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Daily Archives: September 12, 2008

Zimbabwe rivals moving closer to deal

Zimbabwe's deadlocked political rivals enter a fourth day of talks yesterday with signs that President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai were inching towards an agreement.
Intensive 12-hour talks between the political rivals and South African mediator Thabo Mbeki on Wednesday brought the sides closer to a power-sharing deal, with Mugabe hinting that an agreement was imminent.
"Tomorrow, we will hopefully sign," he had told journalists on Wednesday.
Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, said "very little is left" to be agreed, but gave no details of the sticking points.
The talks were due to resume at 4:00 pm (2200 Macau time) to allow Mbeki to consult with the negotiating teams.
"The negotiators are still in meetings while waiting for their principals to reconvene in the afternoon," a spokesman for a small opposition MDC splinter group said.
"Remember, the principals said there were a few outstanding issues. Those are the issues the negotiators are discussing but I can't disclose them," spokesman Edwin Mushoriwa said yesterday.
South Africa's Business Day daily reported that Mugabe was refusing to sign a deal which would curtail his presidential powers.
According to the newspaper's sources the veteran 84-year-old president refused to sign a proposal that would entail an equal share of executive powers with Tsvangirai.
The daily said some of the issues to be thrashed out yesterday included how many ministers each party will have and how long a transitional government would rule.

Red tape, greenbacks hold up reconstruction at Ground Zero

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Seven years after the September 11 attacks on the United States, few are the signs of rebirth at the site in lower Manhattan where the twin towers of the World Trade Centre once stood.
Only an outcrop of steel columns that will serve as part of the foundation for the 541 metre Freedom Tower peeks out from the concrete site known as Ground Zero.
Other reconstruction projects that were launched two years ago amid great fanfare have been help up by red tape, a lack of funds and bickering.
The architectural blueprint of the new World Trade Centre train station was sent back to the drawing board with a request for a more cost-effective proposal. The new design is expected to be finished by the end of the month.
And the memorial to 2,750 victims of the attacks is only expected to be inaugurated in 2011. The first steel column for the memorial was only put in place last week.
"It's obviously disappointing. We've been severely affected. Many small businesses have not been able to stay open," said local official Julie Menin.
"For residents it's a question of their quality of life being significantly impacted," she said.
Although some new businesses and residents have moved into the area since the attacks, numbers of workers and those who live in the shadow of Ground Zero are below what they were prior to 2001 when the twin towers still dominated the horizon of downtown Manhattan, community group "Downtown Alliance" said.
That is in part due to the failure to rebuild or repair the transportation infrastructure since the attacks, Kathryn Wylde of Partnership for New York said.
"Top priority is the transportation infrastructure and the streets in the surrounding the areas," Wylde said, adding that area residents and business-owners are worried by the fact that officials are still revising the designs of all the reconstruction projects, with a view to saving money.
The initial budget for reconstructing Ground Zero was set at 15 billion dollars, but that should be revised upward to 18 billion dollars, Wylde said.
New buildings and facilities at Ground Zero would probably not be finished before 2013, she added.
Chris Ward, director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, owner of the fateful site, said in a report in June that "the schedule and cost for each of the public projects on the site face significant delays and cost overruns."
Plans by the city of New York to check all vehicles entering the area for bombs also worry residents.
"We are concerned. While we want proper security, we want to make sure that security is not overly impacting the life of residents and small businesses," said Menin.
"Having checkpoints all over lower Manhattan is going to be a very significant issue," she said.
Problems facing the Freedom Tower, which will one day dominate the reborn site, illustrate the obstacles slowing reconstruction at Ground Zero.
The blueprint for the Freedom Tower was only approved in 2005 after years of discussion and arguing.
Then, unable to come up with the nearly three billion dollars needed to build the Tower, Larry Silverstein eventually sold his rights in the Tower to the Port Authority in 2006. Construction began that same year — five years after the attacks.

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