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THE INDEX — July 29, 2009

Amidst continued violence in the aftermath of a March presidential coup, the four major political parties of Madagascar—including those of deposed president Marc Ravolomanana and coup leader Andre Rajoelina—have agreed to meet for peace negotiations next week in Mozambique. On Tuesday, a group of international mediators headed by former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano arrived in Madagascar's capital of Antananarivo to set the agenda for the meeting and settle "any questions that are still outstanding." Rajoelina's March takeover was precipitated by mass protests against the unpopular Ravolomanana, who had been president since 2002. Since the coup, however, Rajoelina's government has lacked international recognition and protests have now swung the other way. Similar talks were set up by the United Nations two weeks ago, but were boycotted by Rajoelina after several failed bomb attempts in the capital, which he attributed to pro-Ravolomanana factions. Chissano is hopeful that Rajoelina will be more willing to accept the terms of an African-led conference. An unidentified Russian diplomat warned the Obama administration on Tuesday that any U.S. involvement in a peace monitoring mission in Georgia would, "only worsen [Washington-Moscow] relations by adding a new issue." The European Union currently operates the only monitoring mission in the region, supporting nearly 300 unarmed guards along the borders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Both regions are recognized as still a part of Georgia by the United States and European Union, despite the Russian military presence there. It is still unclear whether the EU will invite a U.S. delegation to join the monitoring mission, which was extended for another year on Monday. Georgian foreign officials said they would welcome such a presence, though leaders in both South Ossetia and Abkhazia have vehemently opposed the addition of U.S. forces, which they argue has armed Georgia against them for years. American officials have not publicly stated whether they would accept an EU offer. A car bomb detonated outside police barracks in the northern Spanish city of Burgos has injured 60 people. The bomb destroyed the outer facade of the family housing portion of the Civil Guard police barracks, wounding at least 22 women and seven children. Spanish authorities have blamed the attack on the Basque separatist group, Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA), although no group has yet come forward to claim responsibility. Spanish government officials noted that the attack resembles those that "ETA killers carry out" although they conceded that no warning call was made to officials prior to the attack. (ETA has traditionally alerted officials before bombings to reduce civilian casualties and mitigate public backlash.) The last attack carried out by ETA was in June, when a police officer was killed by a car bomb in the Basque city of Bilbao. ETA, which seeks a separate nation for seven Basque-speaking provinces in southwestern France and northern Spain, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union and has been blamed for the deaths of more than 800 people over the past 40 years. The Lebanese army has been put on "high alert" after Israeli Defense Forces deployed four tanks to the Kfar Shuba Hills border region. Lebanese officials said yesterday that they are "ready to confront" any Israeli offensive. Israeli warplanes have also recently been spotted circling Beirut, West Bekaa, and the southern regions of Hasbaya and Marjayoun. Israel has justified the border reinforcements and overflights out of concern over "future dangerous incidents" following the explosion of an arms cache in southern Lebanon last week. Tensions have been high along the Lebanese-Israeli border since the July 2006 war which killed over 1,000 civilians and displaced over one million Lebanese. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon has accused both Lebanon and Israel of violating Security Council Resolution 1701 (which mandated the ceasefire between Lebanon, Israel, and the southern Lebanese militant group Hezbollah) and has warned both parties of an impending war if military presence increases along the southern Lebanese border. Israel has insisted that the exploded arms cache contained illegally smuggled Hezbollah weaponry (thus a violation of the terms of Resolution 1701), though Lebanese officials recently filed a report to the United Nations claiming that the arsenal contained leftover Israeli weaponry from the 2006 war.

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