- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2008

SPAIN

Probe targets CIA flights

MADRID | Spain will investigate whether a previous government allowed Spanish territory to be used to transport captured terrorism suspects to Guantanamo Bay, the Foreign Ministry said Sunday.

The ministry said in a statement it had not been informed whether the government of Jose Maria Aznar, in power from 1996 to 2004, allowed CIA flights carrying captured foreigners to use Spanish air space or runways.

The newspaper El Pais said in a report Sunday that it had obtained a government document showing that a U.S. official asked the Foreign Ministry for such access in January 2002.

El Pais published the document - top secret - in its paper and Web site editions.

The request was communicated to Josep Pique, who was foreign minister, hours before a CIA flight landed at Moron air base in southwest Spain, the El Pais report said.

Spain agreed in 2007 to declassify documents on CIA flights to transport terror suspects to a U.S. base in Cuba for questioning.

ROMANIA

Election jitters reflect economy

BUCHAREST | Anxiety over the global economic crisis loomed over Romanian parliamentary elections Sunday, with voters fearful of layoffs after years of prosperity.

Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu’s center-right Liberal Party was in a battle with the leftist Social Democrats - a bloc of former communists whose leader pledged to spread the wealth.

Mr. Tariceanu recently declared the nation of 22 million people was virtually immune to the global economic meltdown.

But a string of grim economic news stories punctured that optimism, giving the Social Democrats their best chance in years. Mr. Tariceanu’s party has lagged in recent polls, with about 20 percent support.

For the first time, Romanians were choosing from among individual candidates instead of party lists as they filled seats in the 452-member Parliament.

RUSSIA

Protesters back beaten journalist

MOSCOW | A few hundred people have demonstrated in the Russian capital to protest an attack on a crusading journalist.

Rights activists and opposition politicians joined colleagues and friends of Mikhail Beketov at Sunday’s protest.

Mr. Beketov is in a coma. He was found badly beaten near his home in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, where he edits a local newspaper. He has criticized local officials and investigated allegations of corrupt and illegal destruction of forests.

A similar protest was held in Khimki on Saturday.

Attacks on journalists who investigate purported wrongdoing by the authorities are common.

ITALY

Former Muslim starts political party

ROME | An Egyptian-born writer who renounced Islam and was baptized by Pope Benedict XVI said Sunday that he has formed a political party that would enter candidates in next year’s EU elections.

Magdi Cristiano Allam said his “Protagonists for Christian Europe” party would work to defend Europe’s Christian values, which he sees threatened by secularism and moral relativism. He said his party would be open to people of all faiths and close to the conservative European People’s Party.

Mr. Allam built his career in Italy as a commentator and author attacking Islamic extremism and supporting Israel.

In March, Mr. Allam angered some in the Muslim world with a high-profile conversion during an Easter vigil service led by the pope in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Mr. Allam, who took the name Cristiano upon converting, has credited Benedict with being instrumental in his decision to become a Catholic and has said the pope had baptized him to support freedom of religion.

GREECE

Camera collector in Guinness book

ATHENS | Last month, the movie camera collection of retired postman Dimitris Pistiolas made it into the Guinness World Records - for the eighth time.

Mr. Pistiolas owns the world’s largest private collection of movie cameras - 937 vintage models and projectors. They are neatly arranged, dusted and labeled in his tiny basement, where they cover every inch of wall.

Mr. Pistiolas, now 78, started buying cameras at age 15 and never stopped. Visits to the basement are by invitation only.

Ronald Grant, a director at the Cinema Museum in London, says it takes time and money to hunt such cameras down at fairs and auction rooms.

“There’s a lot of investment there in time, and knowledge, and of course memory. Once you have a few hundred, then you have to remember, ‘Have I got this one?’” Mr. Grant says. “You can’t just buy these in a shop.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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