- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 13, 2010

FRANCE

French fill trains on Day 2 of strike

PARIS | French commuters elbowed their way onto packed subways and buses Wednesday on the second day of an open-ended strike against President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to raise the retirement age to 62. The government held firm despite the walkouts.

Meanwhile, France’s upper house of parliament pushed back a planned vote on the retirement reform bill until next Wednesday to debate some 820 amendments floated by the Socialist-led opposition, said a spokeswoman for Mr. Sarkozy’s governing UMP party in the Senate. It had been scheduled to vote Friday.

Railway workers voted to carry their strike to a third day, hoping to keep up the momentum of a movement that brought at least 1.2 million people to the streets for nationwide protests Tuesday. Strikers continued blocking oil refineries, raising concerns of gasoline shortages.

Elsewhere, however, the strike appeared to diminish, from airports to the Eiffel Tower to student pickets at high schools.

VATICAN CITY

Mideast conflict blamed for Christian exodus

Bishops summoned to the Vatican to discuss the flight of Christians from the Middle East have blamed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for spurring much of the exodus and warned that the consequences could be devastating for the birthplace of Christianity.

Some bishops have singled out the emergence of fanatical Islam for the flight. But others have directly or indirectly accused Israel of discriminating against Arab Christians and impeding solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In fact, the working document of the two-week synod accused the Israeli “occupation” of Palestinian territories of creating difficulties in everyday life for Palestinian Christians, including their religious life because their access to holy sites is dependent on Israeli military permission.

Pope Benedict XVI convened the two-week synod, which continued Wednesday, to try to encourage Christians in the largely Muslim region, where the Catholic Church has long been a minority and is shrinking as a result of war, conflict, discrimination and economic problems.

PAKISTAN

U.S. air strikes kill 11 militants

DERA ISMAIL KHAN | Suspected U.S. unmanned aircraft launched four missile strikes at a house and two vehicles in northwestern Pakistan near the Afghan border Wednesday evening, killing 11 militants, including three foreigners, said intelligence officials.

The attacks occurred within about an hour in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan, part of Pakistan’s semiautonomous tribal region that is dominated by militant groups that often attack U.S. and other foreign troops in Afghanistan.

The U.S. is now suspected of carrying out 14 missile strikes in Pakistan’s tribal belt this month, continuing a trend of Washington relying more heavily on the attacks to target militants out of reach its troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. carried out 21 such strikes in September, nearly double the previous monthly record.

BAHRAIN

23 Shiite activists accused of terrorism

MANAMA | Bahrain has charged 23 Shiite activists detained in a sweeping crackdown by the country’s Sunni rulers with terrorism and conspiring against the government, a top justice official said Wednesday.

Prosecutor General Abdul-Rahman al-Sayed said the men, who were among hundreds of Shiite opposition figures and activists rounded up in recent months, also face charges of spreading false information and forming an illegal group that prescribes to terrorism.

The activists’ trial is slated to begin Oct. 28, Mr. al-Sayed said. They could face up to life in prison, if convicted.

Shiites, who are a majority in this tiny island kingdom in the Persian Gulf, have long complained of discrimination in state jobs and housing and claim they are barred from influential posts in the security forces.

Rights groups say more than 250 activists have been detained in the government clampdown, including opposition figures and academics, ahead of parliamentary elections later this month.

The wave of detentions and clashes this summer has fueled concerns of deeper unrest and heavy-handed tactics in the home of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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