- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 30, 2004

ISRAEL

Sharon faces coalition crisis

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was set on a collision course yesterday with his most loyal coalition partner, the Shinui Party, raising prospects of early elections that could postpone Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Sharon’s coalition problems heightened this week because he needs to get his 2005 state budget approved in parliament. On Sunday, Mr. Sharon agreed to transfer $98 million to two religious parties in exchange for their support in the budget vote.

The move enraged the secular-rights Shinui, Mr. Sharon’s largest coalition partner. Shinui leader Yosef Lapid said his party would vote against the budget, depriving Mr. Sharon of a parliamentary majority. If the budget does not pass by March 31, Mr. Sharon’s government automatically would fall and elections would have to be held within three months.

BRITAIN

Blair aide faces probe over visa

LONDON — A British Cabinet minister faced an inquiry yesterday into accusations that he abused his position to speed a visa for his lover’s Filipino nanny.

Home Secretary David Blunkett — who leads Britain’s fight against terrorism and is one of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s most trusted allies — announced an independent probe to clear his name after a political storm erupted during the weekend.

The press accused him of fast-tracking the visa for U.S.-born publisher Kimberly Quinn’s nanny. But Mr. Blunkett, a 57-year-old divorce who is Britain’s most high-profile blind person, says he merely checked the immigration papers to ensure they were in order.

SPAIN

Aznar denies Iraq link to Madrid bombings

MADRID — Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said yesterday that Islamic militants had tried to use the Madrid train bombings to oust the pro-U.S. ruling party from power, but not because of its support for the Iraq war.

“These attacks were being prepared long before the Iraq war. They were not the result of the Iraq war, even though many people said so,” Mr. Aznar said in combative testimony to a parliamentary commission probing the attacks.

The Madrid bombers made videotapes saying the attacks were conducted in the name of al Qaeda in Europe and that they were seeking revenge for Spain’s dispatch of troops to Iraq and Afghanistan.

RUSSIA

Dalai Lama arrives in Buddhist region

ELISTA — The Dalai Lama arrived yesterday on his first visit to Russia after Moscow abruptly reversed its refusal to grant entry to the Tibetan spiritual leader.

Russia had rejected visa requests for the Dalai Lama at least three times because it was wary of upsetting China. The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, also leads Tibetans resisting Chinese rule.

The Foreign Ministry said the Dalai Lama was given a visa in the expectation that he would limit his activities in Russia to pastoral purposes, visiting largely Buddhist communities.

BURMA

Suu Kyi’s detention extended by a year

RANGOON — Detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been told that she will be held under house arrest at least until September, a spokesman for her political party said yesterday.

National League for Democracy spokesman U Lwin said the party confirmed during the weekend that Mrs. Suu Kyi had been told of the extension. He did not give further details of the order or how he learned of it. Mrs. Suu Kyi’s telephone has been disconnected, and party leaders have not been allowed to visit her since May.

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