- The Washington Times - Friday, March 30, 2007

RUSSIA

Call for Putin to serve longer

MOSCOW — Russia’s upper house speaker called yesterday for constitutional changes that would allow President Vladimir Putin to remain in office beyond 2008 — a proposal that was quickly rejected by the Kremlin.

In a speech after his re-election as speaker of the Federation Council, Sergey Mironov said the presidential term should be extended from four to at least five years and that presidents should be permitted to serve more than two consecutive terms.

The March 2008 presidential vote is seen as a key test for Russia’s political system, and any change in the law to permit Mr. Putin to stay in the job would be seen by the West as a further erosion of democracy.

SUDAN

U.N. rights panel goes soft on Darfur

GENEVA — The U.N. Human Rights Council expressed concern over the situation in Darfur yesterday, but stopped short of criticizing Sudan’s government.

The compromise resolution passed by consensus without a vote after Germany agreed to remove any mention of holding Khartoum responsible for the “armed attacks on civilian population and humanitarian workers, widespread destruction of villages, and continued and widespread violence.”

The resolution took note of a report released earlier this month by a group of specialists that accused the government of President Omar Bashir of orchestrating attacks by Arab janjaweed militiamen against civilians in Darfur.

GREECE

All team sports suspended after riot

ATHENS — The Greek government suspended play in all professional team sports for two weeks after a fan was killed in a riot before a women’s volleyball match.

The ban, which covers soccer, basketball, volleyball and other sports, will last until April 13.

A man was killed and seven were hospitalized Thursday when fans from rival women’s volleyball clubs Panathinaikos Athens and Olympiakos Piraeus fought near Athens.

JAPAN

Textbooks changed on wartime history

TOKYO — Japan’s Education Ministry ordered high school textbook publishers yesterday to change descriptions of wartime incidents including the Nanjing massacre, a ministry official said.

In a screening of textbooks to be used from April 2008, publishers giving only one figure for the number of victims in the 1937 Nanjing massacre were told they “did not make note of various studies,” the official said.

Some right-wing Japanese historians play down the 1937 massacre, although China maintains that the barbarity of the event is an indisputable fact and says invading Japanese troops killed 300,000 men, women and children.

ITALY

Italian becomes official language

ROME — It’s official. The language of Italy is Italian — but not everyone is happy about it.

While it might seem obvious, the Italian-ness of Italian has only just been enshrined in the constitution, with parliament voting this week to state that: “The Italian language is the official language of the Republic.”

The statement was opposed by 75 members of parliament, including leftists who said it smacked of cultural imperialism and northern separatists who are suspicious of pretty much any diktat from Rome.

One deputy, Federico Bricolo from the Northern League party, said his nationality, and therefore his language, was not Italian but Venetian. He said the dialect of Venice was spoken by “millions of men and women around the world.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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