- - Monday, May 7, 2012

ISLAMABAD — A 70-year-old American aid worker kidnapped nine months ago in Pakistan said in a video released by al Qaeda that he will be killed unless President Obama agrees to the militant group’s demands.

The White House called for his immediate release.

The video posted on militant websites Sunday followed one issued in December in which al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri said Warren Weinstein would be released if the U.S. stopped airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

He also demanded the release of all al Qaeda and Taliban suspects around the world.

“My life is in your hands, Mr. President,” Mr. Weinstein said in the new video. “If you accept the demands, I live; if you don’t accept the demands, then I die.”

It was unclear when the video was recorded.

At the White House, Obama spokesman Jay Carney insisted the U.S. will not negotiate with al Qaeda. “We condemn his kidnapping in the strongest terms and call for [Mr. Weinstein’s] immediate release,” he said.


Anti-austerity candidates lead in municipal votes

ROME — Several candidates opposed to austerity measures were making a strong showing Monday in partial results from Italy’s local elections - the first nationwide test for Prime Minister Mario Monti since he was named to save Italy from its debt crisis.

Analysts were watching for signs of voter anger in two days of balloting over Mr. Monti’s austerity measures and toward mainstream parties that have supported them since Mr. Monti took over from Silvio Berlusconi in November.


Government slams Taliban spring offensive

KABUL — The Afghan government Monday condemned the recent Taliban announcement of the start of their annual “spring offensive,” calling it cowardly and un-Islamic and pledging the country’s forces would thwart any attacks.

The offensive begins every year as snows melt and the weather warms across Afghanistan, making both travel and fighting easier.

It normally leads to a surge of militant attacks throughout the country as the Taliban attempt to retake lost territory and intimidate the government.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul acknowledged a two-year, rarely used program to release detainees from a military prison run by the American military near the capital, saying it was meant to bolster reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Taliban.


Socialists key for future government

BELGRADE — The Serbian party founded by strongman Slobodan Milosevic emerged Monday as a potential kingmaker, after general elections in which neither the pro-EU nor nationalist camps clinched clear victory.

Socialist Ivica Dacic’s party doubled its tally in Sunday’s ballot from the last elections, achieving its best result since Milosevic, who died in 2006, was ousted from power in a pro-democracy uprising in 2000.

Mr. Dacic said he will seek to be prime minister in any future government, and he left the door open for negotiations with both the incumbent pro-EU Democrats and opposition right-wing populist Serbian Progressive Party.

A near-complete official vote count released Monday confirmed that a presidential runoff will be held May 20 between pro-Western leader Boris Tadic, who won 25.3 percent of the vote, and nationalist Tomislav Nikolic, who had 24.9 percent.


Al Qaeda kills 22 troops after death of leader

ADEN — Al Qaeda gunmen Monday launched spectacular attacks on two army posts in south Yemen, killing at least 22 soldiers, to avenge the death of a top militant in an air raid, a military official said.

Jihadists attacked the military posts outside the city of Zinjibar, which they have controlled since May last year, the official said.

The attacks came after Yemeni al Qaeda leader Fahd al-Quso, who was wanted in connection with the deadly 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, was killed in an airstrike in eastern Yemen on Sunday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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