International news roundup
If the flow of Russian natural gas doesn’t resume quickly, the chief executive of the European Union said Wednesday he’d advise its members to “take this matter to the courts.” Jose Manuel Barroso called the situation “unacceptable.” But, meeting with the visiting prime ministers of three user states, Vladimir Putin of Russia put the blame for the cutoff on “the transit country,” Ukraine. “It is not our problem,” Putin said.
China’s explosive growth has made it the third-largest economy in the world, surpassing Germany, new statistics showed Wednesday. Analysts projected that China also would overtake Japan as No. 2 in “three to four years.” The Beijing government said economic growth increased 13 percent in 2007, the latest year for which statistics were available, and it put the gross domestic product at $3.5 trillion. Germany’s for the same year, using standard exchange rates, was $3.3 trillion.
Information provided by India after its investigation into the terrorist attacks in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) is “not evidence,” Pakistan’s prime minister told Parliament Tuesday night. Yousuf Raza Gilani’s remarks were seen as likely to anger the Indian government, although he said the latter’s dossier on the subject still is being reviewed and that he hoped the two countries could probe the attacks together.
A member of Zimbabwe’s Parliament from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change was convicted of forgery and stripped of her seat, wiping out the party’s simple majority in the legislature. The MDC accused President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF movement of “pure shenanigans” in orchestrating the case and vowed to appeal. But the verdict means the MDC and ZANU-PF each have 99 seats in Parliament, with a crucial vote looming on amending the Constitution to allow for a unity government with a new office of prime minister.
Government forces in Sri Lanka Wednesday claimed to have captured the last section of the Jaffna Peninsula, the heart of the island’s Tamil rebel movement. If verified, that would give President Mahinda Rajapakse a major symbolic victory in his goal of crushing the 25-year-old separatist campaign, which has killed at least 70,000 people. It also would mean that the rebels now hold only about 125 square miles of territory around Mullaittivu on the northeast coast.
An uneasy calm returned to Latvia’s capital Wednesday, but the government and opposition leaders were blaming each other for rioting that caused dozens of injuries and led to 106 arrests. The trouble began Monday as an organized protest against unpopular reform measures that have reversed what once was the fastest-growing economy in the European Union. At its peak, the protest drew an estimated 10,000 people, making it the largest since Latvia became independent in 1991. Above, a protester shoves a policeman on a Riga street.
An antigovernment protest in Bulgaria’s capital Wednesday turned into the worst rioting in years as activists demanded improvement in their living conditions and an end to official graft. Six policemen and some of the participants were hurt; more than 50 people were arrested. Bulgaria is considered Europe’s poorest and most corrupt state. Recent opinion polls have shown that more than 70 percent of respondents want the Socialist government to resign.
Heavy new rains were drenching badly flooded areas of Fiji Wednesday, and authorities raised the number of known fatalities to at least 11. Rescuers were looking for a boat carrying 24 people after they didn’t arrive at their destination. The worst flooding in a generation has forced thousands of people into emergency shelters, waterlogged the vital sugar cane fields, and stranded hundreds of foreign tourists. Above, villagers raft past a submerged house.
– Compiled from the wires