- The Washington Times - Friday, March 26, 2004

POLAND

Prime minister to quit over unpopularity

WARSAW — Prime Minister Leszek Miller announced yesterday he will step down the day after Poland joins the European Union on May 1, taking the blame for his government’s collapse in popularity. President Aleksander Kwasniewski accepted the decision.

A Communist Party official before Poland’s 1989 turn to democracy, Mr. Miller has been in power since leading the Democratic Left Alliance in September 2001 elections.

But his minority government’s popularity hit all-time lows in recent months because of high unemployment, a drive for unpopular spending cuts before Poland joins the EU and corruption scandals involving party officials. Yesterday nearly 30 lawmakers defected to form a rival social democratic party and urged Mr. Miller to resign.

SPAIN

Blasts probe leads to Germany, Morocco

MADRID — The investigation into the Madrid train bombings led to Germany and Morocco yesterday as police arrested another suspect in Madrid and hunted for the mastermind of Europe’s deadliest terror attack in 15 years.

In Germany, police searched the apartment of a Moroccan man who is one of those under arrest in Spain, and prosecutors said they were probing his suspected links to militant groups.

In Rabat, the Moroccan government said authorities had questioned Moroccans in connection with the bombings but denied a report that a man had been arrested with maps of the targeted stations.

Spain’s Cadena Ser radio reported that police had found a house in the countryside near Madrid where the backpack bombs used to blow up four commuter trains on March 11, killing 190 persons, were made.

FRANCE

Three detained in rail bomb plot

PARIS — French police questioned three persons yesterday who they suspected of links to a clandestine group that has threatened to blow up the national rail network unless it received a multimillion-dollar ransom.

The AZF group said it could carry out deadly attacks, but Thursday it suspended its plan to hit the state rail network with 10 bombs.

Officers detained a man in the Paris region and a couple in the central Loiret region, near an area where threatening letters to President Jacques Chirac and the Interior Ministry were posted.

JAPAN

Court orders payoff to WWII slave labor

TOKYO — For the first time, a Japanese court yesterday ordered both the government and a private company to pay compensation to Chinese forced to work as slave laborers during World War II.

Previously, courts have only ordered private companies to compensate such laborers.

The plaintiffs, 10 survivors and two relatives of laborers who have since died, said they were taken to Niigata in northern Japan in 1944 as virtual slaves and forced to work at a port under harsh conditions.

They demanded $2.6 million from the government and the company, now called Rinko Corp. The Niigata District Court awarded them a total of $830,200.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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