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U.N. official accuses Sudan of Darfur coverup

By Wire services
Published April 4, 2006

NAIROBI, Kenya - The government of Sudan has blocked Jan Egeland, the top U.N. emergency aid official, from visiting the western Darfur region this week, prompting Egeland to accuse Khartoum of trying to hide the dire conditions there.

The Sudanese government offered various explanations for its decision not to allow Egeland to visit Khartoum, the capital, or Darfur beginning Monday.

Jamal Ibrahim, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said the visit was merely postponed because it would have coincided with the prophet Mohammed's birthday.

"They said I'm not welcome," Egeland said from Rumbek, in southern Sudan, which operates semi-autonomously and did give approval for his visit. "My interpretation is that they don't want me to see what I was planning to witness in south and west Darfur, which is renewed attacks on the civilian population."

In the latest wave of attacks in Darfur, Egeland said, thousands of people had been chased from 60 villages by government-backed militias. He said the deteriorating security environment had made it increasingly difficult to provide assistance to the estimated 3-million refugees living in camps in Darfur and across the border in Chad.

Thai leader says he'll ask panel if he should resign

BANGKOK, Thailand - Thailand's prime minister claimed victory Monday but acknowledged a protest vote in an election held after weeks of demonstrations demanding his resignation for alleged corruption.

Thaksin Shinawatra offered to set up a committee to judge whether he should step down despite receiving 57 percent of votes cast Sunday. But critics rejected the idea as insincere and called for new protests this week.

Honduran ordered to pay $47M in torture case

MIAMI - A former Honduran military official has been ordered by a U.S. judge to pay $47-million to torture victims and survivors of people killed during a wave of assassinations and abductions of political opponents during the 1980s.

Lawyers for the six people who won the judgment from U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard said they hoped it would spur the Tegucigalpa government to bring charges against retired Col. Juan Evangelista Lopez Grijalba, who was deported from the United States in 2004 and lives in Honduras.

Elsewhere ...

AUSTRALIA: Australia agreed Monday to sell China uranium for nuclear power stations despite concerns that Beijing could divert the material to atomic weapons. The countries' foreign ministers signed two agreements containing assurances that China will not build bombs with the uranium.

ISRAEL: Comatose Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, 78, will undergo surgery today to restore part of his skull removed in previous operations after he suffered a debilitating stroke, the hospital treating him said Monday.

VENEZUELA Venezuela seized two oil fields from France's Total SA and Italy's Eni SpA after the companies failed to comply with a government demand that operations be turned over to the state oil company, Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said Monday.

BRAZIL: As many as 40 people were hurt as protesters opposed to the lending practices of Latin America's biggest development bank clashed with police Monday.

[Last modified April 4, 2006, 03:15:07]

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