- The Washington Times - Monday, December 21, 2009

GREECE

Turkey accused of religious bias

ATHENS | Greece hit back Sunday at Turkey’s criticism of the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians for saying that minority Greeks in Turkey are treated like second-class citizens and feel “crucified sometimes.”

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, leader of some 2,000 Orthodox Greeks in largely Muslim Turkey, made the remarks in an interview with U.S. television network CBS, to be aired Sunday.

Greek’s Foreign Ministry responded that among Turkey’s obligations for joining the European Union is “that respect for the freedom of religion and the rights of minorities takes first place.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu rejected accusations of religious discrimination by his government. “We regard the use of the crucifixion simile as extremely unfortunate,” he said.

BRITAIN

China blamed for summit letdown

LONDON | Britain’s climate change minister, Ed Miliband, on Sunday blamed China for blocking an accord on legally binding emissions targets and a 50 percent cut in greenhouse gases by 2050 at the Copenhagen summit.

Mr. Miliband conceded the results of the Copenhagen conference were “disappointing,” but insisted that important progress was made in the fight against global warming.

Efforts to give legal backing to the commitments in the Copenhagen accord were met with “impossible resistance from a small number of developing countries, including China, who didn’t want a legal agreement,” he said.

China insists that developed nations take on the greatest burden in cutting greenhouse gases.

ITALY

Attack boosts Berlusconi appeal

ROME | Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s approval rating has risen back above 50 percent after an attack against him sparked a wave of sympathy even among opposition voters, an opinion poll showed on Sunday.

Mr. Berlusconi, 73, was struck in the face a week ago by a man who broke his nose and two teeth after a rally in Milan.

An opinion poll by ISPO published in Corriere della Sera newspaper said the aggression had boosted Mr. Berlusconi’s popularity to 55.9 percent, compared to 48.6 percent in mid-November. Respected pollster Renato Mannheimer said the rise in popularity was most evident among young voters and practicing Catholics. But the approval rating improved even among center-left voters, with 17 percent giving a positive opinion.

The Dec. 13 attack against Mr. Berlusconi shocked many Italians and drew comparisons with the dark years of political violence that bloodied the country in the 1970s and 1980s.

GERMANY

Socialists oppose Afghan deployments

BERLIN | Germany’s biggest opposition party, the Social Democrats (SPD), will oppose any government plans to send additional soldiers to Afghanistan, in a sign of growing political momentum against a troop increase.

The SPD alone would not be able to stop Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition if it votes in a single bloc, but it could galvanize opposition to the increase, even within the coalition.

Some leading coalition figures - including Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle from the Free Democrats and Horst Seehofer, head of the Christian Social Union - have expressed doubts about a troop increase, preferring to focus on civilian efforts.

Until now the SPD has supported Mrs. Merkel’s Afghanistan policy, working hand-in-hand with her as a coalition partner for four years and, as the biggest opposition party, backing an extension of the mission earlier this month in a vote in parliament.

SERBIA

Serbia to apply for EU membership

BELGRADE | Serbia will submit its application for membership in the European Union on Tuesday, RTS national television said on Sunday, quoting a source in the Serbian presidency.

It had announced in November that it would apply to join the 27-nation bloc - the last part of the former Yugoslavia to do so - but debate has been ongoing over the timing of the application.

Serbian media reports suggest some members of the government favored an early bid - by the end of this year or early 2010 - while others would prefer to wait for broader support among EU states.

RTS also quoted Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt as indicating that Belgrade’s bid to join the bloc would be received on Tuesday. Sweden holds the rotating EU presidency until the end of this year.

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