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NightWatch 20111220

NightWatch

For the night of 20 December 2011

North Korea: Update. "Great Successor" Kim Jong un visited the Kumsusan mausoleum where his father, Kim Chong-il, lies in state. This was his first public appearance since the death of his father. The Korean peninsula remains quiet.

Iraq: For the record. Vice President al-Hashimi denied the allegations that he ran an assassination ring.

Somalia: An advance unit of 100 Djiboutian troops arrived in Mogadishu on 20 December to join the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), according to an AMISOM statement. Djiboutian General Zakaria Sheikh Ibrahim led the contingent, which will include approximately 800 additional Djiboutian troops in the following weeks, according to the statement. Djibouti follows Burundi and Uganda as the third country to provide troops to AMISOM, which currently includes 9,800 troops in Mogadishu, according to the statement.

Comment: The Djibouti battalion is French and US trained and should make a significant contribution to AMISOM. With enough forces AMISOM and the Kenyans should have the capabilities to suppress al Shabaab, provided they can make appropriate arrangements with Somali clan leaders.

Greece: Greece is likely to reach a draft deal with creditor banks on writing off half of its debt by the beginning of January, a Greek government source said on 20 December. 'The framework of the negotiations... is advancing well, there is no agreement at the moment, it is probable that by the beginning of January there will be a draft agreement,' said the source who declined to be named.

Comment: The debt write-off addresses only one side of the government's sovereign debt problem. The other is the absolute requirement to cut government spending in half. Without both nearly simultaneously, the sovereign debt crisis cannot improve.

Algeria-Mali: For the record. Algerian troops have crossed into Mali to help government forces combat groups affiliated with al-Qaida, officials said. 'Algerian troops are currently stationed in northern Mali to assist the Malian army in the fight against terrorism,' a high-ranking military official said.

Comment: Al-Qaida-linked groups have been active in Algeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania for a decade. However, some signs indicate activity has increased since the death of Libyan leader Qadhafi and the looting of the Libyan arsenals.

End of NightWatch for 20 December .

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