- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2006

BRITAIN

Blair questioned in funds scandal

LONDON — Britain’s Tony Blair was questioned as a witness yesterday by police probing claims that political parties awarded state honors in return for loans, and analysts said it was a fresh embarrassment for the beleaguered prime minister.

Mr. Blair was not cautioned by police about his rights before the interview, suggesting officers do not think he will face charges personally in the inquiry.

Police launched an inquiry in March into charges that the ruling Labor Party and other parties had nominated people for seats in Parliament’s upper house, the House of Lords, in exchange for party contributions.

NETHERLANDS

Parliament defuses immigration crisis

THE HAGUE — Parliament defused a 24-hour constitutional crisis yesterday by halting the deportation of rejected asylum seekers and stripping the hard-line immigration minister of responsibility for most immigration policy.

Dutch politics faced chaos Wednesday after the newly elected parliament censured Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk — nicknamed “Iron Rita” for her tough anti-immigration measures — after she refused to halt the expulsion of asylum seekers.

After nearly 12 hours of talks, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende’s caretaker Cabinet agreed to remove Mrs. Verdonk from control of most immigration issues. Her new official title is minister for integration and child protection.

LEBANON

Factions close on unity deal

BEIRUT — The government and opposition have agreed on a national unity Cabinet in which major decisions could be made only by consensus, the head of the Arab League said yesterday in a major step toward ending Lebanon’s political crisis.

A new Cabinet is the key demand of the Hezbollah-led opposition, whose thousands of supporters have staged mass protests and daily sit-ins since Dec. 1. Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has been forced to live in his office complex in central Beirut, surrounded by security forces and barbwire.

CHINA

World’s tallest man saves dolphins

SHANGHAI — The world’s tallest man saved the lives of two dying dolphins in China by reaching deep into their stomachs to pull out pieces of plastic, press reports said yesterday.

At an aquarium in the northeastern city of Fushun, doctors failed to remove the plastic with surgical instruments because the pieces were difficult to grasp, Xinhua news agency said. The arms of ordinary people were too short to reach the stomachs.

Bao Xishun, a 7-foot 9-inch herdsman from nearby inner Mongolia, listed by Guinness World Records as the tallest living man, was summoned. As a dozen men held the dolphins down Mr. Bao, 54, slid his 42-inch-long arm down their throats to grab the plastic. The dolphins are recovering well.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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