The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has been assured by the Prime Minister of the southern African kingdom of Lesotho that new elections under a fairer voting system will take place this year. Mr Ahern is paying an official visit to the country, which has been the focus of Irish aid efforts in Africa. He expressed European concerns at the delay in holding elections to the kingdom's prime minister, Pakalitha Mosidisi.

Ireland is Lesotho’s biggest aid donor and Mr Ahern made clear in his talks with the entire Cabinet of Lesotho and at other functions that political stability is essential to attracting investment and development assistance. Speaking in a country riven by political division, Mr Ahern said that he hoped that Lesotho would soon enjoy the same hopeful as Northern Ireland. The Taoiseach is due to attend an evening banquet, before flying to Johannesburg early tomorrow for a four-day visit to South Africa.