- The Washington Times - Monday, March 8, 2010

GREECE

Sarkozy offers support but no new plan

PARIS | French President Nicolas Sarkozy offered Greece “resolute” European support Sunday and vowed to wage a determined fight to deter speculation against the euro.

After meeting with the French leader, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou expressed appreciation for France’s support as his government embarks on a severe austerity plan to reduce its massive 12.7 percent budget deficit — but he did not rule out going to the International Monetary Fund if a European solution is not found.

Mr. Sarkozy, who along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking to calm markets and bring down Greece’s high borrowing costs, did not spell out any new, specific measures to help the country.



Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Papandreou met Sunday ahead of the Greek prime minister’s trip to Washington on the third stop of a four-city tour seeking firmer European Union and U.S. support for the austerity measures that have sparked violent protests at home.

GERMANY

Pope’s brother willing to testify in abuse

ROME | The brother of Pope Benedict XVI has told a newspaper he is willing to testify in the sex scandal rocking Germany’s Catholic Church, even though he says he knows nothing about the purported abuse of boys in a choir he later led.

The Rev. Georg Ratzinger, in an interview published Sunday, also was quoted as saying by the Rome daily La Repubblica there was “discipline and rigor” but no abuse during his 30 years as head of the Regensburger Domspatzen choir in Germany.

The Regensburg Diocese said last week that a former singer came forward with allegations of sexual abuse in the early 1960s. The German newsweekly Der Spiegel has reported that therapists in the region are treating several purported victims from the choir. Father Ratzinger led the choir from 1964 till 1994.

SWITZERLAND

Voters reject giving animals a lawyer

GENEVA | The result was emphatic: Swiss voters don’t think abused animals need to have their own lawyers.

It’s a proposal that would never even come near a referendum in other countries, but the measure’s defeat Sunday disappointed animal rights advocates, who say Switzerland’s elaborate animal welfare laws aren’t being enforced.

Opponents of the proposal, including key farmers’ groups and the government, had argued that existing laws are sufficient and appointing special lawyers to act on behalf of animals would be unnecessarily expensive for taxpayers.

Official results showed that 70.5 percent of voters cast their ballot against the proposal to extend nationwide a system that has been in place in Zurich since 1992. Some 29.5 percent of voters backed the proposal, with turnout at just over 45 percent.

According to the country’s only animal lawyer, Antoine F. Goetschel, public prosecutors are often unsure about animal rights and shy away from pursuing cases even if there is clear evidence of abuse. He said the cost of Sunday’s measure would have been less than $1 per person a year.

ICELAND

Voters reject debt deal for collapsed bank

REYKJAVIK | Icelanders blew whistles and set off fireworks in the capital as referendum results Sunday showed they had resoundingly rejected a $5.3 billion plan to repay Britain and the Netherlands for debts spawned by the collapse of an Icelandic bank.

Voters in the tiny Atlantic island nation defied both their parliament and international pressure to in order to display their anger about how their nation was being treated.

Despite the vote, all three governments promised to work on a new agreement among Britain, the Netherlands and Iceland, which is depending on international assistance to help drag itself out of an economic morass.

Britain and the Netherlands want to be reimbursed for money they paid their citizens with deposits in Icesave, an Internet bank that collapsed in 2008, along with most of Iceland’s banking sector. Most ordinary Icelanders feel the repayment schedule was too onerous.

More than 93 percent of voters said “no” in Saturday’s ballot, while only 1.8 percent voted “yes,” according to official results. The rest were blank or spoiled ballots.

SPAIN

Abortion protest draws thousands

MADRID | Thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators thronged central Madrid on Sunday to protest changes to Spanish law which will make it easier for women to seek a termination.

Well-heeled protesters, many accompanied by small children and bearing heart-shaped red balloons with the slogan “The Right to Live,” marched for the second time in six months against the changes, scheduled to become law in July.

Media estimated the crowds in the thousands. The previous march in October drew tens of thousands in one of the largest demonstrations since war protests in 2003 and 2004.

The bill has galvanized opposition to Spain’s minority Socialist government and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, criticized for his handling of a deep economic crisis marked by high unemployment.

Although decriminalized in 1985, abortion is currently only allowed under Spanish law in cases of rape, if a fetus is damaged or if the pregnancy could endanger the physical or mental health of the mother.

The new law will allow abortion in most cases up to the 14th week of gestation without risk of prosecution for women seeking termination for whatever reason.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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