Legislator to be kicked out
President Nicolas Sarkozy’s party says it is kicking out a legislator who downplayed the persecution of gays during World War II and suggested homosexuals hold too much sway in the country. The head of the conservative party UMP, Jean-Francois Cope, said on Wednesday that lawmaker Christian Vanneste would be expelled because of his “deeply shocking and intolerable comments.” Cope says the party will finalize the decision at a meeting next week. In a video broadcast on a French Web site, Vanneste said gays are “at the heart of power” in the country and referred to “the legend of the deportation of homosexuals” during the war. Historians estimate that thousands of gay men were sent to Nazi concentration camps.
Bomber targets militia
A suicide bomber targeted volunteers in a pro--government militia yesterday, killing one person and wounding at least three others in an area troubled by Taliban violence, police said. The bomber was spotted by members of the lashkar and blew himself up after they chased and surrounded him in a market area of Dir town in the northwestern district of Upper Dir near the Afghan border. “One person was killed. He was the son of local lashkar chief Mutabar Khan and six people were wounded,” police official Mohammed Ayub said. Taliban and other Islamist insurgents routinely target members of tribal militias, known as lashkars, which support government security forces in fending off militant threats across northwest Pakistan.
Engineers still captive
Seven Iranian engineers kidnapped near Syria’s embattled city of Homs in late December have not been released as previously reported, and remain captives, the foreign ministry said yesterday. “We hope to witness the freedom of the Iranian engineers and the rest of pilgrims soon,” ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency. A week ago, the ministry announced that the seven, working on an electricity plant near Homs, had been released by their abductors. A previously unknown group calling itself the “Movement Against the Expansion of Shiism in Syria” claimed responsibility for their abduction in a statement received by AFP in Nicosia at the beginning of last month. Another distinct group of 11 Iranian pilgrims also remain captives in Syria.
Mladic trial date moved
The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal on Wednesday pushed back by almost seven weeks the start of the long-awaited genocide trial of former Bosnian Serb military chief General Ratko Mladic. The UN court announced the trial would start May 14 instead of the previous provisional date of March 27 to allow Mladic’s lawyers more time to prepare. Mladic’s defense team says it needs until October to read through thousands of pages of evidence to prepare for the trial.
Snow causes traffic chaos
Almost 100 cars were involved in two massive pileups in heavy snowstorms on a major highway about 300km east of Prague on Wednesday, although passengers escaped serious injury. Police said about 40 cars crashed before midday. Two people escaped with light injuries. In another crash, dozens of vehicles, including a bus, collided about 100km southeast of the capital, police spokeswoman Dana Cirtkova said. Four bus passengers and a female driver were injured.