- - Sunday, January 13, 2013

PARIS — Holding aloft ancient flags and young children, hundreds of thousands of people converged Sunday on the Eiffel Tower to protest the French president’s plan to legalize gay marriage and allow same-sex couples to adopt and conceive children.

The opposition to President Francois Hollande’s plan has underscored divisions among the secular-but-Catholic French, especially more traditional rural areas versus urban enclaves.

While polls show the majority of French still support legalizing gay marriage, that backing gets more lukewarm when children come into play.

The protest march started at three points across Paris, filling boulevards throughout the city as demonstrators walked three miles to the grounds of France’s most recognizable monument.

Paris police estimated the crowd at 340,000, making it one of the largest demonstrations in Paris since an education protest in 1984.

SPAIN

Spaniards protest health care reforms

MADRID — Thousands of people marched in Madrid on Sunday to protest plans to privatize parts of their public health care system, with some questioning the motives behind the government’s actions.

The march by employees and users of the system is the year’s second large “white tide” demonstration, named after the color of the medical scrubs many protesters wear.

Several similar marches took place last year.

Demonstrators thronged main boulevards in the center of the Spanish capital, carrying banners saying, “Public health care should be defended, not sold off.”

The Madrid region has proposed selling the management of six of 20 large public hospitals in its jurisdiction and 10 percent of its 268 public health centers. It says these reforms are needed to secure health services during Spain’s economic crisis. But protesters were skeptical.

SLOVENIA

Prime minister accused of corruption

LJUBLJANA — About 10,000 protesters joined the chief of Slovenia’s anti-corruption watchdog Friday in urging the country’s prime minister and opposition leader to resign after an official report accused them of graft.

“Thieves! Thieves!” many of the demonstrators chanted as they accused Prime Minister Janez Jansa and opposition leader Zoran Jankovic of corruption. The protesters burned photos of both men in front of Parliament.

A report issued last week by the state Commission for the Prevention of Corruption accused Mr. Jansa and Mr. Jankovic of serious graft, creating a political crisis in a Balkan state already suffering economic problems and setting off widespread calls for both men to face legal and political consequences.

The commission report said Mr. Jansa has failed to declare more than $265,260 worth of private assets. It accused Mr. Jankovic, who is also the mayor of Ljubljana and one of the richest people in Slovenia, of failing to clarify where $3.1 million of his money came from.

BELGIUM

Government may tighten oversight of royal money

BRUSSELS — The Belgian government says it will consider limiting financial support to the royal family after rebuking Queen Fabiola for setting up a special inheritance system widely seen as a tax dodge.

Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo said he plans to change the system by which the royals get $20 million a year to fulfill their duties and force them to show what the funds are spent on.

Mr. Di Rupo said he wants “more transparency, so that we are aware of how the stipends of the royal family are handled.”

The 84-year-old Fabiola is the widow of King Baudouin, who died in 1993. His brother, King Albert II, is now on the throne.

She is facing widespread accusations from politicians and media that a special private fund she set up is seeking to shield some of her fortune from inheritance taxes at a time when her people are struggling through tough economic times.

From wire dispatches and staff reports