- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 22, 2009


Leader quits amid tumbling popularity

BUDAPEST | Hungarian prime minister stunned the country Saturday by announcing his resignation because he had become an “obstacle” to the reforms needed to pull the country out of its worse financial crisis since the end of communism nearly 20 years ago.

Ferenc Gyurcsany of the ruling Socialists said he was keeping a pledge he made in January 2008 to change the leadership if the embattled party’s popularity failed to recover.

“I’m being told that I myself am the obstacle to the cooperation and stable government majority needed to implement changes,” Mr. Gyurcsany said. “If this is so, I will eliminate this obstacle.”


Pope urges Angolans to reject sorcery

LUANDA | Pope Benedict XVI appealed to the Catholics of Angola on Saturday to reach out to and convert believers in witchcraft who feel threatened by “spirits” and “evil powers” of sorcery.

On his first pilgrimage to Africa, Benedict counseled Catholics to “live peacefully” with animists and other nonbelievers and urged Angolans to be the “new missionaries” to bring people who believe in sorcery to Christ.

Of Angola’s 16 million people, 80 percent are Christian and 65 percent are Catholic.

But some church-going Catholics also follow traditional animist religions and consult medicine men and diviners, who are denounced by the church. People accused of sorcery or of being possessed by evil powers sometimes are killed by fearful mobs.


Bombing spotlights need for more cops

KABUL | A suicide car bomber attacked a police checkpoint in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing six people, police said, as the U.S. envoy to the country said the United States would push for a “very significant increase” in the country’s police force to improve security and stability.

Richard Holbrooke, who is the special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, said in Brussels during a debate on the Afghan war that current plans to increase Afghanistan’s national police from 78,000 to 82,000 over the next four years were “not sufficient” and called for a “very significant increase.”

Afghan police, who have less training and fewer weapons than Afghan and international soldiers, often bear the brunt of insurgent attacks.


U.S. backs Danish leader for NATO

BRUSSELS | The United States has told NATO allies it will back Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as the next head of the alliance, NATO diplomats and a U.S. source said Saturday.

Mr. Rasmussen already has the support of European heavyweights Germany, Britain and France for the post of NATO secretary-general, but Washington had been considering backing Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay.

Analysts think Mr. Rasmussen would try to steer NATO to work more closely with the European Union and the United Nations.

An announcement is expected at the April 3-4 NATO summit. The appointment needs the backing of all 26 NATO allies. The current secretary-general, Dutchman Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, steps down July 31.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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