- The Washington Times - Monday, May 11, 2009

ICELAND

Parliament to vote on joining the EU

REYKJAVIK | Iceland’s government said Sunday that it would leave it to parliament to decide whether to seek European Union membership for the island nation, although the two governing coalition parties still disagree on the issue.

“The two parties have agreed to disagree on the EU issue, but both parties emphasize their joint intent that it be the nation which, in a referendum, will finally determine whether Iceland will join the European Union,” the government said in a statement.

The issue of membership in the bloc has been the main sticking point between Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir’s pro-Europe Social Democrats and the Euro-skeptic Left-Greens as they hammer out policy after their win in last month’s election.

ITALY

Police catch top mafioso

ROME | Italian police have arrested the head of a powerful Calabrian mafia clan who is on a list of Italy’s 30 most dangerous criminals, police said Sunday.

Salvatore Coluccio, who has been on the run since 2005, is suspected of being a boss from the ‘Ndrangheta - which has become Italy’s most powerful crime syndicate - and ran a clan deeply entrenched in the drug trade, police said.

He is being charged with mafia links and drug trafficking among other crimes. Police said he was found hiding in a bunker in his house in Roccella Jonica, in the southern state of Calabria.

The ‘Ndrangheta dominates the drug trade in Europe.

GEORGIA

President agrees to meet opponents

TBILISI | Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili agreed to meet opposition leaders Monday after a month of street protests in the former Soviet republic.

Clashes on Wednesday between police and protesters, a day after a brief, bloodless mutiny at a tank base outside Tbilisi, have fueled fears of wider anti-government unrest in Georgia which is hosting NATO military exercises to the consternation of neighboring Russia.

The opposition has been protesting since April 9 and blocked roads in the capital to back demands that the 41-year-old president resign over his record on democracy and last year’s disastrous war with Russia. Monday’s meeting is set for 2 p.m.

RUSSIA

Putin says economy to decide his future

MOSCOW | Vladimir Putin, Russia’s prime minister, indicated Sunday that the handling of the economic crisis would play a major role in determining whether he or President Dmitry Medvedev ran for the top Kremlin post in 2012.

Mr. Putin, who stepped down as president last May to become prime minister under Mr. Medvedev, told Japanese media that having two men running Russia in tandem helped ensure stability.

When Mr. Putin was asked how he would react if Mr. Medvedev chose to run in a 2012 presidential election, the former KGB spy said much depended on how well the authorities dealt with the crisis.

GERMANY

Merkel tax plans draw skepticism

BERLIN | A senior ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel has questioned her plans to promise German voters tax cuts from next year, exposing a deep policy rift within her conservative camp only months before a federal election.

Wolfgang Schaeuble, interior minister and an influential figure in Mrs. Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), said he saw little room for tax relief and, in a clear jibe at his boss, urged his party to “tell voters the truth” about the weak economy and strained state of German finances.

Several CDU state premiers had already criticized Mrs. Merkel’s plans to make tax relief a key plank of the party’s election campaign program, but Mr. Schaeuble’s defiance is more significant because of his stature and role as a minister in her coalition.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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