- The Washington Times - Friday, June 26, 2009

HONDURAS

President barred from firing general

TEGUCIGALPA | The Honduran supreme court barred President Manuel Zelaya from ousting the military chief of staff Thursday after the army refused to help him run an unofficial referendum on extending his mandate, escalating a constitutional crisis.

Mr. Zelaya later said he will not obey the court order. He fired Gen. Romeo Vasquez and accepted the defense minister’s resignation late Wednesday, saying the shake-up was due “to a crisis caused by some sectors that have promoted destabilization and chaos.”

But the supreme court ruled the move unconstitutional and reinstated Gen. Vasquez ahead of Mr. Zelaya’s referendum scheduled for Sunday.

Mr. Zelaya, who has moved the Central American country closer to Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez since taking power in 2006, is organizing the referendum to change the constitution to let him run for a second term. Honduran presidents serve four-year terms and the constitution does not allow re-election.

SYRIA

Hamas leader likes Obama tact

DAMASCUS | The leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas says he welcomes President Obama’s new approach to the Middle East, but is waiting to see action.

In a televised speech Thursday, Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal pointedly avoided any mention of the recent turmoil in Iran, even though Hamas is backed by the Tehran regime.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has increasingly tried to reach out to the Obama administration in recent weeks. The militants are trying to bring an end to an international boycott of Hamas and a two-year border closure of Gaza by Israel.

ISRAEL

Palestinians get rights in 4 towns

JERUSALEM | Bowing to pressure from Washington, Israel granted U.S.-trained Palestinian security forces greater autonomy in four main West Bank towns, Israeli and Palestinian defense officials said Thursday.

The ability of Palestinian security forces to maintain law and order is key to Mideast peacemaking because Israel needs to be convinced that a future Palestinian state won’t threaten its security.

Israel already has turned over limited security control to Palestinians in three other West Bank towns, but the military said that forces in Qalqiliya, Bethlehem, Jericho and Ramallah would be the first to operate around the clock without Israeli clearance.

ITALY

Feminists urge Berlusconi boycott

MILAN | Italian female academics banded together on Thursday to urge the first ladies of the world’s richest countries to boycott next month’s G-8 meeting in protest over what they called Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s sexist behavior.

The appeal, written by four professors in social psychology, has attracted 6,500 signatures, according to one Web site.

Italy will host the heads of government from Canada, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Japan and Russia on July 8-10. Among the wives attending will be U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and France’s first lady Carla Bruni, who is Italian-born.

Mr. Berlusconi’s credibility has come under attack over newspaper speculation about his sex life. He has denied any impropriety.

SOMALIA

Hundreds gather to view amputations

NAIROBI | In a brazen show of power in Somalia’s capital, Islamist rebels punished four young men convicted of stealing cell phones and other items by cutting off a hand and a foot each before hundreds of onlookers who gathered for the bloody spectacle.

The punishments were the latest sign that insurgents wield the real power in the lawless African nation, where the embattled, Western-backed government is struggling to survive. Thursday’s amputations were all the more audacious because they were carried out in Mogadishu, where the administration still has nominal control.

The Shariah court that carried out the sentences is run by al-Shabab, which the U.S. considers a terrorist group.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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