’s 1995 constitution dominated political debate; pro-government coalition suggested strengthening president’s powers. Opposition repeated call for nation-wide vote of confidence in President Robert Kocharian.
NATO cancelled planned military exercises in Azerbaijan after latter refused to allow participation of Armenian officers. Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) called for release of 7 opposition members on trial for role in protests that followed flawed October 2003 presidential election.
Tensions remain high despite Georgian military’s August withdrawal from South Ossetian conflict zone; South Ossetia accused Tbilisi 17 September of massing troops on internal border in preparation for new attack. Meanwhile, in wake of Beslan killings, Russia said Chechen terrorists remain in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge, raising fears of possible Russian military action. Presidential election in separatist Abkhazia region set for 3 October.
Despite rising anti- Armenian sentiment in Azerbaijan, President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian met 15 September Astana to discuss Karabakh; both refused to comment on progress of talks.
Terrorist siege of school in Beslan, North Ossetia, ended catastrophically 3 September, with at least 339 children and adults killed. Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev claimed responsibility. Russian President Vladimir Putin responded by ordering massive recentralisation of power in Kremlin and increased security spending; appointed aide Dimitri Kozak to oversee North Caucasus. Russian colonel convicted 2003 of murdering young Chechen woman withdrew pardon request after outraged demonstrations in Grozny.
School scandal continued. Transdniestrian authorities refused to recognise and reopen Moldovan schools teaching in Latin script, and harassed students’ parents. Benderi orphanage remains under siege by Transdniestrian militia; water and electricity supplies restored but not municipal heating.
Turkish and Greek foreign ministers cancelled planned October military exercises on Cyprus. Greek Cyprus and EU continue to disagree over aid package for Turkish north; discussions in EU General Affairs Council postponed. UN recommended cutting peacekeeping force by 30%.
Key negotiations to restore devolution – suspended since October 2002 – took place Leeds Castle, Kent, and Stormont. Significant progress made on shape of Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) - Sinn Fein power-sharing and IRA decommissioning. Talks stalled on issue of ministerial accountability, though British and Irish governments will present proposal to move talks forward. DUP leader Ian Paisley held first ever political meeting with Irish PM Bertie Ahern, Dublin 1 October. Housing executive said sectarian intimidation forced more than 1,240 people from homes 2003.
European Commission likely to approve Turkish bid for EU membership October. Prospects improved after Turkey backed down on controversial adultery law. Troops killed 11 rebels southeastern Turkey end August in biggest offensive against Kongra-Gel separatists for 5 years. Further incidents killed approx. 5 security personnel, 4 rebels.
Pro-presidential Otan party won over 60% of vote in 19 September parliamentary elections, described by international observers as flawed.
New political bloc, headed by former PM Kurmanbek Bakiyev, formed for 2005 parliamentary and presidential elections. Constitutional Court rejected request by opposition to rule on legality of President Akayev running for yet another term: Akayev supporters have launched campaign for him to stay on. Local elections set for 10 October.
Concerns remain over political and press freedom: leader of sidelined opposition Tarraqiyot party charged with insulting President Rakhmonov, while media groups continue to complain of harassment from authorities.
U.S. State Department report on religious freedom failed to designate Turkmenistan as country of particular concern (CPC) despite latter’s strict control over all aspects of religion in Turkmen society.
Authorities shut down Internews - international NGO supporting independent media - for 6 months, dealing further blow to already weak press ahead of December parliamentary elections. Trials continued of religious extremists suspected in violence that shook Tashkent and Bukhara March-April 2004.
Following success of August referendum, President Carlos Mesa sent congress 14-part hydrocarbon bill including proposals to force renegotiation of existing privately held oil leases, increase royalties, create new oil regulator; to be debated 5 October.
Demobilisation talks continued between right-wing AUC paramilitary and government despite killing of AUC negotiator Miguel Arroyave and 4 bodyguards, reportedly by fellow AUC members in southern Meta province. Paramilitary splinter group Peasant Self-Defense Forces of Casanare (ACC) announced intention to join talks with government day before 26 September military attack on ACC killed 13. Leftist FARC rebels blamed for 17 September border attack on Venezuelan soldiers and oil engineers; 6 killed. Government negotiations for hostage exchange with FARC faltered over FARC demand for demilitarised zone for negotiations. U.S. gave government $33 million in military aid to fight outlawed armed groups after certifying Colombia’s “progress” on human rights in civil war.
Colombian border clash killed 6, 17 September, blamed on Colombian leftist FARC group. Opposition alliance continued to disintegrate after failed August recall referendum. President Chavez vowed to push forward controversial agricultural reform. Regional and municipal elections to be held 31 October after technical difficulties caused month-long delay.
Security situation deteriorated after Tropical Storm Jeanne caused massive flooding, left up to 2,400 dead and 300,000 homeless. UN troops (MINUSTAH) deployed in Gonaives providing security as Haitian government unable to handle humanitarian crisis. Virtually no Haitian National Police presence; Gonaives residents looted aid trucks and gangs raided homes, shooting for food. 15 September disarmament deadline passed without progress; illegal armed groups – including supporters of former President Aristide – continued to threaten security.
Continued political instability. President Alejandro Toledo’s approval ratings fell due to crisis within “Peru Posible” party over corruption allegations. Violent Cajamarca protests throughout September over proposed mining activities. Protesting cocoa farmers briefly held 17 tourists Cuzco 28 September. Government renewed request to Japan for ex- president Alberto Fujimori’s extradition.
Israeli tanks entered Gaza 30 September in response to rocket fire; at least 31 killed in bloodiest day since 2000. Further violence continued in Occupied Territories: Israeli airstrike on alleged terrorist training camp Gaza 7 September killed 14, strike 19 September Gaza City killed senior Hamas member Khaled Abu Shamiyeh, IDF raids West Bank 15 September left 10 dead. Palestinian attacks killed 10 Israelis, including 2 in Jerusalem suicide bombing 22 September. Syria-based Hamas leader Izzideen Al-Sheikh Khalil killed in Damascus car bombing 26 September; Hamas and Syria blamed Mossad, no comment from Israeli government. Israeli PM Ariel Sharon faced increasing opposition to Gaza pullout plan from settler lobby: 40,000 protested Jerusalem 12 September. Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called for national referendum on plan, to be voted on by cabinet 24 October, and parliament 3 November. Iran warned Israel against targeting its nuclear facilities after announcement latter to purchase 500 “bunker- busting” bombs from U.S.
Unusually outspoken report by Jordanian human rights organisation reported severe abuse in country’s prisons.
Parliament voted 96-29 to pass Syria-inspired constitutional amendment extending term of President Emile Lahoud, sparking resignations of 4 Lebanese ministers. UN passed resolution urging Syria, with 17,000 troops stationed in Lebanon, not to interfere in Lebanon’s domestic politics. Syria responded by announcing partial withdrawal of troops - move unlikely to diminish influence over Lebanese politics. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns visited Damascus mid-September, pushed for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon.
UN resolution urged Syria not to interfere in Lebanon’s domestic politics after Syrian pressure led to constitutional amendment extending Lebanese President Lahoud’s term. Syria responded with partial withdrawal of its troops stationed in Lebanon, but observers sceptical move signals significant policy change. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns visited Damascus mid-September, brokered U.S./Syrian cooperation on Iraqi border, pushed for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. Syria-based Hamas leader Izzideen Al-Sheikh Khalil killed in Damascus car bombing 26 September; Hamas and Syria blamed Mossad, no comment from Israeli government.
IAEA set 25 November deadline for Iran to give full account of nuclear program and end uranium enrichment. Iran rejected IAEA call for enrichment suspension, saying it had right to peaceful nuclear program and would consider withdrawing from Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty if issue referred to UN Security Council. Tehran’s growing public defiance raised fears of showdown, as U.S., Israel – and increasingly, Britain, France, and Germany – called for hard line in negotiations. Iran warned Israel against targeting its nuclear facilities after announcement latter to purchase 500 “bunker-busting” bombs from U.S.
Increasing concern that high level of violence – “getting worse” according to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell – will make January elections impossible, particularly in so-called no- go areas controlled mainly by Sunni rebels. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan voiced doubts credible election could be held; U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld suggested partial vote may be necessary. Bush administration officials mooted possibility of autumn conference on elections. Insurgency spread to heart of Baghdad; 30 September blasts killed at least 41, mostly children. Daily kidnappings and killings continued, as did clashes in Baghdad suburb of Sadr City between U.S. forces and Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s militia. U.S. raid on Samarra 30 September killed 94 insurgents; strikes on Fallujah 24-25 September killed 15 in reported attempt to target followers of Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al- Zarqawi. NATO agreed to establish training facility in Iraq, but France, Germany, Spain and Belgium refused to contribute. 772 Coalition soldiers, including 693 Americans, and thousands of Iraqis killed by hostile fire since declared end of combat operations on 1 May 2003.
In unusual public rebuke, U.S. named Saudi Arabia country of particular concern in annual report on religious freedom. French national shot dead in Jeddah 26 September by suspected al Qaeda militants.
After 3 months of fighting, government said its forces killed rebel Shiite cleric Hussein al-Houthi. Two men sentenced to death for orchestrating October 2000 bombing of U.S. destroyer Cole.
Group for Salafist Preaching and Combat (GSPC) Islamic rebels announced 33 year-old bomb-maker Abou Mossaab Abdelouadoud new leader 6 September; Nabil Sahraoui, previous leader, killed by Algerian army June. Militants killed 4 civilians, including customs’ officer, 18 September in Bouira, 90km southeast Algiers. Six killed in GSPC attack Ain Defla 180 km west of Algiers 28 September. Security sweep continued eastern Algeria leading to further deaths.
Annual congress of ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) saw continued rise of President Mubarak’s son, Gamal. Convention focused on economic reform, drawing opposition criticism for not prioritising constitutional reform and abrogation of “emergency laws” in place since 1981. NDP prepared to nominate 76 year-old President Mubarak for further six-year term beginning 2005.
U.S. lifted remaining trade sanctions 20 September and released $1.3 billion frozen assets; EU agreed 22 September to end arms embargo. In first high-level meeting in 25 years U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell met Libyan foreign minister 23 September. Libya claimed deserved seat on UN Security Council.
Alleged plan to topple president thwarted; security forces seized arms, made several arrests including former military captain Abderahmane Ould Mini. Government stepped up diplomatic campaign against Libya and Burkina Faso, claiming latter sheltering 2 former officers involved in 2003 and 2004 coup attempts. Libya appealed to African Union for assistance; Arab Maghreb Union to investigate allegations.
French interior minister Dominique de Villepin visited Morocco 13-14 September; discussed greater security cooperation. Morocco recalled its ambassador to Pretoria after South Africa recognised Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara) 15 September.
Major diplomatic boost to Polisario Front as South Africa recognised Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara) 15 September, prompting Morocco to withdraw ambassador from Pretoria. In UN General Assembly speech 21 September King Mohammed VI expressed desire to find negotiated solution providing for regional self-government while guaranteeing Moroccan sovereignty and territorial integrity.