- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 9, 2005

SYRIA

Kerry meets Assad in Damascus

DAMASCUS — Former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry met yesterday with Syrian President Bashar Assad and he said he was hopeful that strained U.S.-Syrian relations could be improved, provided Washington seized “a moment of opportunity” currently available in the Middle East.

The United States has accused Syria of doing too little to stop insurgents from infiltrating into Iraq to attack coalition forces. Washington also has imposed sanctions on Damascus, accusing it of seeking weapons of mass destruction and hosting Palestinian groups Washington deems to be terrorist organizations.

GERMANY

WWII bomb found at hospital

BERLIN — About 5,000 residents of a Berlin suburb were evacuated from their homes yesterday while explosives experts defused a 550-pound U.S. bomb believed dropped during the last months of World War II, police said.

Much of downtown Potsdam was sealed off and hundreds of stores and businesses were closed to allow for the removal of the bomb, which was found during excavation work on the grounds of a hospital.

Nearly 500 of the hospital’s patients were brought to a gymnasium for about six hours while disposal experts defused the bomb, police said. Other residents waited in schools and other gymnasiums.

BRITAIN

BBC airs show despite protest

LONDON — The British Broadcasting Corp. was set to go ahead with a British television screening of a controversial musical despite a record 45,000 letters and calls of complaint because of its foul-mouthed script and perceived blasphemy.

“Jerry Springer— The Opera” is thought to be the most expletive-laden program ever shown on British television.

It includes tap-dancing members of the Ku Klux Klan, and a scene in which a diaper-wearing Jesus Christ admits he is “a bit gay.”

VENEZUELA

Land reform goes for private property

HATO EL CHARCOTE — Venezuelan troops yesterday prepared to escort local authorities onto a cattle ranch owned by Britain’s Vestey Group as part of the government’s enforcement of a land law critics say threatens private property.

Government officials are demanding the 32,000-acre El Charcote ranch hand over illegally held state land and unproductive plots as part of leftist President Hugo Chavez’s agrarian reforms for the poor.

El Charcote is one of dozens of private estates targeted for government intervention since Mr. Chavez ordered local authorities to enforce the 2001 land law.

GUATEMALA

Menchu proposed as OAS head

GUATEMALA CITY — Guatemala has proposed Nobel Peace Prize winner, indigenous leader Rigoberta Menchu as new head of the Organization of American States.

Miss Menchu, a human rights defender who turns 46 today, has told President Oscar Berger she is willing to do the job.

“Rigoberta has qualities for this and much more,” said Mr. Berger. He said her candidacy is likely to win continentwide consensus from other OAS members. Her detractors, however, are likely to cite the leftist Miss Menchu’s autobiography, proven to be largely a fabrication, as indicative of dishonesty and lack of integrity, in opposing her candidacy.

Former OAS Secretary-General Miguel Angel Rodriguez stepped aside to defend himself from corruption charges dating from his presidency of Costa Rica.

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