DAILY CATHOLIC     THURSDAY     July 8, 1999     vol. 10, no. 131

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          LOME, Togo (CWNews.com) -- Government officials and rebels have agreed to the terms of a peace pact, apparently ending eight years of civil war in Sierra Leone.

          UN officials announced on July 5 that President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone and Foday Sankoh of the United Front rebels would sign a peace treaty in Lome, the capital of Togo, after several weeks of diplomatic talks. Although the rebel forces in Sierra Leone have been split into several competing groups, sources in Togo said that all of the important rebel leaders would accept the peace treaty.

          Negotiations had nearly broken down in recent days when Sankoh demanded at least eight positions for rebel representatives in the Cabinet of a new unity government. But Sankoh and his allies backed away from that demand-- as they also gave up on a plea for the withdrawal of Nigerian peacekeeping troops from Sierra Leone.

          Meanwhile in Dublin, Ireland Irish President Bertie Ahern has cautioned against any effort to exclude Sinn Fein from peace talks regarding Northern Ireland. The Irish leader's statement came shortly after British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he would seek the exclusion of Sinn Fein if the Irish Republican Army refused to disarm.

          "The Good Friday agreement is first and foremost an exercise in inclusive, collective politics," Ahern told reporters. He warned that a bid to exclude Sinn Fein could doom the peace process.

          Ahern and Blair appeared to be engaged in a public disagreement over the implementation of a peace plan which they had jointly put forward last Friday to break a logjam in the peace talks on Northern Ireland. But officials for both governments, speaking anonymously, assured journalists that the disagreement was only superficial, and Blair and Ahern remained united behind their proposal. The two leaders are struggling to establish support for their plan before a July 15 deadline.

          While in Dili, East Timor word has been released that the government of Indonesia has announced plans to send 1,000 more troops into East Timor, to maintain order there during the weeks preceding a referendum on independence for the province.

          A spokesman for General Wiranto, the head of the Indonesian military forces, said that the new troops would protect everyone in the troubled region, including UN officials who have come to observe the elections. However, he flatly rejected the notion that UN peacekeeping troops might enter East Timor.

          UN officials have warned that the August referendum may be in jeopardy because of the paramilitary groups which are actively seeking to intimidate proponents of independence for East Timor. Those paramilitary groups are generally believed to be receiving support from the Indonesian army.

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

July 8, 1999       volume 10, no. 131


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