Officials reiterate: Mandela’s state stable

Nelson Mandela is in critical but stable condition, the South African government said Friday, reiterating that he is not in a vegetative state, contrary to recent court documents.

A court paper filed June 27 concerning Mandela family graves said affidavits would be provided from his physicians to show that Mandela “is in a permanent vegetative state.” A later filing dropped that phrase, but both filings said that Mandela’s breathing was machine-assisted.

A close friend of Mandela’s, Denis Goldberg, told Sky News on Friday that he had visited Mandela on Monday and that the former president was conscious and responsive. He also quoted Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel, as telling him, “There is no sign of a general organ collapse and therefore they do not recommend switching off the machine because there’s every chance that his health will improve.”

The family feud that prompted the court filing drew a rebuke late Thursday from retired archbishop Desmond Tutu.

“Please, please, please may we think not only of ourselves. It’s almost like spitting in Madiba’s face,” Tutu said, using Mandela’s clan name, in a statement released by his foundation. “Please may we not besmirch his name.”

— Associated Press

Suicide attacks on police leave 14 dead

A suicide bomber sneaked into a police dining hall in central Afghanistan at lunchtime Friday and blew himself up, killing 12, while a border police officer and a civilian were killed in a separate suicide attack in the south, authorities said.

Investigators were still trying to determine how the bomber passed two checkpoints to enter the crowded hall on a base in Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan province’s capital, police said, adding that he could have been a police officer or wearing a police uniform.

Afghan media reported that 10 of the 12 victims were Afghan national police officers.

In the southern province of Kandahar, a bomber blew himself up at a border checkpoint at Spin Boldak, between Afghanistan and Pakistan, killing the checkpoint commander and a civilian.

This year has seen violence levels comparable to the worst in nearly 12 years of war in Afghanistan. The Taliban has recently indicated it would be open to peace talks, but it has also said it will not give up its attacks.

— Associated Press

Australia backs plan for asylum meeting: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Friday after meeting in Bogor, Indonesia, with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that Indonesia and Australia have agreed to hold a multilateral meeting on asylum-seekers involving countries where the people come from, as well as transit countries and final destinations. Indonesia, with thousands of miles of unpatrolled coastline, has become a major transit point for people fleeing war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka.

China, Russia hold joint naval drills: China and Russia kicked off their largest-ever joint naval drills in the Sea of Japan, a further sign of the broad-based progress in ties between the former communist rivals. China has long been a key customer for Russian military hardware, but only in the past decade have the two countries’ militaries begun training jointly. The naval drills are to be followed by another round of anti-terrorism joint drills in Russia’s Ural Mountain region of Chelyabinsk from July 27 to Aug. 15.

Bombings targeting Shiites kill 19 in Iraq: A suicide attacker and a car bombing killed at least 19 people in separate attacks targeting Shiites. The deadliest attack took place in Baghdad’s Kiraiyat neighborhood when a bomber detonated explosives during evening prayers at the Husseinieh Ali Basha mosque, killing 15 worshipers. Earlier, an explosives-laden vehicle blew up near a Shiite protest camp in Samarra, 65 miles north of the capital, killing four civilians.

Irish police charge 8 in ‘New IRA’: Police charged eight men with Irish Republican Army membership after a raid on a suspected meeting of the outlawed movement’s Dublin leadership, inflicting what a senior officer called a major blow to the “New IRA” splinter group. The officer said police have kept Dublin-based activists of the faction under surveillance for months in anticipation of catching them gathered in a strategy meeting.

Israel’s U.S. envoy to resign: Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, is stepping down after more than four years on the job, Israel’s Embassy in Washington announced. Oren, 58, said he will finish his term this fall, then continue serving in an unspecified capacity. The American-born academic moved to Israel in 1979.

— From news services