- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2008

VENEZUELA

Chavez hopes to dominate polls

CARACAS | President Hugo Chavez sought to hold on to his dominance in state and municipal elections Sunday, facing an opposition aiming to win back power in key states and cities.

Mr. Chavez has said the vote - held one year after he suffered his first electoral defeat - could decide “the future of the revolution, the future of socialism and also the future of Hugo Chavez.”

Early turnout was high as Venezuelans formed long lines to cast ballots for governors, mayors and other local officials.

After a decade in office, Mr. Chavez still enjoys widespread popularity and has maintained control of most local posts. But last year’s defeat of his attempt to abolish term limits has energized the opposition, which has sought to capitalize on complaints about rampant crime, corruption and inflation.

The vote could either hand Mr. Chavez another setback or help him lay the groundwork to extend his rule beyond 2013, when his six-year term ends.

GUINEA-BISSAU

Mutineers attack president’s home

BISSAU | Mutinous soldiers fought their way into the fortified residence of Guinea-Bissau’s president, launching a three-hour gunbattle with his guards as the leader and his family hid elsewhere in the building, a top official said.

The soldiers attacked President Joao Bernardo Vieira’s home shortly after midnight, killing at least one of his guards and injuring several others before security forces were able to push them back, Interior Minister Cipriano Cassama said.

The attackers did not reach the room where Mr. Vieira was hiding, and neither he nor his wife was hurt, Mr. Cassama said.

Mr. Vieira first took power in a coup.

The United Nations says impoverished Guinea-Bissau, on the Atlantic coast, is a key transit point for cocaine smuggled from Latin America to Europe. In parliamentary elections held a week ago, opposition leader and former President Kumba Yala accused Mr. Vieira of being the country’s top drug trafficker. The president did not comment on the accusation.

IRAQ

Authorities kill capital’s stray dogs

BAGHDAD | Baghdad authorities killed more than 200 stray dogs Sunday, the opening day of a campaign to cull dog packs roaming the capital that was prompted by a spate of fatal attacks on residents.

Three teams of veterinarians and police officers used poisoned meat and rifles to kill the animals, said Dr. Hassan Chaloub, an official at the veterinary hospital supervising the effort. He said the capital has no dog shelters.

The campaign started Sunday in western Baghdad and will move to the eastern half of the city early next year.

Thirteen people died in August alone in the capital after being attacked by dogs, according to Baghdad’s provincial council, which is overseeing the campaign.

People in some neighborhoods have been too frightened to go outside when the dogs are present.

SAUDI ARABIA

Crown Prince leaves for medical tests

RIYADH | The official Saudi news agency says Crown Prince Sultan has left for the United States to undergo medical tests.

The Saudi Press Agency, quoting a royal court statement, says the 84-year-old prince flew from Jidda to the U.S. on Sunday. It did not provide further details on the tests.

Prince Sultan, who is also the kingdom’s defense minister, underwent surgery in May 2004 to remove a cyst from his intestines.

Prince Sultan is King Abdullah’s half brother and one of the most powerful figures in the kingdom. He was appointed defense minister in 1962 and closed multibillion-dollar deals to establish the modern Saudi armed forces.

PAKISTAN

Officials protest U.S. military strike

ISLAMABAD | Pakistanis on Sunday protested a suspected American missile strike that intelligence officials said killed a British citizen linked to a plot to blow up jetliners, saying their Western-allied government must stop the cross-border attacks.

Pakistani intelligence officials said British citizen Rashid Rauf died in Saturday’s raid, but there was no independent corroboration of the death

His death would be a blow to al Qaeda and Taliban extremists thought to be sheltering in the lawless region. It would also bolster U.S. claims that missile strikes on extremist strongholds in northwestern Pakistan are protecting the West against another Sept. 11-style terrorist attack.

About 100 people in the eastern city of Multan demonstrated the strike, chanting “Down with America” and burning an effigy of President Bush.

VATICAN

Lennon’s jab at Jesus forgiven

VATICAN CITY | Vatican media are praising the Beatles’ musical legacy and sounding philosophical about John Lennon’s boast that the British band was more popular than Jesus.

Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano recalls that Mr. Lennon’s comment outraged many when he made it in 1966.

But it says in its Saturday edition that the remark can be written off now as the bragging of a young man wrestling with unexpected success.

The newspaper as well as Vatican Radio last week noted the 40th anniversary of the Beatles’ “White Album.”

It said the album demonstrated how creative the Beatles were, compared with what it called the “standardized, stereotypical” songs being produced today.

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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