- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 11, 2004

ITALY

Berlusconi ally jailed for Mafia ties

ROME — A close political ally of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was convicted of ties with the Sicilian Mafia yesterday and sentenced to nine years in prison.

Marcello Dell’Utri was an executive in Mr. Berlusconi’s business empire and is a senator in the prime minister’s conservative Forza Italia party. During the seven-year trial in Palermo Dell’Utri repeatedly denied any ties to the criminal organization.

The decision came a day after a court in Milan acquitted Mr. Berlusconi of corruption charges at the close of a 4-year trial.

ITALY

Love letters trashed in Verona cleanup

ROME — For decades, amorous visitors to Verona have pinned up their love letters for posterity outside the house where legend has it Romeo wooed Juliet under her balcony. Now, those tender messages are being dumped in the trash.

Many of the notes are attached with chewing gum, a hazard for the medieval stucco walls. The cleaning operation, which started last month, is due to finish in February.

“We absolutely need to clean it,” said Andrea Spiazzi, a Verona town hall official. “But no worries, there will be plaster boards where lovers can still post their missives.”

FRANCE

Health ministers OK bioterror crisis center

PARIS — Health ministers from G-7 member countries have agreed to set up a bioterrorism crisis center to marshal a global response to germ warfare attacks, and pledged to provide millions of shots for a global “vaccine bank.”

The United States has earmarked the equivalent of 80 million doses of smallpox vaccine for a 200 million-dose vaccine bank, run by the World Health Organization (WHO), to which Britain, France, Germany and Canada have also made pledges.

Ministers said after a meeting in Paris on Friday that the crisis center could also help manage natural disasters like Asia’s bird flu outbreak, which has killed 29 persons this year.

MACEDONIA

Hashish shipment seized at border

SKOPJE — Macedonian customs officials have seized nearly 1,100 pounds of hashish on the Albanian border and arrested two Macedonian nationals and a Croat, Macedonian state television said yesterday.

The hashish, as well as 233 pounds of chemicals used in the manufacture of drugs, were found in a truck registered in the Albanian capital Tirana and intercepted at the Cafasan border crossing in southwest Macedonia.

The truck driver, an Albanian national, fled the scene.

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