Nigerian labor calls off general strike
Last week leaders of Nigeria’s largest labor movement, the Nigeria Labor Congress, called off a two-day general strike to protest a sharp rise in fuel prices, after police arrested the NLC’s president, Adams Oshiomhole and dozens of other labor activists. The general strike had been outlawed by the Nigerian government and judiciary, and police tear-gassed a Jan. 16 demonstration in the capital city of Abuja.

The strike had broad support from the Nigerian people, whose average income is about $300 per year. Reports quoted workers and Nigerians from other social strata as backing the strike because even the former fuel prices were unaffordable for many.

ILO launches campaign vs child labor
The International Labor Organization (ILO) will launch its “Red Card to Child Labor” campaign this week to coincide with the start of the 2002 African Cup of Nations that begins Jan. 19 in Bamako, Mali.

The new campaign is symbolized by the red card referees hand out for serious rule violations in soccer. The ILO is linking the campaign with the popularity of the African Cup of Nations 2002 to build the greatest public awareness of the harsh reality of child labor and to encourage support for the global movement against it. The campaign opens Jan. 25 with a signing ceremony involving Mali’s President, Alpha Oumar Konre, and co-sponsors from the Confederation Africaine de Football and the Comite d’organisation de la Coupe d’Africa des Nations 2002.

While Africa today is home to some 40 percent, or about 80 million, of the world’s child workers, the continent has in many ways led the struggle against child labor, especially in its worst forms. Of the 115 countries ratifying the ILO’s most recent labor standard, the Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention No. 182 (1999), 30 are from Africa.

China says presidential aircraft was bugged
Shortly before the maiden flight of China’s new Boeing 767-300ER presidential aircraft, Chinese military communications experts reportedly discovered 27 listening devices planted inside the plane, including bugs in the headboard of the presidential bed, and in the presidential bathroom. Chinese officials have charged the bugs were planted while the plane was being refitted in the United States.

The devices are reported to be highly sophisticated, and designed to be triggered by a satellite communication. The U.S. Embassy and CIA have declined comment on the allegations. The plane was bought by the Chinese government in August 2000 and was sent to San Antonio for refitting before being flown to China later that month.

Russian leader worried about U.S. bases
As the U.S. prepares to send warplanes to an airbase being built in Kyrgyzstan, the speaker of the Russian Duma (parliament) on Jan. 9 warned against letting U.S. bases become permanently established in the former republics of Soviet Central Asia.

“It is not desirable that permanent U.S. bases be established in Central Asia,” Gennady Selezynov said during a visit to Kazakhstan. Selezynov warned local officials that “as members of the collective security agreement of the Commonwealth of Independent States (a loose association of 12 former Soviet republics), we must not take a single decision without mutual consultation.”

Selezynov is a leading member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, which remains the largest single party in Russia and in the Duma. Reportedly, the decision by President Vladimir Putin not to object to U.S. use of bases in the former Soviet Union has aroused concern by many Russian diplomatic and political leaders that a permanent U.S. presence would be dangerous for their country’s security and its interests in relation to oil pipeline routes from the energy-rich Caspian region.

Cypriot leaders agree to start talks
Greek Cypriot leader Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash agreed last week to start intensive peace talks aimed at reuniting the island, divided for 27 years. UN special envoy Alvaro de Soto said the two had agreed to meet three times a week to work toward settling issues which have divided Cyprus since a July coup d’etat by the then-Greek dictatorship and extreme right-wing Cypriots, and the Turkish invasion that followed. Since then over one-third of the island has been occupied by Turkey.

An agreement would need to be approved in separate referendums by both Greek and Turkish Cypriots. In the past, Turkey has pressed for formal partition. There is broad support on the island for peaceful reunification of the country and its people under a federal system, with a single sovereignty and citizenship, and guarantees of fundamental rights and freedoms for all Cypriots.