- - Sunday, October 31, 2010

UNITED KINGDOM

Britain, France on verge of partnership

LONDON | Britain and France are to announce on Tuesday an unprecedented partnership on defense in a bid to allow two medium-sized powers to remain global players, officials and diplomats said.

Economic austerity appears to have achieved what years of diplomacy have failed to do by forcing the historic rivals to work together.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron have expressed their determination to open a new chapter in cooperation, although officials from both countries stress that national sovereignty will be preserved.

At the Franco-British summit in London on Tuesday, “this relationship will be taken to a new level — the closest it has ever been,” British Defense Secretary Liam Fox wrote in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

SPAIN

Basque separatist group dwinding

MADRID | Europe’s last big violent political militancy has been decimated by arrests and dwindling support. Its outlawed political wing wants to create a party that rejects violence and turn its leaders into legitimate politicians.

This whirlwind of events in recent weeks has sparked a raging debate across Spain: Is this the beginning of the end for the Basque separatist group ETA?

The armed movement has not killed anyone in Spain in more than a year, and it declared a cease-fire in September. Although nearly a dozen such truces have come and gone over the years, with hopes dashed by more bloodshed and tears, this time something bigger and potentially historic might be afoot.

ETA “has never been as weak and cornered as it is now,” Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez told the parliament last week. “The end of ETA is near.”

Besides ridding Europe of its last major separatist group, ETA’s disappearance could rescue a socialist government that is struggling with a nearly 20 percent jobless rate and a crippling debt crisis — and trailing conservatives badly in the polls with general elections 18 months away.

DENMARK

Party calls for ban on Arab TV channels

COPENHAGEN | The leader of Denmark’s populist Danish People’s Party, on which the government relies for support, said in a newspaper interview published Sunday that pan-Arab television channels Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya should be stopped from broadcasting to the country.

Pia Kjaersgaard, leader of parliament’s third-biggest party, accused the channels of sowing hatred against Western society in immigrant communities. The center-right governing coalition said it did not support her views about the stations.

Immigration is likely to become a topic of campaigning for elections due by mid-November 2011.

The minority government has passed tougher immigration laws in return for support from the Danish People’s Party since 2001.

Ms. Kjaersgaard said she would look into reporting the TV stations to Danish regulatory authorities with the aim of getting their broadcasts blocked.

RUSSIA

2,000 ralliers demand freedom of assembly

MOSCOW | Nearly 2,000 people gathered in central Moscow on Sunday demanding freedom of assembly in a rare sanctioned rally.

The Russian opposition protests on the 31st day of each month are a nod to the 31st Article of the Russian Constitution, which guarantees the right of assembly.

Opposition activists gathered to protest in two rallies Sunday after Moscow City Hall gave a rare approval for the rally but placed a cap on the number of participants at 1,000 people, down from the requested 1,500.

Supporters of veteran rights activist and chairman of the Moscow Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alexeyeva agreed to the limit. But rally co-organizer Eduard Limonov slammed the decision as a “betrayal.”

Mr. Limonov’s supporters rallied Sunday, separated from Ms. Alexeyeva by a police cordon. Police later allowed them to merge with the sanctioned protest.

From wire dispatches and staff reports