Posts Tagged ‘William Hague’

Back to earth Milifans. Labour’s on track to get just 10 more seats than Gordon managed. That’s good is it?

28/04/2015, 07:12:15 PM

by Samuel Dale

Ed Miliband is having a party. He’s running rings around Boris Johnson, hobnobbing with Russell Brand and joking about the Boston Red Sox.

He is ready. He’s packing his bags for Downing Street along with the bookies, Labour members, some pollsters and an increasing number of political commentators.

Party confidence is growing every day after a well-run campaign has boosted Miliband while a brutally negative one appears to be damaging Cameron.

It looks like we’ve got the Big Mo.

But let’s look at the facts. The FT is projecting Labour on course for 268 seats and that’s before a probable late squeeze that always afflicts the party.

That is a net gain of just 10 from the nadir of 2010 when a monstrously unpopular Gordon Brown was battling the banking crisis and global recession.

That’s after five years in opposition against a fractious coalition that has missed its deficit target, lost the AA credit rating and rained unprecedented cuts on the nation. Just 10 more seats. Ten.

Just 268 seats would be by far the weakest mandate of any prime minister in modern British history. Differently polls tell slightly different stories but let’s use the FT as a barometer for now.


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William Hague moves to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe and rehabilitate Robert Mugabe

18/02/2013, 04:29:44 PM

by Pete Bowyer

The EU Foreign Affairs Council has just announced its decision on Zimbabwean sanctions in a press communique from Brussels this afternoon. It is worse than campaigners could possibly have feared.

Not only have EU foreign ministers agreed to suspend the majority of all remaining sanctions on Mugabe and his regime following a “peaceful and credible constitutional referendum” next month, they have also agreed “to suspend immediately the travel ban imposed on 6 Members of the government of Zimbabwe. The EU has also agreed to delist 21 persons and one entity subject to restrictive measures.”

International NGOs such as Global Witness, Human Rights Watch and Justice Zimbabwe who have been campaigning for those in Zimbabwe who have been complicit in human rights abuses to be added to the sanctions list and for measures to be deferred until after free and fair elections in the summer have been snubbed.

In practice, the decision means EU sanctions have immediately been lifted on almost a quarter of Mugabe’s cronies currently effected by the measures on little more than vague promises, and no real change on the ground in terms of human rights abuses and respect for the rule of law. Ironically, it comes on the very same day as the EU Foreign Affairs Council reaffirmed its support for the “promotion and protection of human rights around the world” in a separate communiqué.

The decision, agreed unanimously by EU Foreign Secretaries, including British Foreign Secretary William Hague, represents a major victory for President Mugabe and a significant success for the Belgian government who had been pushing a softer EU line towards Zimbabwe.

It is a stunning volte face from Hague who had previously advocated a more principled and robust approach to Mugabe. Britain now appears to have derogated its influence over geo-politics in southern Africa to the diamond traders of Antwerp.

It should come as no surprise that the Foreign Secretary has yet to comment publicly on the ignominy. But the left should take no comfort from this decision either. Whilst once Mugabe was the focal point of campaigns against a despotic regime which murdered thousands of its own citizens and impoverished a nation, anger has diminished in recent years despite little noticeable improvements on the ground.

Today is a milestone. A milestone in the rehabilitation of Mugabe by the West who has been rewarded for the failure of a nation.

Pete Bowyer is a Labour activist and spokesman for JusticeZimbabwe

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Thursday News Review

28/07/2011, 06:22:29 AM

Hague’s Libyan gamble

Mr Hague, the foreign secretary, who on Wednesday expelled the remaining staff of the Libyan embassy as Britain granted political recognition to the country’s opposition, said that the democratic gains made during the six-month series of revolutions risk being for naught thanks to sectarian violence and struggling economies. “We mustn’t expect each country to be neatly done in six months. It’s not a computer game that comes to an end when you get bored,” he said in an interview with The Times. He said the future of Egypt would decide the extent to which democracy would flow across the region, calling it “the single most important piece of the jigsaw in the whole Arab Spring”. Mr Hague spoke amid increasingly frantic diplomatic moves five months into a bombing campaign against the Libyan dictatorship. The foreign secretary said Britain could free up frozen funds for the Libyan opposition. – Daily Telegraph

The foreign secretary’s decision is a significant boost for the rebels’ Benghazi-based national transitional council, which is viewed by Britain, as of today, as the “sole governmental authority” in Libya. By taking this action, Britain has come into line with the US, France, Italy and other Nato allies, which had already declared the NTC to be the de facto government of Libya. As a matter of longstanding policy, Britain recognises states, not governments. But in effect London has now “de-recognised” the Gaddafi regime and its representatives in the UK. In doing so, it has further delegitimised the remaining authority of Gaddafi and those around him and has invited the NTC to send a representative – in essence an ambassador – to London. He claimed the move had support from Arab League and African Union countries – many of which, however, continue to deal with Gaddafi’s government. – the Guardian

Huhne file is handed to the prosecutors

Police probing allegations Cabinet minister Chris Huhne made his wife take his speeding points have passed their findings to prosecutors. Lib Dem Energy Secretary Mr Huhne would be forced to quit if the Crown Prosecution Service decides to put him on trial. The Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer will take the final ­decision on the case, after it has been considered by lawyers. Essex police launched the inquiry in May after the allegations surfaced following a newspaper interview with his estranged wife Mrs Pryce. He and Mrs Pryce could both be jailed if they are convicted of perverting the course of justice. – Daily Mirror

Chris Huhne’s future as a Cabinet minister could be determined within weeks after police passed a file to prosecutors yesterday about an alleged speeding offence. Pressure is mounting on the Energy Secretary amid suggestions the Prime Minister may already be considering a possible successor. Mr Huhne faces political oblivion if he is formally accused of perverting the course of justice by allowing his wife to take speeding penalty points for him. Yesterday Downing Street was forced to deny David Cameron and Nick Clegg had already held talks on a mini-reshuffle that will take place if Mr Huhne is forced to resign. However, there is growing speculation the well-regarded LibDem business minister Ed Davey, who is close to Mr Clegg, would be parachuted into the Cabinet to replace the Energy Secretary. – Daily Mail

Ed nose day

Good news for Justine, wife of Ed Miliband. Quieter nights are in prospect in the Miliband family home after the Labour leader underwent a successful operation on his nose to correct a breathing problem. As symptoms of sleep apnoea – aggravated in his case by a deviated septum – include heavy snoring and restlessness, the person most likely to notice the difference is Mr Miliband’s new wife, Justine. The hour-long NHS procedure took place at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital in central London. A Labour source denied suggestions that part of the intention of the operation was to make him sound less “bunged-up”. He said: “I’ve spoken to him since the operation and his voice sounds exactly the same.” – the Independent

An expectant cluster of doctors, of both the medical and spinning variety, gathered around a bedside in Grays Inn Road, London, to await an event that could determine the outcome of the next general election. It was Ed nose day at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear hospital. The Labour leader’s spin doctors continued to blather on about how obstructive sleep apnoea is a respiratory condition, leading the throat to repeatedly narrow or close during sleep. But everyone knew that all this medical detail was spin doctor obfuscation. In reality, the hour-long operation was a giant gamble. No one knew whether when he awoke the sound of Miliband’s voice would be transformed. Would the new Bold Ed of recent weeks, willing to tear down the Murdoch empire, be given a voice to match – a lustrous blend of Laurence Olivier, Barry White and Kathleen Turner? Those who have spoken to Miliband (no audio is yet available) say he sounds the same. – the Guardian

The madness of the Steve Hilton

Mr Hilton also suggested to Mr Cameron that he simply ignore European labour regulations on temporary workers, to the alarm of the most senior civil servant in Downing Street. “Steve asked why the PM had to obey the law,” said one Whitehall insider. “Jeremy [Heywood, Mr Cameron’s permanent secretary] had to explain that if David Cameron breaks the law he could be put in prison.” Mr Hilton, who often walks around the Prime Minister’s office without shoes, is an increasingly influential figure who often suggests seemingly crazy ideas in an attempt to spark creative debate. According to a report in the Financial Times, Mr Hilton also recommended sacking hundreds of Government press offices and replacing them with a blog for each Whitehall department. The newspaper quoted a source close to Mr Hilton suggesting that he thought that maternity leave rights were “the biggest obstacle to woman finding work. Steve also wanted to suspend all consumer rights legislation for nine months to see what would happen,” the source added. “Some of his ideas are great but a lot of time is spent at an official level trying to deconstruct his maddest thoughts.” – Daily Telegraph

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Hague’s retreat from ten years of blood, toil and money in Afghanistan

29/06/2011, 12:00:06 PM

by Khalid Mahmood

The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, believes he has come up with the groundbreaking policy to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan. He now argues that we can negotiate a settlement with the Taliban. Rather, Mr Hague should, as something of an historian, give some consideration to the events that have led us to where we are today.

The Taliban were a product of the Mujahidin’s uprising against the Soviet Union’s forces in the 1980s. Enjoying the support of the Saudis, the CIA and the Pakistani ISI, they caused huge damage to the Soviet forces, killing thousands and fatally undermining the previously fearsome reputation of the red army.  When the Soviets withdrew, the West and its allies left the Mujahidin and its remnants to its own devices. From the ashes of this unhappiness rose the so called Taliban, who wanted to run the Afghan state according to their twisted interpretation of Sharia law. This interpretation led to the summary executions of men, women and children whose behaviour or beliefs fell short of the Taliban’s exacting standards. We all remember the scenes at the national football stadium in Kabul when a woman knelt on the stadium ground and had a bullet shot through her head. This, along with many other atrocities, was the Taliban’s compliance with Sharia law.


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The prime minister’s human shield – William Hague – is going nowhere.

11/03/2011, 08:07:50 AM

by Jamie Reed

As speculation intensifies in westminster-media circles about the future of foreign secretary, William Hague, a reality check is called for. For now, at least, William Hague is unsackable.

To be clear, experts in the field and foreign office officials must cringe in times of international crisis as Westminster politicians and commentators alike become lay-experts in diplomacy and the detailed realities of any given troubled region. This in mind, it doesn’t stop the often ugly truth from emerging.

Gordon Brown was rarely more prophetic than when he declared of our vainglorious prime minister that this is “no time for a novice”. But a novice is what the country has been landed with and what the rest of the international community now has been burdened with as well.

A laconic Hague has been blamed for the shambolic, shameful and humiliating response from Britain to the crisis in Libya – yet Hague’s performance illustrates the behaviour of a man not in control of Britain’s response. Not because he lacks the ability, but because an undeserving prime minister – driven by domestic political considerations instead of international policy objectives – is desperate to cast himself as a world leader and take control of affairs of which he has little understanding. As a result, his diplomatic ineptitude has been laid bare.

Cameron’s late response to the crisis (despite being in neighbouring Egypt at the onset) led to the bellowing of naive threats which were as excruciating in their delivery as they were destructive in their consequence. It was left to the foreign secretary to attempt to clean up after this intemperate and ill-advised outburst, with the US also slapping down the would-be world leader. It was No.10, too, who authorised the recent ludicrous deployment of the SAS, again to counter-productive and even humiliating effect. Little wonder that President Obama believes our dear Prime Minister to be a “light weight”.

It is painful for MPs on all sides of the House to watch Britain’s diplomatic standing cheapened in the way in which it has been in recent weeks. In his increasingly embarassing attempts to emulate Tony Blair, Cameron has exposed himself as a third division Anthony Eden. Hague is Cameron’s first and last line of defence in foreign affairs. His removal would expose the prime ministers naked incompetence. This latest human shield will be around for a while yet.

Jamie Reed is Labour MP for Copeland and a shadow environment minister.

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Friday News Review

11/03/2011, 06:35:37 AM

Coalition could field candidates at the next election

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are to change the law to allow them to put up joint candidates using a single emblem on the ballot paper, Labour claimed on the eve of the Lib Dem conference in Sheffield. The Cabinet Office minister Mark Harper pushed legal changes through the Commons this week that will allow two parties to field a candidate under a single emblem for mayoral elections. He said he intended to introduce a similar system for the next general election, probably by using a bill introducing individual voter registration. Harper said: “It is the government’s intention to fix it ahead of the general election so that those candidates who stand for more than one political party will be happy.” Chris Bryant, the shadow constititutional affairs minister, said: “Perhaps the Conservative and Liberal Democrats should merge their logos. They could have a bird in a tree. I would suggest a dodo.” Coalition sources maintained the changes to the law were not a contingency plan designed to pave the way for a joint Tory-Lib Dem ticket. Instead they said the change was designed to help the Labour and Co-operative party put up a single candidate. But any sign of plans for a longer-term deal will be viewed with intense suspicion by Lib Dem members. A strategy motion from the executive for the party’s conference in Sheffield says it must do more to assert its independence. – the Guardian

Tory and Lib Dem MPs will be able to stand as joint Coalition candidates at the next election under controversial plans privately put in motion this week. Ministers are to change the law to allow candidates standing for two parties at the same time to put a joint emblem on the ballot paper. That paves the way for an electoral pact between the Coalition partners at the next election – a controversial move that would anger the grassroots supporters of both parties. The door has been opened to Tory and Lib Dems agreeing local peace pacts with one candidate representing them both – perhaps under a logo combining the yellow Liberal Democrat bird with the Tory oak tree. It opens the door to Tory and Lib Dems agreeing local peace pacts with one candidate representing them both – perhaps under a logo combining the yellow Liberal Democrat bird with the Tory oak tree. At the moment, a candidate standing for more than one party cannot put either party’s logo on the ballot paper – an anomaly that discriminates against a coalition pact. But earlier this week the Government quietly pushed through a change in the law which allows those who stand for mayor or in local council elections to use a Coalition logo. Candidates for mayoral or local council elections can use a Coalition logo. Constitutional Affairs Minister Mark Harper wants the same rules for the general election. Now Constitutional Affairs Minister Mark Harper has revealed that he will introduce primary legislation in the Commons to push through the same rules for the general election – in time for the next nationwide poll in 2015. – Daily Mail (more…)

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Thursday News Review

10/03/2011, 06:27:47 AM

Hague out, Mitchell in?

David Cameron today publicly backed William Hague over his handling of the Libya crisis after Labour leader Ed Miliband branded the Foreign Secretary incompetent. The Prime Minister told MPs during Question Time that Mr Hague, who was not present in the Commons as he was briefing the Queen, was doing an ‘excellent’ job. Mr Cameron’s endorsement comes after claims that a replacement Foreign Secretary had been lined up. Allies insisted last night that Mr Hague – who has been roundly criticised for his slow response to the conflict in North Africa – is determined to stay until the next election. But the Mail has learned the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary met privately on Monday evening in Downing Street for a heart-to-heart. International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell has reportedly been lined up to step in if Mr Hague quits. Downing Street stressed that Mr Hague ‘absolutely’ has David Cameron’s support. But No 10 yesterday referred statements on his state of mind to the Foreign Office. The Prime Minister’s spokesman said there were no plans for a Cabinet reshuffle ‘any time soon’.  Yet senior officials were openly speculating about Mr Hague’s future yesterday. Sources said that Mr Cameron was poised to promote Mr Mitchell when Mr Hague appeared about to renounce frontline politics last year after revelations he shared a room with a male aide. A well-placed source said: ‘Andrew Mitchell is very well thought of and familiar with all the issues. He sits on the National Security Council. He would have been sent over last year if William had gone and he’s still the man. ‘William has lost his mojo. He seems tired and often unengaged. ‘He just doesn’t seem that interested.’ – Daily Mail

A political reputation totters precariously in the Libyan storm. Last May William Hague arrived at the Foreign Office as one of the most popular and authoritative figures in the Conservative Party, a key player in the Coalition. Now, in the latest twist of his curiously oscillating political journey, there is speculation about whether he will be in his post for much longer. Politics is turned on its head. Hague, a master of ridicule, is ridiculed. Seemingly calm and solid, he has become part of a damaging narrative for the Government as a whole that poses potentially lethal questions about its competence. Although Hague is trapped in a media narrative from which there is no easy escape, his troubles have wider implications. Very early on in its life questions are being raised about the Government’s competence, and not just Hague’s – the theme of yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions. Various ministers have been in the spotlight, including Nick Clegg, Michael Gove, Caroline Spelman and Andrew Lansley. Now it is Hague’s turn. In relation to Libya, control of policy has not always been clear. Is No 10 or the Foreign Office in charge? Is the policy one of cautious conservatism or Blair-like interventionism? As Hague totters the Government totters too, a coalition of two parties led by a trio of youthful politicians – Cameron, Osborne, Clegg – who have never been in government before, facing economic and international crises. In such circumstances there will be more cock-ups. If they occur in Hague’s brief, the pressure on him will grow. Yesterday even his absence at Prime Minister’s Questions caused a fleeting stir. Where was he? – the Independent

David Cameron had said he takes “full responsibility” for the botched SAS mission in eastern Libya and has given his full backing to his “excellent” foreign secretary, William Hague. The prime minister fought off the charge of government “incompetence” over both Libya and policing amid reports of a 12,000 cut in the number of frontline officers, as he locked horns with Ed Miliband at prime minister’s questions. In a heated exchange that resulted in both sides levelling personal attacks, the Labour leader seized on the secret mission to Benghazi – which left Britain severely embarrassed when an eight-strong team including special forces personnel was detained by local rebels – to claim that this was the latest event to fuel “increasing concern about the government’s competence on the issue of Libya”. Miliband told Cameron there was a “deafening silence” about the performance of the foreign secretary, who was not present in the Commons for question time because he was briefing the Queen, according to the Foreign Office. – the Guardian

Ireland swears in new Taoiseach

The Irish Republic on Wednesday swore in its new prime minister, Enda Kenny, after an election that wiped out the longtime ruling party, Fianna Fail. Ms. Kenny’s center-right Fine Gael party will now govern in a coalition with the center-left Labour Party. Ireland has been traumatized by the collapse of its economy and recently accepted a $93 billion loan from the European Union and theInternational Monetary Fund. Ms. Kenny pledged to enter into a “covenant with the Irish people” in which “honesty is not just the best policy; it’s our only policy.” – New York Times

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny was elected Taoiseach by an unprecedented 90-vote majority with the support of five Independents in a 117 to 27 division in the Dáil. Sinn Féin, the United Left Alliance and a number of other Independents including Shane Ross (Dublin South), Maureen O’Sullivan (Dublin Central), Finian McGrath (Dublin North Central), Catherine Murphy (Kildare North), Thomas Pringle (Donegal South West), Luke “Ming” Flanagan (Roscommon-South Leitrim) John Halligan (Waterford) and Mick Wallace (Wexford) voted against. Fianna Fáil did not oppose Mr Kenny’s nomination and abstained from the vote, as did a number of other Independents. Party leader Micheál Martin said his party respected his mandate. However, he hit out at the programme for government, describing it as “one of the least specific” ever published and said the two parties had “kicked to touch on most of the major issues to be addressed by this Dáil”. Simon Harris (FG, Wicklow), at 24 the youngest TD in the Dáil, nominated Mr Kenny as Taoiseach. He said he would bring “integrity, honesty and a work rate which simply cannot be surpassed”, to the job. He said “today the period of mourning is over for Ireland. Today we hang out our brightest colours.” Ciara Conway (Lab, Waterford) who seconded the nomination said it was a “historic moment”. Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said his party could not support Mr Kenny’s nomination because he proposed to put Fianna Fáil’s four-year plan into effect and was “prepared to sell important State assets and introduce water charges and property taxes for ordinary households”. – Irish Times

Coordinated strikes in the air as pension reform takes centre stage

The generous pensions enjoyed by public sector workers are “not tenable” for taxpayers in the long term, a government-ordered inquiry will report today. Lord Hutton, the Labour peer and former Work and Pensions Secretary, will propose that the pensions of millions of state employees should no longer be based on their final salary. Instead, they would be linked to their average earnings during their career. Lord Hutton’s nine-month inquiry will also propose raising the age at which most public sector employees can draw their full pension from 60 to 65. It has already been increased for new recruits. In future, the “normal pension age” in most public service pension schemes would be linked to the age at which people qualify for the basic state pension. This is due to go up from 65 for both men and women in December 2018 to 66 by April 2020. The review increases the prospect of coordinated industrial action by millions of workers including NHS staff, fireman, prison officers and teachers. Ministers have drawn up contingency plans to deal with mass industrial action but union leaders urged them to enter into dialogue rather than “rushing” to make cuts. Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, said: “The pension schemes are already sustainable and their cost as a proportion of GDP is set to fall over time. The Government must listen to the concerns of public sector employees, and avoid imposing changes that will leave workers with poorer pensions, and lead to people dropping out of schemes, leaving them with no provision in their old age.” – the Independent (more…)

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Will Hague ride off into the sunset?

09/03/2011, 05:00:53 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Poor old William Hague. There’s no shortage of people on this side of the aisle who have a soft spot for our favourite failed Tory leader. He’s self-deprecating, quick-witted and only ever tribal in that tongue-in-cheek sort of way. But the buck has come screeching to a halt outside his door for the botched incursion into Libya by UK special forces last week. And that buck is not for shifting.

His apparent sanctioning of the “botched” boy’s own adventure has already generated reams of speculation about his future as foreign secretary and dominated today’s PMQs. The cod psychology in today’s papers is equally feverish. Kevin Maguire in the Mirror raises the possibility that there is a darker tale to tell in this story of derring do (or perhaps derring d’oh!), that perhaps the incursion team may have been on a “black ops” mission. (more…)

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Carry on up the Suez: gutless and incompetent Tories bring shame on us all

25/02/2011, 04:30:59 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The epoch changing events in the Middle East, lest we forget, were precipitated by Tarek el-Tayyib Mohamed Ben Bouazizi. Just over a month later, Karim Medhat Ennarah, an Egyptian protester told the Guardian, with tears in his eyes, that:

“For 18 days we have withstood teargas, rubber bullets, live ammunition, Molotov cocktails, thugs on horseback, the scepticism and fear of our loved ones, and the worst sort of ambivalence from an international community that claims to care about democracy. But we held our ground. We did it”.

In the intervening period, the most that William Hague could do to respond to the beauty and bravery of these protestors was to mouth almost exactly the same measly words as Hosni Mubarak about an orderly transition. Britain managed to be dismissed as at best irrelevant, as Krishnan Guru-Murthy noted, both by the Mubarek regime and by those risking their lives to overthrow it.

Our Garibaldi, David Cameron, wasn’t content. He set off on a crusade for freedom. He was the first western leader to visit post-revolutionary Egypt. All very noble. But are arms really the first thing required in the birth pangs of democracy? And is the most fundamental right of British citizens not protection from indiscriminate violence? (more…)

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What are Tory ministers up to in Sudan?

30/01/2011, 12:31:33 PM

by James Watkins

The arid, sun drenched lands of southern Sudan may seem a long way from the corridors of Whitehall. But the actions of British ministers are raising eyebrows – and have led to real differences in the “special relationship” between the United States and Britain.

Right now, the count in a key referendum is taking place that is likely to lead to the world’s newest nation in southern Sudan being created this summer. Interim results are already out that shows there is, to date, 99% support for a new state. The referendum is going forward largely peacefully – with the exception of deadly violence in a key border area between northern and southern Sudan. The African Union is playing a critical role in this largely peaceful process with these efforts being hailed by former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, as a step forward for the continent.

But this referendum is taking place against a background where horrific violence between Sudanese forces and southern Sudanese militias had led to the deaths of 2 million people. Sudan is already scarred by the tragedy in the eastern Sudanese province of Darfur where the actions of the Sudanese government-backed militias have, according to the united nations, played a major role in the deaths of 300,000 people. As a consequence, the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, has been indicted by the international criminal court on charges of genocide. (more…)

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