- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2007

FRANCE

Fillon named prime minister

PARIS — President Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday gave the post of prime minister to fellow conservative Francois Fillon, who promised to carry out Mr. Sarkozy’s sweeping program for change and to assure France an “eminent” place in the world.

Like Mr. Sarkozy, Mr. Fillon served under Jacques Chirac, who Mr. Sarkozy replaced on Wednesday after 12 years as France’s leader.

BRITAIN

Government in talks to free BBC reporter

LONDON — The British government is in talks with an associate of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to try to secure the release of kidnapped British Broadcasting Corp. correspondent Alan Johnston, the Foreign Office said yesterday.

The talks are with Abu Qatada, a radical cleric of Palestinian-Jordanian descent and a Jordanian citizen who is in prison in Britain and awaiting extradition to Jordan.

Mr. Johnston, who turned 45 yesterday, has been held since he was kidnapped by Palestinian gunmen on March 12 in Gaza City, Gaza Strip.

UNITED NATIONS

Belarus fails to win seat on rights body

NEW YORK — Belarus, described by Washington as Europe’s last dictatorship, failed to win election yesterday to the U.N. Human Rights Council after Western nations backed a rival campaign by Bosnia.

After two rounds of voting by the U.N. General Assembly, two vacant Eastern European seats on the 47-nation council went to Slovenia and Bosnia.

ESTONIA

Russian hand seen in cyber attacks

TALLINN — Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo said yesterday the massive cyber attacks that have crippled the high-tech country’s Web sites are a threat to national security, and that it’s possible the Russian government was behind them.

He said about 1 million computers worldwide were used over more than two weeks to attack government and corporate Web sites in the Baltic country, which is engaged in a bitter dispute with Moscow over Estonia’s removal of a Soviet-era war memorial from downtown Tallinn.

BRITAIN

Brown lone contender for prime minister

LONDON — Treasury chief Gordon Brown was confirmed yesterday as the next leader of the Labor Party after colleagues in the House of Commons overwhelmingly backed him as the only candidate to be the new prime minister.

The only other declared candidate, John McDonnell, a former trade union official, said Wednesday he was quitting because he did not have enough support.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said last week he would be stepping down by June 27.

COLOMBIA

Escaped hostage says American captive ill

BOGOTA — A police officer who fled to freedom after eight years as a hostage of leftist rebels said Wednesday that he was held until late last month with former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. military contractors.

John Frank Pinchao said he last saw Mrs. Betancourt and Americans Marc Gonsalves, Tom Howes and Keith Stansell on April 28, the day of his escape from a jungle camp. He said Mr. Gonsalves was suffering from hepatitis.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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