February 2008


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By Shapi Shacinda

LUSAKA, Feb 29 (Reuters) – Zambia has asked foreign mining companies for alternative proposals following their criticism of planned tax changes, officials said on Friday.

“As a committee, we believe the government has done its research worldwide on which they are basing their proposal,” Godrey Beene, chairman of a Zambian parliamentary committee dealing with mining issues, told the state media.

“We have therefore given mining companies time to go and prepare a counter proposal which they should submit to us any time this week.”

He did not indicate if the proposed rates by the government would be cut.

The head of the Chamber of Mines of Zambia, Frederick Bantubonse, said foreign miners would pay more than the stated 47 percent in effective mining taxes when the new regime comes into force from April, compared to 31.7 percent now.

The government has proposed a windfall profit tax at a minimum of 25 percent and an increase in mineral royalty to 3.0 percent from 0.6 percent.

It also plans a variable profit tax at 15 percent on taxable income above eight percent and to raise corporate tax to 30 percent from 25 percent.

Bantubonse said the mining firms had studied the proposed tax increases and found they would be higher than 47 percent and detrimental to their operations and future investments.

“(Mining) companies have scrutinized … new mining tax proposals for their own operations and in every case have found that the effective tax rate will be higher than (the) calculated 47 percent,” he said in a statement.

The government had not called mining firms for a meeting to discuss the tax rates, despite numerous promises.

“To date, no such discussions or consultations have taken place. All (mining firms) with development agreements are willing to discuss and renegotiate the terms and conditions of their agreements,” Bantubonse said.

Zambia’s biggest copper producer is Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), a unit of London-listed Vedanta Resources (VED.L: Quote, Profile, Research).

Others are Mopani Copper Mines, a venture of Swiss firm Glencore International AG [GLEN.UL], First Quantum Minerals (FM.TO: Quote, Profile, Research) and Chibuluma Mine, a unit of Metorex (MTXJ.J: Quote, Profile, Research). Australia’s Equinox Minerals (EQN.AX: Quote, Profile, Research) owns Lumwana Mining Plc. (Reporting By Shapi Shacinda; editing by Michael Roddy)

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By Times
February 29, 2008
Barack Obama was confronted for the second time in 48 hours yesterday with efforts by conservative Republicans to convince voters that he is a Muslim and anti-Semite.
In a taste of what the Democratic presidential front-runner can expect from Republican surrogates if he wins his party’s nomination, he has been frequently referred to this week by his full name – Barack Hussein Obama – and accused of consulting with anti-Semitic advisers.

John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, has twice been forced to rebuke members of his own party after the attacks. They followed the appearance of a photograph of Mr Obama dressed in traditional Somali dress, including a turban, on the Drudge Report website on Monday. The picture was taken during a visit to Africa by Mr Obama in 2006.

Matt Drudge, the website’s owner, said that the photograph was leaked by the Hillary Clinton campaign. The former First Lady said in a debate on Tuesday night that as far as she knew it did not come from her campaign.

Mr Obama is a Christian who has never worshipped at a mosque. He was raised by a secular mother and has been a member of the United Church of Christ in Chicago for 20 years. His Kenyan father, who left the family when he was 2, was Muslim.

Yet the rumours of his Islamism have been circulating for more than a year, beginning with an anonymous and untraceable e-mail. The internet gossip reached such levels that Mr Obama began debunking it in his stump speeches. His website has a section entitled “Barack is not and never has been a Muslim”. He told Jewish leaders in Ohio this week: “If anyone is still puzzled about the facts, I have never been a Muslim.” Mr McCain’s aides are concerned that such attacks will backfire. At a McCain rally in Ohio, Bill Cunningham, a conservative radio talkshow host, referred three times to Barack Hussein Obama. Mr McCain denounced the remarks.

On Wednesday the Tennessee Republican Party website published the photo of Mr Obama in Somali dress, called him Barack Hussein Obama, and accused him of being an antiSemite. Mr McCain denounced the website. He said: “If I am the nominee of the party, I will obviously assure everyone within my party that this has got to be a respectful debate.”

Meanwhile, Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York, said that he would not launch a presidential bid as an independent.

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Kenya rivals agree to share power

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Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki (L) and opposition leader Raila Odinga sign the deal

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga have signed an agreement to end the country’s post-election crisis.At a ceremony in Nairobi, the two men put their signatures to a power-sharing deal brokered by ex-UN head Kofi Annan.

A coalition government comprising members of the current ruling party and opposition will now be formed.

Some 1,500 people died in political violence after Mr Odinga said he was robbed of victory in December’s polls.

POWER-SHARING DEAL
New two-party coalition government to be set up
Division of posts in new government to reflect parties’ strengths in National Assembly
Raila Odinga to take new post of prime minister, can only be dismissed by National Assembly
Two new deputy PMs to be appointed, one from each member of coalition

International observers agreed that December’s election count was flawed.

The post-election violence saw thousands of people targeted because they belonged to ethnic groups seen as either pro-government or pro-opposition. About 600,000 people fled their homes.

Although the level of violence had fallen in recent weeks, there were concerns that a failure to reach a deal would lead to a fresh round of blood-letting.

Negotiations between the government and opposition lasted more than a month, stalling several times.

The BBC’s Adam Mynott, in Nairobi, says both sides have given ground from their original positions to reach this agreement.

Portfolios shared

The new coalition will be headed by President Kibaki, with Mr Odinga – whose Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) is the largest in parliament – probably taking the newly created post of prime minister.

Compromise was necessary for the survival of this country
Kofi Annan

Each party will nominate a deputy prime minister, with other ministerial portfolios being shared out to reflect the political parties’ strengths in the National Assembly.

Correspondents say both parties are now likely to begin wrangling over who gets what position in the new government, with the post of finance minister likely to prove the most contentious.

After the deal was reached, Mr Annan said: “Compromise was necessary for the survival of this country.”

He urged all Kenyans to support the agreement, saying: “The job of national reconciliation and national reconstruction is not for the leaders alone. It must be carried out in every neighbourhood, village, hamlet of the nation.”

‘New chapter’

Speaking after the signing, Mr Kibaki said: “This process has reminded us that as a nation there are more issues that unite than that divide us…

“We’ve been reminded we must do all in our power to safeguard the peace that is the foundation of our national unity… Kenya has room for all of us.”

Political violence has ignited rivalry over land

Mr Odinga said: “With the signing of this agreement, we have opened a new chapter in our country’s history – from the era or phase of confrontation to the beginning of co-operation.

“We, on our side, are completely committed to ensuring that this agreement will succeed.”

Both men thanked those who had stood by Kenya in what Mr Odinga called its “hour of need”, including Mr Annan, the African Union, the European Union, the United States and the UN.

They also urged Kenyans to move forward together without ethnic divisions.

‘Very basic issue’

HAVE YOUR SAY

After 8 weeks of uncertainty in the political atmosphere as well as peace, there is somehow a glimpse of hope and light to the beautiful land of Kenya.

Edward, Nairobi

A spokesman for the US state department, Tom Casey, said the agreement was “an important and very positive step forward”.

He added: “It allows the Kenyan people to move forward with a very basic issue of governance.”

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown welcomed the new power-sharing agreement.

“Kenya’s leaders have reached a power-sharing agreement that represents a triumph for peace and diplomacy, and a renunciation of the violence that has scarred a country of such enormous potential,” he said.

In western Kenya, the scene of the some of the worst violence, there was some scepticism about the agreement.

Paul Waweru, 56, who fled his home and is now living in a camp in Eldoret, said: “The deal between Raila and Kibaki will help to cool down the situation but I doubt if it will enable us to get back to our homes.”

But in Nairobi’s Kibera slum, there were celebrations.

“The general mood among people is that of happiness,” said Nelson Ochieng.

“We are tired of the political crisis. I was a barber but my shop was burnt. Now I’m jobless, and the end of this crisis means that I can rebuild my business.”

BBC

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 GOVERNMENT has not started re-administering Depo-Provera, an injectable contraceptive, in public health institutions until a report from manufacturers is received from the United States.

Women who started flocking to health centres after Health Minister, Brian Chituwo announced in Parliament that the contraceptive was safe, were being turned away.

Health ministry spokesperson, Canisius Banda, said in an interview yesterday that advice would soon be given to the recipients of Depo-Provera immediately a report from the manufacturers was received.

Dr Banda said in the meantime, clients were advised to consult the health care providers on what family planning options were freely available in public health facilities.

He said a thorough research by the ministry of Health found Depo-Provera safe and directives to resume the provision of the contraceptive was awaiting the report by the manufacturers.

The ministry of Health had earlier withdrawn Depo-Provera on suspicion that the drug contained traces of the HIV virus.

But Dr Chituwo had reassured the nation that scientific investigations had not shown any traces of the virus.

He emphasised that Depo-Provera was withdrawn from health institutions and quarantined pending the completion of scientific investigations and a report from the suppliers of the product.

Some women on Depo- Provera contraceptive in Ndola expressed unhappiness that they were being turned away at health care centres due to the unavailability of the contraceptive.

Some women spoken to said the health care providers told them that Depo-Provera was currently unavailable and they were being encouraged to use other contraceptives.

They said they did not understand why the contraceptive was unavailable and wondered whether its unavailability confirmed earlier suspicions that it was not safe.

Most women said they preferred Depo-Provera as a method of family planning because it was an injectible contraceptive as the other available contraceptives were orally taken.

Ndola District Health Management Team director, Kakungo Simpungwe, confirmed that the contraceptive was currently not available at the health care centres.

Dr Simpungwe said the health care providers were not turning the women away but were offering them alternative contraceptives.

She said her office was not aware of any complaints by the public but still urged the clients to take the available contraceptives in order not to disturb their family planning until Depo-Provera was available.

Times of Zambia report

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February 29 2008 

By NANCY MWAPE and ANNIE CHIBOMBA

FOUR Chinese companies have signed agreements with some Zambian mining companies to purchase minerals.

China Minmetals Non-Ferrous Metals Company Limited signed with two mining companies, Konkola Copper Mine Plc (KCM) and Non-Ferrous Chambishi African mine while China Chengtong Metals Group Company signed with Meo Sheng Minerals Resources Zambia limited.

Other companies include China International Intellectual Corporation that signed KCM and Genertce International Corporation of China with Number Nine Company Limited.

The signing ceremony took place at the buyers/sellers forum held at Lusaka’s Intercontinental hotel on Monday.

And speaking at the same occasion, Zambia-China Business Association chairman, Sebastian Kopulande said there was need to identify strategic partnerships that would promote transfer of technology and productive skills to access the zero tariff market access on value added products offered by China.

Mr Kopulande said though investment policies and laws do not dictate partnership between foreign and local investors, Zambians were looking for ventures that would benefit them through job creation, level of ownership and management control.

He said China enjoyed trade surplus from the world’s three leading economic centres on the global market, among others.

Mr Kopulande cited the United States of America, European Union and Japan were some of the lucrative markets for China adding that USA stands as one of the largest investor nation todate.

“If Chinese goods are inferior as some people are trying to make us believe, why buy them when you have the capacity to make your own with better quality? If China is such a bad country in terms of the so-called governance and human rights indicators, why go and invest there?”
“Politics aside, China is certainly leading the way and everyone is a beneficiary as it has contributed an average of 14 per cent to growth of the world economy since 1979, when it started the policy of reforms and opening up,’’ he said.

And Commerce, Trade and Industry, minister, Felix Mutati said the challenge for Zambian entrepreneurs was to get organised and penetrate the Chinese market through offering quality products.

Mr Mutati said his ministry would meet with the Zambia-China Association to draw up a framework on how to trade with that country.

Moreover, visiting, Chinese Vice-Minister of Commerce, Gao Hucheng said historically China and Africa have supported each other.

Mr Hucheng said Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Africa last year has opened a new charter of relationship between China and Africa.

He noted that Zambia was among the five countries in Africa where China was developing a multi-facility economic zone.

Zambia Daily Mail

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By ZNBC

Mining firms are still adamant about paying the new taxes proposed by government. The Chamber of Mines has strongly argued that the new tax regime will undermine operations and sustainability of the mining industry.

Chamber of Mines General Manager, Frederick Bantubonse, made these remarks when his delegation appeared before the parliamentary estimates committee in Lusaka.

The mining investors have proposed an urgent meeting with government to review the levels of taxation before effecting the new tax.

Mr. Bantubonse and his team argued that the tax regime agreed upon through constructive dialogue will serve the interests of Zambians and the mining industry.

However, committee members led by Lusaka Central Patriotic Front Member of Parliament, Guy Scott critised the investors’ delegation whom they accused of having returned to the committee in a very aggressive and confrontational manner.

The committee members were concerned that the mining investors had not made any proposals on the levels of taxation on their second return to the committee.

This prompted committee Chairperson, Godfrey Beene to direct the delegation to go back and consolidate their proposals on the tax regime to be resubmitted by Saturday.

The committte is expected to table its report on the proposed tax regime next Tuesday.

The mining firms that were represented include Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), First Quantum Minerals and Chambeshi NFC among others.

ZNBC

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Published: February 28, 2008
Filed at 5:46 p.m. ETWASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush said Thursday the country is not recession-bound and, despite expressing concern about slowing economic growth, rejected for now any additional stimulus efforts. ”We acted robustly,” he said.

”We’ll see the effects of this pro-growth package,” Bush told reporters at a White House news conference, acknowledging that some lawmakers already are talking about a second stimulus package. ”Why don’t we let stimulus package 1, which seemed like a good idea at the time, have a chance to kick in?”

Bush’s view of the economy was decidedly rosier than that of many economists, who say the country is nearing recession territory or may already be there. ”I’m concerned about the economy,” he said. ”I don’t think we’re headed to recession. But no question, we’re in a slowdown.”

The centerpiece of government efforts to brace the wobbly economy is a package Congress passed and Bush signed last month. It will rush rebates ranging from $300 to $1,200 to millions of people and give tax incentives to businesses.

On one issue particularly worrisome to American consumers, there are indications that paying $4 for a gallon of gasoline is not out of the question once the summer driving season arrives. Asked about that, Bush said ”That’s interesting. I hadn’t heard that. … I know it’s high now.”

Bush also telegraphed optimism about the U.S. dollar, which has been declining in value.

”I believe that our economy has got the fundamentals in place for us to … grow and continue growing, more robustly hopefully than we’re growing now,” he said. ”So we’re still for a strong dollar.”

Bush also used his news conference to press Congress to give telecommunications companies legal immunity for helping the government eavesdrop after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

He continued a near-daily effort to prod lawmakers into passing his version of a law to make it easier for the government to conduct domestic eavesdropping on suspected terrorists’ phone calls and e-mails. He says the country is in more danger now that a temporary surveillance law has expired.

The president and Congress are in a showdown over Bush’s demand on the immunity issue.

Bush said the companies helped the government after being told ”that their assistance was legal and vital to national security.” ”Allowing these lawsuits to proceed would be unfair,” he said.

More important, Bush added, ”the litigation process could lead to the disclosure of information about how we conduct surveillance and it would give al-Qaida and others a roadmap as to how to avoid the surveillance.”

The Senate passed its version of the surveillance bill earlier this month, and it provides retroactive legal protection for telecommunications companies that wiretapped U.S. phone and computer lines at the government’s request and without court permission. The House version, approved in October, does not include telecom immunity.

Telecom companies face around 40 lawsuits for their alleged role in wiretapping their American customers.

Senate Democrats appeared unwilling to budge.

As Bush began speaking, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., cast the president’s position as a ”tiresome campaign…to avoid accountability for the unlawful surveillance of Americans.”

”The president once again is misusing his bully pulpit,” Leahy said. ”Once again they are showing they are not above fear-mongering if that’s what it takes to get their way.”

Bush criticized the Democratic presidential candidates over their attempts to disassociate themselves from the North American Free Trade Agreement, a free-trade pact between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Bush said the deal is contributing to more and better-paying jobs for Americans.

”The idea of just unilaterally withdrawing from a trade treaty because of, you know, trying to score political points is not good policy,” he said. ”It’s not good policy on the merits and it’s not good policy as a message to send to people who have in good faith signed a treaty and worked with us on a treaty.”

Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are feuding over NAFTA as they compete for their party’s presidential nomination, as the pact is deeply unpopular with blue-collar workers. Though neither has said they were ready to pull the United States out of the agreement, both say they would use the threat of doing so to pressure Mexico to renegotiate tougher labor, environmental and enforcement provisions.

Bush fended off a question about why he has yet to replace Fran Townsend, his White House-based terrorism adviser, who announced her resignation more than three months ago. He said the job is being ably filled by her former deputy, Joel Bagnal.

On another issue, Bush said that Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq should be limited — and should end as soon as possible. The ongoing fighting has put the United States in a touchy position, as it is close allies with both Iraq and Turkey. A long offensive along their border could jeopardize security in Iraq just as the U.S. is trying to stabilize the war-wracked country.

”The Turks need to move, move quickly, achieve their objective and get out,” he said.

On Russia, Bush said he does not know much about Dmitry Medvedev, the handpicked successor to President Vladimir Putin who is coasting to the job. Bush said it will be interesting to see who represents Russia — presumably either Medvedev or Putin — at the Group of Eight meeting later this year in Japan.

The president advised his own successor to develop a personal relationship with whomever is in charge in Moscow.

”As you know, Putin’s a straightforward, pretty tough character when it comes to his interests — well so am I,” Bush said. He said that he and Putin have ”had some diplomatic head butts.”

Bush also said, however, that the pair have ”a cordial enough relationship to be able to deal with common threats and opportunities, and that’s going to be important for the next president to maintain.”

Bush also defended his stance of not talking directly with leaders of adversaries such as Iran and Cuba without setting preconditions. In doing so, he offered some of his strongest criticism yet of Raul Castro, who assumed Cuba’s presidency on Sunday after his ailing brother Fidel, who ruled for decades, stepped aside.

”Sitting down at the table, having your picture taken with a tyrant such as Raul Castro, for example, lends the status of the office and the status of our country to him,” Bush said.

He said that Raul Castro is ”nothing more than an extension of what his brother did, which is ruin an island.”

Following his news conference, Bush traveled to the Labor Department to meet with his economic advisers.

Afterward, he expressed confidence in the nation’s ability to weather the economic downturn.

”We’ll make it through this period just like we made it through other periods of uncertainty during my presidency,” Bush said.

NewYork  Times

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