Foreign Digest

FOREIGN DIGEST

June 19, 2005

Catholics lead march in Spain to protest legalizing gay unions

MADRID, Spain - Making an unusually forceful foray into Spanish politics, the Roman Catholic Church led an enormous march through the streets yesterday to protest new legislation that would legalize marriage for gay couples.

Priests wearing their collars, nuns in gray habits and adults and children from all over the country converged on downtown Madrid. They waved placards declaring, "Marriage equals Man and Woman," and applauded Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, the archbishop of Madrid, who walked near the front of the noisy crowd.

Right-wing politicians also joined the demonstration, which was organized by a coalition called the Forum for the Family. It represented the most coordinated protest to date against the agenda of Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Lebanese election set to conclude today

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Suddenly dominated by old religious rivalries, the first Lebanese election free of 29 years of Syrian domination goes into a fiercely fought final round today that will determine who controls the largest bloc of seats in the new Parliament.

Yesterday morning's leftist daily As-Safir described the battle in the northern district between Gen. Michel Aoun, a Maronite Catholic, and the Muslim-led coalition opposing Syrian influence as "the ugliest form of sectarian campaigning the region has ever witnessed." The paper noted, among other tensions, fiery sermons from Sunni pulpits on Friday's Sabbath.

Aoun raised a sectarian challenge on June 12 with a victory in the Maronite Catholic heartland that upset the Christian establishment of wealthy clans and militia leaders who had joined their old Muslim civil war enemies in an anti-Syrian alliance.

Taliban fighters attack Afghan offices, police

KABUL, Afghanistan - Taliban fighters attacked and overran the administration offices and police station of a remote district in southern Afghanistan, and they captured the police chief, district chief and 11 police officers in a separate attack, Afghan officials confirmed yesterday.

The attacks were a humiliating blow to the government as it is struggling to contain a resurgent rebellion.

A Taliban spokesman, Abdul Latif Hakimi, claimed responsibility for the attacks in a telephone interview. He said the Taliban were holding 13 men, including the police chief and district chief, and would put them on trial under Islamic law. If found guilty of collaboration with American forces, they would be shot. If found innocent, they would be released, he said.

Convicted IRA veteran sent back to prison

BELFAST, Northern Ireland - Britain sent an Irish Republican Army veteran convicted in the deaths of nine Protestants back to prison yesterday after accepting police evidence that he had resumed activities with the IRA.

The decision represented a significant warning to the IRA, which had more than 200 members paroled early from prison as part of the province's 1998 peace accord.

Among them was Sean Kelly, who was convicted of nine counts of murder and sentenced to life for his role in blowing up a fish shop in a hard-line Protestant neighborhood in October 1993. Among the dead were an elderly couple and two children.

Aruban judge extends detention for 3 suspects

ORANJESTAD, Aruba - A judge has ordered the teenage son of a prominent justice official and two of his friends to stay in jail for at least another week while investigators search for clues in the disappearance of a young Alabama woman.

Natalee Holloway, of Mountain Brook, Ala., disappeared in the early hours of May 30, the last day of a five-day vacation with 124 other students to celebrate their high school graduation. She has not been found, but investigators refused to say if they thought she was dead.

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