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France ‘at war’ with Al-Qaeda in North Africa: PM

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2010 at 7:17 am

PARIS, July 27, 2010 (AFP) – France is “at war” with Al-Qaeda and will step up military involvement in North Africa after the regional branch of the jidahist group killed a French aid worker, the prime minister said Tuesday.


“We are at war with Al-Qaeda,” Francois Fillion said in a radio interview.


“The fight against terrorism continues and it is going to strengthen, particularly against AQIM,” he said, using the acronym for Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner (L) meet with Niger’s leader, general Salou Djibo (R) on July 27, 2010 at the presidential palace in Niamey, Nigeria. AFP

But officials and experts said any action would stop short of a full-scale armed intervention and would probably involve closer working ties with local anti-terrorist forces.


President Nicolas Sarkozy has vowed to respond to the killing of Michel Germaneau, 78, who was kidnapped in April in Niger, and on Tuesday officials met to discuss possible French action in the region.


Axel Poniatowski, head of a parliamentary foreign affairs commission, said after meeting Fillion that France would offer “logistical assistance” to operations by national armies in Sahel countries.


Asked if France was contemplating air strikes, Poniatowski said: “I don’t think so… (because) these are camps of about 20 men who are very mobile and change location every day or very regularly.”


“We can’t talk of reprisals. We can’t talk of vengeance. But it is clear that France will offer its support to actions that could be carried out by Mauritania, Mali or Niger,” he said.


Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner visited the three countries on Monday and Tuesday and said France stood by their fight against the militants but was not aiming for a “military escalation” in the region.


“It is not a military escalation that France is pursuing. Simply, a deadly escalation has been carried out by the people of AQIM,” he said, referring to the killing of the hostage.


“There is a military option that was imposed on us,” he said in Niamey. “We will be alongside our Nigerien, Malian, Mauritanian friends.”


Asked if French military bases would be established in the region, he said: “We are not going to install bases. We have very clear defence agreements.”


A source in the prime minister’s office said that the French military would step up “cooperation in training the armies” of the Sahel region countries but would not send extra troops itself.


AQIM said Sunday it executed Germaneau in revenge after French and Mauritanian soldiers killed six of its militants in a failed bid to rescue him in Mali last week. Mauritanian officials said seven were killed.


Some French officials had suggested privately that the aid worker’s captors may have already killed him weeks before the raid, and on Tuesday Fillon became the first to do so in public.


France had joined the raid by Mauritanian forces against AQIM on Malian soil “because we hoped that Michel Germaneau might be in the camp,” Fillon told Europe 1 radio.


“I think the hostage’s life was condemned from the day we received this ultimatum on July 12,” he added, however. “We might think Michel Germaneau was already dead at that time. But that is just a supposition.”


France is the former colonial ruler of most of the Sahel, a desert region along the south of the Sahara running through Mauritania, Mali, Niger and southern Algeria, and retains influence with regional leaders.


Paris already has military cooperation agreements with its former West African colonies, and helps to train and coordinate local anti-terror forces, in an area which receives around 30,000 French tourists per year.


Some experts said France’s scope for military action in the vast desert region is limited.


“I think they will make a big show of doing something, carry out an air raid to destroy a tent and a few camels,” said one French anti-terrorism specialist, who asked not to be named.


“They’ll lay hold of two or three poor idiots who are hanging around and say, ‘There, job done.'”

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Source: SGGP

South Africa shivers during World Cup party

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2010 at 4:26 am

Glamorous Brazilians in skimpy bikinis are staple fare at the World Cup but in South Africa you’re more likely to see fans wrapped up in scarves and gloves as the nation shivers.


Temperatures have plummeted to close to freezing at some games, giving a totally different feel to a tournament usually played in blazing summer tempeatures as players swap drinks bottles for gloves.


You have to go right back to Argentina in 1978 for the last World Cup held outside the summer months, since when football’s showpiece has sizzled in the heat in hotspots such as Spain, Mexico and the United States.


The South African showpiece opened in Johannesburg last weekend in warm sunshine but since then cold weather has swept across this vast nation from the north right down to Cape Town on the southwest coast.

A Brazilian fan braves the cold on June 15 during the 2010 World Cup match Brazil vs.North Korea at at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg

In high-altitude Bloemfontein, temperatures in the coming days are due to dip well below freezing with the South African Weather Service issuing an alert for very cold weather and a black frost.


In northern Rustenburg the plummeting mercury prompted hundreds of volunteers at the Royal Bafokeng stadium to muffle up for the New Zealand v Slovakia clash.


Bright sunshine during the day means England, based in Rustenburg, at the foot of the Magaliesberg mountains, have been training in conditions similar to those of an Alpine ski resort.


But Samuel Ntekile, a security guard at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus, had a warning for Wayne Rooney and his team-mates if they manage to stay in the tournament until the later stages.


“It’s freezing now but it’s going to get a lot colder,” he said. “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”


AFP reporters have reported freezing fountains in the economic hub of Johannesburg, where it was bitingly cold for the Brazil v North Korea evening clash at the city’s Ellis Park stadium.


FIFA said the mercury had dropped to three degrees Celsius (37 degrees Fahrenheit) an hour before kick-off, prompting some of the Brazilians, including Real Madrid star Kaka, to wear gloves.


At the Portugal v Ivory Coast clash in coastal Port Elizabeth one American journalist complained: “This is a lot colder than covering NHL. At least in ice hockey they equip you with hats and gloves.”


One supporter, who only gave his name as Mas, made a 14-hour bus trip from his home in Durban for the game and said: “Me and my two friends have had to drink a couple of bottles of whiskey just to keep warm.”


A race meeting Thursday at the city’s Fairview racecourse was washed out due to heavy rains.


In Cape Town, night-time temperatures have dropped with snow on the top of the landmark Table Mountain though they are forecast to edge up in the coming days.


Defending champions Italy were forced to play through a chilly downpour during their opener against Paraguay, making conditions at the city’s Green Point stadium slippery, with players having difficulty controlling the ball.


Meanwhile disaster teams mopped up on Wednesday after floods and a blaze hit more than 2,100 shack dwellers.


The teams were placed on high alert at the weekend for bad weather that saw heavy rains, gale force winds, very cold conditions, widespread snowfalls and rough seas, the city said in a statement.

“The city of Cape Town?s disaster response teams are out in full force assisting flood victims, while still ensuring that contingency plans can be activated for the duration of the 2010 FIFA World Cup,” the statement said.

Source: SGGP

Seminar paves way for exports to APEC, Africa

In Uncategorized on May 29, 2010 at 5:19 pm




Seminar paves way for exports to APEC, Africa


QĐND – Saturday, May 29, 2010, 20:50 (GMT+7)

A workshop on opportunities for exports to APEC and African markets via e-commerce was held in Hanoi on May 28 by the Alibaba.com group in collaboration with the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the OSB company.


Brian Wong, senior director of global sales of Alibaba.com said Vietnam’s small-and medium-sized enterprises should use e-commerce to promote their export capacity.

The country is capable of exporting high-quality products and e-commerce is a good way for companies to expand their customer and supplier networks, improving their competitiveness in the global trade environment, he added.

David Tan, senior manager of global sales of Alibaba.com, stressed the opportunities for Vietnamese businesses to tap APEC and African markets, saying they can find data on top buyers in each category or each region, particularly APEC and Africa, on Alibaba.com.

The number of Vietnamese joining the membership of Alibaba.com rose 38 percent over the past year.

Alibaba.com has provided the Gold Supplier service pack to domestic businesses and set up office in Ho Chi Minh City in cooperation with the OSB company, helping improve customer service.

The number of members of Alibaba.com worldwide had by March 2010 reached 12.5 million.


Source: VNA


Source: QDND

Eclipse plunges central, east Africa into semi-darkness

In World on January 15, 2010 at 9:18 am

An annular eclipse raced across central and eastern Africa Friday, briefly reducing the Sun to a blazing ring surrounding a sombre disk.








The moon begins to obstruct the view of the sun from earth in Colombo on January 15, 2010. The longest lasting solar eclipse of the last millenium was first visible in Sri Lanka’s north and northeastern areas.

The solar coverup, visible in a roughly 300-kilometre (185-mile) band running 12,900 kms (8,062 miles), will at one point set a duration record that will remain unbeaten for more than a thousand years.


In the Ugandan capital Kampala motorcycle taxi drivers stopped on street corners to share dark glasses and gaze up at the sky.


Some residents were afraid of the intensity of the light.


“Can’t it burn someone? You can’t even look direct because I’m fearing for my eyes. I’m fearing it can burn me,” said Angela Namukwaya, a shopkeeper in a Kampala suburb.


In Kenya, John Saitega, a 34-year-old Maasai and father of six in Olte Tefi 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of Nairobi, said he and his friends learned of the eclipse and the risk gazing at it carries for their eyesight from local radio and television.


They were all sharing one pair of dark goggles and taking turns to look at the Sun, he said.


“It’s getting interesting. Birds are singing. It’s actually getting cold here. It looks like night now,” he told AFP.


An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun but does not completely obscure it, thus leaving a ring — an annulus — of sunlight flaring around the lunar disk.


The Moon’s shadow first struck the southwestern tip of Chad and western Central African Republic at 0514 GMT and then flitted across Uganda, Kenya, and Somalia.


The lunar umbra, or shadow was set to cross the Indian Ocean, Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and China before expiring in the Shandong peninsula at 0859 GMT.


 


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Africa Cup: Egypt restore sanity, Benin denied first win

In Vietnam Sports on January 13, 2010 at 8:36 am

LUANDA, Jan 13, 2010 (AFP) – Champions Egypt kicked off their Africa Cup of Nations’ title defence in scintillating style on Tuesday to restore some measure of sanity to proceedings in Angola after a spate of shocks on the opening two days.








The Egyptian national team pose before their football match against Nigeria in the group “C” stage match at the African Cup of Nations CAN2010 at the Ombaka stadium in Benguela on January 12, 2010. Egypt won 3-1. AFP PHOTO

Hustled out of a World Cup berth by bitter rivals Algeria in November’s play-off the Pharaohs arrived here with motivation aplenty.


And they hit the ground running with a 3-1 defeat of Nigeria to top Group C ahead of Mozambique and Benin, who shared the spoils 2-2 in the day’s other game.


After Angola’s sensational collapse to Mali, Malawi’s whipping of Algeria, and favourites Ivory Coast being held by Burkina Faso, Egypt took to the pitch at their peril.


But the six-time champions didn’t falter as they brought an end to a 33-year-old winless run they have endured against the west Africans with the goals coming from Emad Motaeb, skipper Ahmed Hassan, and Substitute Mohamed Nagi.


Nigeria had taken an early lead through Chinedu Obasi.


Striker Mohamed Zidan said: “We didn’t give up. I think we deserved the victory.”


Egypt’s assistant coach, Shawki Garib, added: “The victory over Nigeria is just the beginning, we still have a long way to go and so we still need our fans’ genuine support and prayers.”


Nigeria coach, Shuaibu Amodu, said his team paid the price for some schoolboy errors.


“We played well and controlled the game especially in the first half but somehow we made some silly mistakes and we were punished,” said a miserable Amodu.


Later, Benin were on course for their first ever Africa Cup of Nations win when they shot out of the starting stalls to go two goals up in the first 20 minutes against Mozambique.


Their goals came via a penalty by Razak Omotoyossi and an own goal by Mozambique defender Dario Khan.


Mozambique’s Almiro Lobo reduced the deficit before the half hour mark with Goncalves Fumo netting the equaliser in the 54th minute.


Benin coach, Michel Dessuyer, said: “I have to accept this result even though we lost a 2-0 lead. We failed to defend our advantage and now we have to focus on the next match against Nigeria.”


His Mozambican counterpart, Mart Nooij, reflected: “The first 20 minutes was disastrous for us. After a good prepration, the players went into the game like a bull chasing after a red flag, but we came back in the second half and played a very wonderful game.”


The latest developments from Friday’s deadly attack on the Togo team bus centred on the arrest by Angolan police of two suspects wanted in connection with the machine gun assault which has cast a long shadow over the competition.


Burkina Faso, one of the three teams left in Cabinda where the attack took place, are desperate to leave the troubled province which has been the subject of a massive clampdown by security forces.


“We want to get to Luanda as quickly as possible due to the security question,” Burkina Faso’s assistant coach Gualbert Kabore declared.


“We have to stay in Cabinda until Saturday morning. Organisers have taken draconian measures and to get out we have to be accompanied by security personnel. It complicates life.”


Meanwhile, 2010 World Cup boss Danny Jordaan told AFP that Angola was aware of the dangers of staging games in the restive enclave and must take responsibility for the attack.


“How long is it known that there is a separatist group in Angola for many many years? What are the possibilities of a terror attack? It was known,” Jordaan said.


“It is a responsibility of the host nation to deal with those issues,” said Jordaan, who led a technical team to Angola in 2006 to assess its readiness for the tournament, on behalf of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).


Wednesday’s action sees Group D get up and running in Lubango, with Cameroon facing Gabon and Tunisia, champions in 2004 on home turf, up against Zambia.


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Shell-shocked Togo leaves as Africa Cup opens

In Vietnam Sports on January 12, 2010 at 12:36 pm

LUANDA, Jan 10, 2010 (AFP) – Togo’s national football team, still reeling from a rebel attack that killed two of their squad, traveled home Sunday against the players’ wishes as the Africa Cup of Nations kicked off in Angola.


President Jose Eduardo dos Santos denounced Friday’s attack by separatist rebels in the northern enclave of Cabinda, where the teammates were flying back to Togo with their two slain colleagues.


“We condemn this act of terror, but the competition will continue in Cabinda,” Dos Santos said as he opened the tournament. “We are together, may the best man win.”


His government and African football officials pleaded to the last second for Togolese authorities to allow the players to fulfill their wish to compete in the tournament to honour their slain colleagues.


“It’s very sad. It’s hard for Africa and for us. These things are part of life, you have to accept it,” Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor told AFP at the airport in Cabinda.


The team later arrived home in Lome on a special government plane, where it was met at the airport by Prime Minister Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo, members of the government and sports officials, an AFP correspondent reported.


Cabinda is to host seven of the tournament’s 22 matches, but with Togo’s goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale still in critical care at a South African hospital, their prime minister ordered the team home.


“We understand the position of the players who want to in some way avenge their dead colleagues, but it would be irresponsible for the Togolese authorities to allow them to continue,” Houngbo earlier told reporters in Lome.








Players of Angolan and Malian national football teams take a minute of silence to pay respects to the Togo team casualties at the opening match of African Cup of Nations football championships CAN2010 between Angola and Mali at November 11 stadium in Angola’s capital Luanda on January 10 (AFP PHOTO)

Rebels ambushed the Togo convoy as they drove into the Cabinda enclave from neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville on Friday, leaving players cowering under their seats during a 20-minute gunbattle with security forces.


Goalkeeper Obilale was airlifted to a Johannesburg hospital to undergo surgery to treat gunshot wounds to the lower back and abdomen.


“He is ventilated at the moment, it’s still early stages at the moment,” a hospital spokeswoman said. “He is in critical condition but he stable.”


Separatist rebels threatened to carry out more attacks, saying they had warned Confederation of African Football (CAF) boss Issa Hayatou against holding matches in Cabinda.


“This is going to continue, because the nation is at war, because Hayatou persists,” said Rodrigues Mingas, secretary general of the Forces for the Liberation of the State of Cabinda-Military Position (FLEC-PM).


“We wrote two months before the Nations Cup to Mr Issa Hayatou to warn him that we were at war. He did not want to take our warnings into consideration,” Mingas told AFP by telephone.


“They were warned, they knew it, and they closed their eyes.”


Mingas’s faction is one of several groups battling for independence in small but oil-rich Cabinda, a cornerstone of Angola’s economic boom, despite a 2006 peace agreement.


Mingas now lives in exile in France, and a French foreign ministry spokesman on Sunday vowed a response to his comments.


South African President Jacob Zuma condemned the shooting as “shocking and unacceptable”, but brushed away speculation that the attack could affect his nation’s hosting of the World Cup in June.


He “reiterated that South Africa remains 100 percent ready to host the FIFA World Cup, and dismissed speculation that the Angolan incident had any bearing on the World Cup tournament in South Africa,” his office said in a statement.


Despite the sombre mood in Cabinda, spirits soared in Luanda, where cars honked and pedestrians blew trumpets to celebrate Angola’s opening match against Mali.


However, Mali was able to wipe out a four-goal deficit to draw 4-4 with the hosts.


The tournament was meant as a coming-out party for the oil-rich nation after decades of civil war, and Angola put on a splashy opening ceremony with fireworks, laser lights and traditional dancers enacting scenes from the country’s history.


The normally traffic-clogged streets were deserted as Angolans gathered on rooftops and huddled around televisions to watch the game.


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Africa Cup of Nations opens with condemnation of rebel attack

In Vietnam Sports on January 12, 2010 at 12:35 pm

LUANDA, Jan 10, 2010 (AFP) – The Africa Cup of Nations opened Sunday with President Jose Eduardo dos Santos condemning the rebel attack that killed at least two members of the Togo squad, but insisting the games would go on.








Malian fans celebrate a 4:4 tie during the opening match of African Cup of Nations football championships between Angola and Mali at the November 11 stadium in the Angolan capital Luanda on January 10, 2010. AFP PHOTO

The gun attack Friday in the restive northern province of Cabinda has cast a pall over the opening of Africa’s premier football tournament, which had been meant as a coming-out party for the oil-rich nation after decades of civil war.


“We condemn this act of terror, but the competition will continue in Cabinda,” Dos Santos said. “We are together, may the best man win.”


Togo’s government has dispatched a plane to return its team home, even though players wanted to contest the 16-nation competition to honour their assistant coach and a team spokesman killed in the attack claimed by separatist guerrillas.


Coach Hubert Velud told AFP in Cabinda that the team was ready to leave, but Angolan authorities and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) were said to be in talks with Togolese officials in a last-minute effort to convince the team to stay.


Cabinda is to host seven of the tournament’s 22 matches, but with Togo’s goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale still in critical care at a South African hospital, their prime minister ordered the team home.


“We understand the position of the players who want to in some way avenge their dead colleagues, but it would be irresponsible for the Togolese authorities to allow them to continue,” Houngbo told reporters in Lome.


Captain Emmanuel Adebayor told a French radio station that Togo President Faure Gnassingbe had personally told the team to return, a conversation that turned the team’s decision.


“We all decided to do something good for the country and play to honour those who died,” said Adebayor, a Manchester City striker. “Unfortunately, the head of state and the country’s authorities have decided otherwise. We will pack up and go home.”


South African President Jacob Zuma condemned the shooting as “shocking and unacceptable”, but brushed away speculation that the attack could affect his nation’s hosting of the World Cup in June.


He “reiterated that South Africa remains 100 percent ready to host the FIFA World Cup, and dismissed speculation that the Angolan incident had any bearing on the World Cup tournament in South Africa,” his office said in a statement.


Rebels ambushed the Togo convoy as they drove into the Cabinda enclave from neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville on Friday, leaving players cowering under their seats during a 20-minute gunbattle with security forces.


Separatist rebels threatened to carry out more attacks, saying they had warned CAF boss Issa Hayatou against holding matches in Cabinda.


“This is going to continue, because the nation is at war, because Hayatou persists,” said Rodrigues Mingas, secretary general of the Forces for the Liberation of the State of Cabinda-Military Position (FLEC-PM).


“We wrote two months before the Nations Cup to Mr Issa Hayatou to warn him that we were at war. He did not want to take our warnings into consideration,” Mingas told AFP by telephone.


“They were warned, they knew it, and they closed their eyes.”


Mingas’s faction is one of several groups battling for independence in small but oil-rich Cabinda, a cornerstone of Angola’s economic boom, despite a 2006 peace agreement.


The Cabinda shooting had security forces on edge in the capital Luanda in the run-up to Sunday’s opening game. In one incident, police fired into the ground after a driver failed to make a stop, witnesses said.


Goalkeeper Obilale came through surgery in a Johannesburg hospital for gunshot wounds to the lower back and abdomen.


“He is ventilated at the moment, it’s still early stages at the moment,” a hospital spokeswoman said. “He is in critical condition but he stable.”


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South Africa expands AIDS treatment for babies, mothers

In World on December 3, 2009 at 2:34 am

South African President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday unveiled a dramatic expansion in treatment for pregnant women and babies with HIV, sealing a turnaround in the AIDS fight in the world’s worst-affected country.


Zuma said that all babies with HIV will receive treatment at public facilities from next April, while women will receive care earlier in their pregnancies in a bid to prevent transmission to newborns.


He also announced that he was preparing to take a HIV test himself, and urged the public to do the same.


His speech cemented a sharp break with past policies, when the previous government of Thabo Mbeki questioned the link between HIV and AIDS and promoted garlic and beetroot instead of medication.


“This decision will contribute significantly towards the reduction of infant mortality over time,” Zuma said in a nationally televised speech to mark World AIDS Day.








A young boy is pictured at a shelter for HIV-infected mothers and their children in Johannesburg on November 25.

An estimated 5.7 million of South Africa’s 48 million people have HIV, including 280,000 children, according to the UN AIDS agency.


Currently anti-retroviral drugs are provided to babies based on how weak their immune system has become.


People with both HIV and tuberculosis will also qualify for expanded treatment, while Zuma said every health facility in the country would be equipped to provide care, which is currently limited to a few centres with special accreditation.


“What does this all mean? It means that we will be treating significantly larger numbers of HIV positive patients. It means that people will live longer and more fulfilling lives,” Zuma said.


“It does not mean that people should not use condoms consistently and correctly during every sexual encounter,” he added.


Speaking with a candor rarely seen among African leaders, Zuma also said that he would receive an HIV test.


“I am making arrangements for my own test. I have taken HIV tests before, and I know my status. I will do another test soon,” he said. “I urge you to start planning for your own tests.”


The tone marks a dramatic change for Zuma himself, who in 2006 said that he had showered to wash away the risk of AIDS after having sex with an HIV-positive woman. At the time, he was head of the National AIDS Council.


The new drive aims to meet the government’s goal of halving the number of new infections by 2011 while providing treatment to 80 percent of the people who need it.


Health ministry spokesman Fidel Radebe said the government did not yet have an estimate of how many people would benefit from the new measures, or for how much the expanded treatment would cost.


South Africa runs the world’s largest anti-retroviral programme, but under the existing scheme nearly one million people are still believed to need treatment.


The United States announced that it would provide South Africa with an additional 120 million dollars to buy more drugs over the next two years, in response to a request by Zuma.


Under Mbeki and his health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, South Africa became an international pariah for defying scientific evidence and stalling the roll-out of anti-retroviral drugs.

A recent Harvard study found that 365,000 people died prematurely because of the delay.

Since Zuma took office in May, he has made repeated public statements about the need to fight the disease — in stark contrast to Mbeki’s silence.

The disease has already taken a staggering toll on South Africa.

An estimated 1.5 million children have been orphaned by AIDS. A new study released last month found that by 2015, that number could rise to 5.7 million — or one-third of the nation’s children.


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Egypt quits N. Africa league after Algeria defeat

In Vietnam Sports on November 20, 2009 at 8:33 am

CAIRO, Nov 19, 2009 (AFP) – Egypt suspended its membership of the Union of North African Football Federations on Thursday, complaining that Algerian fans had thrown stones at their supporters during the country’s World Cup exit.


The Egyptian Football Federation wrote to its counterparts in Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia charging that its fans had come under sustained assault during the make-or-break qualification play-off in Khartoum on Wednesday, the state MENA news agency reported.








Algerian fans wave to welcome players of the Algerian national football team in Algiers on November 19, 2009 to celebrate their victory over Egypt (AFP photo)

Egypt had already called in the Algerian ambassador and recalled its own envoy from Algiers for consultations in protest.


The game’s Sudanese hosts strongly contested Egypt’s version of events insisting just four Egyptian fans had sustained minor injuries and calling in the Egyptian ambassador in Khartoum in its own protest.


By contrast, world football’s governing body FIFA said that three Algerian players and the goalkeeping coach suffered injuries that “weren’t superficial” ahead of Egypt’s 2-0 victory in Cairo on Saturday that forced the play-off.


A number of Algerian fans were also injured after the game, triggering attacks against Egyptians and Egyptian interests in Algeria.


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China adopts “malaria diplomacy” as part of Africa push

In Uncategorized on November 6, 2009 at 11:15 am

In a laboratory in China’s southern city of Guangzhou, scientists are trying to enhance the rare sweet wormwood shrub, from which artemisinin — the best drug to fight malaria — is derived.


China hopes to improve and use the drug as a uniquely Chinese weapon to fight malaria not on its own soil, where the deadly disease has been sharply pruned back, but in Africa, where it still kills one child every 30 seconds.


Already, a Chinese-backed eradication program on a small island off Africa has proven a huge success.


Away from its practical application, scientists back in the lab in Guangzhou are also achieving results. In one of the lab’s refrigerators sit a dozen triangular test-tubes holding seedlings of the sweet wormwood shrub, also called Artemisia annua, which has only been found in the wild in China, Vietnam and border areas in Myanmar.


“There are about 0.6 parts of artemisinin in every 100 parts of the plant in the wild, but we have managed to increase the artemisinin content to between 1.2 and 1.8,” said Feng Liling, assistant professor at the Tropical Medicine Institute in Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.


China pledged to help Africa fight malaria at the triennial Forum on China and Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2006 and has since set up 30 anti-malaria and prevention units. The next FOCAC meeting is in Egypt on November 8-9.


Helping developing countries eradicate malaria will help China project its influence and prestige as a global power, said politics professor Joseph Cheng at City University in Hong Kong.


“China is exploring cost effective ways to help the Third World and is interested in making distinct contributions,” Cheng said, adding that Western interest was often lacking in a disease that seldom afflicts rich country citizens.


“Malaria suits these requirements. It is not that expensive. It is cheaper than fighting AIDS.”


SUCCESSFUL TRIAL


Tanzania, Kenya and Nigeria have begun farming hybrids of the sweet wormwood shrub with Chinese and Vietnamese ancestry, said Li Guoqiao at the Tropical Medicine Institute.


“I inspected the plantations and the plants are growing well,” Li told Reuters in an interview.


Asked if China would export the high-yielding Artemisia annua to Africa, Li said: “We want to grow them in China and whatever we export depends on bilateral relationships.”


Li is spearheading a project on the tiny African island of Moheli, which belongs to the Comoros group of islands at the northern mouth of the Mozambique Channel.


In mid-November 2007, he launched a “mass drug administration” exercise on the island. Its entire population of 36,000 had to take two courses of anti-malarial drugs to flush the parasite from their bodies — on day one and day 40.


The rationale was that while mosquitoes pass the parasite from person to person, they are merely “vectors” and not hosts. The real reservoir of the disease is people, and many carry the parasite in their bodies without even showing symptoms.


“The key is to eradicate the source, which is in people. Without the source, the vectors are harmless,” he said.


The results were startling. While the parasite carrier rate in Moheli ranged from 5 to 94 percent from village to village before the exercise, that fell to 1 percent or less from January 2008 and has stayed around that figure since.

“Before, 70 to 80 percent of hospital patients were there for malaria. After that, you hardly find any,” Li said.

Comoros now bars anyone from entering Moheli unless they take a course of antimalarial drugs — a mix of artemisinin, primaquine and pyrimethamine that China provides for free.

Its government has asked Beijing to roll out the same program in two of its larger islands, Grande Comore and Anjouan, with a total population of 760,000. Li said Beijing supported the idea in principle and that funding was being worked out.


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