Saturday, November 06, 2004


Sudan primer #2

From the Beeb:

Sudan: Big country, big problems
Mark Doyle BBC World Affairs Correspondent

African leaders attending the major developed countries - or G8 - summit in the United States have urged greater attention to Africa, including the humanitarian crisis in Sudan's western Darfur region. But delegates to the summit will also be aware of the mixed signals coming from Sudan, Africa's largest country that has been at war for most of the years since independence in 1956.

Following marathon diplomatic efforts, including pressure from the US on all sides, an historic peace deal was signed in May between the main southern rebel group, the ethnic African SPLA, and the Arab-dominated Khartoum government.

The deal was the result of years of negotiations and has been hailed as a major breakthrough by most players.

UK International Development Secretary Hilary Benn, for example, who has just returned from a trip to Sudan, said it was a big step forward.

But a planned comprehensive peace settlement has yet to be finalised which, crucially, may have to include other conflicts in the vast territory of Sudan, which is roughly the size of western Europe.

Scorched earth policy

High on the agenda is the situation in Darfur, a region on Sudan's western border with Chad, where an estimated one million people have been made homeless by fighting between mainly African rebels and Arab militia.

The displaced people - mostly Africans - blame the Arab militia, or Janjaweed, for a scorched earth policy involving systematic killing, rape and looting.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says more than 150,000 of the displaced have fled to Chad, many to remote desert locations where delivering aid - shelter, food, medicines - is extremely difficult.

"We are facing a disaster," said UNHCR head Ruud Lubbers.

According to Mr Lubbers torrential rains due in the next few weeks will make access even more difficult.

The agency also faces a funding crisis, with its appeals for aid not being met by donors.

"We are tapping into our own resources and we are emptying our pockets," said Lubbers. "We cannot say that this is the humanitarian crisis of the day and not fund the crisis."

'Worst humanitarian crisis'

The situation of displaced people inside Darfur is just as desperate.

Aid agencies complained that unnecessary customs delays and the slow delivery of government permits for aid workers to visit Darfur were hampering their efforts.

Hilary Benn said he raised this issue with Khartoum; he says he has been promised a relaxation of the customs regime for aid goods and the quicker delivery of visiting permits.

Whatever these marginal improvements might bring, UN officials and visiting foreign politicians are still describing Darfur as "the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today."

So, as the problem of the SPLA-government war apparently approaches resolution in the south, another Sudanese drama emerges in the west.

Why is the situation in Sudan so intractable? Why doesn't the international community, perhaps through the UN, move faster?

Many commentators have compared the world's relative inaction on Darfur to the failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

In fact, the situation on the ground in the two places is very different.

But the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (who was head of UN peacekeeping during the genocide) is sensitive to the analogy about delays. During what have become almost ritual 'never again' speeches to commemorate the Rwandan pogroms, Mr Annan this April urged member states to help resolve the crisis in Darfur.

UN role

But in a report to the UN Security Council this week the secretary-general also set out the scale of challenge in Sudan were the UN to set up a monitoring mission to help implement a comprehensive peace settlement to cement the SPLA-Khartoum peace deal and encompass other conflicts like Darfur.

Sudan, he pointed out, is 35 times larger than Sierra Leone, which, until recently, hosted the largest UN peacekeeping force in the world at a cost of several billion dollars.

Mr Annan did not make the calculation, but the implication was clear.

Began: 1983 2m killed
Muslim north against Christian, Animist south
Began: 2003 10,000 dead, 1m displaced
Arab government, militia against black Africans

If it took 17,000 troops to pacify Sierra Leone - where there was also a signed peace agreement - might it therefore take 35 times that number, or some 600,000, to do the same thing in Sudan? The secretary-general also pointed out, with measured understatement, that there is "a total lack of infrastructure in the south," ensuring that "the United Nations will be working in the most demanding of circumstances."

As a sales pitch for a UN monitoring mission (no-one is seriously considering muscular peacekeeping) the report was sombre.

The distances involved are also huge.

The secretary-general's report, setting out a possible peace verification mission, said likely lines of communication for such a mission would be "equivalent in distance to that between the cities of New York and Houston with several planned sectors each the size of Austria or New York State."

But before the international community is asked formally to commit to a UN mission, the so-far elusive comprehensive peace settlement would have to be agreed.

'Positive and negative signals'

Here again the two major current conflicts (SPLA-government and Darfur rebels-government) clash.

Part of the reason why the Darfur rebels took up arms last year - apart from a long-standing resentment at perceived Arab domination of their region - was the limited nature of the SPLA-government talks in Naivasha, Kenya.

The Darfur rebels felt excluded from these talks which have now agreed detailed power and wealth-sharing arrangements between the SPLA and the government right down, for example, to the percentage of government jobs each side will be allocated.

In particular, the Naivasha agreement hammered out power-sharing deals for three oil-producing central regions claimed by the two sides as being in 'their' areas. These are Abyei, Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains.

The Darfur region, ominously, also straddles the north and the south.

Kofi Annan said in his report to the UN Security Council that "the catastrophic situation in Darfur is a problem that will make a Sudanese peace agreement much harder to implement."

The secretary-general concluded, in a formula which sums up the positive and negative signals coming from Sudan:

"To conduct a consent-based [UN] monitoring and verification operation in one part of the country while there is an ongoing conflict in another part would prove politically unsustainable inside the Sudan and internationally."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/06/10 16:47:37 GMT© BBC MMIV

Friday, November 05, 2004


Black Watch--three dead

Three members of the Black Watch, a unit with a strong and proud history in Scotland, have been killed in Iraq. Here is the BBC's account:

Blair tribute to Black Watch dead

Tony Blair has paid tribute to the heroism of the Black Watch in Iraq, expressing his deep sympathy to the families of the three dead soldiers. Sgt Stuart Gray, 31, Pte Paul Lowe, 19, and Pte Scott McArdle, 22, were killed in a suicide bomb attack, east of the River Euphrates, near Falluja.

The bomber drove his car at them on Thursday, detonating a device.

The mother of Sgt Gray said he was a loving husband, father, son and brother and a proud Black Watch member.

An unnamed Iraqi interpreter was also killed. Mr Blair, speaking from Brussels where he stood alongside Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi ahead of an EU summit, hailed the bravery of the dead men but said securing peace in Iraq was "absolutely crucial".

"I would like to express my deep sympathy and condolences to the families of those soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq yesterday," he said.

Sgt Stuart Gray, 31, married, mortar platoon
Pte Paul Lowe, 19, single, 'pipes and drums'
Pte Scott McArdle, 22, single, elite reconnaissance platoon

"I would also like to express my pride and gratitude to the Black Watch for the extraordinary and heroic job they are doing there, which is of crucial importance to making sure democratic elections can go ahead in Iraq."

Mary Gray hailed her son as "an experienced and professional soldier".

She said she was "deeply shocked" by the news of his death but that her sadness was tinged with pride.

After the suicide bomb attack, the troops came under "sustained mortar fire".

Eight personnel who were wounded were removed by helicopter, but the three soldiers and their Iraqi interpreter were killed instantly, commander of the regiment Lt Col James Cowan said.

The sequence of events which led to the deaths began on Wednesday afternoon. While carrying out patrols within the Black Watch's area of operation, a Warrior armoured fighting vehicle was damaged by a road side explosion, which the Ministry of Defence says was probably caused by a booby trap.

A further Warrior - sent to assist the vehicle - was then attacked by a rocket-propelled grenade.

No troops were injured at this stage.

On Thursday, members of the Black Watch returned to the scene of the attacks to retrieve the two immobilised vehicles.

It was at a road block set up as part of the recovery operation that the suicide bomber struck. The 850-strong force has been attacked repeatedly since it arrived at Camp Dogwood, 20 miles (32km) from Baghdad, on Friday, after a request from the US.

He also paid tribute to the unnamed Iraqi interpreter, killed on the day he was due to get married.

The bodies of the soldiers will be flown home next week, the MoD said.

Two of the eight other troops wounded in the attack remain in hospital but were due to be released on Friday.

Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond said the deployment was "a political one" aimed at helping President George Bush in the US election. Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon criticised Mr Salmond for taking "political advantage of the death of three brave men".

The latest attack brings to 73 the number of UK military personnel killed in Iraq, although only 31 have been as a result of enemy attacks.

The battle group comprises 500 men and 50 Warrior armoured fighting vehicles.


In Flanders Fields

This month, on the closest Sunday in November to the 11th., Britain celebrates Remembrance Day. People will wear a vibrant red poppy on their breast as a sign of remembrance for fallen soldiers. Below is an excellent history of the poem "In Flanders Fields," (reprinted in full at the bottom of this post) and an explanation of why it has meaning even today. Like the dead of World War I, in my opinion one of the worst and bloodiest and most completely horrifying wars ever conceived, we must remember today the fallen in Iraq...

The poem "In Flanders Fields" by the Canadian army physician John McCrae remains to this day one of the most memorable war poems ever written. It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915.

The most asked question is: why poppies?

Wild poppies flower when other plants in their direct neighbourhood are dead. Their seeds can lie on the ground for years and years, but only when there are no more competing flowers or shrubs in the vicinity (for instance when someone firmly roots up the ground), these seeds will sprout.

There was enough rooted up soil on the battlefield of the Western Front; in fact the whole front consisted of churned up soil. So in May 1915, when McCrae wrote his poem, around him bloodred poppies blossomed like no one had ever seen before.

But in this poem the poppy plays one more role. The poppy is known as a symbol of sleep. The last line We shall not sleep, though poppies grow / In Flanders fields might point to this fact. Some kinds of poppies are used to derive opium from, from which morphine is made. Morphine is one of the strongest painkillers and was often used to put a wounded soldier to sleep. Sometimes medical doctors used it in a higher dose to put the incurable wounded out of their misery.


Flanders is the name of the whole western part of Belgium. It is flat, soggy country where people speak Flemish, a kind of Dutch. Flanders (Vlaanderen in Flemish) holds old and famous cities like Antwerp, Bruges and Ypres. It is ancient battleground. For centuries the fields of Flanders have been soaked with blood.

'In Flanders Fields' is also the name of an American War Cemetery in Belgium (picture right), where 368 Americans are buried. This cemetery is situated near the village of Waregem, quite a distance from the place where McCrae actually wrote his poem. The cemetery got its name from the poem though. The bronze foot of the flag-staff is decorated with daisies and poppies.

Another reference to the poem can be found on the Canadian Memorial at Vimy, in Northern France. Between the pylons stands ‘The Spirit of Sacrifice’: a figure holding high a burning torch, obviously referring to the last verse of McCrae's poem.

No quarrel

John McCrae's poem may be the most famous one of the Great War — sometimes only the first two verses are cited or printed. This is not just because of the lack of quality in the third verse, but also because this last verse speaks of an unending quarrel with the foe. And if one thing became clear during the Great War it was this: there was no quarrel between the soldiers (except maybe in the heat of a fight). The quarrel existed only in the minds of stupid politicians and highranking officers who mostly never experienced the horror of the battlefield.

But McCrae was not opposed to war and this was not the first time he spoke of a continuing fight. Wars should go on, he thought, until all the wrongs of the earth were righted.

Below I will give you the full and exact version of McCrae's great poem, taken from his own, handwritten copy. But first, here is the story of how he wrote it — and how the recent death of a dear friend moved him:

Although he had been a doctor for years and had served in the bloody Boer War in South Africa, it was impossible to get used to the suffering, the screams, and the blood here in Flanders, and Major John McCrae had seen and heard enough in his dressing station to last him a lifetime.
As a surgeon attached to the Canadian 1st Field Artillery Brigade, Major McCrae had spent sixteen days treating
injured men — Canadians, British, Indians, French and Germans — in the Ypres salient.

It had been an ordeal that he had hardly thought possible. McCrae later wrote to his mother:
"Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done." (Click
here if you want to read the complete letter — and other letters that McCrae wrote from the front)

One death particularly affected McCrae. A young friend and former student, Lieut. Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, had been killed by a shell burst on 2 May 1915. His remains were scattered all over the place. Soldiers gathered them and put them in sandbags. These were laid on a army blanket that was closed with safety pins. The burial, in the rapidly growing cemetery (called Essex Farm), just outside McCrae's dressing station, was postponed until late that evening. McCrae performed the funeral ceremony in the absence of the chaplain, reciting from memory some passages from the Church of England's Order of Burial of the Dead. This happened in complete darkness, as for security reasons it was forbidden to make light.

The poem

The next evening, sitting on the rearstep of an ambulance parked near the dressing station beside the Yser Canal, just a few hundred yards north of Ypres, McCrae vented his anguish by composing a poem. The major was no stranger to writing, having authored several medical texts besides dabbling in poetry.

As McCrae sat there he heard larks singing and he could see the wild poppies that sprang up from the ditches and the graves in front of him (see this picture of the cemetery, made shortly after the war).

He spent twenty minutes of precious rest time scribbling fifteen lines of verse in a notebook.
A young soldier watched him write it. Cyril Allinson, a twenty-two year old sergeant-major, was delivering mail that day when he spotted McCrae. The major looked up as Allinson approached, then went on writing while the sergeant-major stood there quietly.

"His face was very tired but calm as he wrote", Allinson recalled. "He looked around from time to time, his eyes straying to Helmer's grave."

When McCrae finished five minutes later, he took his mail from Allinson and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the young NCO. Allinson was moved by what he read:

"The poem was an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene."

Experimenting with the Metre

Allinson's account corresponds with the words of the commanding officer at the spot, Lieutenant Colonel Edward Morrison. This is how Morrison (a former Ottawa newspaper editor) described the scene:

"This poem was literally born of fire and blood during the hottest phase of the second battle of Ypres. My headquarters were in a trench on the top of the bank of the Ypres Canal, and John had his dressing station in a hole dug in the foot of the bank. During periods in the battle men who were shot actually rolled down the bank into his dressing station. Along from us a few hundred yards was the headquarters of a regiment, and many times during the sixteen days of battle, he and I watched them burying their dead whenever there was a lull. Thus the crosses, row on row, grew into a good-sized cemetery. Just as he describes, we often heard in the mornings the larks singing high in the air, between the crash of the shell and the reports of the guns in the battery just beside us. I have a letter from him in which he mentions having written the poem to pass away the time between the arrival of batches of wounded, and partly as an experiment with several varieties of poetic metre."

The poem (initially called We shall not sleep) was very nearly not published. Dissatisfied with it, McCrae tossed the poem away, but Morrison retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England.
The Spectator, in London, rejected it and send the poem back, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915 (although the magazine misspelled his name as McCree and promoted him to Lt. Colonel):

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.
Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Thursday, November 04, 2004


Ponderings on the day, and a link

Here's the link to a site that I have not investigated further, but if it's for real, then holy crap do we ever have a legitimate quagmire on our hands: Iraq Body Count

And now for the day finally ending. It's been a weird one, and my emotions have been all over the bloody map, as per usual. To begin with, there's the lingering despondence over the unbelievable loss to George Dumbya Bush--again! How the hell did that happen? I am soooo curious to know how they cheated this one, I really truly am. And lingering along with said despondence, residual anger--dare I say a feeling slightly more than akin to cold, blue rage?--and deep sadness. Sadness at the memory of the tears--I cannot be the only one who heard them!--in John Kerry's voice yesterday (it was only yesterday, and it seems a lifetime ago).

Sadness at the memory of a cheerful boyish grin on the face of John Edwards yesterday--a grin that swiftly, brutally, was wiped from his face by the hovering demon of cancer in his beloved wife's body. Not enough to bury a teenaged son, now they must together face this, just as the shattered dream of a Vice Presidency recedes swiftly into the past. Just as the newborn hope of a possible run in 2008 is murdered before it can draw breath.

Confusion over the state of Middle East affairs (and why do we always say "Middle East affairs" as if it involved nothing more harmful than a backseat tryst between adulterers?). Not knowing whether Yasser Arafat is even alive at this point, with far too many conflicting accounts becoming "breaking news." And when he does die, if he isn't already dead, the Middle East is going to implode. We have a new terror on our plates this evening, folks, a new fear. And it's a fear we all should have, realistically, seen coming all along. What is going to happen to Palestine, with no clear leader emerging as of yet, with no set government to follow Arafat?

And so, to bed, or at least to get my daughters headed in that general direction before I can myself collapse and maybe watch "Without a Trace," and try to pretend that all of the confusion, that all of the conflicting emotion, is in the background of my life for a few hours. As if it won't creep, stealthy and flame, into my dreams...


Elizabeth Edwards diagnosed with breast cancer

Elizabeth Edwards has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Please, keep her and the Edwards family in your prayers...

Elizabeth Edwards Diagnosed With Breast Cancer
News Came Same Day Kerry and Edwards Conceded Race
Released NOV 3, 2004

Former Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards with his wife after John Kerry's concession speech.

WASHINGTON (Nov. 4) - Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards, was diagnosed with breast cancer the day her husband and Sen. John Kerry conceded the presidential race.

Spokesman David Ginsberg said Mrs. Edwards, 55, discovered a lump in her right breast while on a campaign trip last week. Her family doctor told her Friday that it appeared to be cancerous and advised her to see a specialist when she could.

She put off the appointment until Wednesday so as not to miss campaign time.

The Edwards family went straight to Massachusetts General Hospital from Boston's Faneuil Hall after Kerry and Edwards conceded on Wednesday.

Mrs. Edwards had a needle biopsy performed at the hospital, where Dr. Barbara Smith confirmed the cancer, Ginsberg said.

He said the cancer was diagnosed as invasive ductal cancer. That is the most common type of breast cancer, and can spread from the milk ducts to other parts of the breast or beyond.
More tests were being done to determine how far the cancer has advanced and how to treat it, he said.

Ginsberg said spirits are high at the Edwards household. ''Everybody feels good about it, that this is beatable,'' he said.

Edwards, who leaves his North Carolina Senate seat in January, said in a statement, ''Elizabeth is as strong a person as I've ever known. Together, our family will beat this.''

The American Cancer Society estimated that nearly 216,000 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.

Treatments have been getting better. The current five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 87 percent, up from 78 percent in the mid-1980s. About 40,000 women die of breast cancer annually.

Overall, the society says about one in seven women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
Invasive ductal cancer accounts for 65 percent to 80 percent of all breast cancers, according to the Merck Manual of Medical Information.

Treatment usually begins with surgery, according to the National Cancer Institute. This could involve removal of the cancer itself and usually nearby lymph nodes. Lumpectomy, just removing the cancerous mass, is becoming more common, though sometimes removal of the whole breast is done.

Surgery can be followed by chemotherapy, radiation or hormone therapy.

Radiation can focus on a cancer site from a machine outside the body or use a radioactive substance placed near the cancer in ''seeds'' or via needle.

Chemotherapy uses drugs that can stop or slow the growth of cancer that may have spread.

Hormone therapy removes or blocks hormones that can encourage growth of cancer cells.

In early stages of cancer a combination of the drug tamoxifen and hormone therapy is commonly used, the Cancer Institute reports.

The Edwardses married in 1977. They have two daughters, Cate and Emma Claire and a son, Jack. Son Wade died in a 1996 traffic accident.

Mrs. Edwards, born in Jacksonville, Fla., grew up hopscotching between the United States and Japan. She met her future husband at University of North Carolina law school.

She juggled a successful legal career and family for 19 years. Then - stunned by Wade's death - she quit work to have more children at an age when many contemporaries were easing toward grandmotherhood.

On the campaign, she dubbed herself the ''anti-Barbie,'' a quick-witted, down-to-earth political wife who connected particularly well with mothers and fathers.

11-04-04 1304EST


Arafat primer #1

Thanks to the ever-amazing BBC for this Q & A on Yasser Arafat (who may or may not be dead as I write this...)

Q&A: What follows Arafat?

With Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat seriously ill, key questions about who or what might follow him are being asked.
Is Yasser Arafat still important?

Mr Arafat has cut an isolated and forlorn figure for a few years. He has been confined by the Israeli army to his compound in Ramallah since 2001, and Israel and the US have refused to have anything to do with him.

The Palestinian Authority which he leads is widely perceived by Palestinians as corrupt and incompetent.

Despite this, he is still the most popular Palestinian politician, remaining the figurehead of the Palestinian national cause.

He is also the only Palestinian leader in a position to negotiate or sign a deal on behalf of Palestinians as a whole.

Ironically, American and Israeli calls for Palestinians to ditch their leader may have helped Mr Arafat.

Is a successor lined up?

Every scare over the Palestinian leader's health highlights a major problem in the Palestinian leadership.

There is no clear line of succession for the Palestinian Authority or the Palestine Liberation Organisation, the umbrella group for the Palestinian national movement.

He has not designated a deputy or successor, perhaps fearing that an impatient heir apparent might be a threat to him.

Under the Palestinian Authority's basic law, the speaker of Palestinian Legislative Assembly, Rawhi Fattuh, would take over the presidency for 60 days until a new president is elected. However, this is a technicality as Mr Fattuh has no real powerbase.

Who are the candidates?

Part of the problem for Palestinians is that there are several centres of power in the occupied territories.

One is the older generation of leaders, led by PLO Secretary General Mahmoud Abbas, who have been close to Mr Arafat and returned to the territories with him in 1994.

Another is local leaders such as former security chief Mohammed Dahlan and intifada leader Marwan Barghouti, currently in an Israeli jail.

Will there be a chaotic power struggle?

This is a distinct possibility.

In July, there was open fighting between different Palestinian factions in Gaza and the West Bank with a series of kidnappings and shootings.

This was interpreted as a prelude to a power struggle between the "old guard" of the Palestinian Authority led by Yasser Arafat and his coterie on the one side, and a younger generation of pro-Arafat militiamen and security force members on the other who want the PA reformed.

What about Hamas and the other militant groups?

Were a chaotic and possibly violent power struggle to develop, the main beneficiary is likely to be Hamas, the militant Islamic group that dominates Gaza. The group is highly organised and unified.

In the past, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have avoided directly attacking Mr Arafat. They may not feel such restraint with any new leader.

What is Israel's view of these developments?

Many Israelis view Mr Arafat as an inveterate terrorist and an unreliable negotiator.

Most would be happy to see him gone - many Israeli right-wingers have proposed his expulsion from the occupied territories or his assassination.

Specifically, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Mr Arafat have often appeared to be locked in a personal battle.

However, a chaotic situation in the occupied territories, which might further radicalise Palestinian politics, might not suit Israel.

In theory, Mr Arafat's death might delay Mr Sharon's disengagement from Gaza. If the Palestinian Authority leadership disintegrates, there is only Hamas to run the strip.

If the situation were to settle quickly, and a new moderate leadership emerge, the Israeli argument that there is no fit Palestinian party to negotiate with would evaporate.

Story from BBC NEWS:
BBC NEWS World Middle East Q&A: What follows Arafat?
Published: 2004/10/28 19:09:40 GMT


French docs deny Arafat death

Okaaayyy...So who's telling the truth?

French Doctors Say Ailing Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat Is Still Alive
The Associated Press
PARIS Nov 4, 2004 — French doctors announced Thursday that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who is in intensive care at a French military hospital, is still alive.

"The clinical situation of the first fews days following admission has become more complex," Christian Estripeau, head of communications for French military health services.

"The state of health of the patient requires appropriate treatment that required his transfer on Wednesday afternoon of Nov. 3 to a unit adapted to his pathology," Estripeau said.

"Mr. Arafat is not dead," he said, concluding the brief statement.

"This statement has been drafted out of respect for the discretion demanded by his wife," he said.

The statement put to rest for now reports that Arafat has died. Israeli TV on Thursday cited sources as saying Arafat had died, but the Palestinian prime minister denied the report.

Israeli TV's Channel Two cited Israeli security officials as saying they had been told by a reliable French source that Arafat had died.

However, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said there has been no change in Arafat's condition. Palestinian officials said Arafat was in a coma in the intensive care unit of a French military hospital.



BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has died, Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker says.


BREAKING--Arafat in coma in French hospital

From Reuters:

Palestinian Leader Arafat in Coma - Aide

By Wafa Amr PARIS (Reuters) - Palestinian President Yasser Arafat went into a coma overnight and was lying unconscious in a French military hospital on Thursday while back home Palestinian security chiefs were called to an emergency meeting.

Doctors carrying out tests on the 75-year-old leader since he was airlifted to France last Friday still did not know what was wrong with him, despite ruling out leukemia, they said.

Arafat's immune system appeared quite weak as his health, which had at first stabilized after he arrived at the hospital, suddenly deteriorated on Wednesday, they said.

"Arafat is in a coma and in a critical condition," a senior Palestinian official told Reuters. He was transferred to the intensive care unit on Wednesday at around 5 p.m. (1600 GMT).

"He has no immunity whatsoever," said another aide, adding he slipped into the coma around 2 a.m. (0100 GMT) on Thursday.

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, the heads of all Palestinian security services were due to hold an emergency meeting, security sources said.

The meeting was to be held in the evening at Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah, the sources told Reuters.

Senior Palestinian officials had earlier denied Arafat was in a coma. "No coma," Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie told reporters. "His condition is not getting better, nor is it worsening."

Arafat's slide into illness has raised fears of chaos among Palestinians locked in a 4-year-old uprising.

Arafat, loved by most Palestinians and reviled by many Israelis, has named no successor since emerging from exile under interim peace accords with Israel in the early 1990s.

The death of a leader Israel and Washington see as an obstacle to peace could also shuffle the cards in the Middle East conflict.

Arafat was rushed to France from the West Bank with severe stomach pains, diarrhea and vomiting.

A briefing by the hospital had been expected at 11 a.m. (1000 GMT) but was put off without any explanation. Journalists at the hospital in Clamart, a southwestern Paris suburb, expected a statement later on Thursday.

"New tests have been carried out including an endoscopy (visual internal examination). Nothing was found out from those tests," a senior aide said earlier on Thursday.

According to France 2 television, the Palestinian leader was very weak and seemed to have reacted badly to tests his doctors were carrying out to determine the cause of his illness.


Leila Shahid, the Palestinian's permanent envoy to Paris, earlier said that there was a setback in Arafat's health and that doctors were trying to find out what had caused it.

"Obviously in his case, there could be setbacks at times and this is a setback," said Shahid. "(On Thursday), the doctors will give a very clear and direct explanation and report on what is happening."

In Washington, a senior State Department official said: "We frankly don't know the state of his medical condition."

Aides have been keen to present Arafat as still in charge. He has temporarily delegated powers to two men -- Qurie and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader's number two in the PLO.

Palestinian officials said Farouq Kaddoumi, another senior PLO official, had arrived in Paris to see Arafat.

Earlier on Wednesday, Arafat had sent congratulations to President Bush on his re-election. Bush has backed the idea of a Palestinian state as part of a peace deal but has tried to shut Arafat out of Middle East decision-making.

Both Washington and Israel accuse Arafat of fomenting violence in the uprising against Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank that broke out in 2000, a charge he denies.

Until he was airlifted to France, Arafat had been effectively confined to his shell-shattered Ramallah headquarters by Israeli forces for 2-1/2 years.


Lest we forget

Kofi Annan has this sobering reminder for President Bush and the rest of the U.N. leaders of the crises facing our world.

Annan: Stop Sudan's war crimes now

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- There are strong indications that war crimes have been committed "on a large and systematic scale" in Sudan's Darfur region, where violence is getting worse and two million people have now been affected by the conflict, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said.

In a report to the U.N. Security Council, Annan accuses the Sudanese government of failing to bring the perpetrators of widespread killings, rapes, looting and village burnings to justice -- a charge he has made in recent months while urging the international community to tackle with the crisis.

Jan Pronk, the top U.N. envoy to Sudan who wrote the report, will present it to the council on Thursday.

It recommends that members take "prompt action" to get the government and rebels to comply with U.N. resolutions demanding an end to the violence, punishment of those responsible and disarmament of combatants.

Until the government starts taking more than "pinprick" action against the perpetrators, the report warns, no displaced person will dare return home and no group will agree to disarm.
"Without an end to impunity ... banditry goes from strength to strength, menacing the population and obstructing the delivery of aid to desperate people in isolated areas," it says.
The violence in Darfur began in January 2003 when two black African rebel groups took up arms over alleged unjust treatment by the Sudanese government and ethnic Arab countrymen. Pro-government militias called Janjaweed reacted by unleashing attacks on villages.

The conflict, which has killed at least 70,000 people, has created what U.N. officials say is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.

An international commission appointed by Annan began work on October 25 and has three months to study human rights violations and determine whether or not a genocide occurred in Darfur.

"There are strong indications that war crimes and crimes against humanity have occurred in Darfur on a large and systematic scale," the report says. "This has been confirmed by a number of senior U.N. human rights experts who have visited the region."

There have been reports that armed men dug up a grave containing 40 bodies in Souba, North Darfur and have been seen working on another site in an apparent attempt to hide evidence of mass killings, it says.

During October, security conditions in Darfur deteriorated, cease-fire violations increased on both sides, violence escalated and toward the end of the month, the threat of large scale attacks increased considerably, the report says.

The estimate of people in Darfur affected by the conflict rose from 1.8 million on September 1 to two million on October 1, an upwards trend expected to continue until the end of the year.
The increase stems mainly from the growing number of internally displaced people, now 1.6 million, reflecting "the severity of the protection and security situation in Darfur," Pronk said.
"A further 400,000 people are currently assessed to be affected by the conflict and in need of humanitarian assistance."

The U.N. envoy noted that the two million figure is a 100 percent increase in the number of people needing humanitarian assistance since April.

Donors have funded 75 percent of the money needed for Darfur this year -- $397 million of $534 million -- and he appealed for the rest.

The report calls for stepped up efforts to end the conflict in Darfur and the 21-year civil war between the government and rebels in southern Sudan and urged all countries to use their influence to achieve peace.

The Security Council will be holding a rare meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, where talks to end the civil war are taking place, on November 18-19.

The report says the Nairobi talks were proceeding well and expressed hope that a final agreement can be reached by the end of the year and "serve as a model for Darfur."
It called for the government and rebels from Darfur now meeting in Nigeria to quickly start political negotiations, "which would enable them to reach agreement on all other outstanding issues."

U.S. Ambassador John Danforth, the current Security Council president, said Wednesday the council trip's aim was to show the Sudanese what the country would look life if there were peace -- including international guarantees of a peace agreement, international monitoring to development assistance.

But he warned that this "carrot" -- the offer of international help -- would not "be there forever" and "if we are pushed away by either side" then the international community would turn to other pressing global issues.

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Sunday, October 31, 2004


Sudan primer #1

From the ever-amazing BBC comes this really good article that seems to give a decent basic explanation for what's still happening in Sudan, in the Darfur region.

Q&A: Sudan's Darfur conflict

The world's worst humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Sudan's western region of Darfur, the United Nations says. More than 1.5 million people have fled their homes and some70,000 people have been killed. Pro-government Arab militias are accused of ethnic cleansing and even genocide against the region's black African population.

How did the conflict start?

The conflict began in the arid and impoverished region early in 2003 after a rebel group began attacking government targets, claiming that the region was being neglected by Khartoum.

The rebels say the government is oppressing black Africans in favour of Arabs.

There has been tension in Darfur, which means land of the Fur, for many years over land and grazing rights between the mostly nomadic Arabs and farmers from the Fur, Massaleet and Zagawa ethnic groups.

There are two rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem), which have been linked to senior Sudanese opposition politician Hassan al-Turabi.

What is the government doing?

It admits mobilising "self-defence militias" following rebel attacks but denies any links to the Janjaweed, accused of trying to "cleanse" large swathes of territory of black Africans.

Refugees from Darfur say that following air raids by government aircraft, the Janjaweed ride into villages on horses and camels, slaughtering men, raping women and stealing whatever they can find.

Many women report being abducted by the Janjaweed and held as sex slaves for more than a week before being released.

Human rights groups, the US Congress and US Secretary of State Colin Powell say that genocide is taking place.

If the UN accepts that a genocide is occurring, it is legally obliged to take action to stop it.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Mr Powell have both visited Darfur to see the situation for themselves and to put pressure on the government.

Sudan's government denies being in control of the Janjaweed and President Omar al-Bashir has called them "thieves and gangsters".

After strong international pressure and the threat of sanctions, the government promised to disarm the Janjaweed. But there is little evidence of this so far.

Thousands of extra policemen have been deployed but the refugees have little faith in the Sudanese security forces.

After much prompting by the US and its allies, the United Nations has threatened to impose sanctions on Sudan's oil sector if the violence is not quelled.

But this has been resisted by China and some other nations, which argue that Sudan should be able to find its own solution.

There is no deadline for Sudan to take action but the UN is compiling monthly reports on the situation in Darfur.

What has happened to the civilians?

Some 1.5 million people have left their homes and about 70,000 have been killed.

Most have fled their destroyed villages for camps in Darfur's main towns but there is not enough food, water or medicine.

The Janjaweed patrol outside the camps and Darfurians say the men are killed and the women raped if they venture too far in search of firewood or water.

Aid workers say that many thousands are at risk of starvation in the camps. The aid operation has been hampered by the rainy season, when many parts of Darfur become inaccessible.

Some children have already died from malnutrition.

As many as 200,000 have sought safety in neighbouring Chad, but many are camped along a 600km stretch of the border and remain vulnerable to attacks from Sudan.

Chad is worried that the conflict could spill over the border.

Its eastern areas have a similar ethnic make-up to Darfur.

What help are the civilians getting?

Lots of aid agencies are working in Darfur but they say they have not been given enough money by the international community.

They also say the government has been blocking their access to Darfur by demanding visas and using other bureaucratic obstacles.

Sudan says these have now been removed.

Is anyone trying to stop the fighting?

The government and the two rebel groups signed a ceasefire in April but this has not held.

The African Union and other international bodies have been able to get them together in Nigeria but little progress has been made.

Some 300 African Union troops are now in Darfur on a very limited mandate. Much of the diplomatic effort now is to push for a much larger AU with a beefed up role.

The Sudan government has agreed in principle to a force of at least 3,000 but is resisting changing their mandate, to give them powers to disarm combatants.

The government has hinted that it may let Darfur run its own affairs more if this would help solve the crisis.

It has agreed to let southern Sudan have its own government as part of a deal to end 20 years of conflict in that region.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/10/18 12:34:50 GMT© BBC MMIV

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