- - Monday, May 30, 2011

YEMEN

Warplanes bomb Islamists who seized southern town

SANAA — Yemeni forces opened fire on a protest camp and killed more than 20 demonstrators Monday in the southern city of Taiz while government warplanes launched airstrikes on another southern town seized by radical Islamists.

The new attempts to suppress the uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh with overwhelming force, following a weekend when high-level military defectors formed a united front in support of the protesters, all pointed to the longtime leader’s increasingly tenuous grip on power.

More than three months of mass street protests have posed an unprecedented threat to Mr. Saleh’s 33-year rule, splintering his security forces and battering the country’s already frail economy.

The U.S. has moved away from its former ally despite fears that Mr. Saleh’s fall could leave room in this rugged corner of the Arabian Peninsula for an active al Qaeda franchise or other militant Islamist groups to take power.

ITALY

Berlusconi suffers setback in local vote

ROME — Silvio Berlusconi’s mayoral candidates lost elections in the prime minister’s stronghold of Milan and in the southern city of Naples on Monday in outcomes that could undermine his government’s stability and his leadership.

Mr. Berlusconi had campaigned hard ahead of the local elections and urged Italians to go to the polls to signal their support for his conservative coalition government.

But final results from the runoff elections held on Monday and Sunday appeared to support recent opinion polls that have shown his popularity slipping as he faces a trial in Milan in a prostitution scandal.

Critics have said most of his energy has been involved defending himself from charges that he paid for sex with an underage Moroccan teenager then used the prime minister’s office to try to cover it up.

The votes mark a setback for the 74-year-old Mr. Berlusconi personally and for his local candidates, analysts say, and likely will raise questions about his leadership.

SERBIA

Tadic: EU must help Serbia join bloc

BELGRADE — Serbian President Boris Tadic says it’s time for the European Union to do its part by boosting his nation’s efforts to join the bloc, arguing the arrest of war-crimes suspect Ratko Mladic proves it is serious about rejoining the international fold.

Mr. Tadic also rejected speculation Monday that authorities knew of Mr. Mladic’s hiding place, but delayed his arrest to coincide with a visit by EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton. The rumors have persisted because Mr. Mladic was found living not far from Belgrade, with relatives who share his last name.

“Any such comment makes no sense,” Mr. Tadic said. “The truth is that we arrested Ratko Mladic the moment we discovered him.”

Mr. Mladic, Europe’s most wanted war-crimes fugitive, was arrested on Thursday in a village north of Belgrade after 16 years on the run. He is charged by a U.N. war-crimes tribunal with atrocities committed by his troops during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.

RUSSIA

Church, lawmakers seek to limit abortion

MOSCOW — Russia’s Orthodox Church teamed with Conservative parliamentarians Monday to push legislation that would radically restrict abortions in a nation struggling to cope with one of the world’s lowest birthrates.

The legislation would ban free abortions at government-run clinics and prohibit the sale of the morning-after pill without a prescription, said Yelena Mizulina, who heads a parliamentary committee on families, women and children.

She added that abortion for a married woman also would require the permission of her spouse, while teenage girls would need their parents’ consent.

If the legislation is passed, a week’s waiting period also would be introduced so women could consider their decision to terminate their pregnancy, Ms. Mizulina said.

During the time of the Soviet Union, abortion laws were liberal, and unrestricted termination of pregnancy became virtually the only method of family planning. Sex education was frowned upon.

Russia’s abortion rates are still among the world’s highest, contributing to a fertility rate of just 1.4 children per woman - far below the 2.1 needed to maintain the existing population.

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