- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 19, 2005

PORTUGAL

Tallest fake tree lit for Christmas

LISBON — Europe’s tallest artificial Christmas tree came to life yesterday in a blaze of more than 2 million lights and a fireworks display before a crowd of thousands in the Portuguese capital.

It took workers 44 days to set up the 238-foot, 180-ton tree in Lisbon’s Praca do Comercio in the historic center of the city, organizers said.

The tree, whose height is the equivalent of a building of more than 20 stories, will be on display in the busy shopping district until Jan. 8.

SPAIN

Left-right rivalry marks Franco death anniversary

MADRID — Left- and right-wing protesters marched through Madrid yesterday on the eve of the 30th anniversary of strongman Francisco Franco’s death, showing old rivalries from Spain’s civil war are still deeply felt.

Skinheads joined ranks with smartly dressed old ladies at a rightist march in Madrid at midday, chanting Francoist slogans.

Separately, a Mass in remembrance of the generalissimo and victims of the 1936-39 civil war brought thousands of rightists to the Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen), in the mountains 30 miles north of Madrid, the site of an imposing mausoleum where Franco is buried.

Later about 2,000 leftists held an anti-fascist rally in the capital, shouting “They shall not pass,” a slogan of the defeated Republicans during the civil war.

VATICAN CITY

Berlusconi meets with Pope Benedict

VATICAN CITY — Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi held a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI yesterday, amid a national debate on abortion.

Mr. Berlusconi’s first official visit to see the pope took place as newspapers reported that the church supported Health Minister Francesco Storace’s plan to allow pro-life campaigners to advise women at Italy’s obligatory abortion counseling centers.

The pope and his secretary of state, Angelo Sodano, discussed international affairs with Mr. Berlusconi as well as relations between Italy and the Vatican.

Some politicians say relations are too close, with the country gearing up for a general election next April.

The pope insisted yesterday that the church had a right to intervene publicly in difficult moral issues.

GERMANY

Army bids farewell to Schroeder

HANOVER — The German army bid farewell to outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder with a military parade in the northern city of Hanover last night, three days before he steps down in favor of his conservative successor, Angela Merkel.

About 600 people, including Mr. Schroeder’s wife and his mother, attended the ceremony in the City Hall gardens of Hanover, where Mr. Schroeder lives.

Tears came to the chancellor’s eyes when army bands played his musical picks — Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” and George Gershwin’s “Summertime” — pieces that were less conventional than those of his predecessor in 1998.

After seven years in power at the head of a coalition with the Green Party, Mr. Schroeder will hand over the reins of power to Mrs. Merkel on Tuesday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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