Mauritania's ousted president, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, had a series of talks with a high ranking French delegation in his hometown, where he was put under house arrest by the military junta, reported the Arabic daily Alsharq Alawsat. According to members of Mr Abdallahi's family, the delegation arrived on Saturday in the village of Lemden, about 250 kilometres east of the capital.
The delegation, which includes two senior advisers of the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French intelligence director and other dignitaries, will also meet the former Mauritanian president, Ali Ould Mohammed Val, in Nouakchott. The visit is part of European efforts to find a settlement to the political stalemate that followed the August 6 military coup, by seeking a consensual solution based on concessions made by all parties.
A senior Israeli defence official said on Saturday that his country was rapidly getting closer to launching a large scale military operation against armed Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, reported the Jordanian daily al Rai. The Israeli Deputy Defence Minister, Matan Vilnai, warned that this operation "will be different from what took place in the past".
He considered that the truce was important to both parties, but added that the Palestinians were more afraid than ever before of Israel's military power, as the Jewish state had total control over the border crossings. "We must find the right time for an operation. Their provocations are not leaving us with much choice," he said. In the meantime, noted the Jordanian daily, the Israeli government was expected to give its approval on Sunday for the release of 250 Palestinian prisoners before Eid, as a sign of good intention towards the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas
A spokesman for the hijackers of a Saudi supertanker reiterated on Saturday the group's demand for a $25 million ransom, less than 24 hours before the ultimatum they had set expired, reported the Qatari daily al Raya. In a phone call, the pirates' spokesman, Mohammed Said, indicated that "negotiations were continuing" and did not discard the possibility of an extension of the November 30 deadline.
"Although the deadline for the payment of the $25 million ransom is close to expiry, we still hope for a positive response," he said. "The tactical movement [of the ship] will continue, but it is not aimed in any case at harming the crew of the tanker," he added. The Somali pirates hijacked the Saudi supertanker, the Sirius Star, on November 15 with 25 crew members on board and 300,000 tonnes of crude and had given the owners of the oil carrier up to Sunday to pay the ransom, noted the paper. Failure to pay the ransom could lead them to undertake acts with "extremely bad consequences", they have warned.
Hundreds of people were killed during violent clashes between Muslims and Christians that shook the central town of Jos in Nigeria during the last 48 hours, reported Sunday the Kuwaiti Arabic daily al Watan. "Around 400 bodies were brought to the mosque after Saturday's violence. Families come here to identify the bodies and recover them," said the Imam of Jos's central mosque. A local correspondent for an international radio station also said that he counted 381 corpses.
The clashes between rival Muslim and Christian factions broke out on Friday, on the back of a disputed local election that took place on Thursday. According to the Kuwaiti daily, the governor of Plateau state, of which Jos is the capital, imposed a 24 hour curfew and said in a statement that troops had orders to shoot on sight to enforce the curfew in neighbourhoods hit by the violence. * Digest compiled by Mohamed Naji email@example.com