Hosni Mubarak

At his last public appearance in a Cairo courtroom on April 13, deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak appeared less frail and more contemptuous of the allegations that he was complicit in the deaths of hundreds of demonstrators during the "Arab Spring" uprising that ended his 30-year reign. He returns to court Saturday for a new trial. (Mohamed El-Shahed / AFP/Getty Images)

D-Day for Iranian presidential race

Tuesday, May 7 -- So many candidates, so few promising real change.

More than a dozen Iranian lawmakers, former Cabinet ministers, revolutionary guardsmen and allies of Islamic leaders have thrown in their hats for the race to replace President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And with Tuesday’s deadline for declaring candidacies fast approaching, some of the more popular figures are still on the sidelines.

Ahmadinejad can’t run again because of Iran’s  two-consecutive-term limit, but he is widely seen as backing a top aide, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. Mashaei is disliked, though, in both secular and clerical circles,  and his expected bid may well be nixed by the Guardian Council, a hard-line panel close to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei with the power to decide who can and cannot run.

The near certainty of rejection by the council may explain why no one advocating sweeping reform of the Islamic government has come forward from the remnants of the "green movement" that was crushed after the 2009 vote that reelected Ahmadinejad.

Former Presidents Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami are popular and regarded as inclined toward modest reforms. Neither has expressed much enthusiasm to run amid Iran’s sanctions-strangled economy and international isolation. If neither comes forward by Tuesday to claim a place on the June 14 ballot, Stanford-educated engineer and academic Mohammed Reza Aref is expected to declare and embrace their desires for better relations with the West.

Among those who have announced their candidacy are former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, who is close to the supreme leader; former chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rouhani, a Rafsanjani ally; and Mohsen Rezai, a conservative who was among those defeated by Ahmadinejad in 2009.

Tehran’s hard-line mayor, Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf, is also expected to enter the race.

Brazil challenging Asian giants for clout in Africa

Wednesday-Friday, May 8-10 -- Brazil’s investment and aid to developing African nations will be a topic of key interest at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, South Africa, when the South American economic powerhouse is expected to unveil plans for financing construction of a vital drinking-water reservoir in Mozambique.

The Moamba Major dam project to supply water to the Mozambique capital, Maputo, is projected to cost $500 million, the Chatham House think tank in Britain estimates.

Brazil’s trade with Africa has soared from $4.2 billion to $27.6 billion in the last decade, the think tank reports, an investment in what the Brazilian government hopes will evolve into an important export market for its products.

Brazil’s approach to developing ties with Africa, in particular with countries that share the Portuguese language, has been more broadly based than the resource-focused trade pursued by China and India, writes John Campbell, the sub-Saharan Africa specialist with the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Bank of Brazil is expected to conclude the Moamba Major deal in the near future, the daily newspaper Noticias reported last month.

The aims of this year’s forum, according to its organizers, are accelerating economic diversification, boosting strategic infrastructure and unlocking Africa’s talent.


Death and democracy compete on the Pakistani campaign trail

Saturday, May 11 -- Pakistan’s bloodsport of politics concludes its current season with a general election Saturday expected to demonstrate that at least some elements of democracy have taken hold in the restive country.

At least 40 deaths and 120 injuries inflicted on the campaign trail are blamed on the Taliban, whose threats to terrorize secular parties have put a damper on public rallies.