Vatican Reconsidering

Martyr Status for Pope

ROME -- Vatican officials are no longer dismissing outright the notion that Pope John Paul II could be declared a martyr, a step that could remove the need for a confirmed miracle to beatify the late pontiff and make it easier for him to become a saint.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said it was up to groups of theological experts to decide whether the May 13, 1981, attempt on John Paul's life -- as well as his long, public suffering before he died -- warrants a declaration of martyrdom.

The Vatican would still need to confirm that a miracle occurred after his beatification for John Paul to be declared a saint.

EUROPE

* ROME -- Italy told the United States to respect Italian sovereignty following the alleged CIA kidnapping of a Muslim terrorism suspect in Milan in 2003.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi summoned U.S. Ambassador Mel Sembler for a meeting that lasted nearly an hour about allegations U.S. operatives broke Italian law by seizing the cleric and taking him to Egypt, where prosecutors believe he was tortured.

Italy has denied prior knowledge of the kidnapping.

* LONDON -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair took over the European Union's six-month rotating presidency and said he saw little chance of rescuing the E.U. constitution after its recent rejection by French and Dutch voters.

Blair said he intended to fight for a new vision of the E.U., one that equips Europeans to compete in a global economy and modernizes expensive social and worker protections.

ASIA

* MANILA -- Thousands of protesters rallied to demand that the Philippine president resign, and a former defense secretary warned that if she refused, she would be ousted.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will be replaced by a 15-member "council of leaders" if she refuses to step down, said Fortunato Abat, a retired general and the former defense secretary. The council would serve as a transitional government while a new constitution is drafted, he said.

THE AMERICAS

* LIMA, Peru -- Peru's poorest region, Huancavelica, began handing out $308,000 in reparations to victims of leftist rebel wars in the 1980s and 1990s, the first voluntary payment of its kind in Peru.

The money, which comes from Huancavelica's own coffers, will go toward mental health, education, housing and farming programs. The central government has pledged $820 million to victims but so far no money has been disbursed.

Only 20 victims in Peru have received compensation for the violence that killed 70,000 people after taking their cases to the Inter-American Court of Human rights.

Peru's budget for this year allows for $3 million in reparations. The money has not been disbursed, officials said.

* LA PAZ, Bolivia -- Bolivian lawmakers failed to agree to call general elections this year, sparking threats of protests from indigenous groups a month after they ousted the president with strikes and roadblocks.

Congressional leaders said they hoped to meet Monday to try to agree whether to hold legislative and presidential elections simultaneously, a key demand of Indian and union protesters who drove President Carlos Mesa from office.

* BOGOTA, Colombia -- Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's hopes for a second term were dealt a blow when a top legal official said a bill that would allow him to run in next year's election was illegal.

Although the recommendation by Inspector General Edgardo Maya is nonbinding, he is one of Colombia's most senior lawyers and his opinion will be taken as a possible sign of how a Constitutional Court will rule on the reelection bill.

THE MIDDLE EAST

* ANKARA, Turkey -- A suicide bomber who tried to enter the Justice Ministry was shot to death by police as he fled after metal detectors went off. Even as he lay wounded, he tried to set off his explosives, reports said.

The man, a member of a banned Marxist group, balked when security personnel tried to search him and pressed the detonator as police handcuffed him. The bomb failed to explode, and the bomber ran from the building.

-- From News Services