KAMPALA, Uganda — Patricia Kyazze sits at her desk amid the hanging oriental rugs, plush leather couches and sleek, glass-topped coffee tables of Nina Interiors, one of the Ugandan capital’s most upscale furniture outlets. Faraway from the political turmoil in neighboring Kenya, the bedroom and dining room displays bespeak calm and money — fitting for a city that’s seen two decades of political stability and economic growth. But with 90 percent of Uganda’s imports coming through Kenya’s Mombasa port, maintaining this growth and stability is becoming increasingly difficult. For about a month now, three of the furniture company’s containers, carrying […]

DAMASCUS CRACKDOWN ON DISSIDENTS CRITICIZED — Human rights groups and Western politicians have united in the past two weeks to criticize the Syrian government’s latest efforts to crack down on dissidents. Thirteen activists have been detained and allegedly tortured as part of a crackdown against individuals who participated in a Dec. 1 meeting of opposition and pro-democracy groups. They face several charges, including “weakening national sentiment,” “membership in an organization formed with the purpose of changing the structure of the state,” and “joining a secret association.” The detained include a cross-section of Syrian artists, writers, medical professionals and journalists, as […]

What looked like another bad day Feb. 7 for NATO’s efforts in Afghanistan ended with a hopeful development. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates addressed his fellow defense ministers in Vilnius, Lithuania, with a request he had made many times over the past six months. He again asked allies to increase the number of troops in the country’s south in preparation for the expected spring Taliban offensive and to shore up beleaguered forces from Canada, Britain, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Once again, it appeared NATO allies would demur. Some even had the […]

January turned out to be an eventful month for Ukraine, as the country became embroiled in a heated debate about its prospects for joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. While NATO has its supporters and critics in Ukrainian society, partisan divisions in the Ukrainian government have made political dialogue between these groups especially difficult. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko represents the fiercely pro-Western forces which push for the country’s speedy admission to NATO. The national parliament, Verkhovna Rada, is dominated by the Party of Regions and the Communist Party, which advocate for strengthening Ukraine’s economic and political ties with neighboring Russia. […]

Earlier this year, the Republic of the Congo became the 183rd state party to join the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which forbids the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, transfer, and use of chemical weapons (CW). In addition, the Indian media recently reported that the Indian government had eliminated over 90 percent of its chemical weapons, suggesting the country should fulfill its requirement to eliminate all its CW by April 2009. While welcome, these developments should not obscure the continuing difficulties facing the CWC as its April 2008 review conference approaches. Ambassador Rogelio Pfirter, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of […]

WASHINGTON – Despite little evidence that a massive program of aerial coca crop fumigation has worked in Colombia, and despite serious reservations by the Pentagon and by Afghan president Hamid Karzai, the U.S. State Department, backed by the White House, is quietly pushing the expansion of aerial poppy eradication into Afghanistan as a way to fight the Taliban. Soon Afghanistan, which produces 92 percent of the world’s opium and 80 percent of the world’s heroin, may be the target of a program of Plan Colombia-style aerial crop eradication. With the Afghan war entering a tenuous new phase, the stakes are […]

Many of us can recall when it was hazardous for tourists to drink tap water in much of Europe. Although times have changed and most Europeans (and tourists) now take clean drinking water for granted, an estimated 120 million people — one person in seven — on the continent do not have access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation, according to a recent analysis by the United Nations Economic Commission on Europe (UNECE). This makes them vulnerable to water-related infections, such as cholera, dysentery, E. coli, viral hepatitis A and typhoid. To remedy this situation, UNECE produced the 1999 […]

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Oscar Morales never imagined that his idea a month ago to mobilize a protest march on Facebook against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) would turn into the biggest protest march against an illegal armed group in Colombia’s history. On Monday, from Colombia’s border jungle towns to the capital, an estimated 4.8 million Colombians took to the streets in protest against leftist guerrillas. They were joined by thousands of other Colombians in some 130 cities across the world, with the biggest rallies taking place in Latin American capitals, Madrid and Washington. Public schools closed for the […]

If you believe the claims of conspiracy theorists, you probably think supporters of Israel have already held their secret meeting — picture a dark room and flickering candlelight — to decide who they will anoint as the next president of the United States. Chances are you also think the “Israel lobby” all but hand-delivered George W. Bush to the White House. Sorry to disappoint — on both counts. Supporters of Israel are as torn as the rest of the country during this election, and they were not exactly in control the last time around. First, the last elections: Bush received […]

The disintegration of historic American alliances, particularly U.S.-Europe relations in the wake of the Iraq war, has been much analyzed in recent years. But the untold story of U.S. alliance disintegration is the Asia-Pacific region, where America’s strategic preoccupation in Iraq and China’s rapid ascension are gradually altering and degrading America’s influence. Unfortunately, the U.S.-South Korea (ROK) alliance has followed this trend. Over the past five years, President Bush and South Korea President Roh Moo-hyun have together undermined bilateral cooperation. To be fair, the Bush administration has made major overtures to South Korea, including transferring control of wartime operations from […]

WOMEN’S RIGHTS DRIVE CONTINUES IN SAUDI ARABIA — A royal decree on Jan. 21 allowing women to check in to hotels or rent apartments without male guardians has raised hopes among Saudi women’s rights campaigners that another key restriction on Saudi women — the ability to drive a car — may soon be removed. Campaigners have submitted two petitions to King Abdullah since September and are collecting signatures for a third. Meanwhile, a number of Saudi royals have issued fairly pointed statements saying they support women’s desire to drive. Since coming to power in 2005, the king has staked out […]

Valery Loshchinin, Russia’s ambassador to the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, recently revealed that on Feb. 12, Russia and China will present a joint draft treaty to restrict the deployment of weapons in outer space. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is scheduled to address the 65-member, U.N.-affiliated forum on that day. Neither Russian nor Chinese government representatives have publicly indicated what provisions are included in the draft treaty. Nevertheless, both governments have long been concerned by U.S. military programs in this realm. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty prohibits countries from basing weapons of mass destruction in space, but its application to […]

EHUD BARAK ON WHERE HE WOULD SPEAK TO HAMAS — Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was in Paris at the end of January and he gave an interview to the French daily Le Figaro. This is what he had to say about an Egyptian proposal to hold four party talks on Gaza involving Israel, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas: I don’t see how we can accept the Egyptian proposal. We have nothing to say to Hamas. We speak to them when we interrogate them in our prisons. But this is a fundamentalist group that says openly that it has […]

As Kosovo prepares for new Prime Minister Hashim Thaci to declare its independence in the days or weeks ahead, Kosovo society is wracked by corruption and organized crime. According to the estimate of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), organized crime accounts for some 15-20 percent of the Kosovo economy: a figure that would presumably be far higher if one subtracts the substantial portion of Kosovo GDP made up of foreign aid. Some of Kosovo’s leading politicians, moreover, have been accused of connections to the organized crime networks. Citing unpublished intelligence reports, recent reports in the German media have […]

WASHINGTON — Indonesia’s strongman Suharto was many things to many people. As the debate rages over Suharto’s mixed legacy, he was ultimately an enigma to his protégé, vice president and successor Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie. When Suharto was forced to resign on May 21, 1998, after 32 years at the helm, he did not say a word to Habibie. They had once been close. Habibie had nicknamed his mentor “SGS” — “super genius Suharto” — to gain his favor. Suharto, a devotee of mysticism, was drawn to Habibie’s preacher-seer father whom he met quite by chance as a young military officer […]

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