The world at a glance . . . International
Harare, ZimbabweMugabe is defiant: President Robert Mugabe this week simply declared that he was forming his own government, bypassing the stalled power-sharing talks with the opposition. Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai have been deadlocked for weeks in talks over how much power Mugabe should surrender in the wake of the disputed March election. Mugabe claimed to have won that contest, while most outside observers said Tsvangirai won; the international community urged both sides to compromise. Mugabe convened parliament this week amid loud heckles from the opposition. As the politicians dicker, Zimbabwe is sinking into oblivion. Millions of people have fled the country because of food shortages and hyperinflation.
Nairobi, KenyaLeaders’ wives rake it in: Many Kenyans expressed outrage this week after press accounts revealed that the wives of top officials are receiving generous government salaries. According to a memo leaked to Kenyan media, the president’s wife gets $96,000 a year while the wives of the prime minister and vice president get $72,000 each for “official hostessing” duties. “The leadership of this country cannot continue to pretend that 36 million Kenyans exist to feed them and their families, and keep them in luxury,” the Nairobi Daily Nation said in an editorial. President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga agreed to share power in February, after weeks of violent clashes following last December’s disputed elections.
Baqouba, IraqGirl on a suicide mission: A teenage Iraqi girl wearing an explosives vest turned herself into police this week, saying she did not want to go through with her suicide mission, the U.S. military said. The 15-year-old, who appeared to have been drugged, said the family of her husband of five months had selected her to be a bomber. Two of her husband’s female relatives, she said, strapped the vest on her and told her to go to a local school and “await instructions.” Iraqi police had a different account of how the attack was foiled: They said they arrested the girl near the school because she was acting suspiciously. Female suicide bombers are becoming increasingly common in Iraq; There were eight female bombers in 2007 and 29 this year.
KabulCivilians killed: The government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai angrily demanded a review of all rules regulating international troops this week, after U.S.-led airstrikes reportedly killed 90 civilians, including 60 children. “Airstrikes on civilian targets, uncoordinated house searches, and illegal detention of Afghan civilians must be stopped,” the Afghan Cabinet said in a statement. The U.S. said the airstrikes killed 30 Taliban militants and five civilians, and it expressed regret over the civilian deaths. But U.N. observers said there was “convincing evidence” that dozens of children were killed. They said an entire village had been bombed over several hours, with at least eight houses destroyed and many others damaged.
BangkokMassive protest: At least 30,000 people besieged Thai government offices this week in the largest protest yet against the government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej. Opponents say Samak is just a figurehead for the previous prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who has fled to Britain to escape charges of corruption and embezzlement. Samak said he would not let the protesters provoke him into a crackdown, which would give the military a pretext to oust him. “It is my order to be soft and gentle” with the protesters, Samak said. “They want a spark. They want someone to hit someone.”
Kuala Lumpur, MalaysiaOpposition leader returns: Malaysia’s top opposition figure, Anwar Ibrahim, was re-elected this week to the parliamentary seat he was forced to vacate 10 years ago when he was jailed on politically motivated charges that he engaged in homosexual acts. The charges were later dropped, and after years of legal wrangling, Anwar won back the right to run in this week’s by-election. Now, he says, he will lead an effort to topple the ruling party—which has led the country for 50 years—through a no-confidence vote. “We want freedom,” he said. “We don’t want to live with corruption and oppression.” Already, though, prosecutors have leveled a new sodomy charge against Anwar, hoping to prevent him from rejoining the parliament. Homosexual acts are illegal in Malaysia, a Muslim country, and carry a jail term of 20 years.