- The Washington Times - Monday, December 14, 2009

ITALY

Berlusconi punched by unhappy protester

ROME | Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was punched in the face at the end of a rally in Milan on Sunday, new reports said.

The attack occurred as the 73-year-old Mr. Berlusconi was signing autographs near his car, state TV said.

TV showed the stunned leader, who was not badly injured, with blood under his nose and on his mouth as he was lifted to his feet by aides.

News reports said a man, in his 30s or early 40s, was immediately detained and taken to police headquarters.

ROMANIA

Recount fails for challenger

BUCHAREST | A recount of annulled votes in Romania’s presidential election failed to overturn incumbent Traian Basescu’s victory, the country’s central election bureau said Sunday.

Mr. Basescu won the Dec. 6 runoff by about 70,000 votes against leftist challenger Mircea Geoana, who contested the result at the Constitutional Court saying the election was marred by fraud.

A constitutional court decision to validate the outcome is still pending, but analysts have said there was little chance Mr. Geoana’s appeal would succeed.

The court challenge has prolonged a months-long crisis that began after the leftist Social Democrats and other opposition parties downed a Basescu-allied center-right government in October.

FRANCE

Muslim mosque desecrated with pig

CASTRES | Police say assailants have scrawled a Nazi slogan and hung pig feet on a mosque in southern France.

Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux has denounced the “vile and racist desecration” of the mosque in the town of Castres.

Police say the swastika in black paint and slogans including Hitler salute “Sieg Heil” in German, “France to the French” in French, and “White Power” in English were scrawled on the mosque.

Assailants sporadically scrawl anti-Muslim or anti-Semitic graffiti on religious sites, cultural centers and cemeteries in France - home to Western Europe’s largest populations of both Muslims and Jews.

GERMANY

Merkel battles for tax-cut stimulus

BERLIN | German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought to get her second term back on an even keel Sunday in crisis talks with members of her own party opposed to her plans to slash taxes to boost the German economy.

Since being re-elected in late September, Mrs. Merkel’s new period in charge has been marked by squabbles over how best to boost the economy.

The main thrust of her new coalition’s road map to recovery after Germany’s worst recession since World War II is a program of tax cuts aimed at putting more money in consumers’ pockets and cutting recession-hit firms some slack.

Parliament’s upper house was due to vote on the first wave of cuts Dec. 18.

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