- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 22, 2009

ITALY

Funeral held for six soldiers

ROME | Italy held a state funeral Monday for six soldiers killed in Afghanistan, and teary-eyed relatives, officials and thousands of citizens saluted their flag-draped coffins and observed a national day of mourning.

Flags flew at half staff and public offices observed a minute of silence. The air force’s precision flying team flew in unison over Rome, trailing the red-white-and-green smoke of the Italian flag as the funeral came to a close.

Thursday’s attack in Kabul marked Italy’s deadliest day yet in the Afghan conflict. At home, it rekindled a debate over Italian participation in the mission and the prospects for an end to the eight-year war.

In a traditional sign of respect, the crowd applauded as the six coffins were carried inside the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls by fellow soldiers. An honor guard saluted the coffins and many standing in the rain outside the basilica waved Italian flags.

FRANCE

Ex-leader accused of dirty tricks

PARIS | Former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin lashed out at French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday at the start of a slander trial involving alleged dirty tricks by top politicians and businessmen.

“I am here because of the determination of one man. Nicolas Sarkozy,” Mr. de Villepin said before taking his place on the defendants’ bench. He suggested Mr. Sarkozy was using the trial in France’s so-called “Clearstream affair” as a political weapon.

Mr. Sarkozy claims Mr. de Villepin was behind a smear campaign aimed at thwarting Mr. Sarkozy’s bid for the 2007 presidential election. Mr. Sarkozy is one of some 40 plaintiffs in the trial, which also will delve into old international arms deals, offshore bank accounts and the French aviation and defense industries.

Mr. de Villepin denies wrongdoing, but the trial could dash the political ambitions of the eloquent diplomat, known for his 2003 U.N. speech urging the United States not to invade Iraq.

BRITAIN

Brown hits a rough patch

LONDON | Most Britons think Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s ruling Labor Party is not telling the truth about the state of the recession-hit nation’s finances, according to a poll Monday.

Just 14 percent of voters think government ministers are being honest about finances in Britain which is suffering large public debt under the weight of the recession, the ICM poll on the Guardian’s Web site said.

Thirty-six percent believe the main opposition Conservatives, while 32 percent trust the Liberal Democratic Party, the poll for the newspaper said.

The poll comes amid a heated row over reducing public spending and whether political parties are being honest about the depth of the cuts needed and where the ax is likely to fall.

ITALY

Catholic leader seeks ‘sobriety’

ROME | The head of the Italian Catholic Church called Monday for more “sobriety” in the public arena following months of salacious allegations about Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s sex life.

“Whoever accepts a political mandate should be aware of the restraint and sobriety, the discipline and honor that is entailed,” Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco said as he kicked off a meeting of key Italian bishops.

The remarks before the Italian Church’s “parliament” came as Mr. Berlusconi fought persistent allegations of sexual peccadilloes.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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