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Briefly: Europe

- - Sunday, May 29, 2011

FRANCE

Official accused of assault resigns, cites IMF scandal

PARIS — A government official accused of sexually assaulting two women he once worked with resigned Sunday in an apparent bid to spare the conservative French government the kind of notoriety the opposition has faced since its leading man, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was charged with attempting to rape a Manhattan hotel maid.

A preliminary investigation was opened last week against George Tron, a junior civil service minister, after two women accused him of attacking them between 2007 and 2010.

One of the women said she was inspired to come forward after a housekeeper at a luxury Manhattan hotel claimed she was sexually assaulted by Mr. Strauss-Kahn, 62, a leading presidential hopeful in next year's elections for the rival Socialist Party. He resigned his post as International Monetary Fund chief after charges were filed in New York.

Mr. Tron, 53, is a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative UMP party who joined the government just over a year ago.

NETHERLANDS

Dutch Cabinet commits to anti-marijuana plan

AMSTERDAM — The Dutch Cabinet said it will push ahead with plans to force anyone wishing to purchase marijuana at the country's weed cafes to first obtain an official pass - a move designed to curtail tourists from buying the drug.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he plans to begin rolling out the system in the country's south later this year, an area popular with French and German buyers, before moving on to Amsterdam's famed tourist cafes later in his term.

Justice Ministry spokesman Wim van der Weegen said the Supreme Court must still rule on whether foreigners can be blocked entirely.

Regardless, he said the plan will prevent cafes from issuing more than 1,500 permits in all, forcing shop owners to choose between tourists and their regular customers.

ITALY

Berlusconi blasts judges at G-8 summit meeting

ROME — Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi took his claim that he is being persecuted by leftist judges to the Group of Eight summit, telling a clearly perplexed President Obama that in Italy they represent "almost a dictatorship."

His comments carried on Italian TV news broadcasts from the summit in Deauville, France, set off a barrage of criticism Friday from Italian magistrates and his political opponents.

Italians are used to such statements from Mr. Berlusconi, but Mr. Obama seemed surprised when Mr. Berlusconi approached him and said through an interpreter that his government has proposed a judicial reform because "we have almost a dictatorship of leftist judges."

Mr. Berlusconi is a defendant in four cases, three related to his business interests and one on charges of paying for sex with an underage teen. He denies wrongdoing.

Although recent opinion polls indicate his popularity has started to sag, the 74-year-old media mogul seems intent on confounding predictions that his long political run might be nearing an end.

"I won't abandon the field of politics until there is a justice system in Italy that is fair and judges who judge according to merit and not according to whether the defendant is friend or foe," Mr. Berlusconi told reporters at a closing G-8 news conference.

BRITAIN

Police hunt blond burglar nicknamed 'Goldilocks'

LONDON — British police said they were hunting a young blond burglary suspect they have nicknamed "Goldilocks" because he is believed to have slept in one of his victim's homes.

Essex Police said that 19-year-old Jesse Dobinson is wanted in connection with two separate burglaries at an address in the commuter town of Wickford, about 35 miles northeast of London, earlier this year.

A statement posted to the force's website said that on both occasions beds in the property were slept in and that food was eaten.

Police said the 5-foot-3-inch teen is also wanted in connection with a knifepoint robbery of a pizza delivery man in April.