- The Washington Times - Friday, November 27, 2009

GERMANY

Officials ousted over Afghan strike

BERLIN | The head of Germany’s armed forces and a senior Defense Ministry official were forced to resign Thursday over reports that the military withheld details about a Sept. 4 air strike that killed civilians in Afghanistan.

Opposition parties also called on Franz Josef Jung, defense minister at the time and now labor minister, to step down in what could become a major embarrassment for Chancellor Angela Merkel, just as she considers sending more troops to Afghanistan.

In a speech to parliament, Mr. Jung’s voice faltered as he told lawmakers what he knew about the attack, noting he had been aware of the existence of a military police report into the deaths - a fact that his critics have seized on.

“But I didn’t have any concrete knowledge of the report,” he said, prompting laughter from opposition lawmakers.

CUBA

Military exercises ‘guard’ against U.S.

HAVANA | Cuba’s armed forces launched three days of intense military exercises across the island Thursday, a mobilization that state-controlled media says is designed to guard against an American invasion.

Americans focused on a U.S. military assault more likely are thinking about how President Obama will pursue war in Afghanistan - not Cuba. But the siege mentality of the Cold War has not faded on the island, where the communist government continues to warn about imperialist aggression and the menace from the north.

The exercises, which run through Saturday, are the first since President Raul Castro took over from his brother Fidel in February 2008 - and since relations between Havana and Washington began to thaw somewhat under Mr. Obama.

SWITZERLAND

House arrest for Polanski

ZURICH | Swiss authorities will release Roman Polanski into house arrest as soon as he posts $4.5 million bail while the film director fights extradition to face U.S. sentencing over a 1977 case of sex with a 13-year-old girl.

The Justice Department said Thursday that it had decided not to appeal against a decision by the Swiss Federal Criminal Court granting Polanski’s request for release and would free him as soon as bail conditions are met.

But Interpol, the global police organization, warned member countries to stay vigilant as Mr. Polanski, 76, had previously skipped bail and defied court orders.

“Mr. Polanski has given us more than 30 years of proof that he does not feel bound to respect any court decision with which he does not agree,” Interpol said.

EL SALVADOR

Earthquake jolts two countries

SAN SALVADOR | A strong earthquake struck off El Salvador’s Pacific coast Thursday, sending people running from buildings in this Central American nation and in neighboring Guatemala.

Civil protection officials in both countries said there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The earthquake, with a preliminary magnitude of 5.9, was centered 31 miles southwest of the Salvadoran town of Sonsonate, and 47 miles west of the capital, San Salvador, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

“In Sonsonate, people were really scared and ran out into the street, but thank God there were no injuries,” said Carlos Lopez, spokesman for El Salvador’s Red Cross.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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