- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 15, 2007

IRAQ

Cleric’s party predicts pullout from Cabinet

BAGHDAD — The political movement of Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is on the verge of withdrawing from the Iraqi government because of Baghdad’s close ties to Washington, a senior official in the movement said yesterday.

Abdul-Mehdi al-Muteyri said Sheik al-Sadr’s movement, which has six ministers in the Cabinet, including those for health and agriculture, would not remain in a government that he said constantly defended the U.S. occupation.

“Our withdrawal from the government is now inevitable and might take place in a matter of days,” he said.

AFGHANISTAN

Two French hostages appeal for assistance

KABUL — Two French aid workers kidnapped by the Taliban have made a tearful appeal to Paris for help, saying otherwise they will be killed.

“Please do what they want,” said a French woman who identified herself as Celine in a video CD. “They told us that they would kill us. They would, they would cut our head [off] and send it back to France.”

She wept as she talked. The Taliban said the video, which runs a little over three minutes, was filmed on Friday, a fact verified by details embedded in the CD.

TURKEY

Huge crowds oppose Islamist for president

ANKARA — About 300,000 people protested against their pro-Islamic prime minister yesterday, draping themselves in flags and pouring into streets in a demonstration of the intense secular opposition he will face if he runs for president.

Protesters called on the government to resign and chanted: “We don’t want an imam as president,” as flags of support fluttered from balconies and windows.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has brandished his strong religious convictions, taking steps to bolster religious institutions in this country founded on the principle of secular rule.

NIGERIA

Tainted state voting is relatively peaceful

PORT HARCOURT — Nigerians chose state leaders yesterday in elections meant to help ensure democratic rule, but ballot-box stuffing and other irregularities were on open display in the oil-producing south, where violence left more than a dozen people dead.

The election for state lawmakers and governors is a crucial test of Nigeria’s electoral system ahead of a presidential vote on April 21 setting up the country’s first-ever transfer of power between two elected leaders.

Balloting unfolded relatively peacefully in most parts of the country of 140 million people, even as many waited for hours in front of polling stations that opened late, with faulty voter-registration rolls.

ITALY

Animal rights group targets pope on fur

ROME — An Italian animal rights group is asking Pope Benedict XVI to give up his fur, including an ermine-trimmed red velvet cape and papal hat, in “a choice of high religious and ethical value.”

“It would be a praiseworthy example of Christian charity,” the Anti-Vivisection League said before a papal trip later this month to Pavia, home to some of Italy’s furriers.

Benedict sometimes wears a fur-trimmed hat called a “camauro,” headgear popular with pontiffs in the 17th century. He has also donned a red-velvet cape trimmed in ermine.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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