- - Sunday, September 18, 2011


Voters reject legalizing abortion

GENEVA — Voters in the tiny principality of Liechtenstein have rejected a proposal to legalize abortion after the country’s prince threatened to veto any change in the law.

Opponents won the referendum with a majority of just more than 500 votes.

The official count Sunday put no-votes at 52.3 percent, ahead of 47.7 percent who favored the plan to decriminalize abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy or if the child is severely disabled.

Hereditary Prince Alois of Liechtenstein said in a speech last month that he would use his veto power to block decriminalization because he feared it could lead to late-term abortions of disabled children.

Backers of the change accused him of discouraging people from voting.


Ex-IRA commander seeks presidency

DUBLIN — A former Irish Republican Army commander, Martin McGuinness, announced Sunday he is running for president of Ireland — and faced immediate questions about his murky IRA past.

Mr. McGuinness, deputy leader of the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party, said he planned to quit Monday as the senior Catholic in Northern Ireland’s unity government and launch his election campaign in the neighboring Republic of Ireland.

The 61-year-old Mr. McGuinness expressed confidence that his decision would not destabilize power-sharing, the central accomplishment of Northern Ireland peace process.

The Oct. 27 Irish election will decide who will succeed President Mary McAleese as Ireland’s symbolic head of state, a post she has held since 1997.

Sinn Fein, long a fringe player in southern Irish politics, is seeking to become the major opposition party. Mr. McGuinness is easily the most high-profile name in a field of a half-dozen candidates.


German defense minister visits Afghanistan

BERLIN — German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere arrived in the Afghan town of Mazar-i-Sharif early Sunday for a visit aimed at preparing his country’s gradual troop pullout.

“The most important thing of course is to talk with our soldiers to get an idea of how they see the situation on the ground,” he told reporters on the plane taking him to Afghanistan.

The minister is expected to discuss the phased pullout of Germany’s troops from Afghanistan, which is expected to be completed by 2014.

He also is expected to hold talks with U.S. officials and other members of the International Security Assistance Force deployed in Afghanistan.

With more than 5,000 troops deployed in the comparatively quiet north of the country, Germany is the third contributor of troops in coalition operations, behind the United States and Britain.

Germany plans to pull its first soldiers by the end of the year, but Mr. de Maiziere would not provide specific numbers.


Tycoon punches fellow billionaire on TV

MOSCOW — Russian tycoon Alexander Lebedev punched a fellow billionaire on a television panel show after a discussion on the financial crisis degenerated into petty name-calling.

Mr. Lebedev, a former KGB operative and owner of two major newspapers in the United Kingdom, wrote on his blog that property developer Sergei Polonsky had earned the clobbering by behaving abusively throughout the recording of the program.

In a preview clip posted on the NTV channel’s website ahead of the show airing Sunday, Mr. Polonsky is seen saying that he sometimes felt like “bashing [Mr. Lebedev] in the face,” prompting the newspaper owner to jump to his feet.

After sitting back down, Mr. Lebedev then swiftly delivered a sucker punch, sending Mr. Polonsky tumbling to the ground.

Punch-ups and heated exchanges between guests are a common on Russian political discussion shows.


Aide says Berlusconi will not quit

ROME — Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s top aide said the Italian leader has no desire to quit despite a sex scandal.

Angelino Alfano, who Mr. Berlusconi tapped as his successor, told a rally in northern Italy on Sunday their conservative party still supports him. He added “the premier has no desire to resign.”

Mr. Berlusconi insists he will stay until elections in spring 2013.

But the ally keeping him in power, Northern League leader Umberto Bossi, has called that date “too far” away. Mr. Bossi’s No. 2, Roberto Maroni, says the league will stay in the government as long as Mr. Bossi says so.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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