- - Sunday, September 25, 2011

RUSSIA

Finance minister to quit over Medvedev

MOSCOW — Russia’s finance minister said he will step down rather than serve under Dmitry Medvedev if the president becomes prime minister next year as planned.

Alexei Kudrin has been finance minister since 2000, and his conservative fiscal policies are widely credited with helping Russia weather the global financial crisis.

He is close to Vladimir Putin, the current prime minister, who on Saturday announced his intention to return to the presidency next year. Mr. Putin said he would then name Mr. Medvedev prime minister.

Mr. Kudrin told Russia’s state news agencies in Washington later Saturday that he would not serve in Mr. Medvedev’s government because of disagreements over economic policy.

SPAIN

Catalonia bids farewell to bullfighting

BARCELONA — Spain’s powerful northeastern region of Catalonia bid farewell Sunday to the country’s emblematic tradition of bullfighting with a final bash at the Barcelona bullring.

The sold-out evening event at the 20,000-seat Monumental ring was the last fight scheduled this season. A regional ban on the bloody pastime takes effect Jan. 1.

Bullfighting’s popularity in Catalonia has plunged in recent decades, and the Monumental was its last functioning ring.

The Catalan Parliament banned the spectacle in July 2010 after a signature-collection campaign by animal rights activists.

But critics say the ban is less about animal welfare and more a snub to Spain by independence-minded Catalans.

The prohibition caused a furor and triggered a nationwide debate over the centuries-old spectacle that inspired such artists and writers as Goya, Picasso and Hemingway.

“Banning bullfighting in Catalonia is nothing more than an attack on liberty,” said Carlos Nunez, president of Spain’s Mesa del Toro pro-bullfighting umbrella group. “It’s the fruit of policies in Catalonia against bullfighting and all that is seen to represent Spain.”

Although mostly symbolic - the Monumental staged only some 15 fights a year - the prohibition sent bullfighting supporters frantically looking for ways to overturn the decision or at least make sure it doesn’t spread to other regions.

Spain’s leading conservative opposition Popular Party - tipped to win general elections in November - has sought an appeal on the ban before the Constitutional Court, while its Catalan branch is battling for a delay in the implementation of the ban.

POLAND

Church, state leaders pray for the EU

WARSAW — Bailouts, crisis meetings and now divine intervention.

With the European Union deep in crisis, Poland’s church leaders held a special Mass on Sunday to pray for European unity and the country’s success as it holds the EU presidency.

The service in Warsaw, attended by Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski and other political leaders, came after Polish church leaders held similar prayers for EU unity five days earlier in Brussels.

With the Masses, this deeply Roman Catholic country is putting its own characteristic stamp on a bloc dominated by more secular Western European nations. The services also serve as a reminder of the EU’s huge popularity in Poland, the largest of the bloc’s eastern members.

Though Germans and others might be getting fed up with bailing out the Greeks and the Portuguese, the benefits of membership feel very tangible in Poland: EU subsidies have created an economic boom, while Poles enjoy unprecedented freedoms to live and travel across Europe.

Poland, in fact, was the only EU nation to avoid recession in 2009. Its economy is projected to grow a healthy 4 percent this year - although its markets and currency have been battered lately by fears sparked by the larger European crisis.

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