The week at a glance...International


Harare, Zimbabwe

Sort of free, not really fair: Zimbabwe’s perennial president, Robert Mugabe, 89, in power since 1980, has been re-elected again amid the usual charges of fraud. Rival Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change said rural precincts logged more votes than they had voters, while urban ones, where he is popular, saw would-be voters turned away. Western governments, long critical of Mugabe’s authoritarian rule, were not allowed to observe the election. African Union mission head Olusegun Obasanjo acknowledged problems with the vote but said they weren’t large enough to overturn the result. “I have never seen an election that is perfect,” he said.

Nairobi, Kenya

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Fire guts airport: A huge fire destroyed the arrival hall at Kenya’s main airport this week. The blaze broke out on the anniversary of the deadly 1998 al Qaida bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, but officials said it did not appear to be a terrorist attack. The fire spread out of control because Kenya lacks even basic firefighting technology. The airport’s own fire engines had no water or drivers, and Nairobi County lost its only public fire engine four years ago after failing to pay a $100 repair bill. Officers battled the airport fire by passing buckets hand to hand until engines from private firefighting firms finally arrived.


Diplomacy fails: Egypt’s military-installed government said international efforts to persuade the Muslim Brotherhood to end its sit-in in downtown Cairo had failed. The U.S. and the EU had sent envoys to try to mediate an end to the standoff that began in late July, after security forces opened fire on supporters of ousted President Mohammed Mursi, killing 80. But since then two tent cities have sprung up, with tens of thousands of Mursi supporters—including thousands of children—occupying a mosque and a plaza. Some Egyptian leaders have threatened to clear the areas by force, but others cautioned that such drastic action would make martyrs of the protesters. Recently returned from Cairo, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said, “These folks are just days or weeks away from all-out bloodshed.”


Rouhani’s new start: Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, is calling for dialogue with the U.S. Sworn in this week, the moderate cleric, who overwhelmingly won elections in June, said Iran wanted new negotiations over its nuclear program. “What matters to us is a practical response from the U.S. government, not statements,” he said. “If we feel that the Americans are truly serious about resolving problems, Iran is serious.” Rouhani has taken the first step by choosing as his foreign minister a former U.N. ambassador with strong American ties. Fluent in English and well known in Washington, Mohammad Javad Zarif received a doctorate from the University of Denver, and his children were born in the U.S.


Welfare for all: India’s government has introduced a plan to subsidize food for two thirds of the country’s population. The $4 billion-a-year program, a campaign promise by the ruling Congress Party, will provide 11 pounds of deeply discounted rice, wheat, and millet a month to nearly 800 million poor people. India has one third of the world’s poor people, and nearly half of Indian children under age 5 are malnourished. But the program is being hotly debated. Some critics say the grain won’t reach the poor, as it is to be distributed through chronically corrupt state-owned shops, while others say the allotment isn’t enough to relieve hunger.

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