- - Sunday, July 17, 2011

GREECE

Clinton says debt efforts can inspire the world

ATHENS — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday said Greece’s “resilience” in tackling its huge debt could inspire the world as she expressed Washington’s support to the government’s reform efforts.

“I have faith in the resilience of the Greek people,” Mrs. Clinton said at the start of two days of talks with Greek leaders in Athens.

“I applaud the Greek government on its willingness to take these difficult steps. Greece has inspired the world before, and I have every confidence that you are doing so again,” she said after meeting with her counterpart, Stavros Lambrinidis.

“We stand by the people and government of Greece as you put your country back on a path to economic stability and prosperity,” Mrs. Clinton said.

The message is intended to boost the embattled socialist administration of U.S.-born Prime Minister George Papandreou, who has labored to enforce tough reforms demanded by Greece’s creditors over the past year.

The unpopular measures have sparked waves of strikes and protests, many of them violent, with many Greeks angry at the apparent futility of the effort.

Despite a huge effort last year involving painful wage and pension cuts, deficit reduction targets ultimately were missed because a greater-than-foreseen recession ate up part of the sacrifices.

This forced Mr. Papandreou’s administration to bring a new austerity package before parliament last month. Creditors threatened to withhold continued aid unless it was passed.

“Those acts of leadership will help to build a better economic future,” Mrs. Clinton said Sunday.

“Now the challenge will be to keep moving forward with the same determination and commitment to make good on the fiscal targets and continue to deliver reform that drives future growth.”

Mrs. Clinton also was to meet with Mr. Papandreou, Greek President Carolos Papoulias and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Sunday.

She is scheduled to meet with main opposition leader Antonis Samaras on Monday before flying to India, the next stop on her regional trip.

GERMANY

Priest arrested on abuse suspicion

BERLIN — German police have arrested a Catholic priest on suspicion of sexually abusing a child, Der Spiegel magazine reported on its website, citing the prosecutor’s office.

The arrest was disclosed days after the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, one of the countries worst affected in a series of abuse scandals in Europe last year, said it would open its files to independent investigators, allowing a search as far back as 1945.

Joachim Geyer, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig, said an arrest warrant had been issued against the priest. The mother of the purported victim had pressed charges, according to the weekend report on the magazine’s website.

The reported incident took place several years ago, and investigations had been running since early July. Police moved forward with the arrest - initially planned for next week - as the priest was about to go on a trip with minors organized by the church.

The prosecutor’s office was not immediately available for comment.

About 180,000 Germans left the Catholic Church in 2010, a 40 percent jump over the previous year, as allegations that priests sexually abused children for decades shook the faith, according to a study published in April.

The number of people quitting the church surpassed the total of those leaving mainline Protestant churches for the first time in postwar Germany, the study by the magazine Christ & Welt said.

ITALY

Pope urges help for famished Somalis

CASTELGANDOLFO — Pope Benedict XVI urged the international community on Sunday to move quickly to aid hundreds of thousands of people fleeing drought and famine in Somalia and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa.

He called it a “humanitarian catastrophe” that is “severely testing our brothers and sisters, among them many children.”

Benedict issued his appeal after giving his weekly blessing to pilgrims at his summer residence in Castelgandolfo, in the Alban Hills south of Rome.

Aid agencies say the East African drought is one of the worst in years in terms of the number of people affected.

Thousands of Somali refugees are flooding camps in Ethiopia and Kenya in search of food after several seasons without rain decimated livestock and killed crops in their homeland.

Benedict said he was following the crisis “with deep worry” and that he hopes the international community will mobilize quickly.

“Our solidarity and the concrete support of all people of good will are not lacking,” the pope said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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