Foreign Digest

FOREIGN DIGEST

April 13, 2005

Polish forces to leave Iraq in December as U.N. mandate ends

BERLIN - Ending months of uncertainty over the precise timing, Poland announced yesterday that it would withdraw all its troops from Iraq once the United Nations mandate for the multinational force expires in December.

Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said the Cabinet had decided to bring home the 1,700 troops in Iraq. He left open the possibility that the mission could be extended if the U.N. mandate were renewed, but said that Prime Minister Marek Belka's government would not in the meantime be committing troops to any new missions.

Belka's government has been fighting plunging popularity with the public, which initially backed the war in Iraq but is unlikely to support any new or extended military missions.

New Zealand leader hurt after plane door rips open

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - The door to a plane carrying New Zealand's prime minister blew open mid-flight today, forcing the pilot into a sharp descent and emergency landing that left the prime minister badly bruised.

The door became dislodged when the aircraft hit turbulence, Prime Minister Helen Clark said after the flight. Two security officers grabbed the open door and held it in place while the pilot guided the plane down to a nearby airport.

Asked what was going through her mind, Clark said it was the question: "Are you going to live or die?" Clark, 55, said she knew her life was in danger as air rushed into the cabin of the twin-engine Piper Aztec, which was en route to the capital, Wellington, from the tourism town of Rotorua in central North Island.

Saudi clerics denounce forcing women to marry

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Saudi clerics took an unprecedented stand yesterday against forcing women into marriage, saying that fathers who try to force their daughters to marry should be jailed until they change their minds.

The kingdom's mufti, Sheik Abdul-Aziz bin Al al-Sheik, who has ministerial rank, issued a statement saying the board of top clerics had ruled that coercing women into marriage is "a major injustice" and "un-Islamic."

According to Saudi newspapers, about half of all marriages end in divorce, and many believe the high number of forced marriages is to blame.

Putin doesn't rule out third nonconsecutive term

MOSCOW - President Vladimir V. Putin again ruled out running for re-election in 2008 but left the door open to seeking a third term four years later, fueling fresh speculation that the Russian leader could try to hang on to power.

Putin told a group of media executives in Hanover, Germany, on Monday that he would not seek to change the constitution to lift the ban on a third consecutive term, according to remarks released yesterday by the Kremlin. "I will not change the constitution and in line with the constitution, you cannot run for president three times in a row," he said.

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