- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 4, 2011

GERMANY

State election deals new setback to Merkel

BERLIN | Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition suffered a new setback and Germany’s main opposition parties celebrated gains in a state election Sunday that came as Mrs. Merkel’s unpopular government grapples with the eurozone debt crisis and other challenges.

The vote in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, a northeastern region where Mrs. Merkel’s parliamentary constituency is located, was the sixth of seven German state elections this year - most of which have gone poorly for the chancellor’s center-right coalition.

The center-left Social Democrats, who lead the state government but are in opposition nationally, won nearly 37 percent of Sunday’s vote - a gain of more than 5 percentage points compared with five years ago, according to ARD and ZDF television projections based on exit polls and a partial count.

The other winners were the opposition Greens, who have been riding high in national polls. They were projected to win more than 8 percent and enter the state legislature for the first time, which national leader Cem Ozdemir called “a true sensation.”

Mrs. Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, however, was seen sliding to below 24 percent from nearly 29 percent in 2006. And its partner in the national government, the Free Democratic Party, was set to score just 3 percent - losing two-thirds of its support and its seats in the state legislature.

SYRIA

Two dozen die in anti-government protests

DAMASCUS | At least 24 people died in violence across Syria on Sunday, reports said, as the visiting Red Cross chief sought access to those detained in more than five months of anti-regime protests.

As more bloodletting gripped the country, Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said Syria has agreed to allow him to visit to help push for a peaceful outcome to the crisis.

Activists said security forces cracking down on protesters killed 12 people on Sunday during operations in northwestern and central Syria.

The state news agency SANA said 12 others died when an “armed terrorist group” ambushed a bus in central Syria.

JAPAN

Typhoon Talas kills at least 20, leaves 50 missing

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