Opposition in Zimbabwe Decries New Laws
HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Two months before the presidential election, lawmakers from Zimbabwe's governing party pushed through legislation yesterday granting the police sweeping search-and-arrest powers and limiting the input of independent election monitors.
Opposition leaders accused lawmakers of illegally forcing the measures through parliament in a bid to paralyze opponents of President Robert Mugabe and control the outcome of the election.
"Clearly there is no way in which this election can be free and fair if held in terms of these laws, in addition to other fascist pieces of legislation being enacted by this regime," said Gibson Sibanda, an opposition leader from the Movement for Democratic Change.
The bill, which proposed restricting independent election monitors, banning absentee voting and limiting distribution of election posters, was passed despite being defeated earlier in the week -- a breach of parliamentary rules, Sibanda said.
Mugabe, 77, unpopular at home and increasingly ostracized abroad, faces an uphill battle to stay in power after 21 years in office.
Health Workers Flee Gabon Region
LIBREVILLE, Gabon -- International health workers battling an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in northeastern Gabon have fled because of security concerns, aid organizations said.
The Red Cross said the workers were forced to leave the disease-hit region of Mekambo because of hostility from locals over what they saw as interference in traditional burial rites.
The outbreak has claimed 25 lives, 18 in Gabon and seven in neighboring Congo Republic, since the start of December.
Health workers had been trying to stop people from touching corpses. However, in some local burial rites, relatives remove body parts from corpses, heightening the risk of spreading the disease.
Argentina Imposes Curbs on Accounts
BUENOS AIRES -- Thousands of people jammed the Argentine capital's streets after the government tightened its grip on the banking system by restricting withdrawals from consumer bank accounts to forestall panic.
The government announced that sums of more than $10,000 in checking accounts and more than $3,000 in savings accounts would be switched into fixed-term deposits that would be off-limits to depositors for at least a year.
The demonstrators, banging pots and chanting insults against the government, cut off traffic on half a dozen main avenues in the capital in the latest of a series of protests that have gripped Argentina in the past weeks.
New Nicaraguan Leader Assumes Power
MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- A 73-year-old industrial engineer who deflected a third attempt by the Sandinistas to retake power was sworn in as Nicaragua's new president.
Enrique Bolaños of the Constitutionalist Liberal Party became the third democratically elected president in Nicaragua since the Sandinistas peacefully handed over power in 1990, pressured by U.S.-backed rebels.
Lawmakers from the opposition Sandinista National Liberation Front boycotted the event, however, after members of Bolaños's party showed up wearing the party's colors. The Sandinistas complained the act violated the national spirit of the inauguration.
Bolaños, a fierce critic of the Sandinistas, received 56 percent of the votes in elections in November, defeating Sandinista leader and former president Daniel Ortega. It was Ortega's third consecutive defeat.
20 Police Injured in Belfast Violence
BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- Rioters attacked police in north Belfast in a second consecutive night of violence between Protestants and Catholics. Police said about 20 officers were injured.
Police estimated the crowd at 350 people from the rival factions.
Youths on the rooftops of shops sent a barrage of stones and gasoline bombs at police, and a homemade grenade was also thrown at police lines. Officers warned they would respond with plastic bullets unless the attacks stopped.
The first day of attacks began Wednesday when parents arrived to pick up their children from the Holy Cross School, which was at the center of sectarian clashes for months last year.
FOR THE RECORD
A Norwegian peace team arrived in Sri Lanka for talks with the government on ending almost 20 years of ethnic war with Tamil Tiger rebels, who are fighting for an independent homeland in the northern and eastern parts of the country.
Compiled by Leslie Shepherd