- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 2, 2009

CUBA

Fidel: U.S. wants to enslave Cubans

HAVANA | Fidel Castro again bristled at the Obama administration’s steps toward improving relations with Cuba, writing in a May Day message that the United States would like to see Cubans “return to the fold of slaves.”

Writing in his newspaper column, Mr. Castro said he found “some new elements” in the Obama administration, which has eased restriction on travel and money transfers for Americans with family in Cuba. “We are carefully studying and observing each of its steps,” he wrote.

But Mr. Castro complained that Washington “is ready to forgive us if we resign ourselves to returning to the fold of slaves who, after tasting liberty, again accept the whip and the yoke.”

“The adversary should not have any illusion that Cuba will give up,” he wrote.

AFGHANISTAN

3 Americans, 2 NATO troops killed

KABUL | Three Americans and two other international troops were killed Friday in an attack in eastern Afghanistan, officials said.

Insurgents attacked Afghan and international forces with rocket-propelled grenades and guns, NATO forces said. The troops called in air support, forcing the militants to withdraw.

Col. Greg Julian, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, confirmed that three of the dead service members were Americans. The nationalities of the other two were not immediately known because NATO typically waits for countries to release such information.

ETHIOPIA

Government claims assassination plot

ADDIS ABABA | Ethiopia said Friday that a group led by an Ethiopian-American professor had planned to assassinate officials and blow up public utilities in a plot to topple the government.

Addis Ababa arrested 40 former and current army personnel as well as members of a disbanded opposition group last week from a “terror network” it said was formed by Berhanu Nega, an opposition leader living in the United States.

Mr. Berhanu, who lives in Pennsylvania, was elected mayor of Addis Ababa in 2005, but was arrested when the opposition disputed the results. He and other opposition leaders were released in a 2007 pardon.

ISRAEL

U.N. urges freeze on home demolitions

JERUSALEM | A U.N. agency urged Israel on Friday to freeze demolitions of Arab homes in East Jerusalem, citing a growing housing crisis in the part of the city the Palestinians claim as their future capital.

About 1,500 demolition orders are pending and thousands more homes are at risk, according to a report by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The report is the latest sign of growing international concern about Israel’s housing policies in East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized Jerusalem house demolitions as “unhelpful” during a visit in March.

Israeli officials said Friday that building codes are enforced in an evenhanded manner in Arab and Jewish areas of the city. The office of Mayor Nir Barkat disputed the figures in the U.N. report, but did not elaborate.

Meanwhile, Israeli aircraft destroyed four smuggling tunnels under the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt on Friday in the first air strike in almost two months, local residents and the Israeli military said.

ZIMBABWE

Tsvangirai says government broke

HARARE | Zimbabwe’s new unity government is broke and cannot meet union demands for higher wages, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said Friday.

Addressing a May Day rally, Mr. Tsvangirai said the government, which he formed with President Robert Mugabe in February to try to end a political and economic crisis that has brought Zimbabwe to ruin, would maintain the monthly salary of $100 that it is paying its workers.

“This government is broke, and we are only able to pay the $100 allowance. But when things improve, we want this allowance to graduate into a proper salary,” he said. “For now, everyone, all of us, including President Mugabe, is getting $100.”

SWITZERLAND

Bern shuts Bear Pit as last bear dies

GENEVA | Bern’s Bear Pit, for centuries a tourist attraction and a symbol of the city, has lost its last resident to euthanasia and will be closed for good.

Pedro, a 28-year-old brown bear, was euthanized Thursday, ending a tradition that had spanned nearly 500 years. The pit that housed the animals giving the city its name will be replaced by a more bear-friendly park with access to the Aare River below.

Bears have played an important role in Bern, which features the animal on its flag and coat-of-arms. The legend of Bern has it that Count Berchtold V named the capital after killing a bear in the city he was founding.

While the Bear Pit has remained a ubiquitous feature of tourist guides, its allure had dimmed amid concerns from animal rights activists and the public that it offered the bears little dignity.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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