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World in brief: Israeli leader faces calls for resignation

Wed., May 2, 2007

Allies and opponents clamored Tuesday for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s resignation after scathing criticism from an official commission of his performance during last year’s Lebanon war.

Olmert took the blow of his long political life Monday when a government war probe tarred him as acting rashly in the initial stage of Israel’s war against Hezbollah guerrillas, who seized two Israeli soldiers and bombarded northern Israeli communities with rockets.

Despite the unprecedented criticism, Olmert immediately vowed to stay on.

Olmert tried to project a business-as-usual image on Tuesday, attending a swearing-in ceremony for Israel’s new police commissioner and instructing Defense Minister Amir Peretz to draw up a plan for dismantling unauthorized West Bank settlement outposts.

But the prime minister – who stayed up all night reading the 263-page report, aides said – looked haggard, and he struggled to stay awake at the police ceremony. TV cameras caught his eyes closing several times, and local stations ran the scene again and again. Confidants spoke of a gloomy atmosphere in his office.

Harare, Zimbabwe

Officials increase corn price 700%

The government on Tuesday announced a nearly 700 percent increase in the price of corn, the mainstay of the Zimbabwean diet, amid worsening economic woes that already have many people eating one meal a day or less.

Boiled corn meal, known as sadza, is the foundation of many typical dishes, accompanied by savory vegetable or meat stew. It also is eaten as a porridge.

The price of an 11-pound bag of corn meal – which provides an average family of six one meal a day for about five days – now will sell for $1.45, up from 21 cents.

Agriculture Minister Rugare Gumbo said the price hike will fund a nearly 600 percent increase in the government-controlled price that corn farmers receive, a measure to encourage food production, state radio reported.

Overall, official inflation surged last month to 2,200 percent, the highest in the world.

Monrovia, Liberia

Liberia restarts diamond industry

Liberia’s president formally opened 10 diamond screening and evaluation offices across the country on Tuesday, marking the first step toward restarting the industry following the end of a six-year ban by the United Nations.

The ban on Liberian diamonds, imposed in 2001 when so-called “blood diamonds” were being used to fuel civil wars in west Africa, was lifted by the United Nations three days ago. The U.N. cited steps taken by the country toward joining an international program to certify the diamonds’ origin and ensure they were mined legally.

At a ceremony in the northwestern town of Tubmanburg on Tuesday, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf urged Liberians to keep the sanctions lifted by embracing the international certification system, called the Kimberley Process. Group members agree to trade only certified diamonds.


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