- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 25, 2004


National referendum targets citizenship

GENEVA — A pillar of Swiss nationhood is being tested in a nationwide referendum today — citizenship.

In referendums, the cornerstone of their finely honed system of direct democracy, Swiss voters will decide whether to loosen the Alpine country’s tough rules on citizenship for foreigners, and whether to block their government’s cost-cutting campaign to shut post offices, historically the glue that has held Swiss society together.

The nastier of the two campaigns is over the government’s proposal to change the constitution’s rules on citizenship. Under slogans such as “mass giveaway” and “don’t sell out Switzerland,” nationalist opponents are portraying Osama bin Laden’s photo on a Swiss ID card and have put up posters showing black and brown hands reaching for a pile of Swiss passports.


Blair pledges help in freeing hostage

LONDON — Prime Minister Tony Blair vowed yesterday to do whatever he can to secure the release of a British engineer held hostage in Iraq, amid doubts over a claim on the Internet that the man had been executed.

He spoke as two envoys from the Muslim Council of Britain arrived in Baghdad hoping to speak with religious and community leaders and to try to make contact with the kidnappers of Kenneth Bigley, 62.

Mr. Bigley’s 86-year-old mother, Lil, had to be taken to the hospital yesterday for the second time this week.

Mr. Bigley was snatched Sept. 16, along with U.S. colleagues Jack Hensley and Eugene Armstrong, who have been slain.


Europe seeks dialogue over Chechnya

BESLAN — The Council of Europe’s human rights chief traveled to the scene of the Russian hostage tragedy yesterday, declaring that it was vital to get communication going between the warring parties in the region.

Alvaro Gil-Robles arrived in the North Ossetian town of Beslan, where a siege at a school this month ended with the massacre of more than 320 hostages, half of them children.


American father battles for custody

LA CIOTAT — The American father of a child at the center of a bitter custody row called on French authorities yesterday to apply the law and allow him to take her back to the United States.

A French court had issued a repatriation order complying with a judgment in the state of New York that awarded custody of the child — identified only as Charlotte — to her American father, David Washington of New York. She was brought to France by her French mother last year.

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