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Daily Archives: May 15, 2008

Armed Zimbabwe police in hospital standoff with US envoy

Armed police tried to prevent the US ambassador to Zimbabwe and several other diplomats from leaving a hospital where victims of post-election violence were being treated Tuesday, an AFP correspondent with the convoy said.
Ambassador James McGee and four colleagues tried unsuccessfully to tour a hospital in Mvurwi, around 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Harare, without prior approval and then found their exit blocked by four armed police.
A stand-off lasting around 10 minutes ensued before McGee strode forward and opened the gates to leave the government hospital himself.
"I can only speculate that it was just a message for us not to go and expose this. Obviously they didn't want us to see the brutality … happening in the rural areas," US embassy spokesman Paul Engelstad told reporters.
McGee, who travelled to the countryside with fellow diplomats from Britain, the Netherlands, Japan and the European Union, called it "a minor, very minor misunderstanding" with a security officer.
Later as the convoy left for the capital, it was detained at a roadblock for almost an hour where police asked for proof the diplomats had followed procedures requiring them to notify the authorities of their travel plans.
"They wanted to check that we had put in a diplomatic note. They asked for our diplomatic note which they were shown," US embassy spokesman
After being rebuffed at the first hospital, the convoy travelled to visit another, where they were able to spend 30 minutes touring wards and visiting victims of violence.
"I think it is absolutely urgent that the entire world knows what's happening in Zimbabwe," McGee said.
"The (Zimbabwe) government has said 'present us with proof of what is happening' … now we have concrete proof of what is happening," he added.
British ambassador to the country, Andrew Pockock, said the violence was "pretty well organised, well calculated and very disturbing."
"This is an effort to change the voting demography in Zimbabwe either by beating people and intimidating them or displacing them … so they don't vote," he said.
Leoni Cuelenaere, deputy head of mission at the Netherlands embassy, said she was "shocked" by what she saw in the hospital.
Of the political violence, EU ambassador Xavier Marcel said: "We all wish that it (the violence) can be stopped as soon as possible."

Israeli police quiz US billionaire Edelson in PM probe

Israeli police have questioned US billionaire Sheldon Edelson as part of a widening inquiry into the latest graft scandal to embroil Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, an official said yesterday.
The real estate and casino tycoon was brought in for questioning on Tuesday after he entered the country to attend an international conference hosted by President Shimon Peres, the police official said.
A second US businessman, Daniel Abraham, who is also linked to a different probe against Olmert, was also questioned by police on Tuesday, he said.
Police are seeking to establish whether Olmert had given any favours in exchange for alleged illegal funds he received from US businessman and fundraiser Morris Talansky in the 13 years before he became premier in 2006.
Olmert has denied any wrongdoing and insists he will only step down if indicted.
According to the liberal Haaretz newspaper, police suspect Olmert had asked Edelson and Abraham to purchase mini-bar refrigerators for their hotels made by a company in which Talansky had a stake at the time.
Police investigators this week raided the Jerusalem town hall and the offices of the trade and industry ministry which Olmert headed between 1993 and 2003 and confiscated documents there.
Olmert, who has been dogged by scandals since he took office in 2006, last week insisted he had never taken a bribe and said he would quit if indicted.
But he acknowledged that he had received what he said were legitimate financial contributions for various election campaigns from Talansky.
Talansky said on Sunday that he gave financial contributions to Olmert but insisted he believed they were intended for legitimate purposes.
"I never thought in any way that the money I gave was illegal or wrong," the 75-year-old Jewish financier told Israel's private Channel 10 television in his first public comments on the scandal.