Archive for Wednesday, August 18, 2004

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August 18, 2004

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Germany

Chancellor adopts girl from Russia

Thousands of Russian children are adopted by foreigners every year -- but few go to such high-profile homes as the leader of Germany.

Chancellor Gerard Schroeder's decision to welcome a 3-year-old Russian girl into his home made the national television news in Russia and won praise from adoption advocates who say Russians should follow Schroeder's example.

Schroeder and his wife, Doris Schroeder-Koepf, picked up Victoria several weeks ago from a children's home in St. Petersburg, the German newspaper Bild reported Tuesday. She joined Schroeder-Koepf's 13-year-old daughter, Klara. Schroeder, 60, has no children of his own.

About 200,000 Russian children are awaiting adoption, many living in cash-starved children's homes where educational opportunities and medical care are limited. Homes are found for about 15,000 every year, with about half adopted by families living outside Russia.

Venezuela

International observers to audit election results

Trying to put to rest complaints of fraud in a vote to recall President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's National Electoral Council agreed Tuesday to allow opposition and international observers to audit vote tallies that gave Chavez a decisive victory.

The agreement comes after opposition groups said there were inconsistencies between "quick counts" -- random and representative samples taken from polling stations around the country -- and exit polls that observers closely allied with the opposition obtained outside the voting centers.

Chavez, a former army lieutenant colonel, has governed with wide popular support since first being elected in 1998. But opposition to his rule, particularly from middle- and upper-class Venezuelans, has steadily grown in size if not in votes. After an attempted coup and a general strike both failed, opposition forces turned their attention to the recall.

Burundi

Congo threatened as result of massacre

Burundi and Rwanda threatened Tuesday to send soldiers into neighboring Congo to hunt down Hutu extremists responsible for slaughtering more than 160 Congolese Tutsi refugees at a U.N. camp in Burundi -- deployments that could reignite a regional conflict in this part of Africa.

A spokesman for the Congo government, Henri Mova Sakanyi, said his nation wanted to resolve the situation diplomatically but would be "obliged to react" if foreign troops crossed its border.

Burundi's army chief also accused Congolese soldiers of participating in Friday's massacre, which witnesses said was launched from Congo.

Haiti

Paramilitary leader acquitted of murder

A jury on Tuesday acquitted a leader of a paramilitary group blamed for killing some 3,000 people, after a 14-hour murder trial that angered human-rights groups and provoked criticism of the new U.S.-backed government.

Louis-Jodel Chamblain was acquitted of the murder of Antoine Izmery, an importer who bankrolled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's presidential bid in 1990, the year before he was ousted in a coup. During the regime that followed, Chamblain led the paramilitary Front for the Advancement and Progress of the Haitian People, a group blamed for killing some 3,000 regime opponents from 1991 to 1994.

Eight witnesses were called by the prosecution, but only one showed, and that witness said he knew nothing about the case, according to Viles Alizar of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights. Two defense witnesses showed up but offered few details, he said.

International rights groups condemned the trial as a sham.

Serbia-Montenegro

Symbols restored from royal past

Serbia restored its 19th-century anthem and ancient coat of arms Tuesday, harking back to its royal history as its people struggle with economic and social hardships.

The emblems represented Serbia before it merged in 1918 with its Balkan neighbors to form Yugoslavia.

The 183 lawmakers in Parliament voted unanimously to adopt the once-royal symbols, despite criticism they were inappropriate for the republic sharing sovereignty with Montenegro.

"These symbols are Serbia's true ones," said Parliament Speaker Predrag Markovic, who insisted Serbia needed to replace its current coat of arms featuring the five-pointed communist Red Star.

"The only peaceful and prosperous period for Serbia was when it was a monarchy and had this anthem and this coat of arms," historian Vladislav Pavlovic said.

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