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News Briefs

Palestinians Harbor Hope for Gaza Port


Along the beach south of here, where donkeys pull carts through thick beige sand and fishermen cast nets into the Mediterranean, Palestinians are staking a major portion of their future.

Soon, at a spot six miles south of Gaza City, construction is due to begin on a $70 million harbor that backers hope will breathe life into a moribund Palestinian economy while also marking another significant step in the voyage to national independence.

Despite miles of coastline, businesspeople in the largely Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip must go through Israel for most of their trade.

The Palestinians complain that Israeli middlemen nearly double the costs for imported goods, from automobiles to furniture, while Israeli-imposed delays play havoc with Palestinian exports of fruits and vegetables.

After years of testy negotiations, Palestinians finally have the right to build and operate -- under some restrictions -- their first seaport.

Last year’s U.S.-brokered Wye Plantation accord put the Gaza harbor in writing, and another agreement ratified this month at Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, gave the green light for an Oct. 1 construction start date.

The Israeli government will maintain overall control. Worried that the port could be used to bring in weapons or other illicit cargo, the Israelis will supervise the construction and will check all incoming and outgoing shipments twice -- once at sea and again on land, inside the harbor complex.

Palestinian officials complain that the Israelis put up numerous obstacles to construction of the airport, such as blocking the transport of building materials. They hope for better from the new government of Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Discontent Grows Under Rule of Zimbabwe President Mugabe


President Robert Mugabe, one of the last African autocrats, is leading his country into its 20th year of independence with its economy imploding and his control under growing threat.

Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, an umbrella grouping of trade unions, social, church and civic organizations, is the first nationally based opposition party to confront Mugabe in the former Southern Rhodesia.

A textile worker, miner, and union organizer, Tsvangirai, 47, invites comparison with Poland’s Lech Walesa -- a relative unknown springing from the workplace to prominence by facing down an entrenched regime.

But there is an even closer precedent next door in Zambia, where organized labor led the 1991 campaign that ended Kenneth Kaunda’s 27 years in power.

Mugabe’s ouster would send reverberations around southern Africa as it tries to adapt to South Africa’s new post-apartheid assertiveness and forge regional political and economic solidarity in the face of continuing wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola.

But Mugabe retains near-dictatorial power over the machinery of both state and his ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). To dislodge him will take little short of political revolution.

Mugabe will run again in 2002 for the presidency where it’s possible that Tsvangirai will run in opposition party.