- - Thursday, April 5, 2012


DUBAI — United Arab Emirates authorities temporarily detained members of a U.S.-funded democracy group as they tried to leave the country after their office was ordered closed, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The group included the local director of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), who was briefly held and left the country, and another staff member, who was apparently held longer and later released, said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.

The other NDI staff member remained in the United Arab Emirates.

“We continue to be in close contact with the government of the U.A.E. to try to find a resolution to this,” said Mr. Toner in Washington.

The NDI was ordered closed last week along with other foreign groups in the United Arab Emirates.

The NDI also was among several foreign groups raided by Egyptian authorities in December. Some activists, including the son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and other Americans, later were charged with fomenting unrest.


Berlusconi ally quits in corruption scandal

ROME — The firebrand founder of a populist, Italian anti-immigrant party, whose crucial support kept Silvio Berlusconi in power in three governments, resigned Thursday amid a widening corruption scandal over party funds.

Umberto Bossi tendered his resignation as Northern League secretary, the top post, at a summit of party officials in Milan and repeatedly rebuffed pleas by his colleagues to change his mind, said a Northern League statement.

In a show of support for Mr. Bossi, 70, who made a stunning comeback after a 2004 stroke left him barely able to speak, party officials made him Northern League president and also asked him “to carry on with his political activity with even greater determination and conviction,” the party said.

Until a new secretary is chosen, the Northern League will be led by a triumvirate of officials, including Roberto Maroni, the party’s No. 2, who served as interior minister under Mr. Berlusconi.


State seizes controlling stake in foreign mines

HARARE — Zimbabwe has taken majority ownership of all foreign-owned mining companies, Zimbabwe’s black empowerment minister said Thursday.

But the country’s prime minister told companies to ignore the move, saying it could create “anarchy in the industry” in the already ruptured economy.

Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere said that all companies that did not meet a late 2011 deadline to submit proposals to cede a controlling stake to blacks have forfeited 51 percent of their shareholdings and are now “deemed to be owned by the state.”

Zimbabwe has large Australian, Canadian and South African mining interests - including giants Rio Tinto, Canadile and Anglo American - and with scores of small white-owned gold mines.

The empowerment drive has split the shaky 3-year-old coalition government. Critics say it has scared off much-needed investment and is being used as a political ploy ahead of elections President Robert Mugabe wants this year.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the former opposition leader, immediately urged the nation to ignore Mr. Kasukuwere and said the empowerment laws do not allow him to “unilaterally nationalize private entities.”


Pope denounces dissidents on celibacy

Pope Benedict XVI has denounced priests who have questioned church teaching on celibacy and ordaining women, saying Thursday they were disobeying his authority to try to impose their own ideas on the church.

Benedict made the rare and explicit criticism from the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in his homily on Holy Thursday, when priests recall the promises they made when ordained.

In 2006, a group of Austrian priests launched the Pfarrer Initiative, or pastor initiative, a call to disobedience aimed at abolishing priestly celibacy and opening the clergy to women to relieve the shortages of priests.

In June, the group’s members essentially threatened a schism, saying the Vatican’s refusal to hear their complaints left them no choice but to “follow our conscience and act independently.”


Hope for baby born with stunted intestines

BUCHAREST — Baby Andrei has confounded doctors just by being alive: The tiny boy with twig-thin limbs was given just days to live when he was born with almost no intestines - eight months ago.

Now there’s hope for another miracle.

Harvard University and hospitals in Boston have offered to help Andrei get a complicated intestine transplant that isn’t performed on babies in Europe, the Romanian pediatrician in charge of the baby’s care said Thursday.

The offers came after an Associated Press story last week chronicled how Dr. Catalin Cirstoveanu, head of the neonatal unit at Bucharest’s Marie Curie children’s hospital, flies babies abroad for lifesaving surgery to get around a culture of corruption in which many doctors won’t operate unless they’re bribed.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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