- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 12, 2004

PORTUGAL

Government to quit before elections

LISBON — Portugal’s conservative government is quitting before early elections set for February, Prime Minister Pedro Santana Lopes said yesterday, a day after the country’s president dissolved parliament.

The government’s decision, announced after an emergency Cabinet meeting, is a rebuke to Socialist President Jorge Sampaio and deepens the country’s political crisis. Mr. Sampaio said Friday he was dissolving parliament and convening early elections on Feb. 20.

Mr. Sampaio announced last week his intentions to call elections after weeks of feuding within the Cabinet of the conservative prime minister.

BURMA

Military junta releases prisoners

RANGOON — Burma’s ruling military junta announced yesterday that more than 5,000 prisoners have had their sentences suspended and will be freed from various prisons around the country, the third such release in less than a month.

A brief announcement on state radio and television evening news programs said a third batch of 5,070 prisoners, whose detentions were ruled irrelevant or improper, have had their sentences reduced and will be freed.

No other details were provided, and it was unknown whether any of those to be released were political prisoners. Only a few dozen political prisoners were included in the two earlier releases in Burma.

SOMALIA

New prime minister sacked by parliament

NAIROBI, Kenya — Somalia’s parliament passed a motion of no-confidence against the new prime minister and his Cabinet yesterday, an official said, effectively sacking a government that had been expected to restore order to the country after 13 years of anarchy and war.

The deputy speaker of the 275-member transitional parliament, Dalhar Omar, said 153 members voted against Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi, accusing him of failing to respect power-sharing arrangements reached in complex talks involving warlords and leaders of the country’s main clans.

CUBA

Dreams of democracy buried in time capsule

HAVANA — Cuban dissidents placed their wishes for a democratic Cuba in a time capsule and buried them in the garden of the top U.S. diplomat in Havana, along with a copy of George Orwell’s novel, “Animal Farm.”

The candle-lit ritual Friday night was planned by U.S. mission chief James Cason to mark International Human Rights Day.

“This is a ceremony of hope,” said prominent Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, who heads the Varela Project, a signature drive calling for a referendum on civil liberties under President Fidel Castro’s communist government.

PAKISTAN

Kidnapping leader said to be captured

ISLAMABAD — A former Taliban front-line military commander has been arrested in connection with the abduction of three U.N. workers in Afghanistan in October, a senior Pakistan official said yesterday.

Syed Akbar Agha, chief of Jaish-al Muslimeen, or Army of Muslims, was captured in the southern city of Karachi this week, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told the Associated Press.

Armed men seized Annetta Flanigan of Northern Ireland, Philippine diplomat Angelito Nayan and Shqipe Hebibi of Kosovo on Oct. 28. They were freed unharmed in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Nov. 23.

BANGLADESH

Protesters join hands against government

DHAKA — Thousands of Bangladeshis joined hands or stood side by side along a 620-mile route to form a “human chain” of opposition to the government yesterday.

The hourlong demonstration was organized by the opposition Awami League, which wants the government to resign and call elections.

The league and its allies have accused Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s government of corruption, incompetence and harassment of political rivals.

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