- The Washington Times - Monday, February 28, 2005

ITALY

Frail pope appearsat hospital window

ROME — A weak Pope John Paul II made a surprise appearance at his Rome hospital window for about two minutes yesterday, reassuring Catholics around the world after an aide at the Vatican presided for the first time at his weekly blessing.

Looking stiff and awkward, the 84-year-old pope waved twice from the 10th-floor window of the Gemelli hospital before aides wheeled away his chair.

It was the first time the pope had been seen in public since he was rushed to the hospital on Thursday morning with acute breathing problems that necessitated a tracheotomy.

NORTHERN IRELAND

Hundreds slam IRAover Belfast slaying

BELFAST — Hundreds rallied in Belfast yesterday over the killing of a local man that led to criticism of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) from its own support base and added to pressure on its political ally Sinn Fein.

The rally was held in support of the family of Robert McCartney, a 33-year-old truck driver who was fatally stabbed in a bar brawl last month.

Since Mr. McCartney’s death, his family has openly criticized the IRA — almost unheard of in the working-class Catholic neighborhood where they live — accusing local IRA men of intimidating witnesses to prevent them from going to police.

SYRIA

TV station threatenedby Syrian intelligence

DUBAI — Syrian intelligence sent death threats to Al Arabiya television after it aired an interview with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in which he urged Syria to withdraw from Lebanon by April, a source at the station said yesterday.

“There were death threats against Arabiya’s staff in Beirut by the Syrians,” the source said, blaming Syrian intelligence.

Station officials also expressed “extreme concern” over criticism in the Syrian state-run newspaper Tishreen, which they described as lies aimed at smearing the Al Arabiya’s image.

BRITAIN

Blair faces bruisingover anti-terror laws

LONDON — British legislators urged Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday to dilute counterterrorism proposals on the eve of a vote that will test the prime minister’s authority over his Labor Party weeks ahead of an expected May election.

Critics say plans to allow ministers to put suspects under house arrest without trial violate the basic freedoms of Britain’s judicial system.

About 30 Labor members opposed the bill last week and more abstained, halving Mr. Blair’s large majority in Parliament’s lower house. That revolt may be repeated today unless the government agrees to greater judicial scrutiny.

KYRGYZSTAN

Parliamentary ballotseen as a test

BISHKEK — Voters elected a new parliament yesterday, a test of its ability to stage a clean vote eight months before a presidential race that could lead to Central Asia’s first peaceful post-Soviet transfer of power.

With the stakes high for control of the 75-seat parliament ahead of a possible presidential succession in October, the opposition declared the poll flawed, citing protests in the mountains, a muzzled press and state interference.

Rampant corruption and poverty coupled with a relatively liberal political climate have fueled speculation that the first vote in the former Soviet bloc since Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution” could spill into Ukraine-style protests.


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