- - Sunday, October 9, 2011


Pro-EU prime minister seeks second term

WARSAW &mash; Poles voted Sunday in parliamentary elections that will determine whether the country continues on its conciliatory course with Russia and Germany, or whether it returns to a more combative stance with its historic foes.

Before the voting, surveys showed Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s centrist and pro-EU party in the lead but facing a tough challenge from Law and Justice, the conservative and nationalistic party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Mr. Kaczynski, a former prime minister who was unseated by Mr. Tusk in 2007, has made several anti-German comments in recent days, indicating that his Law and Justice party is prepared to resume a confrontational tone with the large neighbor to the West.

Ties with Russia also will be determined by who wins. Mr. Tusk has been trying to mend the relationship with the powerful nation many Poles still fear and resent.

Polish memories remain strong of Moscow’s invasion of Poland’s eastern half in 1939 and its dominance of the country during the Cold War.

More recent sources of friction have stemmed from Poland’s support for the pro-Western Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2005 and its acceptance of a Bush-era plan for a U.S. missile-defense base in Poland - a project that outraged Russia but which President Obama has since scaled back.

A government led by Mr. Kaczynski would certainly alter the tone. His twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski, died in a plane crash in Russia in 2010 along with 95 other people, and Mr. Kaczynski has suggested that Mr. Tusk and Russian authorities are to blame for that tragedy.

Mr. Tusk has said he fears Mr. Kaczynski will seek revenge on those he blames should he return to power.

Voters in this country of 38 million were to elect 460 lawmakers to the lower house of parliament, the Sejm, and 100 to the Senate. The party that wins the most seats will be charged with forming a government; in the absence of an outright majority, it would need to seek a coalition partner.


Syrian protesters storm three diplomatic missions

BERLIN — Syrian protesters stormed three of their country’s diplomatic missions in Germany and Switzerland in what appeared to be a protest against the killing of a Kurdish opposition leader, police said Sunday.

Syria’s embassy in Berlin was stormed late Saturday, and another group of protesters took on the consulate in the northern port city Hamburg hours later early Sunday, causing damage to the buildings and tagging walls with slogans denouncing President Bashar Assad’s autocratic regime, police officials said.

In Switzerland, five men were arrested after forcing their way into Syria’s mission to the United Nations in Geneva late Saturday, police spokesman Patrick Pulh said.

The men, who had been among a small group protesting outside the building, have since been released.

Friday’s killing of opposition leader Mashaal Tammo caused international outrage and drew up to 50,000 mourners into the streets of Kurdish-dominated Qamishli in northeastern Syria on Saturday, also sparking protests abroad.


Volcanic eruption alert on Canary Island

MADRID — The regional government of the Spanish Canary Island of El Hierro has issued a volcanic eruption alert after almost 10,000 small tremors were recorded in the past three months.

The government posted a yellow alert - the second level in a scale of four - Sunday and closed some hillside roads and a tunnel to avoid possible injury by falling rocks.

The island’s 11,000 residents have been told to monitor communications by the civil protection authority. The island was shaken late Saturday by a 4.3 magnitude quake. Seismic activity began in the area July 17.

Like all the Canary Islands, El Hierro was formed by volcanic activity. It has some 500 volcanic cones.


France, Belgium agree on bank-saving plan

BRUSSELS — The governments of France, Belgium and Luxembourg said Sunday they had approved a plan for the future of embattled bank Dexia, but they offered no details.

In a three-sentence statement issued by the Belgian prime minister’s office, they said they supported a proposal by the bank’s management that will be submitted to its board of directors. The board was scheduled to hold a crisis meeting Sunday afternoon in Brussels amid reports the bank might be split up.

A bank spokesman said a news conference was expected Sunday evening or Monday morning.

The government statement said the “suggested solution” had been “the result of intense consultations with all partners involved” - which would include the three countries.

France and Belgium became part owners of the bank during a $7.8 billion bailout in 2008. They have promised to ensure that no Dexia depositors lose money. Luxembourg holds a smaller stake.

The terse government statement followed a meeting in Brussels attended by Belgium’s caretaker prime minister, Yves Leterme, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon and Luxembourg Finance Minister Luc Frieden.

After Dexia’s shares plunged last week amid fears it could go bankrupt, the French and Belgian governments stepped in and guaranteed its financing and deposits.

The bank said Friday that trading in its shares would remain frozen until it could “communicate more precisely on the various choices and options concerning the future of the group.”

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