Mozambique to vote for peace

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The Independent Online
Mozambicans vote in their first multi-party elections on Thursday, hoping the poll will finally end 16 years of devastating civil war. The general elections mark the final chapter in a peace deal signed two years ago between the Frelimo government and Renamo rebels to end a war that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

The front-runners among the 12 presidential candidates are President Joaquim Chissano and the former rebel leader, Afonso Dhlakama. The latter has been talking darkly of not accepting the poll if he suspects fraud, regardless of what international observers say. Mr Dhlakama is widely expected to lose to President Chissano.

Despite reports to the contrary, Russia's Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, is still in office. But he may not be for long if opposition parties have their way. The Prime Minister faces a vote of no confidence in the Duma, the lower house of parliament, on Thursday.

Israel and Jordan sign their recently agreed peace treaty on Wednesday.

Among luminaries expected at the ceremony are Jordan's King Hussein, Israel's Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and President Bill Clinton, on the lam from low poll ratings at home and hoping to bask in foreign-policy success. The PLO chairman, Yasser Arafat, will be miffed he missed it - Israeli officials say Mr Rabin will not be inviting his fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The leaders of 12 rival Somali factions, including General Mohamed Farah Aideed's Somali National Alliance, have agreed to hold a reconciliation meeting in Mogadishu on Thursday to discuss forming a government of national unity. The mandate of the UN Operation in Somalia expires on 31 October, so the meeting has come not a moment to soon. The UN has failed to bring peace since it intervened almost two years ago. However, the self-styled Somali president and General Aideed's arch-rival, Ali Mahdi Mohamed, has warned of a likely escalation in fighting if participants at the conference decide to form a government. So it may just be business as usual.

US and Cuban officials are to meet today in Havana to hammer out details of the agreement signed last month in New York to stop Cuban rafters setting out for the US, and easing legal migration. The US is holding some 30,000 Cubans picked up at sea at its base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Panama.

With the White House's penchant for flip-flops on policy towards Cuban and Haitian refugees, the officials will be hoping their agreement stays firm - at least until the ink dries.