- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 18, 2005

FRANCE

Upper house passes new surveillance law

PARIS — France’s upper house adopted a new anti-terrorism bill last week, rejecting amendments by opposition parties that feared its effect on civil liberties and race relations. The legislation is to take effect before Christmas after a final vote by both houses of parliament.

Partly inspired by British investigators’ use of video footage to identify suicide bombers in the July attacks In London, the law paves the way for increased use of surveillance cameras in public places such as train stations, churches and mosques, factories or nuclear plants.

The legislation, championed by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, was adopted Thursday with the votes of 203 senators from the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) and its ally, the Union for French Democracy (UDF); 122 Socialists and Communists voted against.

UKRAINE

Yushchenko rejects foreign nuclear waste

KIEV — President Viktor Yushchenko says no foreign nuclear waste will be stored at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, the site of the world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster.

“In no case” will stockpiles of foreign nuclear waste be accepted in Ukraine, the president’s office said in a statement. Mr. Yushchenko apparently dropped the idea after an outcry this month when he said the government was studying storing foreign nuclear waste at Chernobyl, less than 90 miles from Kiev.

A 19-mile exclusion zone was established around the site soon after Chernobyl’s No. 4 reactor exploded on April 26, 1986, sending a radioactive cloud across Europe, when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. The power station was fully shut down on Dec. 15, 2000.

UZBEKISTAN

Interior chief sued over deadly crackdown

BERLIN — Survivors of a deadly crackdown during a demonstration in Uzbekistan filed a lawsuit in Germany last week accusing the Uzbek interior minister of torture and crimes against humanity, said a German human rights group.

Government troops under the command of Interior Minister Zokirjon Almatov fired on thousands of protesters in the eastern town of Andijan in May. Human rights groups say more than 700 people were killed, while the government put the death toll at 187.

The lawsuit against Mr. Almatov was filed Monday with German federal prosecutors, New York-based Human Rights Watch said. German law allows prosecution of cases of torture and crimes against humanity regardless of where they were committed. Mr. Almatov is thought to be in Germany for medical treatment and could easily be arrested, an HRW spokeswoman said.

Weekly notes …

The mysterious half-smile of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” that has intrigued viewers of the painting for centuries isn’t really difficult to interpret, say Dutch researchers. She was smiling because she was 83 percent happy, according to scientists from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. In a tongue-in-cheek demonstration of technology, they scanned a reproduction of da Vinci’s masterpiece and subjected it to “emotion recognition” software. It showed the subject was 83 percent happy, 9 percent disgusted, 6 percent fearful and 2 percent angry. She was less than 1 percent neutral and not at all surprised. The original 1503 painting hangs in the Louvre museum in Paris. … Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week he recently had been approached by an Italian industrialist to take up the post of finance minister in Rome. Mr. Netanyahu, who served as Israel’s finance minister until he resigned in August, told a conference in Tel Aviv that he had turned down the offer “to the regret of many,” according to a report on the Ha’aretz daily’s Web site. He said the proposal came from Carlo de Benedetti, a prominent Italian businessman. Mr. Netanyahu, a known admirer of Britain’s former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, is expected to be re-elected leader of Israel’s Likud Party this week.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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