- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2008

RUSSIA

Official: U.S. allows site monitoring

MOSCOW — Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said new U.S. proposals for a missile-defense system in eastern Europe would offer Moscow an opportunity to closely monitor activities at the planned U.S. bases, according to an interview released yesterday.

In an interview posted on the Web site of the newspaper Izvestia, Mr. Lavrov reaffirmed the Kremlin’s strong opposition to the U.S. plan to put a battery of missile interceptors in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic, but said Washington’s new proposals reflected U.S. acknowledgment of Russia’s concerns.

Mr. Lavrov’s statement came a day after Russian officials wrapped up talks in Moscow with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

WEST BANK

U.S. approves aid to Palestinians

RAMALLAH — The United States agreed yesterday to transfer $150 million in budgetary support to the Palestinian Authority as part of past pledges to boost President Mahmoud Abbas’ government.

Western-backed Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad signed the agreement with U.S. Consul General Jake Walles. Mr. Walles said the United States pledged $550 million at a donors’ conference in Paris in December. The United States already announced that $148 million would go to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees to provide humanitarian assistance and an additional $200 million would go to development projects.

KOSOVO

Neighbors recognize new republic

BELGRADE — Serbia’s neighbors Croatia, Hungary and Bulgaria dealt a blow to the Serb campaign to overturn Kosovo’s month-old independence yesterday by announcing they would recognize the new republic.

Serbia’s pro-Western foreign minister, Vuk Jeremic, acknowledged the neighbors’ decision “with sadness” and warned them they “cannot have good ties with Serbia.”

Canada announced recognition Tuesday. More than 30 countries have now recognized Kosovo.

SAUDI ARABIA

Clerics back fatwa for liberal writers

RIYADH — A group of 20 Saudi clerics has come out in support of a colleague who issued a fatwa saying two writers deserve to die if they did not retract views that he said made them apostates.

Sheik Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak, one of the kingdom’s most revered clerics, said in a rare fatwa last week the columnists should be tried for apostasy for “heretical articles” published in al-Riyadh newspaper and put to death if they do not repent.

They questioned the Sunni Muslim view in Saudi Arabia that adherents of other faiths should be considered unbelievers, which Sheik al-Barrak said implied Muslims were free to follow other religions and their faith was on a par with other religions.

KUWAIT

Emir dissolves parliament, sets vote

KUWAIT CITY — Kuwait’s Emir Sheik Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah yesterday dissolved the opposition-dominated parliament and called for new elections on May 17, the state news agency reported.

The move came two days after Cabinet ministers submitted their resignations alleging a lack of cooperation from lawmakers.

BRITAIN

Missing girl’s parents get apology, damages

LONDON — The parents of missing Madeleine McCann yesterday accepted an apology and more than $1 million in damages over tabloid newspaper stories suggesting they had caused their daughter’s death.

Madeleine vanished May 3 — a few days before her fourth birthday — from a hotel room during a family vacation in Praia da Luz in Portugal’s Algarve region.

GREECE

Strikers clash with police

ATHENS — Riot police fired tear gas at demonstrators throwing rocks and firebombs in central Athens during a nationwide general strike yesterday by millions of Greeks protesting government pension reforms.

An estimated 100,000 people marched in downtown Athens, and when the demonstration ended, groups of anarchists fought running battles with riot police in the capital. Clouds of tear gas hung over Exarhia Square and cafe customers scrambled for cover.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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