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China says Mugabe 'old friend' as Zimbabwe head visits
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Nov 16, 2011

China's leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping called Robert Mugabe "an old friend of China" Wednesday, state media said, as the Zimbabwean president visited the country to attend his daughter's graduation.

At a meeting between the two in Beijing, Mugabe -- who has been accused of widespread human rights abuses in his country -- also said he appreciated China's support, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Calling Mugabe "an old friend of China", Xi, who is currently Vice President, said Beijing wanted to cooperate further with Zimbabwe in "trade, agriculture, mining and infrastructure", the report said.

"China... supports Zimbabwe to explore its own development path in accordance with its national conditions," Xi -- widely expected to take over from current President Hu Jintao in 2013 -- was quoted as saying.

China has invested billions of dollars in Africa -- including Zimbabwe -- raising eyebrows in the West, but many African leaders have praised the rising Asian giant for not preaching about human rights and corruption.

Mugabe's visit comes after he travelled to Hong Kong -- to attend his daughter's graduation on Tuesday -- with a group of about 20 people including his wife, Grace.

China is not party to international sanctions on Mugabe, who is the subject of a Western travel ban and asset freeze.

During his meeting with Xi, the Zimbabwean President said he wanted to work more closely with China in agriculture, infrastructure and minerals, Xinhua said.

Zimbabwe -- which has huge coal, gold, platinum and diamond deposits -- suffered a decade of runaway prices and food shortages amid hyperinflation that saw people carry piles of cash in rucksacks to shop for ordinary groceries.

But the economy has stabilised after the government abandoned the worthless local currency in 2009, allowing trade in US dollars and other major foreign currencies.

A power-sharing government formed the same year by Mugabe and his main rival Morgan Tsvangirai has also brought stability to the economy, and eased political unrest that erupted during disputed 2008 polls.

But as possibilities for elections next year have mounted, there have been reports of unrest, with pro-Mugabe militants breaking up rallies by Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change.

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Shebab militants getting what they 'deserve': US
Washington (AFP) Nov 16, 2011 - The Pentagon on Wednesday said Shebab militants in Somalia being targeted by Kenyan troops are getting what they "deserve" but insisted the US military was not assisting Kenya's campaign against the Al-Qaeda-linked rebels.

"I'm not going to get into what other countries are doing or not doing but al-Shebab is a very serious terrorist threat and particularly in the region," press secretary George Little told reporters.

"And pressure that's brought to bear against them is something they deserve," he said.

Since Kenyan forces moved into southern Somalia to go after Shebab militants a month ago, US officials have adopted a reserved stance in public comments on the incursion -- although Washington has long portrayed the Islamist Shebab extremists as a dangerous threat.

Despite speculation about Western assistance to Kenya, Pentagon spokesman Captain John Kirby said the American military was providing no help to the Kenyan forces.

"We've been certainly monitoring their (Kenyan) military operations in southern Somalia. We haven't taken a view or expressed an opinion about that but we're certainly monitoring that.

"And we're not providing any aid or assistance to that effort," he told the same news conference.

Kenya's UN envoy on Tuesday sought to promote American support for his country's offensive during a visit to Washington, saying the United States and other countries should do their part to counter the militants.

"We would love to see the international community, with the US right up there, engaging in Somalia in ways in which they have not for quite a long time," Ambassador Macharia Kamau told AFP in an interview.

Kamau also said the United States should consider imposing a naval blockade on the rebel-held Somali port of Kismayo to choke off the rebels' supply lines, a move Washington has been reluctant to support.

A series of kidnappings of foreigners on Kenyan soil and incursions by Shebab, who control much of southern Somalia, triggered Kenya's unprecedented offensive.


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Sudan beefing up border air strike capacity: monitors
Khartoum (AFP) Nov 11, 2011
Sudan's army is beefing up its bombing capability in the border state of Blue Nile, a US monitoring group said on Friday, after Khartoum was accused of deadly air strikes on a refugee camp in South Sudan. Satellite imagery has "confirmed" that the military is "rapidly working to enhance air strike and air assault capacity in two air bases recently captured from rebels in Sudans Blue Nile bor ... read more

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