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NIGERIA



Published: Mon, October 23, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



NIGERIA

This Day, Oct. 12: On the surface, it would appear to be a retrogressive step back to the days of Mansa Musa when Muslims from Africa had to undertake the journey to Mecca to perform the holy pilgrimage by road. At a more pragmatic level, however, there is much to be said for the plans to make it possible for less affluent Muslims in today's Nigeria to perform the religious obligation of Hajj by the less costly means of road transportation.

But apart from the fact that it is too costly for the average Nigerian Muslim who desires to perform the Hajj, experience has shown that flight operations for the Hajj have become a perennial problem, inflicting considerable discomfort and indignities on intending pilgrims.

Against this background, it looks attractive to consider Hajj by road, particularly for less affluent Muslims. Yet, there are certain things that must be put in place if it is not to become another version of Hajj by air.

Highway robbery

The first is the need to minimise the hazards associated with long-distance travel by road. These risks consist of accidents, highway robbery, and vehicular breakdown, among others.

If Hajj by road experiences the shoddiness of Hajj by air, the diplomatic consequences for Nigeria are far graver. Stranded Nigerians in various countries would be one of them; another is the spectre of Nigerians demonstrating to protest their predicament in foreign lands.

BRITAIN

The Observer, London, Oct. 15: Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt claims to be surprised that comments he made last week about the war in Iraq started "a hoo-ha." He shouldn't be.

It is an important moment when the chief of the General Staff publicly undermines the authority of the prime minister, which, in essence, is what Gen. Dannatt has done. He said in a newspaper interview that Britain should aim to withdraw troops from Iraq soon and that their presence in the country was, in some areas, a cause of violence not its remedy.

Downing Street and the general subsequently claimed that there is no difference of opinion. "What he is saying... is precisely the same as we're all saying," Tony Blair insisted.

Modest ambitions

But the prime minister cannot gloss over the fact that the head of the military has questioned the strategy laid down by his political bosses. The general thinks his forces should have more modest ambitions than those that were outlined in 2003. The task then was installation of a liberal democracy in Iraq that would be a beacon lighting the way for pro-Western reform in the region.

JAPAN

Yomiuri Shimbun, Tokyo, Oct. 18: The United States has confirmed that North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test on Oct. 9. It is an urgent task to limit North Korea's nuclear threat by imposing effective economic sanctions on the country based on U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718.

Economic assistance provided to North Korea by the administration of Roh and that of his predecessor, Kim Dae Jung, is said to have reached 4.58 trillion won (560 billion yen) in total.

Far from preventing Kim Jong Il from developing nuclear arms, South Korea's sunshine policy toward North Korea has instead helped it do so.

Economic sanctions

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit Japan, South Korea and China this week to discuss economic sanctions against Pyongyang with the leaders of those countries. South Korea should be urged to review its appeasement policy toward the North through close strategic talks among the three countries.

If sanctions against North Korea are insufficient, North Korea's nuclear threat will only mount.




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