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Daily Archives: May 27, 2008

UN team concludes Russia downed drone: Georgia

UN observers have concluded that a Russian fighter jet was responsible for downing an unmanned Georgian spyplane over Georgia last month, a Georgian government official said yesterday.
The evidence "leads to the conclusion that the aircraft belonged to the Russian air force," the official quoted the UN report as saying.
He said the report was due to be published shortly by the UN observer mission in Georgia's separatist Abkhazia region.
Russia, which backs the Abkhaz rebels in the lush Black Sea province, has denied violating Georgian airspace and says that Abkhaz forces shot down the Georgian drone on April 20.
But the text, obtained from a separate source close to the Georgian government, states that a MiG-29 or Su-27 warplane was used in the incident and that the aircraft then "turned back north heading… into Russian airspace."
In the text, the United Nations also censured Georgia for sending drones into the area, saying such flights violated ceasefire accords ending fighting in Abkhazia in the 1990s between Georgian forces and Abkhaz separatist rebels.
The conclusions, said the text, were based on analysis of witness statements, radar records and video taken by the Georgian drone that filmed itself under attack at close range by a warplane. The drone footage had not been doctored in any way, the leaked text of the UN report said.
A spokesman for the UN observer mission in Abkhazia, known as UNOMIG, would not confirm the authenticity of the text, but said that an official report on the drone incident would be released later yesterday.
Tense relations between Russia and Georgia, whose pro-Western leadership is pushing for entry into NATO, have flared up repeatedly over the last month in Abkhazia.
Georgian officials warned that the two countries had come close to war and Russia announced it was sending reinforcements to a Russian troop contingent deployed in Abkhazia as peacekeepers.




Police to quiz former Malawi president over ‘coup plot’

by Felix Mponda*

Police in Malawi were set yesterday to quiz former president Bakili Muluzi over allegations of a coup plot hatched by his party after the ex-leader was placed under house arrest over the weekend.
Muluzi, who ruled between 1994 and 2004 after wresting power from dictator Kamuzu Banda in the country's first democratic elections, was arrested at the country's main airport in Lilongwe after returning from a holiday in Britain on Sunday.
The former president recently made a comeback after being picked as his party's presidential candidate ahead of elections next year.
"He (Muluzi) will be questioned by police over the coup plot," Home Affairs Minister Ernest Malenga said yesterday.
Fahad Assani, lawyer for Muluzi, said the ex-leader was "arrested on treason charges."
Muluzi will be questioned at his residence in Limbe, a satellite town of the commercial capital Blantyre, where early yesterday morning a dozen armed policemen cordoned off the road leading to the house.
A correspondent saw policemen manning a roadblock leading to the house and pedestrians who approached were chased away.
Muluzi told a private radio station that he had argued with police on why he was being arrested.
He was flown in a military plane to Blantyre where police raided his residence to "search for arms," Muluzi told Joy radio.
"I allowed them to search everywhere, but they found nothing," he added.
Muluzi has said he is not a "violent person to take over government by force."
The ex-leader handed power to his chosen successor Bingu wa Mutharika in 2004, and the two have been at loggerheads since the current president ditched Muluzi's former ruling party to form his own.
Mutharika recently voiced fears of a plot to topple him, saying two weeks ago that he had received intelligence that Muluzi, his chief opponent in elections next year, was "planning to remove me through Section 65".
The president was referring to a controversial constitutional clause which has sparked heated debate in the southern African nation as it allows the speaker of parliament to sack lawmakers who have crossed the floor.
Mutharika's minority government poached most of its MPs from the opposition and his rivals are now trying to pressure the speaker to sack the lawmakers and thus force the president out of office.
Eight people, including a former army general and police chief, and two serving brigadiers, were last week granted bail after being charged with treason.