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Pentagon says would serve a support role in Mali force
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Dec 5, 2012

Liberia's Sirleaf makes rival Weah peace ambassador
Monrovia (AFP) Dec 05, 2012 - Liberia announced on Wednesday that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had appointed opposition leader and football legend George Weah, her former election opponent, as the war-scarred African nation's new peace ambassador.

Weah, the leader of the main opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), "is now the new head of the peace and reconciliation committee", the information ministry said, adding that he was appointed on Monday.

The move came after Sirleaf met with the opposition in November in a bid to improve a tense relationship after a disputed election last year that was marred by violence.

Weah vowed at the time to cooperate with the ruling party, telling reporters: "If we don't cooperate with the government, and allow it to fail in meeting the needs of the country and its people, it harms everybody."

Weah, one of the top footballers of the 1990s and the first African to win the world player of the year award, lost to Sirleaf in a run-off election in 2005 that made her Africa's first democratically elected female head of state.

Sirleaf was re-elected last year in polls disputed by her CDC opponent Winston Tubman, who ran on a ticket with Weah as his vice-presidential candidate.

As peace ambassador, Weah succeeds Nobel Peace Prize-winner Leymah Gbowee, who resigned in October over what she said was a failure by Sirleaf -- her 2011 Nobel co-laureate -- to root out corruption in the country.

Liberia was shattered and its people traumatised by back-to-back conflicts between 1989 and 2003 in which around 250,000 people were killed.

While the country has slowly rebuilt itself, underlying issues behind the war have never been fully addressed, and last year's polls exposed the fragility of its recent peace.

The Pentagon told Congress on Wednesday it would serve a support role as trainer and advisor should an international force intervene in Mali to counter Islamist militants who control the country's north.

"At this point the intervention would be led by the Malian armed forces with support from the international military force," Amanda Dory, deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs, told a Senate hearing.

"There is no construct, or intention of having a US-boots-on-the-ground type of support to that intervention," she added. "At this point we're providing planning support exclusively and we will look at opportunities to provide training and equipment support with those partners with whom we can engage."

The United States broke off diplomatic ties with Mali after a coup in the West African nation in March, but maintains military cooperation with Mali's neighbors.

Americans, for example are helping Nigeria control its borders, Dory said.

It is through such African partners that the United States could support an international force but the issue of just how the Pentagon could provide logistical aid, including air support, has not been decided, she added.

Last month, the heads of state of the 15 members of the Economic Community of West African States adopted a plan to regain the occupied region and dismantle what the African Union has called "terrorist and criminal networks" that have infiltrated the vast desert area.

ECOWAS says it is ready to deploy 3,300 troops to reclaim northern Mali and is waiting for approval from the United Nations, but UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said Wednesday that a military intervention is unlikely before September 2013.

Tuareg rebels and Al-Qaeda linked Islamists seized much of northern Mali in March, after the coup. International powers fear that the territory could become a safe haven base for militant action across the region.

Senator Chris Coons, head of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa, said Washington needs "a strong and comprehensive policy" to ensure that terror networks like Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb do not use the Mali safe haven "to plan for regional or transnational terrorist attacks."

Coons told the Senate there should be no US boots on the ground there, but he advocated for a "more active role" in the crisis, including operational support for any international force that enters Mali.

Rights body urges Guinea justice over massacre
Conakry (AFP) Dec 05, 2012 - Human Rights Watch on Wednesday called on Guinea to step up efforts to bring to justice those responsible for a stadium massacre in 2009 that left almost 160 people dead.

A 2009 HRW investigation suggested that the "killings, rapes and other abuses that security forces committed on and after September 28 (2009) rise to the level of crimes against humanity due to their widespread and systematic nature and evidence that the crimes were premeditated and organised", HRW said in a report Wednesday.

Both the United Nations and the International Criminal Court have also said acts committed that day constituted crimes against humanity.

The massacre occurred when a peaceful rally organised by the opposition in Conakry's biggest stadium was bloodily suppressed by junta troops, leaving 157 dead, hundreds of women victims of sexual violence and over a thousand people injured.

The HRW urged the government on Wednesday to increase support for the investigation to ensure fair, credible prosecutions of the crimes without delay.

"President Alpha Conde and other Guinean officials have said they support accountability, but they need to better translate the rhetoric into action," said HRW senior international justice counsel Elise Keppler in a statement.

"Credible prosecutions would be a major contribution in moving Guinea to an era marked by respect for rule of law."

Three Guinean magistrates were in 2010 tasked with investigating the massacre, and according to the Guinean Organisation for the Defence of Human Rights (OGDH) and other rights groups, six people were charged but have yet to be tried.


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