- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2008


Parliament dissolved; April elections set

ROME — Italy’s president dissolved Parliament yesterday and called early elections that could return conservative Silvio Berlusconi to power after the collapse of the center-left government.

The elections were set for April 13-14, just two years after Italians last chose a legislature.

The election will likely pit Mr. Berlusconi against Walter Veltroni, the 52-year-old Rome mayor who heads the newly created center-left Democratic Party. Polls have shown Mr. Berlusconi’s conservatives well ahead.


Election team sent to Moscow

WARSAW — An international election-monitoring group sent an advance team to Russia yesterday amid complaints that Kremlin-imposed restrictions would hamper its ability to observe next month’s presidential election.

Four persons from the election-monitoring arm of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were headed to Moscow, a spokesman said. Another person will join the team today.

Disagreements remain between the group and the Kremlin over how the monitoring should proceed. OSCE accepted the limited number of observers invited, but said it isn’t being given enough time in the country to prepare for the March 2 election.


Bank teller held over $3 million

BUCHAREST — An employee of the Romanian Development Bank, owned by French bank Societe Generale, was arrested on suspicion of pilfering $3.2 million.

Prosecutors said they arrested Mihaela Rosana Bitu, a teller at the Romanian Development Bank in Craiova, in southern Romania, on Tuesday. Ms. Bitu is accused of using the password of the branch director to illegally transfer more than $3 million into two bank accounts.

Romanian authorities arrested three other persons, and prosecutors yesterday said seven persons were under investigation. Last month, Societe Generale reported losing $7.09 billion because of a rogue trader.


Bomb in south kills one soldier

PATTANI — Suspected Muslim insurgents detonated a bomb near a Chinese shrine in southern Thailand yesterday, killing one soldier and wounding six other persons.

The bomb, hidden in the front basket of a motorcycle, exploded near the shrine in Pattani province’s Saiburi district as ethnic Chinese in the area prepared to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday.

The soldier who died was part of a unit on duty to ensure security during the festive period in the insurgency-wracked area.


Tiger protection to be increased

BANGKOK — Laos agreed to improve protection at one of its key tiger reserves, a conservation group said yesterday, in a sign the country is recognizing the need to crack down on poaching and other threats to the animals.

Helped by $250,000 from the British conservation group Panthera Foundation, the impoverished country signed an agreement with the Wildlife Conservation Society that will fund the training of rangers and education of villagers.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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