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Daily Archives: September 16, 2008

Sabotage cited as toll in China baby formula scandal rockets


by Peter Harmsen*

China yesterday reported a second baby dead from drinking tainted milk formula and said the number sickened had soared past 1,200 as it blamed private milk-collecting stations for the worsening scandal.

The New Zealand partner to the Chinese company Sanlu at the centre of the storm went further, blaming the contamination on “sabotage”. The two deaths came in the northwestern province of Gansu after the babies drank

Sanlu brand formula tainted with the industrial chemical melamine, vice health minister Ma Shaowei told a news conference. The first death was reported last week. Ma also said the number of babies sickened nationwide had leapt to 1,253, more than double the 580 reported by state press earlier in the day, and that hospitals had been ordered to go all-out to save sick babies. “Emergency medical treatment of affected infants must become our top priority,” he said, adding that 53 children were in serious condition. “We must use all our power to protect their health and safety… slow the rate of serious cases as much as possible, and prevent further deaths.” The state-controlled China Daily said all 19 people detained so far in a probe intothe scandal were from the collecting stations, which pick up milk from dairy farmers. “We believe the contamination is more likely to have occurred at milk-collecting stations,” than at dairy farms, it quoted Li Changjiang, who heads the nation’s quality-control watchdog, as saying. Sanlu Group, however, has blamed dairy farmers, previous state media reports have


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Zimbabwe political rivals sign historic power-sharing deal

by Fanuel Jongwe*

Zimbabwe's leaders signed a historic deal yesterday that will see President Robert Mugabe share power with his arch-rival in a bid to resolve a ruinous political crisis in a country in economic meltdown.
South African President Thabo Mbeki, who brokered the deal, however said later in the day that the unity government had not yet been finalised, calling on the two parties to do so as soon as possible.
Shortly after signing the deal at a ceremony in the Zimbabwean capital, the 84-year-old Mugabe said he was "committed" to working with longtime rival Morgan Tsvangirai in the new government.
"Let us be allies," said Mugabe, who has ruled the country since independence from Britain in 1980.
"People will want to see if what we promise is indeed what we strive to do … We are committed, I am committed, let us all be committed."
But the veteran leader, who had previously vowed that the opposition would never rule in his lifetime, also showed his defiant side, repeating earlier warnings about outside influence in his country.
While his rhetoric had cooled as power-sharing talks pushed ahead in recent weeks, Mugabe has in the past repeatedly labeled Tsvangirai a stooge of Western powers, particularly former colonial ruler Britain.
"We must resist those who want to impose their own will on us," Mugabe said.
"Zimbabwe is a sovereign country, only the people of Zimbabwe has the fundamental right to govern it. They alone will set up government, they alone will change it."
Mugabe will remain president under the deal, while Tsvangirai, who leads the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), will serve as prime minister.
Tsvangirai used his first platform as head of government to call on Zimbabwe's rival parties to work together to "unite" the country.
"I, the prime minister of Zimbabwe, call ZANU-PF and MDC to unite Zimbabwe. Divisions belong to the past," Tsvangirai said.
He also called for the economically-shattered southern African country's doors to be reopened to international aid.
"The international aid organisations came to help our country and found our doors locked," Tsvangirai said. "We need to unlock our doors to aid — we need medicine, food, and doctors back in our country.
"We need electricity, water, petrol for our vehicles, we need to access our cash from bank."
Over the past decade, Zimbabwe's economy has collapsed with the world's highest inflation rate, chronic shortages of foreign currency and food, skyrocketing unemployment and widespread hunger.
Mugabe, 84, was greeted with some jeers as he entered the Rainbow Towers hotel in Harare for the signing. Tsvangirai was applauded by the audience, made up mostly of members of the opposition-dominated parliament.
While questions remain over whether the power-sharing deal can work in practice, Mbeki has expressed confidence it will allow Zimbabwe to address the economic meltdown.
Regional leaders attended the ceremony in the Zimbabwean capital, with some having earlier raised deep concern over the crisis that they feared could have effects throughout southern Africa.
The new government is the result of protracted talks mediated by Mbeki between Mugabe's ZANU-PF and the MDC.
The veteran leader, a hero in the country's liberation war who has since been accused of trampling on human rights, has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980.
While details of the accord reached on Thursday were to be formally unveiled later yesterday, a source close to the talks said that both Mugabe and Tsvangirai would co-lead the economically battered nation.
The president is to remain in control of the armed forces, sources have said, while Tsvangirai's powers would include authority over the police and secret services.
A number of Western nations, including the United States and Britain, have cautiously welcomed the accord while saying they would wait to study its full details.
The political crisis intensified after Mugabe's re-election as president in a widely condemned June run-off poll.
Tsvangirai boycotted the vote despite finishing ahead of Mugabe in the March first round, citing a campaign of violence and intimidation against his supporters that had killed dozens and injured thousands.
Mugabe's party also lost its majority in parliament in the March elections for the first time since independence.