- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 3, 2004

GEORGIA

Democracy tested in today’s election

TBILISI — Hundreds of election observers, one of the biggest such missions ever mounted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), will fan out across the country today for a presidential election seen as a test of Georgia’s commitment to democracy.

The election comes just six weeks after Eduard Shevardnadze stepped down from the presidency amid massive protests over fraud in the November parliamentary elections.

The driving figure behind the protests, Mikhail Saakashvili, is the overwhelming favorite among the five candidates.

GERMANY

Ansar al-Islam link probed by prosecutors

KARLSRUHE — Germany has opened an inquiry to establish whether the Ansar al-Islam Islamic extremist group had a presence in Germany, state prosecutors said yesterday.

The Kurdish guerrilla group is suspected of planning a suicide attack against a military hospital in Hamburg.

U.S. authorities claim Ansar al-Islam has links to al Qaeda, which claimed responsibility for the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. On Friday, the group’s leader, Mullah Krekar, was arrested in Norway.

FRANCE

Meteorite thought to be from Mars

PARIS — Two French scientists said yesterday they believed they had discovered a rare meteorite from Mars that could shed light on the Red Planet’s geological makeup and volcanic activity.

A team led by Carine Bidaut and Bruno Fectay found two chunks of meteorite weighing 14.6 and 15.5 ounces, respectively, in the Atlas Mountains of southern Morocco in January and March 2001.

A group of French scientists, the Theodore Monod Consortium, has just finished examining the stones and declared them to belong to the extremely rare group of SNC — shergottite, nakhlite, chassignite — meteorites that are believed to have come from Mars.

Weekly notes …

Princess Margaret was promised she could keep her royal title and allowances if she defied official advice and married her divorced lover in the 1950s, according to government papers published Friday. But the princess, who is the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II, would have had to give up her place in succession to the throne had she married Peter Townsend, a dashing former attendant to her father, King George VI. … Winston Churchill waged a lifelong battle with the tax man that continued even at the height of World War II, other government documents show. The wartime prime minister went to extraordinary lengths to minimize the liabilities on his earnings from his work as an author and journalist.

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