- The Washington Times - Monday, September 14, 2009

BRITAIN

Libya deals new embarrassment

LONDON | Britain’s complicated relations with Libya returned to center stage Sunday as Foreign Office diplomats took the unusual step of denying a newspaper report about a secret deal with Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.

The officials said there was no truth to a front-page Sunday Times article claiming that British diplomats had made a secret deal with Libya three years ago that would prevent the killer of a British policewoman from going on trial in Britain.

The newspaper said British officials seeking to make trade and oil deals with Libya secretly agreed that the person responsible for killing policewoman Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan Embassy in London 25 years ago would not be brought to trial in Britain. The report said even her family had been kept in the dark.

The issue is sensitive because the British government’s dealings with Libya have been under intense scrutiny since the release last month of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who is terminally ill with cancer.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government has been criticized in recent weeks for making too many concessions to Col. Gadhafi because of its desire for more trade and oil-related contracts.

GERMANY

Merkel leads polls ahead of election

BERLIN | German Chancellor Angela Merkel faced her challenger in a televised debate two weeks before elections, arguing Sunday that the country needs a new center-right government to guide Europe’s biggest economy out of the financial crisis.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is opposing Mrs. Merkel in the Sept. 27 vote and is trailing in polls, portrayed himself as a champion of “social balance.” The debate was televised on four public and private channels.

Mrs. Merkel, a conservative, was looking to strengthen her chances of ending an awkward “grand coalition” with Mr. Steinmeier’s Social Democrats. In a second term, she aims to form a new center-right government with a pro-business party, the Free Democrats.

RUSSIA

Documents lost in deadly base fire

MOSCOW | Five soldiers died Sunday in a fire at a military base in Russia, and a state news agency said the blaze may have destroyed sensitive security documents.

The RIA-Novosti agency said the fire at the base in Tambov, about 300 miles south of Moscow, damaged a large section of a building of the GRU, the military’s foreign intelligence unit.

It quoted an unnamed source in the Russian special services as saying that the fire-damaged section included an area where very important documents are kept. The damage was initially assessed as “very serious,” the agency quoted the source as saying.

The Defense Ministry could not be reached for comment on the report by the Associated Press.

BRITAIN

Elton John wants to adopt toddler

LONDON | Look out, Madonna and Angelina Jolie. Pop star Elton John has decided he wants to join the ranks of A-list celebrities with adopted children.

But it’s not clear if Mr. John, 62, will be able to adopt, and the Rocket Man star has not yet started formal proceedings, which are often long and complicated.

Mr. John and longtime partner David Furnish are interested in trying to adopt a Ukrainian toddler named Lev they met during an orphanage tour there.

The singer told reporters in Ukraine on Saturday that Mr. Furnish has long wanted to adopt a child but that he was reluctant until he met Lev at an orphanage where many of the children’s parents have died from AIDS.

Mr. John and Mr. Furnish toured the orphanage — where the singer performed for the children — as part of his AIDS Foundation work.

Ukraine has one of the fastest rising rates of HIV infection in Europe.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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