- The Washington Times - Friday, April 23, 2010

BELGIUM

Prime minister quits; political crisis ensues

BRUSSELS | Belgium plunged into political crisis on Thursday as Prime Minister Yves Leterme threw in the towel after a key Flemish party quit his coalition government two months before the country assumes the European Union chairmanship.

The situation was in flux, however, as the king delayed a decision on whether to accept Mr. Leterme’s resignation, saying a political crisis would “seriously threaten” Belgium’s role in Europe.

Mr. Leterme, a Flemish Christian Democrat, informed King Albert II of his decision to quit, after just five months at the helm, from the job he inherited from predecessor Herman Van Rompuy, who left to become the first EU president.

PARAGUAY

President calls for military rule in north

ASUNCION | Paraguay’s leftist president wants to impose military rule in the northern half of the country to help soldiers put an end to attacks by a group of leftist guerrillas.

Fernando Lugo is asking Congress to declare a state of emergency in five of Paraguay’s 17 departments.

The request comes a day after the so-called Paraguayan People’s Army reportedly killed a police officer and three workers while attacking a farm to steal animals.

Mr. Lugo said Thursday that a state of emergency will free the military to take actions that will bring the criminals to justice and return peace to the northern countryside.

Critics have accused Mr. Lugo of being too soft on the rebel group.

SPAIN

Ex-Olympics chief laid to rest

BARCELONA | A host of international figures and dignitaries paid tribute to former International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch on Thursday at the funeral service for the man who changed the face of the Olympics.

Tennis star Rafael Nadal was one of the pallbearers who helped carry Mr. Samaranch’s coffin, draped in the Olympic flag, from Catalonia state headquarters to Barcelona’s cathedral, where a service attended by around 300 people paid final homage to the 89-year-old Spaniard, who died on Wednesday from heart failure.

During his 21 years in power, Mr. Samaranch transformed the nearly bankrupt IOC, in the process turning the Olympics into a thriving, multibillion-dollar industry that cities around the world compete to host.

VATICAN CITY

Irish bishop resigns; didn’t report abuse

Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday accepted the resignation of an Irish bishop who admitted he didn’t challenge the Dublin church’s policy of covering up the sexual abuse of children by priests.

Bishop James Moriarty of Kildare is the third Irish bishop to resign in four months as a result of the Irish sex-abuse scandal. Another two have offered to go, as the Vatican comes under increasing pressure to get rid of the bishops who covered up for priests who sodomized and molested children for decades unchecked.

Hundreds of people have come forward in recent months, including in Benedict’s native Germany, accusing priests of raping and abusing them while bishops and church higher-ups turned a blind eye.

MEXICO

Authorities nab top drug suspect

MEXICO CITY | Troops battled a suspected drug gang in a wealthy neighborhood on the outskirts of Mexico City and captured an alleged major trafficker with a $2 million U.S. bounty on his head, officials announced on Thursday.

Jose Gerardo Alvarez Vazquez - known as “El Indio” or “El Chayan” - is suspected of being responsible for a spike in violence in states near the capital as part of a struggle for control of the Beltran Leyva drug cartel, the military and the federal Attorney General’s Office said.

Authorities said Mr. Alvarez Vazquez, 45, was arrested along with 14 other suspected drug traffickers during a Wednesday night shootout in Huixquilucan, just west of the capital.

Three died in the shooting and two purported traffickers were wounded. Investigators did not say whether the dead were soldiers or suspected drug dealers. The military said it seized more than a dozen guns and a grenade.

NORTHERN IRELAND

Car bomb explodes outside police station

BELFAST | A car bomb exploded Thursday outside a police station in Newtownhamilton, Northern Ireland, police said.

A local lawmaker said firemen in the area were alerted to a suspicious vehicle after hearing gunshots at about 10:40 p.m.

Three people were hurt and taken to hospital, police said, although their injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

Targeting of the courthouse in Newry, the MI5 intelligence headquarters outside Belfast and the policing board headquarters in Belfast have sent shudders through the security services on both sides of the Irish border.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

CANADA

Conservatives lead in latest poll

OTTAWA | Canada’s ruling Conservatives have not been hurt too badly by a political scandal and are now edging ahead of their main rivals, according to a poll released on Thursday.

The weekly Ekos survey for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. put popular support for the Conservatives at 31.7 percent, up slightly from 31.4 percent last week. Support for the main opposition Liberals fell to 27.1 percent from 29.0 percent.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper forced out junior minister Helena Guergis from government earlier this month after receiving what he said were serious charges about her.

He said little more, prompting opposition accusations of a cover-up.

ISRAEL

Netanyahu repeats: No settlement halt

JERUSALEM | Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated on Thursday that there will be no freeze on Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, as U.S. Middle East envoy George J. Mitchell arrived for talks to press the peace process.

He also sought to downplay the chances of conflict on Israel’s northern border, despite Israeli and U.S. fears that Syria may be sending missiles to Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hezbollah movement.

“We do not want war. But weapons have been transferred to Hezbollah across the border between Syria and Lebanon, and this is unacceptable,” the prime minister said.

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