by Staff Writers
Antananarivo (AFP) June 22, 2011
The World Bank said Wednesday it was loaning an extra 52 million dollars (36 million euros) to Madagascar over three years to fund environmental projects despite the unsettled political situation on the Indian Ocean island.
"The financing will help boost conservation efforts in 30 national parks and three new protected zones covering a total area of 2.7 million hectares (6.6 million acres), a bank communique said.
The decision had been hotly debated as Madagascar's transitional government is not recognized by the international community.
Noting that its program in Madagascar has been frozen since March 2009, the bank stressed "the exceptional nature of this additional funding both for environmental and humanitarian reasons."
A source familiar with the case said on condition of anonymity that the United States abstained from voting after a long debate.
"Far from signalling a re-engagement of the World Bank in Madagascar, it (the loan) rather underscores that the social and environmental costs of inaction are simply too high," said Haleh Bridi, the bank's country director for Madagascar.
"Madagascar's biodiversity is a huge resource on the world scale and an irreplaceable public asset. We have no choice but to protect it," she added.
The statement said "additional safeguards were put in place to ensure that the Madagascar government play its role in protecting national parks and respect laws which ban the illegal exploitation and export of timber."
"The bank reserves the right to suspend disbursements if the government fails to meet its commitment," it warned.
The impoverished Indian Ocean island nation has been gripped by political tensions since the ouster of ex-president Marc Ravalomanana amid violent street protests in March 2009.
His return has been a major sticking point in efforts by the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) to mediate the crisis.
The SADC has called for Madagascar's current strongman Andry Rajoelina to allow Ravalomanana to return "unconditionally", while also urging Ravalomanana to sign off on a roadmap to new elections that would make Rajoelina president of a transitional government.
But Rajoelina said Tuesday his rival would only be allowed to return when security conditions are "favourable".
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Somalia Islamists vow loyalty to Zawahiri
Mogadishu, Somalia (UPI) Jun 21, 2011
The al-Shabaab Islamist group has sworn allegiance to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the new leader of al-Qaida, and declared, "We await your instructions." Al-Shabaab - The Youth - is losing ground to an offensive by Somalia's Western-backed Transitional Federal Government, backed by African peacekeepers, in Mogadishu, war-battered capital of the Horn of Africa state. But with two dozen, ... read more
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