- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2008

GEORGIA

Leaders’ motorcade dodges gunshots

TBILISI | Shots were fired Sunday at a motorcade carrying the presidents of Georgia and Poland, but no one was hurt, Georgian officials said.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili blamed Russian troops in Georgia’s breakaway province of South Ossetia for the incident.

“Frankly, I didn’t expect the Russians to open fire,” he said at a joint news conference with Polish President Lech Kaczynski. “The reality is, you are dealing with unpredictable people. They weren’t happy to see our guest, and they weren’t happy to see me, either.”

Mr. Kaczynski said the shots were fired from only about 100 feet from the motorcade. He said it was not immediately clear whether the gunfire was aimed at the motorcade or shots were fired into the air.

He said the incident demonstrated the weakness of the French-brokered truce that ended Russia’s August war with Georgia.

Also, Sunday marked the Rose Revolution’s fifth anniversary. Protesting oppositionists demanded Mr. Saakashvili’s resignation.

The president’s popularity has plummeted amid slow economic development and anger over the devastating August war with Russia.

Mr. Saakashvili congratulated Georgians on the anniversary in a state television broadcast late Saturday, and underlined the need for unity after the war.

SPAIN

Grave site used to generate power

MADRID | A new kind of silent hero has joined the fight against climate change.

Santa Coloma de Gramenet, a gritty, working-class town outside Barcelona, has placed a sea of solar panels atop mausoleums at its cemetery, transforming a place of perpetual rest into one buzzing with renewable energy.

Flat, open and sun-drenched land is so scarce in Santa Coloma that the graveyard was just about the only viable spot to move ahead with its solar-energy program.

The power the 462 panels produce - equivalent to the yearly use by 60 homes - flows into the local energy grid for normal consumption and is one community’s odd nod to alternative-energy sources.

FRANCE

Foreign minister airs doubt on Obama plan

PARIS | The French foreign minister said he has doubts about U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s plans to fight Islamic militants in Afghanistan.

Bernard Kouchner said plans that increase troop numbers would only work “in precise areas with a precise task.” He said France thinks military power alone won’t stabilize the situation in Afghanistan.

Mr. Kouchner told France’s TV5 television Sunday that international troops should help the Afghan people “take matters into their own hands.”

Mr. Obama wants to step up the U.S. fight against terrorism in Afghanistan.

The United States has some 32,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama has said he plans to add about 7,000 or 8,000 troops to the NATO mission there next year.

VATICAN

Benedict recalls Ukraine famine

VATICAN CITY | Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday prayed that no political ideology would ever again cost people their freedom and dignity, as he recalled the millions who died from famine in Ukraine and other Soviet regions under dictator Josef Stalin.

The pontiff spoke in Ukrainian to pilgrims from that country in St. Peter’s Square, and noted that this month marks the anniversary of Holodomor, or “Death by Hunger,” as the famine is known in Ukraine.

The 1932-33 famine was orchestrated by Soviet authorities to force peasants to give up their land and join collective farms. Ukraine, known as the breadbasket of the Soviet Union, suffered the most.

The issue of the famine is an irritant in already tense Russia-Ukraine relations.

Ukrainian lawmakers, along with counterparts from the United States and other countries, call the famine an act of genocide against Ukrainians. But the Kremlin objects to the label, saying other ethnic groups also suffered.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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