- The Washington Times - Friday, January 2, 2009

CZECH REPUBLIC

President to lead EU for six months

PRAGUE | The Czech Republic took over the rotating European Union presidency Thursday, with the bloc aiming to see its new governance treaty approved in 2009.

At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, authorities illuminated central Prague’s giant metronome know as the “Time Machine” in the Czech colors of red, white and blue and the EU blue flag with yellow stars.

President Vaclav Klaus — the most outspoken Czech critic of the treaty — said the EU presidency would give the country a chance “to influence the activity of this important organization.”

During Czech presidency of the bloc, Mr. Klaus has vowed not to fly the EU flag over Prague Castle because, he said, the country “is not an EU province.”

ITALY

Anti-Nazi spy dead at 96

ROME | Paul Hofmann, an Austrian who informed on his Nazi commanders in occupied Rome and later became a New York Times correspondent and author, has died, the newspaper reported Thursday. He was 96.

Mr. Hofmann died in Rome on Tuesday, the Times quoted his son, Alexander Hofmann-Lord, as saying.

Mr. Hoffman was drafted into the German army and posted to Rome, where he worked as the personal interpreter for two successive Nazi commanders, Gen. Rainer Stahel and Gen. Kurt Maelzer, the Times said.

After befriending members of Rome’s anti-Fascist Resistance, Mr. Hofmann passed information gleaned from his work onto the underground, including intelligence on the deportation of Jews from Rome and the killing of 335 Italians at the Ardeatine Caves on the outskirts of Rome, the Times said.

Mr. Hofmann eventually deserted, hid his family and after the war worked for the Times for nearly 50 years.

AFGHANISTAN

Taliban ambush kills 20 police

KANDAHAR | Taliban militants ambushed a group of police while they were eating lunch in remote southern Afghanistan, killing 20 and fatally shooting the mother of one as she pleaded unsuccessfully for her son’s life, an official said Thursday.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said two militants were killed and four wounded in the ambush Wednesday in Helmand province. Mr. Ahmadi claimed 32 police were killed, but Afghan officials put the toll at 20, plus the mother.

Afghan police have less training and weapons than Afghan soldiers, and they often bear the brunt of Taliban attacks. At least 870 police were killed in attacks in 2008, including the 20 in Helmand. About 925 died in 2007.

Violence in Afghanistan has spiked in the past two years, and Taliban militants now control wide swaths of countryside.

SOUTH AFRICA

Apartheid foe Suzman dead at 91

JOHANNESBURG | Helen Suzman, who died Thursday at age 91, became the white face of opposition to apartheid as she tirelessly battled South Africa’s then-minority regime in parliament for 36 years.

The daughter of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants, Mrs. Suzman led what she described as a privileged life, before becoming politically aware of the deep racial injustice scarring her country while studying the plight of African migrant laborers in university.

“I was appalled. It was this experience that brought me into politics,” she later wrote in her autobiography.

She went on to lead an uphill and sometimes lonely battle opposing racist laws in parliament and visiting political prisoners, including South Africa’s most famous - Nelson Mandela, who became president.

DENMARK

Danish man held after Israelis shot

COPENHAGEN | A Danish man of Middle Eastern origin was arrested in central Denmark on Thursday for shooting and injuring two Israelis at a local shopping center a day earlier, police said.

“He turned himself in to the police at 5:20 a.m. this morning and was arrested,” Fyn police Chief John Jacobsen told Agence France-Presse, identifying the suspected shooter as “a 27-year-old Danish citizen of Middle Eastern origin.”

Two Israelis who were reportedly selling Dead Sea hair and skin products at a stand inside a shopping center were shot Wednesday afternoon.

One was seriously injured in the arm and had been operated at the Odense hospital, while the other was hit in the leg but was only slightly injured, the Politiken daily reported on its Web site.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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