Sarkozy of France gets mixed reception
ALGIERS — French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy drew both cheers and criticism on a visit to former colony Algeria yesterday, winning praise for easing visa rules but anger at his failure to apologize for colonial misdeeds.
Mr. Sarkozy, a French presidential contender who was meeting President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on the final day of his two-day visit, went to the North African oil-exporting country, France’s touchiest former overseas possession, to discuss counterterrorism and migration.
Government daily El Moudjahid said Mr. Sarkozy’s Monday announcement of a streamlining of visa rules would help build trust in view of the importance to both countries of France’s large Algerian community. Sure to please the estimated million voters of Algerian origin in France, the move will shorten the time it takes them to obtain a French visa by 15 days. Now it can take weeks or months.
Police to quiz Katsav over rape case again
JERUSALEM — President Moshe Katsav, who faces a potential rape indictment in the most serious charges leveled against an Israeli leader, is to be questioned again today, a police spokesman told Agence France-Presse.
Mr. Katsav has been grilled by police five times since they said Oct. 15 that they had enough evidence to charge the father of five with rape, sexual harassment and wire-tapping. Israel’s attorney general recommended that Mr. Katsav suspend himself from duties.
Mr. Katsav refused, vigorously denying the charges and vowing to clear his name. Although immune from prosecution as long as he remains president, the Iranian-born head of state could be charged if impeached by a vote of 90 or more.
Exile fears U.S., UK may embolden regime
PARIS — An exiled Syrian opposition figure says he fears suggested overtures to Damascus from Britain and the U.S. could embolden the Syrian regime and worsen its human rights record.
“The Syrian government has really been reinforced. There is a new tone that makes it think it’s protected. It risks becoming tougher toward opponents,” Farouk Mardam-Bey, a Syrian writer living in Paris, told a French parliamentary group yesterday.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair voiced Monday an opinion emerging in his government and that of President Bush that relations with Iraq’s neighbors “should evolve.” Although he barely mentioned Syria, aides said Mr. Blair drafted his speech with that country and Iran in mind.
Weekly notes …
Israel is on the brink of a policy U-turn that would allow 1,500 armed Palestinian soldiers based in Jordan to move into the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the London Daily Telegraph reports. While Israel sees the move as a way to counterbalance the growing power of the militant group Hamas, such a policy shift could worsen the violence between Palestinian factions that has claimed scores of lives this year. The newspaper said Washington, which is behind the initiative, hopes the arrival of the troops, trained and equipped to relatively high standards by the Jordanian armed forces, will restore order in the occupied territories. … An overwhelming majority of Turks say more women should enter politics, and favor legal amendments to encourage this, a poll paid for by the U.N. Development Program showed yesterday. The survey, in which 500 women and 500 men were interviewed, found that 82 percent of the population — and 75 percent of male respondents — want to see more women in politics; 14 percent are against. Women hold 24 seats in Turkey’s 550-member parliament and 18 of more than 3,000 mayoralties. There is just one woman in the Cabinet. The European Union is pressing Turkey, which seeks to join the bloc, to address the issue.
From wire dispatches and staff reports