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Resignation Rocks Zimbabwe’s Tenuous Power-Sharing Deal

Thabo Mbeki’s resignation as president of South Africa could hardly have come at a worse time for Zimbabwe, where he had just brokered a power-sharing deal that has now reached a pivotal — and perilous — moment, analysts say.

Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of Zimbabwe’s opposition and the prime minister designate, said Monday that the fall of the region’s most influential politician was a blow to Zimbabwe.

But he also said it was now incumbent on the African leaders who named Mbeki the mediator for Zimbabwe to ensure that the promise of the deal was fulfilled, despite the uncertainty about whether Mbeki would continue in the role.

“I think they’re aware of their responsibility to complete the negotiations,” said Tsvangirai, who spoke with serious understatement during an interview in the private study of his home here in the capital. The interview was Tsvangirai’s first since Mbeki was effectively fired by his own party just days after triumphantly concluding the Zimbabwe agreement.

Tsvangirai, 56, and Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, 84, are at an impasse in the first crucial test of Mugabe’s willingness to relinquish some of the complete control he has exercised during 28 years in power. Mugabe did not enter negotiations until July, after African election monitors concluded that a June runoff was not free or fair and African leaders insisted on talks. He said at the signing ceremony for the agreement that he was committed to it.

North Korea Closer to Restarting Its Nuclear Program

North Korea asked the International Atomic Energy Agency to remove seals and surveillance cameras at the North’s nuclear reprocessing facility, the agency’s director said Monday, in a setback for both the Bush administration and an international nuclear disarmament agreement.

The move, following a flurry of reports that the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il may be seriously ill, offers further proof that North Korea plans to renew activity at the facility that separates plutonium for use in nuclear weapons at its complex at Yongbyon. It further suggests that the country may be preparing to restart its nuclear weapons program.

North Korea has “asked the agency’s inspectors to remove seals and surveillance equipment to enable them to carry out tests at the reprocessing plant, which they say will not involve nuclear material,” the agency’s director, Mohamed ElBaradei, said in a speech to the group’s 35-country board of governors.

He confirmed that the agency’s inspectors had observed the restoration of some equipment that North Korea had previously removed during the dismantling.

In a telephone conversation with President Hu Jintao of China on Sunday, President Bush expressed concern about North Korea’s announcement last week of its intention to restore the nuclear facilities at Yongbyon to their original state, according to the White House.

China’s Food and Product Safety Chief Steps Down

The chief of China’s food and product safety agency was forced to resign Monday in a growing scandal over the country’s tainted milk supply, which has already sickened more than 50,000 infants and killed at least three children, according to the state-run Xinhua news service.

The official, Li Changjiang, is the most senior government official to lose his job in the scandal. His resignation was announced Monday evening, as the government widened its investigation into how an industrial chemical contaminated powdered baby formula and milk products made by some of the country’s biggest dairy companies.

It is one of the nation’s worst food-safety scandals in memory, exceeding the troubles of a year ago when China was found to have exported tainted pet food ingredients, toothpaste, seafood and dangerous lead-contaminated toys.

The government has already arrested 19 people suspected of intentionally spiking milk supplies with melamine, an industrial chemical made from coal that is normally used in the production of plastics and fertilizer.

It is poisonous when ingested and is banned from food production. But unscrupulous milk dealers here may have added melamine to watered-down milk to artificially inflate protein counts, officials say.

Congress Considers Great Lakes Conservation Compact

In an effort to put to rest the fear that drought-stricken states or foreign countries could tap into the tremendous body of freshwater in the Great Lakes region, the House on Monday began debate on a sweeping bill that would ban almost any diversion of water outside the lakes’ natural basin.

The water management bill would also put into place strict conservation rules for the eight states that border the lakes.

The bill is widely expected to win House approval, perhaps as soon as Tuesday.

Known as the Great Lakes Compact, the bill has already passed the Senate and is not expected to be challenged by the Bush administration, which has signaled its support.

With that understanding, the potential House approval is, to the compact’s many advocates across the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states, a long-sought final piece to a complicated puzzle that started taking shape a decade ago in an effort to give the region control over its water. The fear is that without strict, consistent rules on who is entitled to Great Lakes water, it might start disappearing.