The Guardian 21 February, 2007

Global briefs

CHINA: In late January, Chinese President Hu Jintao undertook a 12-day, 8-nation African tour. Chinese-African economic cooperation was high on the agenda. Arriving in Zambia after visiting Cameroon, Liberia and Sudan, Hu declared that economic development must be based on equality and mutual benefits. He asserted that "the basic foothold for Chinaís economic development is to expand its own domestic demand" rather than build exports. Recently China has increased imports from Africa and has adjusted tariffs to suit African needs. Hu went on to Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique and Seychelles. In Namibia, whose trade with China increased 100 percent in 2006, Hu offered developmental aid. In South Africa, he announced a $2.6 million grant in support of agricultural education. The newspaper Peopleís Daily highlighted Chinese educational assistance over 50 years to 50 African nations. From 1956 to 2006, 18,000 young Africans studied in China on scholarships. China constructed advanced laboratory facilities at 21 African universities.

PALESTINE: Bombs almost destroyed the Gaza headquarters of the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) on February 2, while fire devastated its allied Workers Voice radio station. The federationís headquarters had previously been bombed on October 12, and several union leaders have received death threats. Two rockets hit the home of Rasem Al Bayari, deputy secretary-general of the federation and a prominent critic of the Israeli occupation on January 29, followed by bombs and shootings of his residence the next day. There were no injuries. In a demonstration on February 4 in Ramallah, the PGFTU protested against what the federationís general secretary, Shaher Saad, sees as attempts to destroy the labour movement. On its web site, the PGFTU called upon Palestinian authorities to investigate the crimes, whose perpetrators are unknown, and to help deal with Gazaís factional violence and extreme poverty. Established in 1965, the PGFTU represents 270,000 members, or 75 percent of Palestinian workers.

CZECH REPUBLIC: A growing "No to the bases!" movement, with 30 groups involved, actively opposes US plans for radar installations in the Czech Republic purportedly directed at a hypothetical North Korean or Iranian missile attack. The radar component is connected with defence facilities located in Poland. In August 2006, two public opinion polls found that a majority of Czechs, in one case 83 percent, oppose the idea. On January 25, US officials officially requested permission to locate a radar base in the Jince locality. A day later a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson declared that such a move would have "negative consequences for international security." The Czech government reportedly favours the radar station, which Communists and Socialists say should be submitted to a referendum.

BOLIVIA: The Association of Women Town Councillors of Bolivia met in La Paz, the nationís capital on January 29. Over 100 women honed negotiating and communication skills and discussed legal aspects of their work. The UNís Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women co-sponsor of the event and will be facilitating similar meetings in Ecuador, Colombia and Peru.

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