- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 8, 2009

HONDURAS

Envoys urge return of ousted president

TEGUCIGALPA | Diplomats from throughout the hemisphere flew into Honduras on Wednesday and told the coup-imposed government to reinstate President Manuel Zelaya and restore democracy to the impoverished Central American country.

“We are not here to create a debate. We are here to find concrete solutions to a situation that cannot be prolonged,” Jose Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, said as talks began in the capital, Tegucigalpa.

Mr. Zelaya gave the negotiators an ultimatum, calling for the postponement of Nov. 29 presidential elections if he is not restored to office before Oct. 15. That proposal is certain to anger the interim government, which views the elections - scheduled before Mr. Zelaya’s June 28 overthrow - as the best hope of moving past the crisis.

Mr. Insulza presented a proposed agreement that would restore Mr. Zelaya as head of a unity government and offer amnesty to both the coup leaders and the deposed president.

The proposal also requires Mr. Zelaya to abandon attempts to change the constitution.

ITALY

Berlusconi loses immunity in probe

ROME | A top Italian court on Wednesday overturned a law granting Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi immunity from prosecution, allowing trials for corruption and tax fraud to resume in Milan and prompting immediate calls for his resignation.

The decision by the Constitutional Court dealt Mr. Berlusconi one of the most serious blows in his 15-year-long battle with the Italian judiciary and added to a list of problems that includes a sex scandal that has dominated headlines for months.

The billionaire businessman-turned-politician dismissed any suggestion of resignation.

The immunity law was pushed through by Mr. Berlusconi’s conservatives in 2008 when he faced separate trials in Milan for corruption and tax fraud tied to his Mediaset broadcasting empire.

WEST BANK

Abbas slammed over U.N. report

RAMALLAH | The Palestinian leadership made a mistake by suspending action on a U.N. report on Gaza war crimes, a member of President Mahmoud Abbas’ inner circle said Wednesday - the first such acknowledgment after days of protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In Gaza, a group of university professors hurled shoes at an Abbas poster in a particularly harsh show of contempt.

At issue is a 575-page U.N. report that alleges both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes during Israel’s three-week offensive against the Islamic militants in Gaza last winter.

Last week, Mr. Abbas withdrew Palestinian support for a vote in the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council to have the report sent to the U.N. General Assembly for possible action. Such a vote would have been a first of many steps toward possible war-crimes tribunals.

With the Palestinians out of the picture, the council set the report aside for six months.

IRAQ

Al-Maliki: Security straining budget

BAGHDAD | The number of Iraqi soldiers and police has strained the government’s budget, hindering reconstruction projects, Iraq’s prime minister said Wednesday.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said more of next year’s budget should go to reconstruction rather than security, setting the stage for possible layoffs at a time when questions have been raised about the ability of its existing force to keep a lid on the violence.

About three-quarters of Iraq’s budget was used to pay for the salaries and operations of Iraq’s more than 640,000 security personnel, Mr. al-Maliki said.

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