- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 19, 2007

ROMANIA

President survives ouster referendum

BUCHAREST — Romania’s president, suspended by parliament for purported abuse of power, survived a referendum yesterday on his impeachment, exit polls showed.

Three-quarters of voters said they did not want President Traian Basescu ousted from office, according to one exit poll conducted by Insomar/Metro Media. A second poll, conducted by CURS, put the figure at 78.1 percent.

Parliament, which is dominated by parties opposing Mr. Basescu, suspended him last month on accusations that he violated the constitution by usurping the role of the prime minister and criticizing the courts. The Constitutional Court had ruled that Mr. Basescu did not break the law, but its ruling was nonbinding and allowed parliament to make its own decision.

VENEZUELA

Thousands protest TV channel closure

CARACAS — Tens of thousands of protesters yesterday denounced President Hugo Chavez’s plans to close an opposition television channel, accusing the leader of maiming Venezuelan democracy as he forges a socialist state.

Mr. Chavez says RCTV, the country’s oldest private broadcaster, supported a bungled coup against him in 2002. He has had a long-running battle with opposition television stations, calling them “horsemen of the apocalypse.”

Mr. Chavez has vowed not to renew RCTV’s broadcast license when it expires on May 27. It will be replaced by a state channel showing programs that promote the values of Mr. Chavez’s self-styled leftist revolution.

RUSSIA

Journalists quit broadcast agency

MOSCOW — Eight correspondents have resigned from a Russian broadcast news agency to protest the pro-Kremlin management’s decision to withhold stories in line with a new policy that half its coverage must portray the government in a “positive” light, journalists said.

The reported policy by the Russian News Service, which provides news broadcasts to Russia’s most popular radio network and runs its own station, heightens concerns over President Vladimir Putin’s moves to increasingly bring news outlets under state control or influence.

In another case highlighting the concerns, the Russian Union of Journalists is protesting an order that it vacate its offices in a building that houses state media operations.

INDIA

Mob attacks police after mosque blast

HYDERABAD — At least two policemen were injured yesterday when a mob pelted them with stones after a burial of victims from a mosque explosion and ensuing violent clashes in this southern city.

Eleven persons died in the explosion that took place during Friday prayers at the sprawling 17th-century Mecca Masjid. Police later killed five persons in clashes with hundreds of enraged Muslims who went on a rampage to protest the attack.

An uneasy calm prevailed in the city yesterday. Streets were deserted and businesses shut in response to a strike call given by a popular Muslim group. Thousands of police patrolled the streets.

IRAQ

Shi’ite leader in U.S. for lung-cancer tests

BAGHDAD — The leader of Iraq’s most powerful Shi’ite party has flown to the U.S. for tests to determine if he is suffering from lung cancer, members of his staff said yesterday.

Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim traveled Wednesday after U.S. military doctors advised him to undergo further tests. Mr. al-Hakim is a key player in Iraqi politics and despite his close ties to Iran, he has been a major partner in U.S. efforts to build a democratic system.

SWEDEN

Three released from Ethiopian jail

STOCKHOLM — Three Swedish terror suspects have been released after spending five months in an Ethiopian jail, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

The three, who were released Friday, were among dozens of foreigners detained earlier this year. The detainees included citizens from the United States, Canada, France, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Tunisia and Morocco, a Kenyan rights group said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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