Monday, June 11, 2007

Belgian Premier Concedes Defeat in General Elections

BRUSSELS -- Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt conceded defeat Sunday on behalf of his coalition of Liberals and Socialists after general elections that gave the Christian Democrats major gains after eight years in opposition.

"The voters of our country today elected a new government and the results of these elections are clear: The voter opted for a different majority," Verhofstadt said. He is expected to offer King Albert II the resignation of his government on Monday.

Guy Leterme -- head of the Dutch-speaking Christian Democrats and possibly the country's next premier -- told supporters as the votes were still being counted, "It is time for change. People want a different course."

In a nation where parties are split into Dutch- and French-speaking camps, forming a new government can be a complicated, time-consuming undertaking. In the past, it has taken up to 150 days to cobble together a coalition of parties from both sides of Belgium's linguistic and political divides.


· WARSAW -- Former trade union leader and president Lech Walesa has made public 500 pages of files kept on him by Poland's former secret police, in an attempt to end accusations that he was a communist collaborator.

Walesa won the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize for his fight for labor freedom and was elected Poland's first post-communist leader in 1990.

Some former colleagues in the Solidarity trade union, which he led to victory over communism, have called Walesa a creation of the secret services and said he shielded ex-communists from justice.

Walesa has ridiculed such charges and won several court cases against his accusers. He has been cleared of any collaboration by a special vetting agency.


· BOGOTA, Colombia -- Two Colombian soldiers assigned to fight rebels in the southern part of the country were arrested for killing six unarmed civilians, including a child, in a bout of violence, the army said.

The soldiers appeared to be drunk when they entered a party held in a school in the town of San Vicente del Caguan and opened fire, witnesses told reporters.


· GAZA CITY -- Gunmen opened fire early Monday on the house of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, security officials said. There were no immediate reports of casualties. Haniyeh lives in the Shati refugee camp next to Gaza City.

The incident followed a day of violence Sunday, when four people were killed and at least 36 wounded in clashes between the rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah, which is led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

· ANKARA, Turkey -- A small bomb exploded outside a clothing shop in Istanbul, injuring 14 people and shattering nearby windows, police said. It appeared to be a type of explosive that usually makes a loud noise but causes limited damage, police said.

· TEHRAN -- An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed that a fourth Iranian American has been detained in Iran. The spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, told reporters that Ali Shakeri, a founding board member of the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at the University of California at Irvine, was being held.


· CAIRO -- The Arab League said it had donated $1 million to support an African Union peacekeeping force in war-ravaged Somalia. Several African countries pledged troops for an 8,000-member force, but so far only Uganda has sent peacekeepers.

-- From News Services

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