- The Washington Times - Monday, March 22, 2010

GREECE

Europe divided on aid to Athens

BERLIN | European leaders sent out conflicting signals at the weekend over aid to Greece, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel urging Athens to solve its debt problems alone and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi strongly backing EU support.

The comments were the latest sign of divisions within the 16-nation euro zone over whether and how best to provide financial help to Greece, whose struggles to cope with soaring debt and deficits have plunged the currency bloc into the deepest crisis of its 11-year existence.

Speaking on Deutschlandfunk radio, Mrs. Merkel denied Greece had any “acute financial needs” and rejected suggestions by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso that EU leaders agree on a standby aid package for Athens at a March 25-26 summit.

VATICAN CITY

Refrain from judging sinners, pope says

VATICAN CITY | Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday urged Catholics to refrain from judging sinners a day after he rebuked Irish bishops for their handling of a half-century of sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

While the pope made no mention of the Vatican’s widely-criticized policy of cloaking abuse allegations in secrecy, a Swiss churchman called for the Holy See to start a registry of molester clergy to avoid more shuttling by bishops of pedophile priests from parish to parish.

The pontiff didn’t mention his letter chastising Ireland’s church hierarchy as he made his weekly appearance Sunday from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square. He cited the Gospel passage about Jesus’ inviting those without sin to cast the first stone toward an adulterer.

In Germany, meanwhile, the news magazine Focus quoted the head of the German Bishops Conference on Sunday as acknowledging that the Roman Catholic church consciously covered up cases of sexual abuse.

BRITAIN

BA cabin crews strike for 2nd day

LONDON | British Airways cabin crews walked off the job for a second day Sunday but the airline insisted the strike was having less impact than expected and said it was able to restore flights that had previously been canceled.

The airline — locked in a bitter dispute with workers over a pay freeze and changing working conditions — was forced to cancel or delay hundreds of flights over the weekend as cabin crew launched a three-day strike after negotiations collapsed on Friday.

Many travelers en route to the United States who were supposed to have brief stopovers at Heathrow, the airline’s London hub, ended up stranded at the airport and faced long waits to connect with flights home.

But BA said it was coping well with the strike due to its extensive contingency plans and the fact that many crew members ignored the strike call.

ICELAND

Volcano eruption triggers fear of second

REYKJAVIK | A volcano in southern Iceland has erupted for the first time in almost 200 years, raising concerns that it could trigger a larger and potentially more dangerous eruption at a volatile volcano nearby.

The eruption at the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, located near a glacier of the same name, shot ash and molten lava into the air but scientists called it mostly peaceful. It occurred just before midnight Saturday at a fissure on a slope — rather than at the volcano’s summit — so scientists said there was no imminent danger that the glacier would melt and flood the area.

TV footage showed lava flowing along the fissure, and many flights were canceled due to the threat of airborne volcanic ash. After an aerial survey Sunday, scientists concluded the eruption struck near the glacier in an area that had no ice.

Nonetheless, officials sent phone messages to 450 people between the farming village of Hvolsvollur and the fishing village of Vik, some 100 miles southeast of the capital, Reykjavik, urging them to evacuate immediately.

A state of emergency was declared although there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

RUSSIA

Ship resumes sailing after taking water

MOSCOW | The Russian navy said one of its surveillance ships has resumed sailing through the Sea of Japan/East Sea after reports that it was drifting and taking on water.

A statement from the navy, transmitted by state news agencies, did not confirm the earlier reports citing an unnamed representative of the Pacific Fleet.

The statement released Sunday says the ship, the Pribaltika, dropped anchor during a short period of unspecified technical problems but was now sailing under its own power.

The statement identified the Pribaltika as a “special communications” ship. Such vessels typically monitor radar, track missiles and act as communications relay stations.

The earlier reports said about 170 crew were on the ship.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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