Italian Court Clears Prime Minister

In Bookkeeping Scam, Lawyer Says

ROME -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was cleared Monday of charges of false bookkeeping in a case involving funding for a political party in 1991, his attorney said.

The court in Milan cleared Berlusconi under Italy's revised penal code, which decriminalized false bookkeeping, said the attorney, Nicolo Ghedini. Berlusconi had promoted the revisions.

Prosecutors had accused Berlusconi of funneling money through a holding company, All Iberian, to fund the Socialist Party of former premier Bettino Craxi, whose government was brought down in a corruption scandal, and of false bookkeeping to cover up the transfers. Berlusconi and Craxi were close friends, and the former premier promoted policies that helped Berlusconi expand his media empire.

EUROPE

* VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI met Saturday with one of his fiercest critics, Hans Kueng, and the two had a friendly discussion, the Vatican and the dissident Swiss theologian said.

Kueng was stripped of the right to teach theology at the University of Tuebingen in Germany in 1979 after challenging Roman Catholic doctrines such as papal infallibility. He has long been a critic of the man who, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, became the Vatican's orthodoxy chief beginning in 1981. Ratzinger publicly criticized Kueng's writings and Kueng called his election as pope "an enormous disappointment."

* MOSCOW -- Russian prosecutors said they had canceled an arrest warrant for former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko after she appeared in Moscow and was questioned. Tymoshenko had been accused of bribing Russian defense officials while she headed Ukraine's now-defunct gas distributor, United Energy Systems. Tymoshenko has said the charges were politically motivated.

* MOSCOW -- Prosecutors have indicted three former servicemen in connection with the attempted assassination March 17 of Russia's former privatization chief, Anatoly Chubais. The prosecutor general's office said it charged a retired military intelligence colonel, Vladimir Kvachkov, and former paratroops Robert Yashin and Alexander Naidyonov with attempted murder and related charges.

ASIA

* SHANGHAI -- Typhoon Damrey slammed into southern China's resort island of Hainan, killing at least nine people, collapsing houses and sweeping away rice, rubber and banana crops.

-- From News Services