- The Washington Times - Monday, May 25, 2009

BRITAIN

Women in combat under consideration

LONDON | Britain’s female soldiers could soon battle enemy forces in face-to-face combat, if a ban on women serving in the most dangerous warfare roles is lifted for the first time.

In keeping with a wider overhaul of equality laws in Britain, military officials are considering whether to allow female troops to be deployed with previously all-male units on perilous missions behind enemy lines.

Armed forces minister Bob Ainsworth said a new study will decide whether to lift a long-standing ban on female soldiers, sailors and air force personnel taking part in close quarter combat.

The review comes amid an examination of gender equality throughout British society, including moves to expose pay gaps between men and women and to encourage affirmative action.

VATICAN

Pope remembers WWII victims

CASSINO, Italy | Pope Benedict XVI paid homage Sunday to the victims of World War II, visiting a Polish military cemetery at the site of a decisive battle in southern Italy and praying that peace may prevail over war today.

Benedict, who was forced to join the Hitler Youth as a child in Germany, made a pilgrimage to the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino, which was leveled during a 1944 Allied bombardment and was the site of a bloody ground battle between German and Allied forces.

Later, he lit a candle at the austere Polish cemetery cut into the mountainside near the monastery and prayed that God give today’s victims of war “the strength of invincible hope, the courage of daily actions of peace.”

The cemetery contains the remains of Polish troops who, fighting alongside the Allies, died trying to take control of the abbey and surrounding positions from German troops. The battle for the monastery was decisive for the Allied advance on Rome, 80 miles to the north.

ITALY

Berlusconi’s love life an election issue

ROME | Campaigning in Italy for the European Parliament election was dominated on Sunday by demands that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi explain his relationship with an 18-year-old Neapolitan woman.

The calls for the 72-year-old conservative leader to explain how he came to know Noemi Letizia appeared to be set off by an interview in La Repubblica newspaper with her former boyfriend, Gino Flaminio.

Mr. Flaminio, 22, was quoted by the left-leaning Rome daily as saying that Miss Letizia told him that Mr. Berlusconi invited her and other young women for a week’s vacation at New Year’s at one of the married media magnate’s Sardinian villas and that Miss Letizia sometimes allowed him to overhear Mr. Berlusconi’s cell phone calls to her.

Mr. Berlusconi has denounced as a “lie” insinuations that he had a romantic relationship with Miss Letizia.

BRITAIN

Gay minister to keep post

LONDON | An openly gay minister Sunday praised the decision of the Church of Scotland to dismiss a challenge to his appointment by religious conservatives - the latest case involving sexuality to create a division in the Anglican Communion.

The church’s ruling body voted 326-267 Saturday to support the appointment of the Rev. Scott Rennie, 37, who was previously married to a woman and is now in a relationship with a man.

Mr. Rennie was first appointed as a minister 10 years ago but has faced opposition since he moved to a church last year in Aberdeen, Scotland. He has been unable to take up his post while the Church of Scotland considered appeals from his critics.

Protesters had lobbied the Kirk - the Church of Scotland’s ruling executive - over Mr. Rennie’s case, saying his appointment was not consistent with the teachings of the Bible.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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