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Africa News

Book-lovers’ refuge closes its doors in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG AFP – South Africa may have produced two Nobel laureates in literature but a famous bookshop in Johannesburg is nevertheless about to close, a victim of the countrys poor reading culture.The Boekehuis, whose Afrikaans name means book house, is in an old four-bedroom house a stones throw from the citys two main universities

Tunisia president asks for 6-month political truce

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia's new president on Wednesday asked for a six-month political truce and a moratorium on strikes and protests, warning that otherwise the country would be committing "collective suicide".

Tunisia electrified the Arab world when it overthrew its autocratic leader in January, but since then the caretaker authorities have been buffeted by social unrest, political turmoil and rows over the role of Islam in the political system.

"I appeal to all the Tunisian people to give us a political and social truce, just for six months," Moncef Marzouki, a former political prisoner installed as president this week, said in a interview on state television.

"A political truce including all the political parties ... (and) a social truce by immediately stopping all sit-ins and strikes," said Marzouki. "If we continue like this, it will be a collective suicide."

"If things aren't working out within six months, I will submit my resignation," said Marzouki.

In Tunisia's first ever democratic election in October, voters handed victory to the moderate Islamist Ennahda party. Its nominee, Hamadi Jbeli, will be prime minister, the most powerful post.

Other top positions will be shared out among Ennahda's two junior coalition partners, Marzouki's Congress for the Republic and the left-wing Ettakatol party.

The new leaders will hold power for a year while a new constitution is drawn up and fresh elections are prepared.

A cabinet line-up is expected to be announced in the coming days. Three sources within the coalition said the finance ministry would go to Khayam Turki, a businessman who was put forward by Ettakatol.


Since its revolution, Western leaders have hailed the former French colony as a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, but the new authorities are struggling to appease Tunisians who are impatient for change.

There have been hundreds of protests in the past few months, most of them over poor living standards and high unemployment. Some have turned into riots, forcing security forces to fire into the air and impose curfews.

There has also been mounting tension between hardline Islamists, who want to ban the sale of alcohol and the mixing of the sexes in public places, and secularists who believe their liberal way of life is under threat.

Turki, the man tipped to become finance minister, was educated in Tunisia and France and studied at business school, his friend Jamel Touri told Reuters.

And though Ettakatol is known for its socialist foundations, Touri, who is also an official in the party, said the 40-year-old diplomat's son was an economic liberal.

"He is for economic openness and he is in favour of economic reforms to promote openness," Touri said.

Congo polls "seriously flawed": US envoy

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo's elections, won by incumbent President Joseph Kabila according to provisional results, were seriously flawed and lacked transparency, the U.S. ambassador to the central African country said on Wednesday.

The November 28 polls, whose outcome has already been rejected by the opposition, were seen as crucial to reinforcing stability but have been marred by poor organisation, delays, violence and accusations of widespread fraud.

The United States has closely followed observer missions including the U.S.-based Carter Center which last week said the results lacked credibility, Ambassador James Entwistle said.

"The United States believes that the management and technical execution of these elections were seriously flawed," Entwistle said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

"(They) lacked transparency and did not measure up to the positive democratic gains we have seen in recent African elections."

The elections are the first Congolese-organised polls since the end of a devastating war in 2003 which left millions dead. An earlier poll in 2006 was organised under the auspices of the United Nations.

The United States and other Western donors are offering technical assistance to the Congolese to review irregularities identified by observer missions, and Congo's prime minister has already welcomed the offer, according to Entwistle.

"It's important that friends of the Congolese people do not only find fault ... Therefore (we) are encouraging the Congolese authorities to closely review the identified irregularities."

The country's Supreme Court must decide by December 17 whether or not to validate provisional results giving Kabila victory with 48.97 percent of the vote against 32.33 percent for nearest rival, Etienne Tshisekedi.

The election process has faced growing criticism from both in and outside the country. The European Union observer mission has said witnesses were prevented from following crucial steps of the process.

At a news conference on Tuesday Kabila accused critics of failing to understand the country, adding that the results of the polls were not in doubt despite some "mistakes".

"People should appreciate that, over a period of ten years we have, as promised, managed to organise elections," he stated.

Official figures showed turnout and support for Kabila running at 100 percent in some areas, while results from nearly 5,000 polling stations, most in the opposition stronghold of Kinshasa, have gone missing.

On Tuesday the electoral commission (CENI) rejected comments by the influential archbishop of Kinshasa Laurent Mosengwo, who said that the results reflected neither truth nor justice. It said the figures referred to by Mosengwo were false.

"CENI invites the population to be wary and to refrain from all manipulation of the election results," said CENI spokesman Mathieu Mpita.

In eastern Congo four opposition leaders, including the local head of Tshisekedi's UDPS party, faced trial on Wednesday accused of inciting civil disobedience after being arrested trying to demonstrate earlier in the week, according to the deputy chief prosecutor of North Kivu province.

Ivory Coast vote peaceful, opposition boycotts

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast awaited results from its first parliamentary election for a decade, with officials saying a boycott by the opposition had done little to disrupt voting in the country recovering from a crippling civil war.

Election officials said they expected most of the results from Sunday's vote would be known by Tuesday, with the outcome seen strengthening the hand of President Alassane Ouattara's ruling coalition.

"Overall, the election took place peacefully in polling stations visited in the district of Abidjan and the interior (of the country)," the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Representative for Ivory Coast, Bert Koenders, said in a statement.

The election was boycotted by the party of former president Laurent Gbagbo, who is in The Hague facing war crimes charges, over allegations of unfair treatment of his supporters.

Despite some incidents, election officials and observers said voting proceeded normally, although turnout was lower than the more than 70 percent recorded during the presidential election last year that sparked clashes between Gbagbo and Ouattara partisans.

More than 5 million people were eligible to vote for parliament in an election seen as a crucial step toward recovery after a decade of conflict and political turmoil in the world's top cocoa-growing country.

Nearly 1,000 candidates are vying for the National Assembly's 255 seats, according to the electoral commission.

"In most polling stations in our school, participation rate was at between 35 and 40 percent, no higher," said Siriki Traore, head of a polling station in Yopougon, a pro-Gbagbo stronghold in the commercial capital Abidjan.

Only about a third of eligible voters cast ballots during the last parliamentary election in 2000. OUATTARA WANTS TO REBUILD INSTITUTIONS

Ouattara, whose supporters invaded the capital and captured Gbagbo after he refused to accept Ouattara's victory in the presidential poll, urged Ivorians to vote, saying parliament had an essential role in rebuilding the country.

"Ivory Coast is at work and we need to build the institutions that will now be strong and independent institutions. I am applying myself to this task and that's why the December 11 vote is an essential vote for all Ivorians," Ouattara said after casting his ballot in Abidjan.

"We are going to continue the electoral process in March or April 2012 with municipal and regional election," he said.

Ouattara's ruling coalition, which includes his RDR party and the allied PDCI, appears set for a landslide win based on voting patterns during the first round of last year's presidential polls.

The poll could boost investor confidence in Ivory Coast, which wants to expand its gold mining, oil, cotton and services sectors to take back its place as the West African region's economic powerhouse.

State radio said the election was peaceful across the country with no major incidents reported.

In Bonon, however, a locality in the centre of the country near Daloa which produces about a quarter of Ivory Coast's cocoa, local authorities said a vehicle ferrying ballot boxes, voter rolls and ballots, was hijacked by armed men.

Pockets of lingering tension and violence, particularly in the west, had raised concerns of trouble during the polls, which were secured by local and about 7,000 United Nations forces.

Ivory Coast defence minister said the government had taken measures to ensure security during the vote with police, gendarmes and army deployed across the country.

Ex-UN head says Egypt's big problems being ignored

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's new politicians must shift focus from winning votes at home to securing support abroad if they are to solve pressing problems of an economy in tailspin, a looming water shortage and population explosion, a former U.N. chief said on Sunday.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali, an Egyptian who was the United Nations secretary general from 1992 to 1996, said his nation's problems were being ignored by the new political class, including Islamist parties which have taken an early lead in parliamentary elections.

"The problems of Egypt cannot be solved in Egypt. They need the cooperation of other countries," he told Reuters, adding that Cairo's position at the heart the Middle East would force its new leaders to look outwards.

Following the ousting of former President Hosni Mubarak in February, Egypt is inching towards a new era of democratic rule, with the Islamists emerging from decades of repression as a powerful force in mainstream politics.

"My opposition to the fundamentalist (Islamist) movement is not to the movement in itself. It is the fact that they will close the doors and isolate themselves," the 89-year-old said.

"There are problems that no one is talking about, and these are the urgent ones," he said, speaking from the offices of the Egyptian National Council of Human Rights, a body he heads.

One headache is the fading economy, with tourists and investors staying away because of the unrest. Another is the difficulty of having to support an extra 1 or 2 million people a year, in a country already 80 million strong.

A water crisis also looms, with African states further south looking to make greater use of the Nile at Egypt's expense. "Public opinion is paying more attention to what is going on in the West Bank and Gaza ... rather than paying attention to what is going on in the African countries where you have the source of the Nile," Boutros-Ghali said.

"If you read all the slogans used by the revolution since January 25 there has not been a word about foreign affairs," he added, criticising groups across the political spectrum which have sprung up since the protest movement began early this year.


Before Mubarak resigned, Ethiopia and five other Nile Basin states agreed a new treaty which would reduce Egypt's share of the waters. Egypt gets almost 90 percent of its needs from the river and its demands will grow as the population surges.

"For Egyptians the Nile is an Egyptian river," said Boutros-Ghali, who regretted that Mubarak had also failed to address such issues through deeper international dialogue.

Boutros-Ghali comes from Egypt's minority Coptic Christian community, but he dismissed fears from some quarters that the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and ultra-conservative Salafis might lead to inter-religious violence or rights violations.

"For 2,000 years there have been ups and downs," he said. "They have lived together, co-existed together ... there are no ghettos," he added.

"That is not the case of the Tutsi and Hutu in Rwanda," he said, alluding to the 1994 genocide in the central African state.

Boutros-Ghali said everyone should accept an Islamist victory, regardless of political allegiance.

"You have to if you believe in democracy. You must hope they will act with moderation," he said, adding that he looked forward to a "peaceful coexistence" with more liberal forces.

Muslim Brotherhood leaders have suggested they might put Egypt's landmark 1979 peace deal with Israel to a referendum and other politicians have talked about renegotiating the accord.

Boutros-Ghali served as minister of state for foreign affairs in the late 1970s and helped negotiate the pact. He did not expect any new Egyptian leader to undermine the deal, hinting that the powerful army would prevent such a move.

"The army knows very well where its interests are. They have enough problems, not to add a new one," he said, laughing.

Egypt liberal calls for shift in tactics

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian liberals trailing Islamists in a parliamentary election must close ranks and tone down their anti-Islamist fears if they are to succeed, one of the country's most influential liberals said on Sunday.

Following the uprisings that toppled Hosni Mubarak in February, Amr Hamzawy has emerged as one of the most popular political figures of the new Egypt.

The 44-year-old political science professor, who was educated in Egypt and Europe, is a founder of the Egypt Freedom Party. He is known for his media appearances and efforts to engage in dialogue with youth groups, Islamists and other liberals.

Hamzawy said he had turned down ministerial jobs this year, saying he wanted to enter politics through the ballot box. His gamble paid off: In the first round of voting, he became one of only four people who secured more than 50 percent of the votes needed to avoid a run-off.

In an interview, Hamzawy said liberals had to work harder to unify their ranks and pick the lists and candidates most likely to win, if they are to maximise their impact at the ballot box in Egypt's complex system.

Liberals "need to avoid generating and sustaining the impression among Egyptians that we as the civil camp fear Islamists. Those who fear do not convince at the ballot box".

First-round results from the staggered vote that will take six weeks to complete gave two Islamist-led alliances a combined two thirds of the votes for party lists, pushing a liberal bloc into third place.

The election is Egypt's first since the protests that toppled Mubarak and led to a transfer of power to an army council that has promised to hand over to civilians by mid-2012.

Unlike many other liberals, Hamzawy publicly challenged ultra orthodox Salafi Islamists who won a surprisingly big chunk of votes in the first round. Salafis want a strict application of Islamic law that liberals say would curtail personal freedoms.

The more moderate Muslim Brotherhood has emerged as front-runner in the historic ballot.

Although initial results indicate Islamists could form a majority bloc in parliament, there are divisions within their ranks that mean liberals could still become influential players.

"It's a highly diverse (Islamist) camp and there are real points of tension between them," Hamzawy said.

"The Brotherhood have a strategic interest in generating and sustaining an image for the party and the movement as moderate," he said. "Salafis will challenge them."

Hamzawy's party is part of an electoral alliance called The Revolution Continues, which secured about 4 percent of the vote in the first round. It includes a range of groups including liberals and some whose members broke with Islamist parties.

His own sweeping success suggests that with name-recognition and street campaigning, Egyptian liberals stand to challenge better-established Islamists.

He urged his fellow liberals to campaign hard and engage with ordinary people, saying: "You have to count your potential voters by the number of hands you shake."

But even as future parliamentarians wrangle, the protests that brought down Mubarak and that have forced concessions from the ruling military council would continue as long as Egyptians remained suspicious of state institutions, Hamzawy predicted.

"We have to get used to it until our new institutions become viable enough to generate trust among the population."

Congo delays election results again

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Election authorities in Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday delayed the announcement of a winner in the country's presidential election for the second time this week, citing the need to cross-check results.

Tensions are high in the central African state after a November 28 poll marred by deadly violence, disorganisation and allegations of fraud. Both sides have claimed victory.

"We want to apologise, we're going to continue working and we will have the results tomorrow," election commission chief Daniel Ngoy Mulunda said on Thursday evening.

The results from the November 28 vote had first been due on Tuesday but were then pushed back until Thursday as results had not yet come in from all parts of the vast country, which is about half the size of the European Union.

Incumbent President Joseph Kabila leads so far with 48.9 percent of the vote, ahead of veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi with 33.3 percent, according to partial results covering nearly 90 percent of polling stations.

The opposition welcomed the delay to results, saying the extra time could be used to bolster the vote's transparency, and Tshisekedi's party reiterated its rejection of any Kabila win.

"The reality is that (the electoral commission) is bending under the pressure of the population. Its not easy to publish a lie," Jacquemain Shabani Lukoo, secretary general of the opposition UDPS, told Reuters.

If results released so far stand, Tshisekedi would need to win nearly all of the 2.9 million possible votes remaining to beat Kabila, according to rough calculations of the number of registered voters and polling stations yet to be counted.

"Everyone's waiting foir the results. We've done our own compilation and we know that president Kabila has won, but the announcement must be credible," Aubin Minaku, secretary general of the ruling coalition backing Kabila.

Donors have called for results to be published by polling station instead of in aggregate as a way to ensure results are credible and transparent.

Brussels-based International Crisis Group warned the results risked sparking protests that could prompt a bloody repression. Congo must try to salvage "a badly flawed process" with the international help, it said.

"Counting has been as unruly as voting, and dangerously opaque. Criteria for disqualifying ballots are unclear, with Kinshasa, an opposition stronghold, disproportionately affected," the think tank said in a statement.

"Most significantly, the electoral commission has (so far) refused to publish results by polling station, which would permit their verification by opposition parties and observers. Election day flaws were bad enough; but perceptions that results are fiddled behind closed doors would spell disaster," it added.

Central Kinshasa was busier than on previous days with traffic once more flowing down the city's main boulevard. But gunfire erupted near Tshisekedi's home.

The police said officers shot in the air to stop opposition supporters marching into town but Tshisekedi's camp said three people were killed. A hospital source first said one person had arrived with bullet wounds but later retracted the statement.

Tensions are also running high in the two Kasai provinces, which are Tshisekedi heartlands. Witnesses in Mbuji Mayi, the capital of Kasai Orientale, said they had seen soldiers armed with rocket launchers in the centre of town.

Provincial governor Alphonse Kasanji confirmed that army units had been brought in to support the police and protests were officially banned. "The threat is just too great, they can contest through the courts, but not on the streets," he said.

United Nations sources in neighbouring Katanga, where Kabila is from but where there are also many members of Tshisekedi's Luba ethnic group, said there were signs of trouble between those originally from the province and those seen as outsiders.

There have been widespread allegations of fraud and ballot stuffing, though analysts say logistics and insecurity have also been to blame for the chaos, with documents destroyed or lost.

U.N.-backed Radio Okapi reported that results from some 51 polling stations, amounting to about 20,000 votes, were missing in the tally in Katanga. International observers said results from hundreds of Kinshasa polling stations were also missing without explanation, highlighting the scale of problems.

But it is not clear if they will publish their results if they differ from those given by the election body.

"We have seen that the further the process has gone in the compilation and publication of results, the less traceability there is," a senior international election observer told Reuters, asking not to be named.

"We don't really know where the figures are coming from."

Mugabe presses for Zimbabwe vote, empowerment drive

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe (Reuters) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe called on Thursday for elections next year to end a fragile coalition with rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and said he would not back down in forcing foreign firms to sell majority stakes to blacks.

The 87-year-old leader told supporters at an annual ZANU-PF conference that the unity government that has ended a decade of economic collapse and seen a thawing in political tensions was dysfunctional.

Mugabe, whose ZANU-PF party is accused of political violence in past elections, told his supporters to renounce violence, saying the party could win any vote with better policies such as the empowerment drive.

"We're saying time has come now to prepare for elections. We just have to have elections next year," Mugabe said in a speech that lasted more than two hours. "Let's go to an election so people can choose a government of their liking."

In the last election, Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe in the first round vote but was forced to pull out of a run-off, citing violence against his supporters from independence war veterans and youth militia running Mugabe's campaign.

Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, is expected to be formally endorsed as ZANU-PF's presidential candidate at the conference that ends on Saturday.

Political analysts say his allies are pressing for early elections, which are due in 2013 when Mugabe would be 89, fearing that he may not cope with the pressure of campaigning.

A June 2008 U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks in September said Mugabe had prostate cancer that had spread to other organs. He was urged by his physician to step down in 2008 but has stayed in the job.

Mugabe has maintained he is still fit.

On Thursday Mugabe said a drive by ZANU-PF to force mining companies to surrender at least 51 percent stakes to blacks was not an election gamble, but meant to address colonial imbalances.

Foreign-owned miners, including the world's two top platinum producers Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum Holdings and global miner Rio Tinto, have partly complied with the empowerment law.

The mining firms have offloaded 10 percent of their shares to local communities.

"We will not reverse this policy. Let no one deceive themselves that it's devised for the elections. No, it's a fundamental policy," Mugabe said.

Support grows for Durban climate deal

DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) - Support grew on Thursday for an EU plan to agree a global climate change pact with binding targets by 2015, after poor nations vulnerable to climate change forged alliances with developed countries.

The European Union said it was encouraged its "road map" to legally binding commitments by 2015 to cut greenhouse gas emissions was gaining traction at the talks, which are due to wrap up in the South African port of Durban on Friday.

U.S. climate change envoy Todd Stern said Washington supported an EU roadmap to a new treaty, and Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent said Ottawa had forged a partnership with small island states which could be swamped by the rising sea levels caused by global warming.

"We're not setting a hard target on this date...(but) 2015 would be a reasonable target to set to pull together any new climate change regime," Peter Kent told reporters.

"If we can reach one before 2015, that would be good, if it takes somewhat longer, that would be fine...but we can't leave Durban without a firm agreement," he said.

Days earlier Kent had said that the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding accord on reducing carbon emissions, was "in the past".

With the EU pact gaining momentum, pressure could shift to the developing world's biggest polluters -- China and India -- to come on board.

A group of 48 of the least developed countries said it now backed the European plan for a firm timetable, joining African nations and 43 small island states.

The EU roadmap is totally in play right now. The shift of the least developed countries and AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States) to work with the EU potentially shows some kind of roadmap coming out of here," said Jennifer Morgan at the World Resources Institute.

Reflecting the changing mood in Durban, Brazil, an emerging economy that is a key player in climate negotiations, also said there was convergence on a deal in Durban.

"It think it's possible," Brazil's chief negotiator Luiz Alberto Figueiredo told reporters, when asked if Durban could agree a date by which a legally binding accord could be reached.

"We are in favour of negotiating a legally binding instrument that will cover the phase after 2020. The parties are moving there, it's a question of completing the negotiations," he said.

"All countries will be inside and they will be bound by this new instrument," he added.


Nevertheless, some delegates warned the talks could still break down on the final day on Friday as the dates and precise legal form of a treaty still have to be thrashed out.

One EU source said U.S. negotiators still opposed specific targets because they had no mandate to sign up to a legally binding deal. Environmental legislation is the subject of intense wrangling in the U.S. Congress, which must ratify any treaty.

"They can agree to a road map leading nowhere but not a road map leading to a legally binding deal, which is what the EU wants," said the EU source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said of U.S. negotiators.

Previously, the United States has said it supported discussions that would lead to an emission cut deal, even one that was legally binding, but would not commit to set dates or a set outcome.

"It is completely off base to suggest the U.S. is proposing it will delay action to 2020," U.S. climate envoy Stern told reporters. "The EU has called for a roadmap (to a future deal). We support that."

Poor states most threatened by the rising sea levels caused by global warming were sceptical.

"Let me see that in the negotiation room, let me see that in the text," said Grenada's Foreign Minister Karl Hood, representing small island nations.

Speaking before Canada's announcement, Britain's climate envoy Chris Huhne said the European Union was not prepared to accept a deal in Durban at any price, saying there had to be real meat on the bones of any agreement.

"We're not interested in just papering over the cracks. We're interested in something that really does provide us with a roadmap to a single overarching global agreement which delivers a solution to climate change," he told reporters.

"If we don't have a credible agreement, we will not agree here, we will go away from Durban and there won't be an agreement here and we'll wait to a point where we can get a credible agreement."

Coalition growing for new deal on greenhouse gas cuts

DURBAN (Reuters) - Rich and poor nations at climate change talks are lining up behind an EU plan for achieving a global pact on cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2015, under pressure to reach some kind of a deal before Friday's planned end to the U.N. meeting.

Analysts expect at least a political agreement to be reached when the two weeks of talks wind up, with countries promising to start deliberations on a new regime of binding cuts in the gases blamed for global warming and environmental devastation.

Anything less would qualify the United Nations negotiations in the South African city of Durban as a disaster, they say.

The European Union plan envisages a new deal reached by 2015, and put into effect by 2020, imposing binding cuts on the world's biggest emitters of the heat-trapping gases.

In Durban the two issues for the negotiators from nearly 200 countries are finding a way of updating the Kyoto Protocol, the only global pact that enforces carbon cuts, and raising funding needed to help poor countries tackle climate change.

Key to any greenhouse gas deal will be China, the United States, India and Brazil - the world's largest emitters which are not bound by the cuts regime in the Kyoto Protocol.

"We are seeing convergence and that's what we need to achieve the outcome that we want to have," Brazil's chief negotiator, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, told a news briefing on Thursday.

Three U.N. reports released in the last month show time is running out to achieve change. They show a warming planet will amplify droughts and floods, increase crop failures and raise sea levels to the point where several island states are threatened with extinction

South African President Jacob Zuma has said Durban will be a failure if a Green Climate Fund, designed to help poor nations tackle global warming and nudge them towards a new global effort to fight climate change, is not put into force.

A group of 48 of the least developed countries has said it backs the European plan for a firm timetable, joining African nations and 43 small island states. Japan has said it shares "common ground" with Europe while Canada and several other developed countries have shown their support.

The EU, Japan and others have said that any deal that does not include all major players would not nearly be enough to head off a global problem.

The United States has said it will make its emissions cuts binding under an international agreement only if China and other developing countries that are big polluters back their commitments with equal legal force.

If the discussions hold to form, envoys will extend discussions and release their decisions on Saturday.

"These negotiations are running around in circles. If we don't act now, some of us will die," said Karl Hood, Grenada's minister of foreign affairs and chairman of the 43-member Alliance of Small Island States

Mubarak trial set to resume after appeal rejected

CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian court turned down an appeal for a new judge in the trial of former President Hosni Mubarak, the official news agency MENA said on Wednesday, signalling the trial can resume later this month.

Mubarak, his two sons, the former interior minister and senior police officers face a range of charges including involvement in killing protesters and abuse of power.

Lawyers representing families of those killed in the uprising that ousted Mubarak in February filed a suit calling for presiding judge Ahmed Refaat and the two other judges on the panel to be replaced.

They complained the panel had failed to give them adequate time to question Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who heads the army council now ruling Egypt, during his court appearance.

"The court has concluded with the result that the request to reject Ahmed Refaat is not valid and has no legal basis," the court ruling read.

Hearings in Mubarak's case are scheduled to resume on December 28.

The court said the lawyer who filed the request merely wanted to obstruct the case and prolong it, with no reason or legal basis. Hearings have been halted since September pending a decision on Refaat.

A panel appointed to decide on the lawyers' request first postponed the Refaat case, saying it needed to review his record and background and specifically requesting details of any government consultancy positions he was involved in.

The panel resigned later in October and a new one was appointed and had to start handling the request afresh.

Egyptian judges are often used as consultants by government ministries or agencies, a practice critics say has brought the objectivity of some judges into doubt.

Refaat has a reputation of working by the book and following procedures. He has been praised for his independence by the media.

Mubarak is being tried with his sons, Alaa, a businessman, and Gamal, a former banker who had a top post in his father's ruling party.

Interior Minister Habib al-Adli and six senior police officers are also standing trial. Businessman Hussein Salem, a close associate of Mubarak, is being tried in absentia.

Around 850 people were killed in the uprising that overthrew Mubarak last February.

City's huge arsenal a test for new Libyan rulers

MISRATA, Libya (Reuters) - Militias outside the control of Libya's central government are holding vast stores of tanks, rockets and small arms in the city of Misrata, an arsenal that will test the ability of the country's new rulers to assert their authority.

A Reuters team gained rare access to militia warehouses in Misrata and counted thousands of boxes of arms and ammunition, most of it seized from forces loyal to ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi and hauled back to the city in trucks.

The militias, which were formed to fight Gaddafi's rule and profess loyalty to the interim leaders of the National Transitional Council (NTC), say they will hand over the weapons once a new national army is created.

But there is no timetable for that and in the meantime the weapons give Misrata more military might than the fragile government in Tripoli, an advantage the Misrata militias are likely to try to convert into political power.

"The government does not have a monopoly on force in the country," said Geoff Porter, a north Africa expert who has testified on Libya in the U.S. Congress "Without it, the state's ability to function is jeopardised."

"All of the militias are amply armed and the government has no recourse but to urge and cajole them to give up their weapons," he said.

Over two days, Reuters reporters visited four weapons stores operated by three of the city's militia brigades.

This offered a cross-section of the weapons in the city but represented only a fraction of the total: Misrata has six brigades, with between them more than 200 units. Most brigades have several weapons stores in different locations.

The weapons that could be seen included, according to a Reuters count, 38 tanks, nine self-propelled guns, 16 field guns, 536 Russian-made Grad rockets and 13 truck-mounted Grad launchers, 2480 mortar rounds and 202 artillery shells.

Among the other items were 21 missile pods cannibalised from helicopters, and about 10 boxes of what appeared to be French-made warheads for helicopter-fired anti-tank missiles. For a factbox listing the weapons, click on

In addition, Reuters reporters saw 18 shipping containers which local commanders said contained ammunition. It was not possible to examine what was inside.

The arsenals were dotted around the outskirts of Misrata, a city that lies on the Mediterranean coast about 200 km (130 miles) east of Tripoli.

Heavy artillery was kept at a site that used to be a supply base for oil company Petro-Canada. Another unit stored ammunition in a former Pepsi soft drink warehouse. One brigade parked dozens of tanks next to its commander's beach house.

International concern about the proliferation of weapons in Libya has focused on the risk that arms could find there way into the hands of groups such as al Qaeda's north Africa branch.

The chances of this happening in Misrata seem small: the city's militias have little sympathy with Islamists, they are tightly disciplined, and all the arsenals visited by Reuters were well guarded.


The significance of Misrata's huge stock of weapons lies instead in the leverage it gives the city in the contest -- so far largely peaceful -- for power and influence in the new Libya.

Misrata, Libya's third-biggest city, was the scene of the biggest and bloodiest battle in the seven-month war against Gaddafi. Its forces are among the most powerful of the dozens of militias across Libya that emerged out of the fighting.

"The brigades' loyalties appear to lie first and foremost with their towns and cities, rather than the NTC," wrote Wolfram Lacher, a North Africa expert.

"Whether and how quickly they will demobilize and refrain from using their military power as a means of gaining political influence remains to be seen," he wrote in the Middle East Policy Council journal.

Misrata's arsenal is the product of a systematic operation, carried out in the final weeks of the conflict against Gaddafi's rule, to sweep up weapons from stores elsewhere and bring them back to the city.

Mahmoud Askutri, a businessman who organised Misrata's Marsa brigade, said 430 tanks were recovered intact when the city's fighters fought their way into the town of Zlitan, to the west of Misrata.

Fighters from the city then pushed further West, stripping weapons from captured Gaddafi bases between their city and Tripoli. "The Misrata fighters came through here and took all the weapons," a local militia member at a checkpoint about 50 km east of the capital said, days after Gaddafi's forces fled Tripoli.

Misrata also seized weapons from Tripoli itself. Askutri said his men took the arms to stop them being used by Gaddafi loyalists or what he described as extremists.

"We had to be careful," he said. "There were mines and anti-armour missiles and this (leaving them in Tripoli) would have been a great danger to the stability of Libya." Soon after, Misrata brigades switched their focus to the east, towards the pro-Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte.

Reuters journalists in Wadi Garif, at the start of September, saw Misrata brigades clear out a vast arsenal at a military compound abandoned by Gaddafi's forces.

The militias loaded the weapons into pick-up trucks, took them back to their forward bases, and transferred them into larger trucks to be transported back to Misrata. One unit filled a furniture truck up to the roof with weapons.

The haul included mortars, 106mm artillery guns, Belgian-designed FN rifles, ammunition, and shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles. Much of it was still wrapped in the greaseproof paper in which it was shipped from the factory.


A military spokesman for the NTC in Tripoli said he believed the Misrata brigades would honour their pledge to hand over their weapons to the central government.

"Up to now we don't have a chief of staff," said the spokesman, Ahmed Bani. "Once we have an chief of staff for our army, then they will transfer (their weapons)."

"I know my people well. They are optimistic. They will obey the orders of the NTC because all of us love Libya. We paid a lot for our freedom."

In Misrata, the brigade commanders who spoke to Reuters say they will amalgamate their units into the national army, and hand over their weapons, as soon as that army is created.

Misrata brigades showed their willingness by giving 500 light arms to the interior ministry in October, according to a United Nations report.

But no one seems to know for sure when the national army will start functioning. In Misrata, there is no evidence yet that the defence ministry has drawn up any plans for the handover.

Even once inside the national army, it is clear that the Misrata brigades expect to retain a degree of autonomy.

In the absence of instructions from Tripoli, they have drawn up a plan to form three Misrata divisions with the national army and they have already started to appoint commanders.

Mohammed El-Zein, leader of Misrata's Thobactis brigade, which oversees field guns and Grad rocket launchers at the converted oil company base, said he would command one of the three divisions.

He said preparations had already started to transfer the weapons to national army warehouses. But they will not go far. Asked where the warehouses would be, he said: "In the suburbs of Misrata."

S.Africa selects 28 projects for green power drive

DURBAN (Reuters) - South Africa has chosen 28 renewable energy projects as part of its drive cut its reliance on coal fired plants, and bidders have until June to prove the projects are financially viable, the energy ministry said on Wednesday.

The selected bidders were announced on the sidelines of a global climate summit in Durban where delegates from more than 190 nations are hoping to agree to a new deal to tackle greenhouse gas emissions, blamed by scientists for rising sea levels, intense storms and crop failures.

Africa's largest economy depends on coal for 85 percent of its electricity supply of around 41,000 MW. In a bid to reduce its carbon footprint it launched a bidding process to eventually add up to 3,725 MW of green energy to the national grid by 2016.

A total of 53 bids were received by the November 4 closing date. The 28 selected projects, mostly wind and solar plants, could supply 1,416 MW, the ministry said.

"The department is confident that the preferred bidders will successfully conclude their project arrangements in order to meet the financial close deadline of 30th June 2012 and for construction to commence shortly thereafter," it said.

A second bidding round for green projects will be launched early next year.

South Africa has been struggling to meet fast-rising demand for electricity in the world's top producer of platinum and a major gold miner. A power supply crisis in 2008 shut mines for days and cost the country billions of dollars in lost output.

But the process of adding more renewable power to the grid has dragged on for years, raising doubts about the government's ability to deliver.

A plan to attract independent producers with subsidised tariffs was scrapped in the face of legal and regulatory hurdles, but South Africa is confident that the new procurement plan, which does not include subsidies, will work.

South African state-owned power utility Eskom , which so far has held a monopoly on power generation, will provide the green power projects with access to the grid and buy the power generated until a planned independent authority is established.

South Africa aims to halve its reliance on carbon-intense coal-fired plants. Under a new energy masterplan, it plans to develop 9,600 MW of nuclear power and 17,800 MW of renewable power by 2030.

Mexico says foiled plan to smuggle in Gaddafi son

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico uncovered and stopped an international plot to smuggle late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son Saadi into the country using fake names and false papers, authorities said on Wednesday.

Four people were arrested on November 10 and 11, they said, over an elaborate plan to settle Saadi Gaddafi, who is now in Niger, and his family on Mexico's Pacific coast using forged documents, safe houses and private flights.

Mexican officials got a tip about the network - which included Mexican, Danish and Canadian members - in September, Interior Minister Alejandro Poire said.

In preparation for the family's arrival, the criminal ring bought properties around Mexico, created fake identities and opened bank accounts with the aim of settling them near Bahia de Banderas, home to the popular tourist destination Puerto Vallarta.

The network arranged for private flights to smuggle in the family and established identities under assumed names, including Moah Bejar Sayed and Amira Sayed Nader.

The plotters themselves used a network of flights between Mexico, the United States, Canada, Kosovo and the Middle East to plan the route and organize the logistics for Saadi Gaddafi's arrival, Poire said.

"Mexican officials ... succeeded in avoiding this risk, they dismantled the international criminal network which was attempting this and they arrested those presumed responsible," he told a news conference.

A Canadian woman, Cynthia Ann Vanier, was the ringleader of the plot and directly in touch with the Gaddafi family, Mexican authorities said.

Also arrested was a Danish man, Pierre Christian Flensborg, who authorities said was in charge of logistics, and two Mexicans, Jose Luis Kennedy Prieto and Gabriela Davila Huerta, also known as de Cueto.

Saadi Gaddafi's lawyer Nick Kaufman said his client was still in Niger, where he fled as his father's 42-year rule crumbled in August. Niger has said he would remain in the West African nation until a United Nations travel ban is lifted.

"He is fully respecting the restraints placed on him presently by the international community," Kaufman told Reuters.

Like many senior members of the Gaddafi regime, Saadi, a businessman and former professional soccer player, was banned from traveling and had his assets frozen by a U.N. Security Council resolution when violence erupted earlier this year.

Interpol has issued a "red notice" requesting member states to arrest Saadi with a view to extradition if they find him in their territory.

Disgraced S.Africa ex-police chief arrives at jail

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Former South African police chief Jackie Selebi arrived at prison on Monday after being sentenced to 15 years for accepting bribes from a drug smuggler in a case that highlighted the reach of corruption in Africa's biggest economy.

Selebi, the most senior member of the ruling African National Congress to be found guilty of corruption, collapsed on Friday after hearing his appeal had failed, raising doubts about when he would start his jail term.

Local media said he had been taken into Pretoria's main prison in a wheelchair late on Monday, accompanied by his wife. The reports said he was in pyjamas and did not appear to be fully conscious.

There has been no comment from the Justice Ministry on what is a very sensitive case given the prominent role that Selebi played in the ANC's struggle against white-minority rule.

During his trial, the court heard that known drug dealer Glenn Agliotti paid 1.2 million rand to Selebi, who was also president of the international police agency Interpol at the time, to turn a blind eye to his activities.

Corruption has become rife in South Africa since the end of apartheid 17 years ago. President Jacob Zuma fired two cabinet ministers in October in a bid to dispel accusations that he is soft on graft.

Global Witness pulls out of "blood diamond" scheme

LONDON (Reuters) - Campaign group Global Witness has pulled out of the Kimberley Process, a scheme designed to prevent "blood diamonds" from entering the mainstream market, calling the scheme outdated and a failure, almost nine years after its launch.

In a damning statement on Monday, Global Witness said the Kimberley Process, a government-led rough diamond certification scheme launched in 2003 that requires member states to exercise control of diamond sales, had refused to close flaws and plug loopholes.

Global Witness accused governments in diamond-producing countries of showing little interest in reform and warned that customers who buy diamond jewelry still cannot be sure whether their gems have been used to finance wars, armed violence or other abuses.

"The scheme has failed three tests: it failed to deal with the trade in conflict diamonds from Cote d'Ivoire, was unwilling to take serious action in the face of blatant breaches of the rules over a number of years by Venezuela and has proved unwilling to stop diamonds fueling corruption and violence in Zimbabwe," said Charmian Gooch, a director of Global Witness.

"It has become an accomplice to diamond laundering - whereby dirty diamonds are mixed in with clean gems."

The Kimberley Process allowed Zimbabwe this year to begin exporting diamonds from its Marange region, where diamond fields were seized by security forces in 2008 and at least 200 miners were killed, according to human rights groups.

That move has been criticized by watchdogs, including Global Witness, and several groups walked out of Kimberley Process meeting in Kinshasa in June. Exports from Marange had been suspended since 2009, and campaigners have highlighted ongoing abuses and smuggling.

The United States, which will assume the chair of the process in 2012, said Global Witness had provided "significant value" to the discussion on blood diamonds in recent years.

"We understand that Global Witness does not find the process to be a credible stamp of approval for human rights," said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.

"We view this decision as another in a series of challenges to the Kimberley Process to demonstrate the capacity to implement reforms and restore its credibility."

Global Witness, which campaigns against natural resource-related conflict, corruption and associated abuse, said it had written to the chair of the Kimberley Process to announce its withdrawal as an official observer.

The concept of "blood" or "conflict" diamonds was first highlighted by organizations like Global Witness and others in relation to countries including Sierra Leone and Liberia, where years of civil war and abuses were funded with gems.

UN council expands Eritrea sanctions over Somalia

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council on Monday expanded sanctions against Eritrea for continuing to provide support to Islamist militants, including al Shabaab, in the virtually lawless Horn of Africa nation of Somalia.

The council resolution - which got 13 votes in favor, none against and two abstentions - was diluted from earlier drafts that sought to ban investment in Eritrea's mining industry and outlaw imports of its minerals. Asmara denies aiding al Shabaab or any other militant groups in Somalia.

The original draft, circulated by Gabon in October, also sought to block payment of a tax Eritrea puts on remittances from its nationals abroad.

The final version, which expands sanctions imposed two years ago, simply requires countries to make their companies involved in mining in Eritrea exercise "vigilance" to ensure funds from the sector are not used to destabilize the region.

The steps passed two years ago included an arms embargo.

Diplomats said Russia and China, both of which abstained from Monday's vote, opposed sanctioning the mining sector and remittances and that some European countries and the United States also felt the original draft was too tough and could penalize the Eritrean people.

On remittances, the resolution calls on states to act to ensure Eritrea ceases "using extortion, threats of violence, fraud and other illicit means to collect taxes outside of Eritrea from its nationals." It also "condemns" Eritrea for using a remittance tax to fund mischief in the Horn of Africa.

Eritrea is seen to be on the brink of a minerals boom that could revive its struggling economy, while remittances it gets from its large diaspora in the West and Middle East are its biggest source of foreign exchange.

The country's most advanced mining project, Bisha, believed to contain gold, copper and zinc, is run by Canada's Nevsun Resources Ltd. Earlier this year, Eritrea granted Australia's Chalice Gold Mines two new exploration licenses in a nearby location.


U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice welcomed the resolution's adoption, saying "our goal is to show Eritrea that it will pay an ever higher price for its actions."

British envoy Mark Lyall Grant said the council could pass "additional measures if there is evidence of further non-compliance."

The vote came after top officials from Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda lined up earlier on Monday to criticize Eritrea and urge the council to pass the resolution.

The president of Somalia's transitional government, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, told council members that Eritrea had been undermining his government's efforts to reach reconciliation agreements with Islamist groups like al Shabaab.

"The support they find from the Eritrean regime has prevented such reconciliation," Ahmed said.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi also blasted Eritrea and its President Isaias Afewerki. Speaking by video link, he described Asmara's approach to the Horn of Africa as "lawlessness and reckless disregard for international law."

Afewerki had also asked to address the council but Eritrea complained he was not given enough time to come to New York.

The push for new sanctions followed a report by a U.N. monitoring group in July that found Eritrea continued to provide political, financial, training and logistical support to al Shabaab and other armed groups in Somalia.

Eritrea's U.N. ambassador, Araya Desta, told Reuters on Friday the allegations were "ridiculous" and the draft resolution "outrageous."

Eritrea has blamed its rival, Ethiopia, from which it split away in 1993, for the sanctions drive.

China to send envoy to mediate in Sudan oil row

BEIJING (Reuters) - China is to send an envoy to seek a compromise between Sudan and South Sudan over a fees dispute threatening oil supplies from the two recently separated countries, which are big crude suppliers to the big Asian economy.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said his government's special envoy on African affairs, Liu Guijin, would "in coming days visit north and south Sudan to make efforts at mediation and conciliation".

The move shows the big stake Beijing has in preserving stability between Sudan in the north and South Sudan, which seceded in July, taking some three-quarters of the formerly united country's 500,000 barrels per day of oil production.

"China voices its concern over the recent tensions between north and south Sudan, especially at the lack of progress in negotiations over the issues related to oil," Hong told a daily briefing.

"We hope that both sides will exercise calm and restraint, and appropriately settle their differences through consultations and negotiations," said Hong.

China has sought to maintain good ties with both countries since South Sudan declared independence from its larger and long-dominant northern neighbour, the culmination of a 2005 peace deal that ended what was one of Africa's longest and deadliest wars. Some two million people died in the conflict.

But Beijing's balancing act is being tested by the dispute.

Oil is vital to both Sudan and South Sudan, but they have not agreed on how much the landlocked South, which must send its oil exports through pipelines in Sudan to a port, should pay in transit fees.

Sudan last week denied it had halted South Sudan's oil exports in a transit fee row, but said it had confiscated crude shipments to make up for payments it claims South Sudan owes. South Sudan's oil minister said then that at least one 1-million-barrel cargo of his country's oil was still "detained" at Port Sudan on Wednesday.

South Sudanese officials said two shipments had been held up or would be held up because of the decision, including a 600,000 barrel shipment sold to China's Unipec. In the first ten months of 2011, China's imports of Sudanese crude were up 5.5 percent on the same period a year before, reaching 11.1 million tonnes: about 5 percent of China's total crude oil imports.

Analysts have said the fees row is likely to stoke tensions between the two old civil war foes and complicate talks in the Ethiopian capital over a raft of issues related to the secession, including debt and the position of the shared border.

Explosion kills Kenyan policeman in Dadaab camp

GARISSA, Kenya (Reuters) - An explosion killed one Kenyan police officer and wounded three on Monday at the Dadaab refugee complex in the north of the country near Somalia, provincial police commander Leo Nyongesa said.

He said the blast occurred in the Ifo refugee camp, part of the Dadaab facility in North Eastern province that is home to more than 400,000 Somalis. The Kenya Red Cross confirmed the casualties.

The officers were in a convoy of police cars escorting United Nations officials to the camp. The blast took place when they stepped out of their car, Nyongesa said.

Kenya sent troops across the border into Somalia in October to crush the al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab rebels it blames for attacks on its security forces and tourists inside Kenya, and the kidnap of two Spanish aid workers from Dadaab.

Since then, there has been a string of attacks in the area. A remote-controlled bomb hit a police car in another part of the Dadaab complex on November 15 and on November 5 a U.N. convoy struck a bomb buried in the camp, but it did not explode.

The attacks in Dadaab, coupled with the kidnappings in October, have forced a number of aid agencies to scale back staff numbers, hitting the provision of aid to those living in the world's biggest refugee camp.

Kabila leads Congo poll: partial vote tally

KINSHASA (Reuters) - President Joseph Kabila was leading in Democratic Republic of Congo's presidential election, according to a Reuters tally on Friday of votes counted from 15 percent of the country's polling stations.

Kabila took 1,523,095 votes, or 51.8 percent of the 2.94 million votes counted so far, according to the tally of figures read out at a news conference by national election commission chief Daniel Mulunda Ngoy.

His closest rival Etienne Tshisekedi was on 997,071 votes, or 33.9 percent. However the tally so far included virtually no results from the capital Kinshasa, where Tshisekedi is confident of strong support. The percentage of votes counted so far varied widely by province.

Warplanes hit Somalia militant bases: residents

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Fighter jets bombed an Islamist militant base in southern Somalia on Friday, residents and soldiers said, as neighbouring Kenya continued its offensive against the rebels.

Kenya, which has carried out air strikes in the past, did not immediately acknowledge responsibility. Its troops entered Somalia almost two months ago vowing to wipe out the al Shabaab rebel group it accuses of being behind attacks on tourists, aid workers and security forces on its soil.

"We heard sounds of the jets and then bombs. We understood later that they were targeting an al Shabaab base in Ceel Ade village," Ali Keyre Mohamed, a local resident, told Reuters.

"We don't know the casualties as a result of the bombardment," he said.

A Kenyan military spokesman told Reuters he would investigate the reports.

An African Union peacekeeping force is largely responsible for keeping Somalia's weak transitional government from falling to al Shabaab in the capital. The Horn of Africa nation has not had a fully-functioning government since warlords toppled military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

Government troops, who are attacking the rebels alongside the Kenyans in southern Somalia, confirmed the airstrike to Reuters, saying that two jets had dropped several bombs.

Al Shabaab said it had provoked the airstrikes with a successful attack on a Kenyan position earlier on Friday.

"They dropped six bombs. Four civilians died and 35 others were injured," Sheikh Abdiaziz Abu Muscab, an al Shabaab spokesman, told Reuters.

"They took to the jets after we fought them and gave them an unforgettable lesson early this morning. Our fighters were not there. We are based nowhere."

Though Kenya's advance on the militants started rapidly, it stalled quickly with its military blaming mud and heavy rains. Al Shabaab fighters say their daily hit-and-run raids and ambushes are hampering the campaign.

Senegal opposition fails to agree on Wade challenger

DAKAR (Reuters) - A coalition of Senegalese opposition parties failed on Thursday to agree on a single candidate to challenge President Abdoulaye Wade in next year's presidential election, increasing Wade's chances of staying in power.

Senegal will be voting in a tense election in February. The opposition has accused octogenarian Wade of seeking to hand over power to his son Karim after the election. Father and son deny such plans.

More than 30 parties, mostly on the left of the political spectrum under the umbrella organisation Bennoo Siggil Senegaal, failed to agree on a single candidate at a meeting on Thursday evening.

Moustapha Niasse, leader of the AFP party, who was the kingmaker in the 2000 election that brought Wade to power, won votes from 19 parties, pushing Ousmane Tanor Dieng, of the former ruling Socialist Party, into second place.

Dieng however rejected the results and said he would also run.

"In Bennoo Siggil Senegaal, we never vote ... Decisions have always been taken by consensus. Since there was no consensus on this question, I consider myself as a candidate for Bennoo Siggil Senegaal," Dieng said.

Political analysts say the failure by the coalition, which has been trying find a candidate for the past two years, increases the chances of Wade or another candidate from his liberal side of the political spectrum of winning the election.

Wade and other liberals represent the forces that were in political opposition during long years left-leaning Social Party rule after independence. Samir Gadio, emerging markets strategist at Standard Bank in London, said Wade was unlikely to win outright in the first round of the Feb 2012 presidential election given his declining popularity.

"We should expect a run-off vote which will prolong market uncertainty and fuel concerns about Senegal's short-term outlook," Gadio said.

"Accordingly, the electoral cycle has the potential to weigh negatively on Senegal's $500 million Eurobond (currently yielding about 7 percent), although the country's democratic credentials have consolidated over the past decades," he said.

Senegalese political analyst Mame Less Camara said the coalition's failure will increase the chances of what many are calling a liberal trio - Wade, Macky Sall and Idrissa Seck.

Sall and Seck are former prime ministers in Wade's government but both left over policy differences.

"Bennoo's implosion will lead to a splitting of opposition votes which could enable the incumbent president reach the second round of the election," said political analyst Babacar Justin Ndiaye.

Senegal was heading towards the most unpredictable election in its history, he added.

Carter praises Egyptian vote, cites some problems

CAIRO (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said Egyptians "should be proud" of the first phase of the parliamentary elections that began this week but said there were areas for improvement for the remaining two stages of the vote.

His Carter Center visited more than 300 polling stations in all nine of the Egyptian governorates where voting got under way this week in the first free parliamentary election since army officers overthrew the monarchy in 1952.

"Carter Center witnesses in Egypt reported enthusiastic participation in the election and a largely peaceful process, for which the Egyptian people should be proud," Carter said in a statement released on Friday.

"However, the process is far from complete, and there are several areas for improvement before the next two rounds of voting. We hope that steps can be taken to help ensure the integrity and transparency of these elections," he said.

The elections are the first since President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in February by a popular uprising.

The Carter Center statement listed observations including the fact that campaigning had continued during the voting, contrary to regulations.

It also said there had been "considerable disorganisation and confusion stemming from inadequate preparation and instructions to the judges and workers on how to efficiently count the ballots and report the results to the supervising sorting committee".

The vote was held over Monday and Tuesday. Results were due to be announced later on Friday, following repeated delays.

Egypt's Ganzouri says will not hold finance portfolio

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's new prime minister, Kamal al-Ganzouri, said on Thursday he had no intention of taking on the finance portfolio in a cabinet he promised to have fully formed by Saturday.

The independent Al-Masry Al-Youm daily, on its Facebook page on Thursday, had cited an unidentified source as saying Ganzouri would keep the Finance Ministry for himself.

But the new premier said he was not interested.

"I will appoint a finance minister, because I can't take on such responsibility at this time," Ganzouri told reporters. Egypt's economy has been hammered by the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak and the political uncertainty since then. Ganzouri was credited with economic liberalisation and delivering growth when he was premier under Mubarak in the 1990s. The current finance minister, Hazem el-Beblawi, told Reuters on Wednesday he had not been approached to stay on. Prior to Ganzouri's appointment, he submitted his resignation in October but it was rejected by the ruling military.

Ganzouri said he had met six candidates for various ministerial posts on Thursday and would continue consultations on Friday before completing the cabinet on Saturday. "The new government will include three youth and two women, and there will be no civilian interior minister. From eight to 10 of the current ministers will stay," he said.

The posts would include a minister for investment and public enterprises, a portfolio that was abolished in the wake of Egypt's popular uprising early this year. The cabinet would include no deputies to the prime minister.

Zuma's appointment of top prosecutor invalid: court

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's Appeal Court, in a setback to President Jacob Zuma, ruled on Thursday that his 2009 appointment of the country's most senior prosecutor was invalid and unconstitutional.

The ruling, which sets aside the appointment of Menzi Simelane as national director of public prosecutions, comes amid criticism from opposition parties that Zuma has appointed his acolytes in senior government roles.

South Africa's opposition Democratic Alliance took the case to the Appeals Court after losing a High Court bid last year to have the appointment declared invalid. It said in court papers Simelane was not fit and proper for the post to which Zuma appointed him two years ago.

Appeals Court Judge Mahomed Navsa said in his ruling that Zuma did not consider all the facts before the appointment of Simelane, as there were "many unresolved questions concerning his integrity and experience." "I accept that the president must have a multitude of daily duties and is a very busy man. However when he is dealing with an office as important as that of the NDPP, which is integral to the rule of law and to our success as a democracy, then time should be taken to get it right," Navsa said. Zuma's spokesman and Simelane were not immediately available for comment.

DA leader Helen Zille told reporters that Thursday's court ruling, likely to be challenged by Zuma and the government in the Constitutional Court -- South Africa's highest court -- was a victory for democracy.

She pointed to Zuma's appointment of a chief justice deemed to be in his camp and this week's replacement of a veteran anti-apartheid activist as the country's top corruption investigator with a Zuma adviser as moves by the president to surround himself with supporters. "The purpose is to put a Zuma acolyte in every one of those key institutions which should be independent and the purpose of that is to ensure that those institutions, far from keeping powerful people accountable in the interest of the people, protect those powerful individuals," Zille said.

Zuma last month fired two cabinet ministers and suspended the national police chief in a bid to dispel criticism that he is soft on corruption.

But his recent anti-graft action and his decision to launch a fresh inquiry into a multi-billion arms deal has failed to convince analysts that he is hardening his stance on the issue.

Graft and sweetheart deals that enrich the politically-connected in sectors such as mining are among the obstacles to foreign investment in Africa's biggest economy. The 30 billion rand deal to buy European military equipment from about a decade ago has clouded South Africa's politics for years.

Zuma was linked to the deal when he was deputy president through his former financial adviser, who was jailed for corruption. This almost torpedoed his bid for high office but all charges against him were dropped in 2009.