- - Sunday, June 19, 2011

ITALY

Berlusconi ally issues ultimatum for his support

ROME — Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s key political ally issued an ultimatum Sunday to the embattled Italian leader, saying he must lower taxes, decentralize government and end the country’s participation in the Libyan war if he wants to remain in power.

Northern League leader Umberto Bossi also said early elections would be an unwise gift to the opposition - indicating that Mr. Berlusconi could count on his support for now.

Mr. Bossi listed his demands at the Northern League’s annual rally in the party’s power base near Bergamo. The speech was eagerly anticipated because Mr. Berlusconi’s political survival has been put into question after two recent electoral drubbings.

The prime minister, whose popularity has shrunk as a result of an underage sex scandal and Italy’s stagnant economy, needs the Northern League’s support to stay in power until his five-year term ends in 2013.

Mr. Bossi said Mr. Berlusconi’s government could complete its term and warned that early elections would only favor the opposition. But he said Mr. Berlusconi must respond to the Northern League’s demands, including moving at least two ministries out of Rome to the north.

GREECE

Officials in talks on another bailout package

ATHENS — Greece is talking with international creditors about a second bailout package “roughly equal” to the first $157 billion rescue it accepted a year ago, the prime minister confirmed Sunday.

George Papandreou also blamed Greece’s bloated and inefficient state sector for bringing the country to its knees and vowed to effect deep changes with a fall referendum on the constitution that would make it easier to get rid of inept officials or workers.

His proposals were responses to widespread popular anger at politicians as austerity measures cut deeply into disposable incomes.

Riots erupted on the streets of Athens last week against a new round of spending cuts and tax increases demanded by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

SPAIN

Tens of thousands march against ‘Euro Pact’

MADRID — Tens of thousands of Spaniards abandoned their customary quiet day with families and friends on Sunday to march against the so-called “Euro Pact” and the handling of the economic crisis.

In Madrid, marches began at six locations across the city, one at 6 a.m. from Leganes, eight miles from the center, before convening at the Neptune plaza in front of the Prado art museum near parliament.

Police put estimates in Madrid at between 35,000 and 45,000 protesters, with no reports of violence, according to national radio.

“I’m here because this is a con,” said Juanjo Montiel, 26, one of four blind protesters in Madrid. He works in information technology for about $1,400 a month.

“I’m lucky enough to have a job, but many don’t and have no chance. And on top of that, the politicians want to make more cuts. This is not our fault; it’s the system.”

The protests have largely concentrated on the “Euro Pact,” agreed by eurozone politicians to stimulate competitiveness across the bloc, which in Spain has prompted reforms to give companies greater power to hire and fire.

EUROPEAN UNION

Soviet dissident Bonner remembered for rights struggle

BRUSSELS — Europe’s human rights-driven institutions, the European Commission and European Parliament, paid tribute Sunday to Soviet dissident Yelena Bonner for her courageous fight for freedom. She died Saturday at age 88.

“The world has lost one of the most inspiring and dedicated human rights defenders,” said former Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek, who heads the Parliament.

She “fought fiercely for the rights of the individual and family of every ethnic group and every state.”

“Along with her husband, scientist and human rights defender Andrei Sakharov, she gave hope to people in desperate need for freedom and justice.”

Since 1988, the Parliament has awarded the Sakharov Prize in honor of Mrs. Bonner’s husband. Winners of the $64,150 award have included Nelson Mandela, Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi and former U.N. chief Kofi Annan.

At the last award ceremony, an empty chair draped in a Cuban flag symbolized Havana’s refusal to allow dissident Guillermo Farinas to pick up the prize.

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