World Digest


October 03, 2005

Foreign ministers fail to sway Austria on Turkey's EU role

Luxembourg -- European Union foreign ministers failed to persuade Austria to drop its objections to Turkey's bid to join the organization, and crisis talks that went into the early morning hours today were to resume later in the morning, diplomats said.

The EU had long planned to start entry talks today with the predominantly Muslim Turkey, the fulfillment of a promise first made as far back as 1963. But Austria has refused to agree to the EU's negotiating mandate, putting the talks on hold and the 25-member bloc into crisis.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned yesterday that rejection would harm "a project for the alliance of civilizations." He said he hoped European leaders would "show political maturity and become a global power, or it will end up a Christian club."

Austria has suggested a "privileged partnership" for Turkey rather than full membership. Turkey's shaky human rights and poor economic past had kept it from joining the EU as a full member. In recent years, Turkey has implemented key political and economic reforms.

Afghan ballot boxes set aside for inquiry

Kabul, Afghanistan -- Ballot boxes from hundreds of polling stations in Afghanistan's landmark parliamentary elections have been quarantined because of suspected vote fraud, but the overall credibility of the results was not in doubt, the chief electoral officer said yesterday. Peter Erben said the joint U.N.-Afghan election body was reviewing the reported irregularities and world announce "tough action" this week on whether to exclude ballot boxes from the vote count.

Israeli president to visit Vatican

Jerusalem --Israeli President Moshe Katsav has accepted an invitation from Pope Benedict XVI to make the first official visit to the Vatican by an Israeli head of state, officials said yesterday. Katsav will visit Italy for about a week in mid-November, said Katsav's spokeswoman, Hagit Cohen. The Foreign Ministry said the visit was "unprecedented." Israel and the Vatican established diplomatic relations in the 1990s, and Pope John Paul II was host to Israeli prime ministers and other officials as part of his effort to build ties with the Jewish state. Since becoming pope in April, Benedict has visited a synagogue in Germany, met Israeli chief rabbis and warned of a rise in anti-Semitism around the world.

Pope opens meeting of world's bishops

Vatican City --Pope Benedict XVI opened a global gathering of bishops yesterday with Mass, marking his first major Vatican event since being elected in April. Officially, the Oct. 2-23 synod will discuss the Eucharist, or the sacrament of Holy Communion, which Roman Catholics believe is the body and blood of Christ. But a range of issues falls under that, including reasons for a priest shortage, dwindling Mass attendance and whether Communion should be given to Catholic politicians who back abortion rights and to divorced Catholics who remarry without getting an annulment.

Paper backs story on Iran's oil sales

Dubai, United Arab Emirates --A Dubai-based newspaper said yesterday it stands by a story in which it quoted Iran's president as saying he might curtail oil sales if his nation is referred to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions over its nuclear program. However, the Khaleej Times acknowledged that the confusion might have arisen because the reporter, a freelance journalist, told the president she was working for another paper. After the story quoting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appeared Saturday, the president's office issued a statement saying he "never had an interview, either oral or written," with the newspaper.

N. Korea to return to food rationing

Seoul, South Korea --North Korea plans to resume full-scale food rationing across the impoverished communist country after ending grain sales, a U.N. relief agency said. "As of Oct. 1, reports are that cereal sales in the markets will cease and public distribution centers will take over countrywide distribution," the World Food Program said in a Friday-dated report posted on its Web site. North Korea significantly scaled back its food-rationing system in July 2002 while introducing an economic reform program that increased wages. The reform measures failed, however.

Associated Press

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