- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 10, 2007

ITALY

Afghanistan comments threaten government

ROME — Leftists in Italy’s coalition government warned yesterday they could withdraw support for Romano Prodi’s administration after a minister said troops may not leave Afghanistan for several years.

Comments by Defense Minister Arturo Parisi that Italy’s military presence in Afghanistan may not be cut during the government’s five-year term, which expires in 2011, provoked angry reactions from some political allies who oppose Italy’s presence in the country.

Parties on the left of the coalition said such talk could push them to vote against Mr. Prodi in parliament, where it has a one-seat majority in the upper house.

Mr. Prodi also faces rebellion on the other extreme of his center-left coalition on another issue. Some Catholic centrists have vowed to vote against a bill granting legal rights to unmarried and homosexual couples.

RUSSIA

Ukranian politician denied entry visa

MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry yesterday justified the decision to refuse entry to a Ukrainian politician by saying it was a reprisal for “vicious” similar moves by Ukraine.

Petro Poroshenko, a businessman and supporter of pro-Western Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, was stopped at St. Petersburg airport on Feb. 3.

“This decision was taken in the framework of Russian legislation. The response is in practice similar to the vicious [ban] introduced by the Ukrainians on Russian citizens entering the Ukraine,” the foreign ministry said.

Relationships between the two countries have been strained since the Orange Revolution in 2004 and were further tested last winter after a disagreement over gas supply prices when Moscow briefly cut off supplies to the Ukraine.

BRITAIN

Cash-for-honors probe hits Blair’s reputation

LONDON — Less than a fifth of Britons see Prime Minister Tony Blair as “honest and straightforward,” according to a poll released yesterday underlining how the “cash for honors” inquiry has hit his standing.

The Sunday Times poll, which also reflects increasing pressure on Mr. Blair to leave office soon, shows that 16 percent agreed with that description of him.

In addition, 56 percent thought he had handed out peerages in return for financial support for his party.

POLAND

Reagan may replace Soviet-era monument

WARSAW — Opponents of Poland’s former communist regime want to pay a posthumous homage to Ronald Reagan by erecting his statue in the place of a Soviet-era monument, according to the press.

In an open letter to the mayor of the southwestern city of Katowice, the former anti-regime activists said the staunchly anti-communist Mr. Reagan had been a “symbol of liberty,” the Polish news agency PAP reported.

As a result, they said, he deserved to become the centerpiece of the city’s Freedom Square, replacing a monument to the Soviet troops who drove out the occupying Nazis in 1945.

They also said they wanted the site to be renamed “Ronald Reagan Freedom Square.”

SERBIA

Riot police scuffle with Albanian youth

PRISTINA — Riot police used tear gas yesterday to disperse some 2,000 protesters from the radical pro-independence ethnic Albanian youth movement in the Kosovo capital.

Hospital officials said 72 persons were injured, and 25 remained under observation in Pristina’s medical center.

Fifteen persons were arrested — among them two minors who were later released — after more than three hours of clashes between police and protesters supporting the ethnic Albanian youth movement, which is seeking Kosovo’s independence without any negotiations.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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