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KHARTOUM, August 28, 2018 (News Wires) - South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar refused to sign the latest draft of a peace deal with the Juba government that would end a years-long conflict, Sudan’s foreign minister said on Tuesday.

“The main opposition party, led by Machar, as well as another group, refused to sign, demanding guarantees over their reservations” about the deal, Al-Dirdiri Mohamed told reporters in Khartoum.

Sudan has helped broker talks between the rebels and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir which appeared to achieve a breakthrough in recent months, with the sides signing up to a ceasefire on Aug. 5.

Previous peace agreements have held for only a matter of months before fighting resumed, which Kiir has blamed on foreign influence.

By the Gazette Editorial Board

THE signing of a peace deal between President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar should have brought well-deserved joy to the South Sudanese people. The deal, however, might have caused sadness and concern among the people who suffered greatly during some five years of civil war. The war claimed around 300,000 lives and turned more than three million (quarter of the population) into refugees in and outside the country.

 

The greatest cause for sadness is what led to such great loss of life and property. For the civil war emanated from a power conflict between the nation’s political leaders, each wishing to monopolise authority for sake of his tribe.

 

The spread of violence, poverty, hunger and illness over the last five years has turned South Sudan, the youngest state in the world in respect of its creation in 2011, to the most failed state in the world, surpassing Somalia and Yemen.

 

After seceding from Sudan in 2011, the world hoped that South Sudan would launch a large scale development process following years of marginalisation and underdevelopment resulting from years of conflict with the Khartoum government.

 

However, the rulers of the new state, failed to invest the huge oil wealth the country proved to have for the welfare of their people. Instead, President Salva Kiir charged his deputy, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup against him and expelled him from office in 2013. And, following on from this, the two drove their nation into endless tribal and sectarian conflict over who should rule.

 

According to this week’s deal, signed with the mediation of the Khartoum government, rebel leader Riek Machar would return to government as one of five vice-presidents. The deal also offers Machar's tribe and other opposition groups some 15 portfolios from the total of 35 portfolios of Kiir's government.

 

A question about the durability of the deal, however, now emerges. Will it stand firm should future conflicts arise? This is an especially relevant question, as the current deal is not the first to be signed between the two rivals.

 

A previous peace deal was signed between the two parties in 2015. It failed with the fresh eruption of conflict over who should rule.

 

According to the 2015 deal, Machar obtained the position of vice President. Sectarian violence erupted afresh in Juba, however, and Machar fled the country again after being replaced as vice-president.

 

Some analysts attribute the current signing of a new deal to the state of poverty that hit the country and its leaders alike after some powers imposed sanctions, freezing aid as well as the funds of the conflicting leaders. So, overcoming the terrible financial crisis could be the motive for signing this week's peace deal rather than a real conviction of the need to share authority and end the calamities that have beset the people as a result of this conflict.

 

This means that the conflict could resume once either of the parties comes upon the means to obtain superiority over the other.

 

What is needed of the various parties concerned, therefore, especially the neighbouring African countries, is to work hard on fostering this peace deal and eliminating all causes of the sectarian conflict afflicting this state once again.

THE signing of a peace deal between President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar should have brought well-deserved joy to the South Sudanese people. The deal, however, might have caused sadness and concern among the people who suffered greatly during some five years of civil war. The war claimed around 300,000 lives and turned more than three million (quarter of the population) into refugees in and outside the country.

 

The greatest cause for sadness is what led to such great loss of life and property. For the civil war emanated from a power conflict between the nation’s political leaders, each wishing to monopolise authority for sake of his tribe.

 

The spread of violence, poverty, hunger and illness over the last five years has turned South Sudan, the youngest state in the world in respect of its creation in 2011, to the most failed state in the world, surpassing Somalia and Yemen.

 

After seceding from Sudan in 2011, the world hoped that South Sudan would launch a large scale development process following years of marginalisation and underdevelopment resulting from years of conflict with the Khartoum government.

 

However, the rulers of the new state, failed to invest the huge oil wealth the country proved to have for the welfare of their people. Instead, President Salva Kiir charged his deputy, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup against him and expelled him from office in 2013. And, following on from this, the two drove their nation into endless tribal and sectarian conflict over who should rule.

 

According to this week’s deal, signed with the mediation of the Khartoum government, rebel leader Riek Machar would return to government as one of five vice-presidents. The deal also offers Machar's tribe and other opposition groups some 15 portfolios from the total of 35 portfolios of Kiir's government.

 

A question about the durability of the deal, however, now emerges. Will it stand firm should future conflicts arise? This is an especially relevant question, as the current deal is not the first to be signed between the two rivals.

 

A previous peace deal was signed between the two parties in 2015. It failed with the fresh eruption of conflict over who should rule.

 

According to the 2015 deal, Machar obtained the position of vice President. Sectarian violence erupted afresh in Juba, however, and Machar fled the country again after being replaced as vice-president.

 

Some analysts attribute the current signing of a new deal to the state of poverty that hit the country and its leaders alike after some powers imposed sanctions, freezing aid as well as the funds of the conflicting leaders. So, overcoming the terrible financial crisis could be the motive for signing this week's peace deal rather than a real conviction of the need to share authority and end the calamities that have beset the people as a result of this conflict.

 

This means that the conflict could resume once either of the parties comes upon the means to obtain superiority over the other.

 

What is needed of the various parties concerned, therefore, especially the neighbouring African countries, is to work hard on fostering this peace deal and eliminating all causes of the sectarian conflict afflicting this state once again.

MARKOVEC (Slovenia), August 6 (AFP) - When he used to go hunting, Miha Mlakar would dream of killing a bear. But today the 33-year-old from Slovenia makes his living watching the animals, peacefully, in their natural forest environment.

The turnaround to shooting bears with a camera, not a rifle, puts Mlakar, who runs bear observation tours, in step with wider efforts in the small Alpine nation to promote the coexistence of humans and bears.

Once on the verge of extinction, Slovenia’s brown bear population is booming, with the number roaming the sprawling forests having doubled in the last decade to around 1,000.

As a result, encounters with bears have increased - not that it seems to unduly worry everyone.

“If you run into a bear, you have to step back... (But) there is no danger. The bear also prefers to move away,” Ljubo Popovic, a 67-year-old pensioner who lives in the village of Banja Loka in the southern Kocevje region, told AFP.

Lying an hour to the west, near Markovec village, Mlakar has built 20 hides in a remote patch of forest reachable only by off-road vehicle and takes visitors, including foreign tourists, to observe the bears.

“I cannot imagine this forest without bears. Bears make the forest wild and pristine, natural, like it was a few hundred or thousand years ago... I feel a connection with bears,” he tells AFP.

Slovenian bears are even sought after abroad.

Between 1996 and 2006, eight Slovenian bears were released in the French Pyrenees, and France currently has a population of about 40 bears, whose presence divides opinion in regions where they live.

In Slovenia, more than 60 per cent of respondents in a 2016 survey carried out in areas where bears live said they were in favour of the bears’ presence, even if many also said they would like to see the numbers regulated.

“We have an average of one to three cases of physical contact between bears and humans per year,” Rok Cerne, of the Slovenia Forest Service in charge of wildlife, told AFP.

“Fortunately, we haven’t registered any serious incident over the last years,” he added, stressing they were “very active in preventive measures”.

WASHINGTON, July 23, 2018 (News Wires) - US President Donald Trump warned Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday not to threaten the United States or face the consequences, hours after Rouhani told Trump that hostile policies towards Tehran could lead to “the mother of all wars.”

In a late night Twitter message directed at Rouhani, Trump wrote: “Never, ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.We are no longer a country that will stand for your demented words of violence & death. Be cautious!”

The escalation in rhetoric came as the Trump administration has launched an offensive of speeches and online communications meant to foment unrest and help pressure Iran to end its nuclear programme and its support of militant groups, according to US officials familiar with the matter.

Iran has faced increased US pressure and looming sanctions following Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from a 2015 international deal over Iran’s nuclear programme. Tehran has said its nuclear work is just for electricity generation and other peaceful projects.

In a speech late on Sunday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced Iran’s leaders as a “mafia” and promised unspecified backing for Iranians unhappy with their government.

Addressing a gathering of Iranian diplomats earlier on Sunday, Rouhani said: “Mr Trump, don’t play with the lion’s tail, this would only lead to regret,” according to a report by the state new agency IRNA.

“America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars,” Rouhani said, leaving open the possibility of peace between the two countries, at odds since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Rouhani also scoffed at Trump’s threat to halt Iranian oil exports and said Iran has a dominant position in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping waterway.

Rouhani’s apparent threat earlier this month to disrupt oil shipments from neighbouring countries came in reaction to efforts by Washington to force all countries to stop buying Iranian oil.

Washington initially planned to shut Iran out of global oil markets completely after Trump abandoned the deal that limited Iran’s nuclear ambitions, demanding all other countries stop buying Iranian crude by November.

But the United States has somewhat eased its stance, saying it may grant sanction waivers to some allies that are particularly reliant on Iranian supplies.

OSLO, July 4, 2018 (News Wires) -The traditional concert after the annual awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10 in Oslo will not be staged this year due to financial difficulties, the organisers said.

"There will be no Nobel Peace Prize concert" in 2018, said a statement from the Nobel Institute, Warner Bros Norway and the Gyro Event company.

"The decision emerges from a wish to re-think the concert format and content but also reflects the challenging financial situation of the concert in recent years," it added.

Live television audiences for the concert, which has been paid for solely by private patrons, have fallen away in the age of smartphones and the organisers said they would consider new platforms.

The Dagbladet newspaper reported that Norway's supermarket giant Rema 1000 has pulled its sponsorship leaving the organisers unable to make up for the lost amount.

The show has attracted more than 100 leading acts ranging from Whitney Houston to Lady Gaga since it was launched at Oslo's Spektrum arena in 1994.

Gazette Staff

CAIRO, June 1, 2018 - China's Special Envoy on the Middle East Issue Gong Xiaosheng has said that Egypt and Israel asked Beijing to play a big role in the peace process, the official Middle East News Agency (MENA) said.

During a press conference held at the Chinese Embassy in Cairo on Thursday night, Gong said that his country was looking forward to increasing coordination and cooperation with Cairo on Palestine and the peace process.

"Israel also proposed that China play a bigger role, and this is a positive development as Tel-Aviv always insisted that the United States is the only party involved in negotiations," Gong said.

The Chinese envoy voiced deep concern over recent tensions, referring to escalations between Palestinian factions and the Israeli Gaza Strip army over the past two days, the largest since the 2014 war.

"The international community should pay more attention to the Palestinian Cause, as much as any other issue in the region, and efforts should be made to resume peace negotiations stalled since 2014," the envoy said.

"China supports the Arab peace initiative and all other initiatives in line with Palestinian interests,’’ Gong added.

The Arab peace initiative adopted at the Arab League summit in Beirut in 2002 calls for the withdrawal of Israel from the Arab territories occupied in 1967, the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and a settlement of the refugee crisis based on UN Resolution 194.

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