- - Sunday, October 24, 2010

VATICAN CITY

Pope: Mideast peace is possible, urgent

Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday called for greater religious freedom in the Middle East and said that peace there is possible, urgently needed and the best remedy to the exodus of Christians from the region.

Benedict celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday to mark the end of a two-week meeting of Mideast bishops, called to discuss the future of embattled Christians in the largely Muslim region.

He called freedom of religion “one of the fundamental human rights, which each state should always respect” and said the issue should be the subject of dialogue with Muslims.

The pontiff said that, while freedom of worship exists in many Mideast countries, the space given to the actual freedom to practice “is many times very limited.” Expanding this space, he said, is necessary to guarantee “true freedom to live and profess one’s faith.”

The exodus of the faithful from the birthplace of Christianity has been a major theme of the meeting, which gathered about 185 bishops from Latin and Eastern rite Catholic churches across the region and from the diaspora. In addition, two imams and a rabbi were invited to address the synod.

The Catholic Church has long been a minority in the Middle East, but its presence is shrinking further as a result of conflict, discrimination and economic problems.

DENMARK

WikiLeaks papers scoured for Danish troop misdeeds

COPENHAGEN | Denmark’s military said Sunday it would study hundreds of thousands of leaked U.S. military documents on the war in Iraq amid reports that the classified files reveal wrongdoings by Danish soldiers.

“We want to see the documents for ourselves and compare them to our own information,” Danish Defense Command spokesman Torben Kjedsen told Agence France-Presse.

Late Friday, whistleblower website WikiLeaks published nearly 400,000 classified U.S. military documents on the war in Iraq, presenting a grim snapshot of the conflict, especially of the abuse of Iraqi civilians by Iraqi security forces.

According to Danish media, the documents reveal how Danish troops deployed in Iraq between 2003 and 2007 had, among other things, handed over 62 prisoners to Iraqi authorities, despite warnings that the prisoners would very likely face abusive treatment and torture while in police custody.

“While the Danish government has spoken of promoting human rights in Iraq, the leaked documents indicate that the Danish troops have in fact made possible serious human rights violations in the war-torn country,” reported news website Information.dk, which had advance access to the files.

Danish troops, who were stationed in the southern Iraqi city of Basra for four years under British command, also appear to have been partly to blame for letting al Qaeda’s since-killed frontman in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, slip through their fingers in 2005, Information.dk reported.

British and Danish troops apparently had a clear opportunity to capture al-Zarqawi on March 17, 2005, but failed to do so after the helicopter sent after him was forced to turn back to refuel, according to the website’s review of the leaked documents.

Al-Zarqawi, who orchestrated a bloody campaign of attacks and beheadings of hostages, was killed in an airstrike on June 7, 2006.

ITALY

Authorities seek to stop violent garbage protests

ROME | Authorities planned Sunday to temporarily halt waste deliveries to try to stop violent protests over a garbage dump outside Naples, as clashes erupted again overnight between police and demonstrators.

Hundreds of people joined more demonstrations late Saturday in Terzigno, and overnight several dozen protestors hurled rocks at police who responded with tear gas, according to footage broadcast by Sky TG-24 television.

At least six officers have been injured in the clashes, officials said.

In a bid to calm tensions over the waste crisis, Italy’s security chief Guido Bertolaso late Saturday signed a plan to halt delivery of waste to the dump at Terzigno for three days.

It also calls for the decision on whether to open a second garbage dump to be postponed indefinitely, provided the demonstrations stop.

The moves to resolve the waste crisis were set to be examined Sunday by the towns concerned in the Naples region, whose mayors were later expected to meet with Mr. Bertolaso to sign off on the plan.

The protestors’ blockade of Terzigno’s existing dump has caused 2,400 tons of rubbish to pile up in the streets of Naples, the official responsible for the city’s hygiene, Paolo Giacomelli, said Saturday.

The proposed new dump, the biggest in Europe, would be 875 yards from the edge of Terzigno in the Vesuvius National Park, some 52 square miles of outstanding natural beauty in the Bay of Naples.

The protected area of rare wildlife and plants includes Mount Vesuvius, best known for its volcanic eruption in 79 A.D. that destroyed the ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

RUSSIA

Russians marks 50 years since space launch disaster

MOSCOW | Russia on Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of the world’s most horrific but long-classified space catastrophe when 126 people were burned alive during a launch pad accident.

During the accident, which the Russian space agency says was a veritable “inferno,” people were burned alive or vaporized altogether, while others died of noxious fumes or succumbed to burns later.

Authorities and relatives of those who died in the accident and others held a memorial service at the Baikonur cosmodrome and laid flowers at their mass graves.

In 1960 the Soviet Union, locked in a space race with the United States, was developing an intercontinental ballistic missile known as the R-16, and on Oct. 24 that year was scheduled to launch a prototype rocket when it exploded on the launch pad.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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