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Daily Archives: June 17, 2007

Castro ‘very pleased’ after meeting with Nicaragua’s Ortega

 Image Cuban President Fidel Castro had a "brotherly" meeting with visiting Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, the latest in a parade of friends underscoring that the Cuban leader is well on the mend.
"Comrade Fidel was very pleased after his meeting with Ortega," said an official statement after the Nicaraguan leader's four-hour visit on Saturday.
The "brotherly meeting… was a new step in the deepening bilateral relations between Nicaragua and Cuba," said the statement read on television.
Ortega, 61, is the fourth ally to visit Castro, 80, in two weeks, following Castro's fellow leftists Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales.

An esteemed ally to visit of late was Nong Duc Manh, who leads Vietnam's Communist Party, from June 1-3.
Chavez and Morales also met with Raul Castro, 76, a brother of Fidel and Cuba's interim leader since Fidel Castro underwent intestinal surgery last July. Fidel Castro handed over power temporarily after more than four decades at Cuba's helm to Raul Castro on July 31.
Since then, Fidel Castro has remained mostly out of sight, recovering from what he has said were several operations, and has yet to say whether he will officially resume his duties as Cuba's president.
During their meeting, Fidel Castro thanked Ortega for backing Cuba and Venezuela's demand for the extradition from the United States of Cuban anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles, sought in a 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people that was allegedly planned out in Venezuela.
The two leaders also discussed details of joint Cuban-Venezelan "Operation Miracle" that provides free eye surgery to thousands of needy Latin Americans, and Cuba's help in Nicaragua's fight against illiteracy.
Nicaragua, which is aiming to stamp out illiteracy in five years, is planning to adopt a successful Cuban literacy program, called "Yes, I can," which has been used widely in Venezuela as well.
Ortega also met Saturday with Raul Castro, said the official statement.
Ortega was expected in Cuba on Tuesday, but the visit was postponed after he cancelled a visit to Italy and travelled to Senegal instead. Cuba concludes his three-continent tour that also took in Venezuela, Algeria, Libya and Iran.
Ortega became Nicaragua's president after his Sandinistas toppled dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979 and set about building a socialist nation with help from Cuba. He was elected again in November.
Chavez spent six hours talking with Fidel Castro after arriving here Tuesday, Cuban media reported. Venezuela is Cuba's staunchest international ally and its support on the energy front is critical to the economic stability of the America's only one-party communist regime.
Castro, during Manh's visit, granted his first TV interview since he took ill, and appeared to be looking better, but made no mention of any eventual return to power.
Last week, however, Chavez was quoted as telling Fidel Castro, who has been pictured in video and still images in a tracksuit, "I think it is time for you to put your (military) uniform back on."

Africa’s forgotten war gets new airing

 Image by Abdelfettah Fakihani*

Western Sahara has for three decades been Africa's forgotten conflict in a mainly desert corner of the continent for which no one really knows the human cost.
It is the last part of Africa not to have had its post-colonial future decided.
But Morocco, which annexed the former Spanish possession on the Atlantic coast in 1975, says it is entering the first talks in 10 years with the Polisario Front rebels in a spirit of goodwill.
The United Nations has organised the talks, which start at Manhasset near New York on Monday. Algeria, Mauritania and Spain have also been invited.

Morocco insists however that any settlement for the phosphate-rich land must include Algeria, which has supported the Polisario fighters.
After 16 years of war, a ceasefire between the two sides was declared in 1991. But Morocco continually pushed back a promised self-determination referendum and since 2002 has insisted such a vote is not necessary.
The Moroccan government has offered autonomy but insists its sovereignty is not negotiable.
Western Sahara has had a miserable history since the International Court of Justice ruled in 1975 that there should be a self-determination vote.
Spain withdrew the same year and the territory was divided between Morocco and Mauritania to the south. Morocco took complete control of the Western Sahara in 1979 after Mauritania gave up its half.
The Polisario Front proclaimed the birth of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in February 1976, which has since then been led by Polisario chief Mohamed Abdelaziz.
The Organisation of African Unity, now the African Union, recognised the republic in 1984, causing Morocco to quit the organisation.
The population is now unofficially estimated at 300,000 while about 160,000 people have taken refuge near the Polisario leadership in the Tindouf region of southern Algeria.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced the New York talks and Morocco said Thursday it was looking to "turn the page" at the meetings.
"We are on the eve of negotiations and we are going there with great optimism and with a strong willingness to definitively turn the page" in the dispute, government spokesman Nabil Benabdellah said.
But Benabdellah said earlier that Algeria must be part of the settlement.
Morocco accuses Algeria of backing the Polisario to support its ambition to dominate the Maghreb. Algiers denies this but insists that the Western Sahara people should decide their own future.
The frontier between Algeria and Morocco remains closed throwing up a huge obstacle to efforts to integrate the Maghreb economies — the two rivals along with Mauritania, Tunisia and Libya.
Morocco's plan includes a local government, parliament and judiciary as well as development aid.
But in El Ayoun, Western Sahara's main city, pro-Moroccan personalities told AFP they were sceptical about the chances of the talks and said the autonomy plan should be set under way.
The Moroccan media has been cautious. The Al Ayam weekly said "nothing on the horizon appears to allow the lifting of the obstacles." The magazine said that Algeria is the main problem.
The Maroc Hebdo weekly criticised the Polisario "separatists" accusing them of seeking to "amputate a third of Morocco's territory and set up a puppet state for the Algerian government".