- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 2, 2004

BRITAIN

Blair back on job after heart surgery

LONDON — Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday headed off for a weekend at his country residence a day after undergoing an operation to correct an irregular heartbeat, and he was recovering normally, a spokesman said.

Mr. Blair looked healthy and relaxed as he left his No. 10 Downing St. office and got into a chauffeur-driven car bound for the residence outside London, Chequers. He was accompanied by his wife, Cherie.

His condition had not changed from late Friday, when the prime minister returned to Downing Street from the hospital and told reporters he was “absolutely fine,” the spokesman said.

The London hospital that treated Mr. Blair said the risk of recurrence was very low, and that the 51-year-old prime minister was expected to make a rapid and full recovery.

ROMANIA

Poor health cited in withdrawal

BUCHAREST — Former Prime Minister Theodor Stolojan announced yesterday that he has withdrawn from Romania’s presidential election because of poor health.

The centrist opposition, a coalition of Liberals and Democrats, hopes Mr. Stolojan’s withdrawal will increase its chances of winning the November presidential election because his replacement, the tough-talking Bucharest Mayor Traian Basescu, has more popular appeal.

Mr. Stolojan said at a press conference yesterday that he was retiring from the presidential race and political life for serious, unspecified health problems. Appearing weak, he said he was sure the alliance would win in November.

FRANCE

Government opposes holding camps

ROME — French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said yesterday that France was against the creation of offshore holding camps for asylum-seekers to Europe.

“We are not in favor of the creation of transit centers, because we had an experience with that at Sangatte, which caused considerable problems, and we don’t want to export these types of woes to other countries,” Mr. Barnier explained at a press conference during a summit on illegal immigration and Euro-Mediterranean dialogue in Rome.

The Red Cross refugee center in Sangatte, near Calais in the north of France, served during its three years in existence as a temporary home to about 68,000 illegal migrants, mainly Afghans and Iraqi Kurds.

It was shut down in November 2002 with much difficulty after migrants living there used it as a staging point for nightly attempts to reach Britain.

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