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In brief: Penn lauds Chavez for help in Haiti

Caracas, Venezuela – Sean Penn thanked Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Saturday for supporting the actor’s relief organization in Haiti, saying the aid has helped its humanitarian work in distributing medicines.

Chavez met with Penn at the presidential palace and praised the actor’s efforts with his J/P Haitian Relief Organization, which was founded in response to the catastrophic 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Neither provided details about how much financial assistance Venezuela has provided to the group.

The Oscar-winning actor noted that in addition to Venezuela’s financial help, his organization has also received support from the U.S. military.

Penn called that ironic, adding: “We hope that this kind of collaboration can be an example for future approaches to many other issues” – in spite of limited U.S.-Venezuelan diplomatic contacts.

The U.S. and Venezuela have been without ambassadors since December, when Chavez formally rejected the White House’s nominee for envoy in a diplomatic dispute. The U.S. government revoked the visa of Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez in response.

Saudis firm on ban on demonstrations

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia warned its few but increasingly emboldened political activists Saturday that it would enforce the law banning public demonstrations, providing fresh evidence of the government’s growing nervousness over political unrest among its neighbors and calls for change at home.

Saudi Arabia has remained relatively calm as political upheaval has swept the Middle East and North Africa over the last two months. But discontent is lapping at its borders, most notably in Bahrain and Yemen, stoking concerns that widespread calls for change could occur in the kingdom, a key U.S. ally in the region.

The threat to enforce the demonstration ban comes after members of the country’s Shiite Muslim minority staged small protests Friday in the east, calling largely for the release of political prisoners, according to news reports. The east is where much of the kingdom’s oil wealth is located.

Certified president invited to meeting

Abidjan, Ivory Coast – Ivory Coast’s internationally recognized leader Alassane Ouattara said Saturday he will attend a meeting of African Union leaders in Ethiopia this week, in the latest bid to find a resolution to his country’s escalating crisis.

The trip will mark the first time Ouattara will leave a hotel, where he has been under 24-hour U.N. protection since being declared winner of the Nov. 28 election. Results certified by the U.N. indicate Ouattara won by a landslide. But his rival, sitting President Laurent Gbagbo, is refusing to leave office.

A delegation of African leaders was supposed to come to Abidjan on Saturday but canceled abruptly overnight, instead sending a messenger, Jean Ping, the chairman of the AU commission. Ping invited Ouattara to the meeting on Thursday in Ethiopia’s capital.

“Of course I accepted this invitation, and all measures will be taken so that I may go,” Ouattara told reporters.

For him to do so, a U.N. helicopter will be sent to pick him up on the Golf Hotel’s back lawn.


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Trump administration pulls U.S. out of UN human rights council

UPDATED: 7:23 p.m.

The United States announced Tuesday it was leaving the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, with Ambassador Nikki Haley calling it “an organization that is not worthy of its name.” It was the latest withdrawal by the Trump administration from an international institution.