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Bush proposes millions to assist Africans

By wire services
Published July 1, 2005

WASHINGTON - President Bush on Thursday proposed initiatives to help Africa, calling for increased spending to fight malaria, help more children attend school and ensure the rights of women.

The proposals were the latest steps taken by the White House to provide more aid to Africa, partly in response to pressure exerted by other world leaders, including Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain. Blair has made addressing poverty and disease in Africa the main focus of a summit meeting of the world's major industrial nations in Scotland next week that Bush will attend.

During a speech in Washington, Bush outlined three new efforts to address some of Africa's worst problems:

He said the United States would spend at least $1.2-billion over the next five years in an effort to reduce by half the deaths from malaria in 15 African nations. More than 1-million people a year die of malaria each year, most of them children and most of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

He called for spending $400-million over the next five years to improve the quality and accessibility of education in Africa by training teachers, providing scholarships to girls, distributing textbooks and expanding job training.

Bush also announced a $55-million, three-year program in four African nations to combat sexual violence against women and to address related issues of justice and health care.

Canadian's lawyers want U.S. agents to be charged

OTTAWA - Attorneys for Maher Arar said Thursday that Canadian criminal charges should be brought against U.S. agents responsible for spiriting the Canadian man to Syria in 2002, where he was imprisoned and allegedly tortured for almost a year.

Drawing parallels to the charges brought against CIA agents by an Italian magistrate last week, attorney Marlys Edwardh said Canadian law defines torture as illegal wherever it occurs. Arar, 34, was seized by U.S. agents while he was changing planes in New York, questioned for 12 days and then transported in shackles to Syria.

Arar's attorneys said they would call for a criminal investigation of Canadian authorities for their role in Arar's transfer to Syria and his interrogation there, which Arar said included beatings and more than 10 months of confinement in a coffin-sized dungeon.

Venezuela uses oil to forge Caribbean alliance

CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuela has pledged to help upgrade a Jamaican oil refinery, grant generous financing for oil sales and even accept goods like bananas or sugar as partial payment under new accords that promise to strengthen Venezuela's political alliances in the Caribbean.

Analysts said Thursday that an oil agreement between Venezuela and 14 other Caribbean nations, called Petrocaribe, shows the lengths to which President Hugo Chavez is willing to go as he seeks to establish Venezuela as a political leader in the region.

U.S. freezes 2 Syrian officials' assets

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration took a major step on Thursday to increase pressure on the Syrian government, ordering a freeze on any assets in American financial institutions controlled by two senior Syrian intelligence officials who served successively as Syria's de facto rulers in Lebanon during the three-decade occupation that ended in April.

Ghazi Kanaan, now Syria's interior minister, served until 2002 as chief of military intelligence in Lebanon, and Rustum Ghazali, who succeeded him, still holds that title, despite the pullout. The two men, pillars of President Bashar Assad's government, are both believed to have profited enormously from their tenures in Lebanon.


MEXICAN ABSENTEE VOTES: Millions of Mexicans living abroad will now be able to vote in the 2006 presidential elections under a bill signed into law by President Vicente Fox on Thursday.

MEXICAN STAMPS: The Bush administration strongly condemned a set of newly issued Mexican stamps Thursday, calling them "offensive" for featuring an Afro-Mexican boy with oversize lips, exaggerated eyes and an apelike head.

ZIMBABWE SQUATTERS: The Zimbabwe police finished demolishing a squatter camp outside Harare on Thursday, killing as many as four people.

[Last modified July 1, 2005, 01:25:06]

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