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Briefs (left)

Congo Holds Two Activists
Who Assailed Oil Deals

By John Donnelly

Republic of Congo authorities Thursday arrested two activists — who had sharply criticized the country’s oil deals as corrupt — for allegedly stealing money from their nonprofit organizations, according to Global Witness, a London-based group that has called on African countries to be more transparent in their oil contracts.

Christian Mounzeo, president of Rencontre pour la Paix et les Droits de l’Homme, and Brice Mackosso of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, were being held in jail and at first were denied access to a lawyer, according to Sarah Wykes, a Global Witness researcher. She said that attorney Maitre Senga eventually was allowed to see Mounzeo and Mackosso.

Senga could not be reached for comment last night. Two senior Congolese officials also could not be reached by telephone.

Late last year, the World Bank delayed Congo’s application for debt relief because of what it called irregularities in Brazzaville’s oil contracts, including the existence of numerous private companies controlled by government officials who sold the country’s oil by using a maze of transactions.

Britain and Ireland Give Deadline To Form Ulster Government

By Brian Lavery

Prime ministers Tony Blair of Britain and Bertie Ahern of Ireland on Thursday gave Northern Ireland’s rival Protestant and Roman Catholic parties until this fall to work out their differences on their stalled provincial government. Otherwise, the prime ministers said, they would abandon the Belfast legislative assembly and find a new way to govern the British province.

In a joint statement, Blair and Ahern laid out plans to call together the elected officials to Northern Ireland’s mothballed legislature on May 15, in the hope that the officials can agree on appointing ministers to an executive branch. If the ministers are not appointed by Nov. 24, the British and Irish governments will take over running the province.

“Be in no doubt, at the conclusion of this period, we either resolve to go forward on the basis of mature democracy, or we call time on this and seek another way to go,” Blair said, speaking in Armagh. “Stasis is not an option.”

FDA to Intensify Oversight of Heart Devices on Market

By Barry Meier

The Food and Drug Administration plans to strengthen how it monitors critical heart devices like defibrillators by appointing outside medical experts to help it review the safety of units already on the market, a top agency official says.

The move would be the first time the FDA would have outside experts regularly advising it about the safety of medical devices being sold, said Dr. Daniel G. Schultz, director of the agency’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. Traditionally, the FDA has used its advisory panels to help it decide whether to permit the sale of a new device.

The agency’s decision comes as a medical group that represents doctors who implant devices prepares to release a report recommending changes in how data about heart units are collected and disclosed. Among other proposals, the group, the Heart Rhythm Society, may urge manufacturers to establish an outside panel to review product safety and help companies decide when to issue alerts, people involved in the group said.