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Pressure mounts on Madagascar

The African Union on Friday suspended Madagascar as the international community stepped up the pressure on the increasingly isolated island nation where the army forced the country’s president from power.

France, the former colonial power and Madagascar’s biggest donor, condemned the replacement of the nation’s president by an army-backed politician as a coup, and the United States cut all non-humanitarian aid.

After months of street protests, Marc Ravalomanana resigned as Madagascar’s president Tuesday and placed power in the hands of the military. Within hours, the military announced it was making opposition leader Andry Rajoelina the country’s new president.

Ravalomanana had accused Rajoelina of seeking power by unconstitutional means, since under the constitution the 34-year-old opposition leader was too young to become president.


Soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Four Canadian soldiers were killed and eight others were injured Friday in two separate bombings in Afghanistan, Canada’s top general in the country said. A NATO soldier was also killed Friday in a hostile incident in southern Afghanistan, the military alliance said early today.

Brig. Gen. Jonathan Vance, the commander of Canadian troops in Afghanistan, said two soldiers died and five were wounded in an explosion during a morning foot patrol in the Zhari district, west of Kandahar. He said an Afghan interpreter also died.

Vance said two other soldiers died and three were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded in the Shah Wali Kot district, northwest of Kandahar.

The NATO soldier’s nationality was not released.


Farmers halt beef, grain sales

Argentine farmers declared a seven-day halt to grain and beef sales Friday, potentially slowing exports and tightening domestic food supply in a bitter fight over export taxes.

The farmers are angry over a new government plan to funnel taxes on soy into an emergency economic aid fund for the nation’s provinces – which they call an attempt by the president to weaken sympathy for farmers before an expected election in June.

Farmers have said taxes on soy and other grain exports, now as high as 35 percent, make their goods less competitive abroad.

Argentina is among the world’s top exporters of soy, corn, wheat and beef.


Suspected drug trafficker arrested

The Mexican army arrested an alleged drug trafficker suspected of organizing an attack on a U.S. consulate as well as the killing of several soldiers in retaliation for a government crackdown, President Felipe Calderon said Friday.

Calderon said alleged Gulf cartel hit man Sigifrido Najera Talamantes was captured in the northern city of Saltillo, Coahuila, earlier in the day.

Najera Talamantes is suspected in an Oct. 12 attack in which one man opened fire on the U.S. consulate in the northern city of Monterrey and another man threw a grenade that failed to explode. Nobody was hurt.

He is also suspected of involvement in a similar attack Jan. 7 on the offices of the Televisa television network’s station in Monterrey.

Calderon said Najera Talamantes “was directly responsible for the torture and execution of soldiers” – a reference to the killings of nine soldiers whose bodies were found in Monterrey in late October, reportedly in retaliation for anti-drug operations.

From wire reports


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