- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 2004

SAUDI ARABIA

Al Qaeda branch calls for strikes against oil

CAIRO — The Saudi branch of al Qaeda called for attacks against oil infrastructure in the Persian Gulf in a Web statement posted yesterday.

The statement came four days after al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden urged Islamist militants to stop Westerners from obtaining Middle Eastern oil, saying such a blow would be fatal to the West.

Yesterday’s statement, signed by the group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, called on “all mujahedeen … in the Arabian Peninsula” to target “the oil resources that do not serve the nation of Islam.”

PAKISTAN

Islamists insist Musharraf quit army

ISLAMABAD — Islamists vowed yesterday to resist plans by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to stay on as head of the army, breaking his pledge to quit the post by the end of the year.

Qazi Hussain Ahmed, a leader of the opposition Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal Islamic alliance, said the Islamists would mark Jan. 1 as a “black day” if Gen. Musharraf did not keep his promise.

“Musharraf has become a security risk for the country,” Mr. Hussain told about 5,000 people in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. He said the Islamist alliance would meet on Friday to announce its next steps.

VATICAN

Pope warns against materialism

VATICAN CITY — Pope John Paul II warned yesterday against rampant materialism, which he said suffocated the spirit of Christmas.

Speaking to pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope urged Christians to keep the symbols of Christmas — the Nativity crib and the tree — at the center of their celebrations.

“The feast of Christmas, perhaps the most dear of the popular traditions, is rich in symbols related to many cultures. Among them all, the most important is certainly the crib,” the pope said, overlooking the life-size Nativity scene that stands in St. Peter’s Square each year.

ITALY

Opera diva dies at 82

ROME — Italian soprano Renata Tebaldi, one of the great post-World War II opera divas who Arturo Toscanini said had the “voice of an angel,” has died, a family friend said yesterday. She was 82. She died in the Republic of San Marino, where she had moved several months ago to be close to the sea, said a family friend, who asked not to be named.

Miss Tebaldi performed in opera houses from Italy to the United States and was as admired for her dramatic stage presence as for the purity of her voice.

Her breakthrough came in 1946 when she auditioned in Milan, Italy, for the great conductor Mr. Toscanini.

When she made her debut at the city’s La Scala opera house later than year, the maestro dubbed her “The Voice of an Angel.”

CONGO

Fighting displaces tens of thousands

NEW YORK — Tens of thousands of people have been forced from their homes in eastern Congo in the past few days by fresh fighting in the territory of Lubero, the United Nations said yesterday.

Entire villages have been left deserted in Congo’s North Kivu province, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said. Those who fled have no food or shelter and are beyond the reach of aid workers, the office added.

The latest wave of homeless comes just days after tens of thousands of residents fled a nearby region last week, the United Nations said.

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