French split on Strauss-Kahn's return
PARIS — A new poll indicates that French people are divided over whether Dominique Strauss-Kahn should re-enter French politics after the weakening of the sexual assault case against the former International Monetary Fund chief.
Forty-nine percent of those surveyed in the Harris Interactive poll for French newspaper Le Parisien responded "yes" to the question "Without prejudging his innocence or guilt, do you want DSK to come back to the French political scene one day?"
Forty-five percent said "no" and 6 percent didn't answer the question, according to the poll published Sunday in Le Parisien. The agency asked a demographically representative group of 1,000 people 18 years old and older to fill out the July 1 and 2 online survey. No margin of error was provided.
Left-leaning voters were more favorable to a return to politics by Mr. Strauss-Kahn, the man who was once the Socialist Party's main contender to face off against President Nicolas Sarkozy in April's presidential election.
Sixty percent of left-leaning voters said they would want Mr. Strauss-Kahn back in French politics someday, according to the poll, and 38 percent said "no."
On the more pressing question of whether the Socialists should suspend the presidential primary calendar because of the new developments, respondents also were evenly split. Forty-nine percent of all French and 47 percent of left-leaning voters said "no."
Clashes reported at high-speed rail protest
ROME — Italian police clashed with thousands of demonstrators protesting the construction of a high-speed rail linking Italy to France.
News reports said some 45 police and Carabinieri officers were injured Sunday in the demonstrations west of Turin in the Val di Susa area. At least five people were arrested.
Construction on the Italian side was brought to a standstill by protests before and after the Turin Winter Olympics in 2006. This week, protests resumed after a new construction site opened in Chiomonte.
Many residents between Turin and the French border say a high-speed train line would ruin the area, and they object to the drilling of a tunnel that they claim could release potentially harmful materials.
Swiss block $32 million in Syrian funds
BERN — The Swiss government said Sunday it has frozen $31.8 million linked to senior Syrian officials.
A spokeswoman for Switzerland's State Secretariat for Economic Affairs confirmed local media reports that the assets were identified as part of the Swiss sanctions imposed against Syrian President Bashar Assad and 22 other officials.
Switzerland has taken similar measures to freeze $770 million linked to the regime of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, $485 million to deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and $71 million to Tunisia's former autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Police stifle protest at independence rally
MINSK — Belarus police clamped down swiftly on planned public protests against President Alexander Lukashenko on Sunday as he told an open-air rally that a plot was afoot to overthrow his long rule.
Social network sites run by mainly young protesters had urged their supporters to begin clapping as soon as the authoritarian Mr. Lukashenko, in power since 1994, began making a traditional Independence Day declaration.
Opposition to Mr. Lukashenko, dubbed the "last dictator in Europe," has grown bolder in the tightly controlled ex-Soviet republic of 9.5 million as it struggles to overcome a currency crisis.
The balance of payments crisis was caused by 30 percent to 40 percent increases in public sector wages and pensions last year aimed at ensuring Mr. Lukashenko's comfortable re-election in December, but which helped create a current account trade deficit.
That led to a 36 percent devaluation in May of the Belarussian ruble that virtually wiped out the gains of the wage increases and has severely curbed companies' means of purchasing vital imports.
The crisis has emboldened a younger wave of protesters, outside the established opposition mainstream, to issue online calls for "silent" protests, marked only by clapping.
From wire dispatches and staff reports