Today 18 December
By Lamine Chikhi ALGIERS (Reuters) - Eight months after Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika suffered a debilitating stroke, his allies are promoting constitutional changes including a new vice presidency, which may let the ageing independence veteran run for a fourth term. That would put off an answer to one of the enduring questions in North Africa: who will replace Bouteflika, 76, as leader of one of the principle allies of the West against Islamist militancy. Bouteflika has ruled Algeria since 1999, credited by his supporters with drawing the country out of a civil war that killed 200,000 people, and restoring civilian rule in a major OPEC oil and gas supplier to Europe. In April he suggested it was time for the old guard to move aside for new leaders: "Our generation is over." But Algeria's ruling FLN party has nevertheless touted him for weeks as their official candidate, and his allies have started outmaneuvering rivals in negotiations between FLN cadres and military elites who wield real power.
By Humeyra Pamuk and Ece Toksabay ANKARA/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Five senior Turkish police officers have been sacked a day after scores of people close to government were detained in an anti-corruption crackdown, local media said on Wednesday, in an apparent power struggle shaking the country's ruling elite. Scores of people including three ministers' sons, prominent businessmen close to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and local government officials were detained on Tuesday in the biggest corruption investigation since Erdogan swept to power in 2002. It threatens the authority of a man who has dominated Turkey for more than a decade, as well as the reputation of his AK Party, months before important local elections. It was widely seen in media as symptom of a power struggle with a U.S.-based preacher who commands influence in party, police and judiciary.
South Africa's "Dr Death" Wouter Basson, who headed the apartheid regime's germ warfare programme, was found guilty on Wednesday of unprofessional conduct by the country's health council. "The breaches of medical ethics amount to unprofessional conduct," said Jannie Hugo, chair of a Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) committee on the matter. In October 1999, he appeared in the Pretoria High Court facing 67 charges against him, including murder, fraud and drug trafficking. The trial lasted two-and-a-half years and depicted Basson -- nicknamed Dr Death by the national media -- as the mastermind of a secretive chemical and biological weapons programme dubbed Project Coast.
By Alain Ilioniania ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - Madagascar stages a run-off presidential election on Friday, but old rifts may persist, extending a crisis begun by a coup five years ago that deterred investors and donors of aid to one of Africa's poorest nations. Both rely on supporters of their respective sponsors, outgoing President Andry Rajoelina and the man he deposed with the army's help in 2009, Marc Ravalomanana. Voters may not deliver a clear mandate to either Jean Louis Robinson, an ally of Ravalomanana, or Hery Rajaonarimampianina, a former finance minister backed by Rajoelina.
By Barbara Lewis BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU policymakers on Wednesday unveiled a draft law to tackle air pollution, which every year is linked to 400,000 premature deaths in Europe and costs of tens of billions of euros. The proposals include new limits on emissions from power plants and industry, as well as measures to make member states comply with existing rules on limiting pollutants associated with asthma, cardiovascular disease and cancer. So far, many member states are failing to enforce existing EU air quality standards, even though the rules are less rigorous than those set by the World Health Organization. "Air pollution is still an invisible killer and it prevents many people from living a fully active life," Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said in a statement.