Pope meets with Legionaries chief
VATICAN CITY | The pope met Thursday with the head of the Legionaries of Christ before an expected announcement about who will take charge of the conservative order scarred by revelations that its founder sexually abused seminarians and fathered at least one child.
The Vatican said the Legionaries' superior general, the Rev. Alvaro Corcuera Martinez del Rio, met with Pope Benedict XVI in a private audience but gave no details.
The Vatican announced May 1 that the pope had decided to appoint a delegate to take charge of the order after an eight-month investigation showed that it needed to be profoundly re-evaluated and purified to survive, given the enormous influence the late founder had on it.
The Holy See said the founder, the Rev. Marciel Maciel, had committed grave and "objectively immoral actions" that constituted true crimes in some cases and showed a "life devoid of scruples and authentic religious meaning."
Taliban car bomb hurts 4 policemen
KABUL | The Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing Thursday morning outside a district police headquarters in southeastern Afghanistan that wounded four Afghan policemen, one critically.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the suicide bomber used a stolen police vehicle to conduct the attack in the Andar district of Ghazni province. Deputy Police Chief Nawroz Ali Nawroz said police saw the vehicle speeding toward them and opened fire before the bomber detonated his explosives, injuring the policemen and damaging the building.
On Wednesday, three Americans were killed by roadside bombs, pushing the death toll among U.S. troops so far this month to 31. NATO said one U.S. servicemember died in a bombing in southern Afghanistan, and two were killed in a bombing in the north.
The northern attack occurred in the Baghi Shirkat area, about 19 miles west of Kunduz city, said Kunduz provincial government spokesman, Muhbobullah Sayedi. U.S. and Afghan forces conducted an operation early Wednesday in Baghi Shirkat in which 12 militants were killed, including two local Taliban commanders, Mr. Sayedi said.
Government funds go to terror-linked charity
MURIDKE | Pakistan's Punjab provincial government has given nearly $1 million to institutions linked to a banned charity on a U.N. terrorist blacklist, a document has revealed.
It gave $936,240 to schools, a mosque, hospital and other health facilities built on a campus just north of Lahore at Murike, said a budget document presented in the Punjab assembly this week.
Another $35,207 was given to schools run by Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which was put on the U.N. terrorist blacklist in December 2008 and is considered a front for the militant group blamed over the Mumbai attacks.
The Punjab government denied giving any money to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, saying it had taken control of the institutions after the charity was banned in 2008.
EU leaders seek long-term debt fix
BRUSSELS | European Union leaders were using a Thursday summit to try to fix deep, long-standing problems with their economies by forging tougher rules to rein in government overspending - and prevent another debt crisis.
Though the summit's formal focus is on long-term solutions, the 27 EU leaders also face more immediate worries about potential losses hitting European banks and continuing speculation about market pressure possibly pushing Spain to seek outside financial help.
Spain has said it will soon publish results of a review of how much its banks could lose if the economy worsens and house prices tumble further, in an effort to calm market worries that the government may ultimately have to rescue local banks.
Officials to ease Gaza land blockade
JERUSALEM | Israel agreed Thursday to ease its 3-year-old land blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, hoping to quell international outrage over its deadly raid on a flotilla bound for the Palestinian territory.
In one of the major changes, Israel will allow in more desperately needed construction materials for civilian projects, provided those projects are carried out under international supervision, government and military officials said. Israel has barely allowed in goods such as cement and steel, fearing Hamas militants could use them to build weapons and fortifications. The policy has prevented rebuilding thousands of homes and other buildings damaged in Israel's war with Hamas last year.
An Israeli military official said all foods would be allowed in to the impoverished territory, effective immediately.
Authorities had previously allowed a short and constantly changing list of foods in, but the list has been growing incrementally in recent months.
$1.33 million frees businessman in Libya
GENEVA | Switzerland paid $1.33 million into a German bank account as part of a deal which secured Libya's release of a Swiss businessman held for nearly two years, the Swiss foreign ministry said on Thursday.
The funds will be transferred to Libya as compensation if a Geneva criminal inquiry fails to find who leaked a mug shot of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son Hannibal, arrested in the Swiss city in July 2008. The photo appeared in a Geneva paper.
Max Goeldi, head of Libya operations for the Swiss engineering firm ABB, flew home this week, after Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey signed a deal in Tripoli that both sides said was aimed at ending their diplomatic row.
"So far, no money has been handed over to Libya. The plan of action foresees compensation in the event that the culprit in the ongoing Geneva criminal investigation cannot be found," a Swiss foreign ministry spokesman said.
From wire dispatches and staff reports
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