Merkel Suffers Setback

In Assembling Cabinet

BERLIN -- Chancellor-designate Angela Merkel faced a deepening political crisis after a leading conservative ally tapped to be economy minister announced Tuesday that he was quitting her coalition cabinet before it even takes office.

Merkel, speaking to reporters less than an hour after conservative Edmund Stoiber dropped out of her left-right alliance, insisted she was "bound and determined" to build a stable government.

The turmoil was sparked Monday when Merkel's intended deputy chancellor, Franz Muentefering, announced he was quitting as leader of the left-leaning Social Democratic Party. He said he did not know whether he would take the job as Merkel's deputy.

His resignation prompted Stoiber to say that given the changed situation, he would remain Bavarian governor rather than join the cabinet. "As the head of the party, I can better support the interests of the Christian Social Union in Munich," Stoiber told reporters.

Merkel's conservatives and the Social Democrats tentatively agreed to form an alliance after an inconclusive September election handed neither side a clear majority. The two sides hope to have an agreement in time for Parliament to elect Merkel as Germany's first female chancellor on Nov. 22.


* ZANZIBAR, Tanzania -- Zanzibar's incumbent president and his party were declared the winners of general elections marred by violence and allegations of fraud. Officials said nine people were killed in the latest clashes.

Seif Shariff Hamad of the main opposition Civic United Front said five supporters died on the Zanzibar archipelago's second island, Pemba. A member of the government security force said four of his colleagues were killed there.

President Amani Abeid Karume of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi won 53.2 percent of the vote, while Hamad had 46.1 percent, according to the electoral chief. Hamad rejected the results and vowed to launch a civil disobedience campaign.


* CARACAS, Venezuela -- President Hugo Chavez warned that he might share Venezuela's U.S.-made F-16 fighters with Cuba and China, accusing the United States of making it difficult for his country to obtain spare parts for the aircraft.


* UNITED NATIONS -- Secretary General Kofi Annan named former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari to lead talks on the future of Serbia's disputed Kosovo province.

Meanwhile, a court in Kosovo sentenced a Pakistani official of the U.N. refugee agency to three years in prison after finding him guilty of sexual abuse of a minor.

* BAMBERG, Germany -- Capt. Gregory Arflack, 44, a Catholic priest serving as a chaplain with the 279th Base Support Battalion, was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty at his court-martial to three counts of forcible sodomy against enlisted men.


* ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- A U.S. Army helicopter taking part in earthquake relief efforts in Pakistan might have come under fire, according to the U.S. military, but a Pakistani army spokesman said it was merely engineers blasting a damaged road in the vicinity. No one was hurt.

* BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- At least four inmates were killed when riot police stormed three prisons to restore order following a bloody uprising at one of the facilities last month, officials said.

* CANBERRA, Australia -- Australia has received specific information about a possible "terrorist threat" to the country, Prime Minister John Howard said Wednesday, but Australia's medium security alert remained unchanged.

-- From News Services