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Daily Archives: February 12, 2008

Taliban chief urges world to end support for US: spokesman

Taliban supremo Mullah Mohammad Omar has urged the international community to distance itself from the United States' campaign in Afghanistan, a militant spokesman said yesterday.
The call by the elusive hardline leader came after US Defence Secretary Robert Gates urged European nations in particular to be more involved in the fight against the Taliban.
"The United States has been defeated in Afghanistan," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed quoted Omar as saying in a statement.
"They have been trapped here and are desperately trying to get other countries involved," Mujahed said in a telephone call from an unknown location.
Omar's statement said the United States, which led the campaign that toppled the Taliban from government in late 2001, had "invaded" and "occupied" Afghanistan.
"We're fighting to free our country," it said, adding: "We're not a threat to the world."
"The world nations must compel their governments to withdraw from Afghanistan and abandon supporting the United States."
The 1996-2001 Taliban government allowed Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and was toppled for not handing over Al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, after the 9/11 attacks.
Gates and others have been calling for more troops and resources to be sent to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force battling a Taliban-led insurgency that was its deadliest last year.
Omar said his militant group would intensify attacks on government and foreign military targets in the spring, the traditional Afghan fighting season.
It would also "establish relations with the world," said the statement attributed to the one-eyed militant who headed the Taliban regime.
Omar carries a multi-million-dollar bounty on his head but has avoided capture.
A senior US administration official said Friday he was in Pakistan's southwestern city of Quetta but this was rejected by Islamabad.

Kenya rivals begin crucial week of talks

by Carole Landry*

Kenya's feuding parties yesterday began a crucial week of negotiations to clinch a political deal that could defuse a crisis sparked by President Mwai Kibaki's re-election.
Former UN chief Kofi Annan met early yesterday with government negotiators and separately sat down with the opposition team in a Nairobi hotel as a tenuous calm appeared to hold in the country for the first time in weeks.
Police reported no incidents overnight in western Kenya, which had been the epicentre of the violence unleashed after the December 27 election that Kibaki officially won, but the opposition claims was rigged.
More than 1,000 people have died in rioting, tribal clashes and police raids since the vote and 300,000 people driven from their homes, shattering Kenya's reputation as one of Africa's most stable countries.
Annan's nearly two-week-long mediation is seen as Kenya's best hope for an end to the violence which has seen Kenyans hacked to death by machete-wielding mobs, burnt in churches and driven off their land.
The former UN secretary general believes a compromise deal can be reached in the coming days after the sides agreed on Friday to end their dispute over who won the elections and cut a deal.
With hopes of a breakthrough running high, Annan however cautioned at the weekend that no final deal had been reached and urged Kenyans to be patient as details were being worked out.
"In negotiations, a deal is not a deal until it is done," he said Saturday.
Speculation about the agreement has centred on a possible power-sharing government in which opposition leader Raila Odinga, who claims to have been cheated out of the presidency in the election, could become prime minister, a post that currently does not exist under the constitution.
Kenyan press reports have also said negotiations could result in a package of reforms to election laws, the court system and the constitution that would be enacted within a set timetable, possibly three years.
Annan has asked parliament to convene on Tuesday to be briefed on details of a possible deal and enlist support from MPs for a settlement.
In power since 2002, 76-year-old Kibaki was proclaimed the winner of the presidential vote, but Odinga, 62, has slammed the outcome as rigged and refused to accept it.
International observers also found flaws during the tallying of ballots.
On Friday, Annan suggested both sides had made concessions and said they were ready for a negotiated settlement to pull the country back from the brink.
Kibaki's tribe, the Kikuyu, suffered heavily in the first wave of violence at the hands of Odinga's Luo tribe and other ethnic groups, but there have since been numerous revenge attacks.
The violence has tapped into simmering resentment over land, poverty and the dominance of the Kikuyu in Kenyan politics and business since independence from Britain in 1963.
Kenya's world-famous safari resorts and beach hotels have suffered a bruising loss of business while the turmoil is expected to slam the brakes on what had been an economic upswing in the country, with growth at seven percent.
With a deal seen as within reach, rangers at the famed Maasai Mara reserve paid homage to Annan's efforts by naming a rhinoceros born at the weekend after him.
"Thick-skinned Kofi Annan is likely to spend years in the wild," the United Nations said in a statement.