- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 2, 2003

BELGIUM

Divisions surface over EU military

BRUSSELS — A compromise may be in sight in a battle between European countries over proposals for a European Union military headquarters independent of NATO that have angered the United States, diplomats said yesterday.

Belgium said it would not back down from a proposal — agreed to at a widely criticized summit with France, Germany and Luxembourg on April 29 — to set up an EU planning and command staff for operations in which NATO is not involved.

But, opening the door to a compromise with those EU countries supporting stronger links between Europe and America, Foreign Minister Louis Michel welcomed a British counterproposal for an EU planning cell within the U.S.-dominated alliance.

The April 29 summit participants, branded “old Europe” by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for their outspoken criticism of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, also sought an EU solidarity clause for state victims of armed aggression.

LIBERIA

Nigerian welcomed with cheers, flags

MONROVIA — Tens of thousands of Liberians cheered Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo as he drove through the capital yesterday, applauding a leader who has played a central role in ending the bloodshed on Monrovia’s streets.

Crowds waved little green-and-white Nigerian flags as Mr. Obasanjo and Liberia’s caretaker president, Moses Blah, crossed the battle-scarred city in a convoy of jeeps, pickups with mounted machine guns and armored personnel carriers.

NORTH KOREA

China blames America for failure of talks

MANILA — Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi blamed Washington yesterday for the absence of progress in six-party talks intended to get North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program.

Asked during a visit to the Philippines what he thought was the biggest obstacle to progress at the talks, he said: “The American policy toward [North Korea] — this is the main problem we are facing.”

ZIMBABWE

Opposition tops polls in several cities

HARARE — Zimbabwe’s main opposition party has won a key by-election in the capital, Harare, and taken all the council seats in the second largest city of Bulawayo, according to results released yesterday.

The opposition also won mayoral elections in the western resort town of Victoria Falls, in the southern town of Gwanda and in the northern lakeshore town of Kariba, state television said late yesterday.

The vote was marred by massive voter apathy, with 11 percent casting ballots in the capital.

FRANCE

Deficit exceeds limit in EU growth pact

PARIS — France notified the European Union yesterday that it will have a public deficit of 4 percent of gross domestic product, well in excess of a 3-percent EU limit, the Economy and Finance Ministry said.

The increase in the public deficit puts France on a collision course with the European Commission over its spending policies and economic reform.

ITALY

Red faces all-round at beauty contest

ROME — Decorative metallic patterns stuck onto contestants’ faces combined with heat and sweat to produce rashes that caused reddened cheeks and puffy eyes for 40 of the 100 contestants at the Miss Italy semifinals over the weekend.

“It will last 72 hours at the most,” Rome-based daily Il Messaggero quoted dermatologist Benedetto Marinangeli as saying.

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