Chavez Warns of Pending Worldwide Energy Crisis

SALAMANCA, Spain -- President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela said Saturday that the world faces an energy crisis but that there is little chance of his country and other OPEC members increasing oil production because they are already pumping near capacity.

"The world will have to get used to a barrel price, I think, of above $50, and energy will have to be saved," he told reporters as leaders from Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries met in this Spanish town.

"We're at the doorway of major energy crisis worldwide," Chavez said. "We'll have to develop other resources such as wind, solar and nuclear energy -- naturally for peaceful purposes."

Chavez said a "lack of imagination in the United States and the war in Iraq, which has destabilized the market in the Middle East, has also driven up prices." Increased demand from countries such as China and India is making the problem worse, he said.


* BLANTYRE, Malawi -- A worsening food crisis threatening millions of people prompted Malawi's president to declare the impoverished African nation a "disaster area" and call for more international aid.

Drought has slashed the production of corn, a staple for the poor southern African nation. Malawi faces persistent food insecurity, but this year threatens to be the worst in a decade, partly because high HIV infection rates have left farmers too sick to plant or tend their crops.

President Bingu wa Mutharika said the crisis was threatening 5 million of the country's 12 million people.

* ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- Ethiopia's prime minister said he had moved more troops to the border with Eritrea since December to prevent any "miscalculation" by his country's old foe in an escalating row.

In a sign of rising tensions, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said his army had reinforced Ethiopia's already heavily defended border with its Horn of Africa neighbor as a precautionary measure.

Eritrea imposed a ban on U.N. reconnaissance flights over the disputed 620-mile border on Oct. 5, fuelling fears the tiny Red Sea state was trying to hide troop movements to prepare for a new war.

The Middle easT

* CAIRO -- Egyptian authorities have ordered the release of a leading Muslim Brotherhood figure, Essam Erian, and three other members of the banned Islamic group, a party official said.

Erian, 52, a former lawmaker, spent more than five months in custody without charge. He and fellow Brotherhood leader Helmi Gazar were detained May 6, hours before nationwide anti-government protests that police alleged they organized.


* BERLIN -- Chancellor-designate Angela Merkel said cutting unemployment and Germany's budget deficit will be her priorities, and added that a month of "hard work" will be needed to get a new government in place.

Germany's persistently high jobless rate -- currently 11.2 percent -- helped bring down outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's center-left coalition in last month's parliamentary election.

-- From News Services