World and Nation

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Interior Secretary Says He May Fire Gift-Takers

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne told a House committee on Thursday that he might fire employees in the agency that collects oil and gas royalties, a week after the department’s inspector general reported extensive ethics abuses there.

Kempthorne also said his department would follow all of the recommendations from the inspector general, Earl E. Devaney, to improve the Minerals Management Service, including enhanced oversight of the agency and a stronger ethics program.

“This process will be completed as swiftly as possible, and we will examine the full spectrum of disciplinary actions, including termination,” Kempthorne said.

In three reports released last week, Devaney detailed what he called a “culture of ethical failure” that existed at the agency from 2002 to 2006, including high-ranking officials who defied procurement regulations and employees who had sexual relationships with and accepted gifts from oil company employees.

Zimbabwe Power-Sharing Deal Deadlocks

Power-sharing talks between President Robert Mugabe and the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai deadlocked Thursday over Mugabe’s insistence that he retain control of the state’s vast security forces, as well as most of the other crucial ministries, a senior opposition official contended.

On Monday, before presidents, prime ministers and a king who had gathered from across southern Africa, Mugabe agreed to a deal that requires him to relinquish some of his powers for the first time in 28 years in office. But he and Tsvangirai had yet to agree on how to divide the ministries.

“We hope a resolution to the impasse will be found soon,” said an opposition spokesman, Nelson Chamisa. “There is no way Mugabe can keep all the key ministries.”

Patrick Chinamasa, one of Mugabe’s negotiators, said that the effort to divide the ministries had been “laborious” and that the negotiating teams had been asked to seek a resolution. Mugabe is to leave Friday for the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York. The power-sharing agreement gives Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party 15 ministries, compared with 16 for the combined opposition. That means many of Mugabe’s loyalists will lose positions of power and substantial perks.

Uproar Over German Bank’s Payout to Lehman

While the rest of the financial community was scrambling to get its money out, a government-owned German lender gave Lehman Brothers what might be called a parting shot in the arm, transferring 300 million euros to the investment bank on the same day it filed for bankruptcy.

The $426 million payment, described by the bank, KfW Bankengruppe, as an “automated transfer,” provoked an outcry across the political spectrum. The largest-circulation German newspaper, Bild, splashed a headline across its front page Thursday calling KfW “Germany’s dumbest bank.”

The bank’s administrative board, made up of politicians and business leaders, met in Berlin amid calls for dismissals and resignations. Two of the bank’s managing directors and the head of the risk-control department were suspended, the economy minister, Michael Glos, who heads the board, announced after the meeting.