- The Washington Times - Friday, June 5, 2009

RUSSIA

Putin meets jobless workers

ST. PETERSBURG | Prime Minister Vladimir Putin traveled Thursday to a small Russian town where all three main factories were shut down and pushed through a deal to put residents back to work.

In a nationally televised display of his clout, Mr. Putin browbeat wealthy factory owners and scolded local officials, who he said did little to help residents and then “ran around like cockroaches” once it was clear he was on his way.

Mr. Putin made the trip to Pikalyovo two days after about 400 jobless workers staged a protest earlier in the week that blocked a highway for seven hours.

Following the protest, the regional government promised to provide money to help tide over the 4,000 unemployed workers, about one-fifth of the town’s population. Workers threatened to expand their protests if a long-term solution was not found.

IRAQ

U.S. coalition drops to three

BAGHDAD | Romania’s 366-member military contingent ended its deployment in Iraq on Thursday, reducing the U.S.-led coalition to three countries.

The alliance that once included nearly 40 countries has been whittled down as the Americans themselves prepare for a full withdrawal from the country by the end of 2011.

The U.S. has about 140,000 troops left in Iraq.

The Romanian force was among a handful that remained after the Jan. 1 expiration of the U.N. mandate that governed the presence of the U.S.-led coalition force in Iraq.

IRELAND

Catholic orders to fund abused

DUBLIN | Bowing to government pressure, 18 Roman Catholic religious orders that had abused thousands of Irish children pledged Thursday to allow external audits of their finances and to establish an entirely new compensation fund for victims.

The promise came after leaders of the orders held a three-hour meeting with Prime Minister Brian Cowen, who bluntly criticized their refusal to accept the magnitude of the harm they did to generations of children by chronically shielding abusers.

Later, the 18 groups said they would “make financial and other contributions toward a broad range of measures designed to alleviate the hurt caused to people who were abused” in their care.

Nuns and brothers sheltered serial abusers and pedophiles in state-sanctioned homes for children from prosecution from the 1930s to 1990s.

BRITAIN

5th minister resigns, asks Brown to quit

LONDON | Prime Minister Gordon Brown was dealt a devastating blow to his leadership late Thursday when one of his most ambitious ministers resigned - hours after Britain voted in European elections - and called on him to step down.

Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell became the fifth minister to abandon Mr. Brown’s Cabinet in recent days. Mr. Purnell in his letter of resignation called on the prime minister to resign for the good of the Labor Party.

Mr. Purnell was the first of the five ministers to openly criticize Mr. Brown and ask him to step down. Mr. Purnell, 39, was seen as a fast-rising star in the Labor Party, but he said in his letter that he is not seeking to lead the party himself.

Mr. Purnell’s resignation comes as Mr. Brown gears up for a for a major Cabinet reshuffling and tries to recover from a scandal over legislators’ expense claims.

UKRAINE

Former rivals seek alliance

KIEV | Ukraine’s two largest parties, led by rivals with a long record of hostility, edged closer toward forming a “broad coalition” on Thursday to end 4 1/2 years of political turmoil, but no formal agreement was yet in sight.

Officials close to Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s bloc and former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich’s Regions Party have suggested for days that they are on the brink of clinching a deal that would ensure stability in the former Soviet republic.

The groups led by the two politicians have met periodically for months without a breakthrough to end the infighting that has plagued politics since the 2004 “Orange Revolution” brought pro-Western politicians to power.

Mrs. Tymoshenko campaigns as a defender of the disadvantaged and draws her support from nationalist western and central Ukraine while Mr. Yanukovich, who portrays himself as a capable manager, has his power base in the Russian-speaking industrial east. The deal’s proponents say it could heal regional differences.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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