- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009


Chancellor wants tougher gun control

BERLIN | Chancellor Angela Merkel called Sunday for greater government supervision of gun owners after a school shooting last week that killed 15 people.

The country’s gun laws were tightened after a 2002 school shooting in the eastern German city of Erfurt, but Mrs. Merkel said she favors further restrictions, such as unannounced visits by state authorities to ensure owners have locked away their weapons and ammunition.

“We must do everything to see to it that children do not get access to weapons,” Mrs. Merkel said in a radio interview.

Authorities say that Tim Kretschmer, the 17-year-old who went on a shooting rampage at his former high school Wednesday, used one of his father’s weapons to kill his 15 victims.


Lukashenko lets ethnic Poles meet

GRODNO | Belarus’ authoritarian president allowed a banned organization of ethnic Poles to meet Sunday for the first time in four years, sending a tentative signal of his willingness to relax his tight hold in exchange for warmer ties with the West.

The Union of Poles convened under a heavy police presence, and 16 of the 174 delegates stayed away from the congress.

The Union of Poles has been banned since riot police were dispatched to take over its headquarters in March 2005.

Sunday’s congress was seen as a test of President Alexander Lukashenko’s commitment to democratic reform.


Tax cheat convict gets giant pension

BERLIN | A German newspaper reports that Deutsche Post AG has paid a pension of $26 million to Klaus Zumwinkel, the former chief executive convicted of tax evasion.

The newspaper, Bild am Sonntag, quoted Mr. Zumwinkel on Sunday as defending the payment as “absolutely normal.”

Company spokeswoman Silje Skogstad told the Associated Press that Mr. Zumwinkel received the entirety of the pension for which he qualified in a single payment. She refused to reveal the amount.

Mr. Zumwinkel was convicted in January of evading about $1.25 million in taxes from 2002 to 2006. He was given a two-year suspended sentence and a $1.29 million fine.


Venezuela denies base for bombers

CARACAS | President Hugo Chavez said Sunday that Russian bombers would be welcome in Venezuela, but the socialist leader denied that his country would offer Moscow its territory for a military base.

Mr. Chavez - a fierce critic of Washington with close ties to Russia and Cuba - said his government did not raise the prospect, as Russian media had reported.

“It’s not like that,” the president said in response to a report by Interfax news agency. The report quoted the chief of staff of Russia’s long-range aviation, Maj. Gen. Anatoly Zhikharev, as saying some strategic bombers could be based on an island offered by Venezuela.

Gen. Zhikharev reportedly said Saturday that Mr. Chavez had offered “a whole island with an airdrome, which we can use as a temporary base for strategic bombers.”


Benedict to make first Africa tour

VATICAN CITY | Pope Benedict XVI leaves this week on his first trip to Africa - the fastest-growing region for the Roman Catholic Church - saying Sunday that he wants to bring a message of hope to a continent suffering from poverty, disease and armed conflict.

The German-born pope, who has mainly visited the affluent West during his nearly four-year papacy, departs Tuesday on a seven-day pilgrimage that will take him to Cameroon and Angola.

The Catholic Church experienced extraordinary growth in Africa over the past century - it now counts nearly 20 percent of the continent’s population - helped by Pope John Paul II’s visits to 42 countries.

For Benedict, whose only previous stop in Africa was in Kinshasa in 1987 as a cardinal, the continent presents major challenges and opportunities.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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