- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 25, 2003

SPAIN

Opposition holds tiny lead in local vote

MADRID — Spain’s opposition Socialists held a slim lead over the ruling right-of-center Popular Party in municipal elections yesterday as voters apparently punished Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar for supporting the war on Iraq.

Municipal elections are normally a harbinger of the general elections that follow a year later, and with 91 percent of the vote counted, the Socialist Party had 35 percent to 33.7 percent for the Popular Party.

If the trend holds, it would mark the first time the Socialists had outpolled the Popular Party in local elections since 1991.

However, the ruling party took a slight lead in the number of seats nationwide and held on to the mayorship of Madrid, where Mr. Aznar’s wife, Ana Botella, was elected to the city council in her political debut.

FRANCE

U.S. director Van Sant wins top Cannes award

CANNES, France — Gus Van Sant won the Cannes film festival’s coveted Palme d’Or award yesterday for “Elephant,” a film that tracks the lives of U.S. students to see how they cope with shootings and violence at school.

The prize was a long-awaited triumph for the U.S. director, who has won plaudits from Hollywood with such films as “Good Will Hunting” and “To Die For,” but had yet to win over the art-house-loving critics of the French Riviera.

Mr. Van Sant was also awarded the prize for best direction.

“Elephant” uses nonactor children from Mr. Van Sant’s home town of Portland, Ore., and improvised lines to paint an impressionistic picture of everyday high school life that turns to tragedy when two students go on a shooting spree.

AFGHANISTAN

U.S. Embassy closes main entrance

KABUL, Afghanistan — The United States has closed the main entrance to its embassy in Kabul fearing further protests over last week’s deadly shooting, and has warned Americans in Afghanistan of new anti-U.S. threats.

The State Department, through the embassy in Kabul, also said it had extended until at least today travel restrictions on diplomats imposed after Wednesday’s shooting, in which U.S. Marines killed four Afghan soldiers in an apparent misunderstanding.

ARGENTINA

Kirchner assumes presidency

BUENOS AIRES — Nestor Kirchner was sworn in as president of Argentina yesterday, and he promised to restore credibility with the Argentine people who have been plunged into poverty by two years of ecomonmic crisis.

To a packed Congress and a dozen Latin American leaders, the Peronist governor from Patagonia appealed for an end to the cronyism and corruption that many blame for Argentina’s worst economic crisis.

“We want to be the generation of Argentines that restores upward social mobility, but also promotes cultural and moral change and respect for the law,” Mr. Kirchner said in his inaugural speech after caretaker President Eduardo Duhalde handed him the presidential sash and baton.

PHILIPPINES

Passenger ferry sinks near Manila, killing 25

MANILA — Rescue teams searched past nightfall yesterday for any remaining survivors from a ferry that collided with a much larger boat at the mouth of Manila Bay and sank. At least 25 people drowned.

Search teams rescued 203 persons after the 11 a.m. accident but didn’t know exactly how many more they were looking for. As is common in the Philippines, the M.V. San Nicolas had far more people on board than the 193 who appeared on the passenger and crew list.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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