MALTA ““ (BBC) Former Maltese Prime Minister Dom Mintoff, who played a dominant role in the island’s politics for decades before and after its independence from the UK, has died at age 96. He was leader of the center-left Labour Party from 1949 to 1984 and was PM twice, including from 1971 to 1984.
He was known for his confrontational style and fiery speeches. As prime minister, he often clashed with the powerful Catholic Church and greatly expanded Malta’s welfare state. Mr. Mintoff died at his villa near the capital, Valetta, on Monday. Born in 1916, he studied at Oxford University. After a rapid rise in the Maltese Labour Party, he first became prime minister of the then British colony in 1955. He resigned only three years later when his campaign for integration with the UK collapsed in the face of fierce opposition from the Catholic Church. Later, he switched sides to become an ardent supporter of Maltese independence, which was achieved in 1964, albeit under the rival center-right Nationalist Party. Mintoff personally led the talks that ushered in the end of Britain’s 200-year-old naval presence on the island in 1979. His government introduced a wide range of social benefits and raised living standards. Tensions with the church eased to some degree, although he continued efforts to curb its influence. Even after stepping down as Labour leader in 1984, Mr. Mintoff continued to play an influential role as a member of parliament until 1998. That year, he voted to bring down the then Labour government in response to a growing rift with its Prime Minister, Alfred Sant. Labour has been in opposition since then.
NORWAY ““ (BBC) Norway’s police chief Oeystein Maeland has resigned after an inquiry found that mass killer Anders Behring Breivik could have been stopped last year. Mr. Maeland took up his post days before Breivik murdered 77 people in a bombing in Oslo and a gun attack on a summer camp on Utoeya Island. The independent report said on Monday the bombing could have prevented. It also criticized the “unacceptable” amount of time which police took to respond to the shootings. The tone of the inquiry was also markedly different from an earlier police report which concluded that none of the officers on duty has hesitated in carrying out their duties. Maeland’s resignation was revealed by Justice Minister Grete Faremo during a TV debate late on Thursday. Mr. Maeland said later that he could no longer continue in the job without the minister’s confidence. “If the ministry and other political authorities do not clarify this matter unequivocally, it will become impossible for me to continue,” he said in a statement. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said shortly after the report was published that he deeply regretted the mistakes that had been made and took responsibility for what happened. He stopped short of saying there would be ministerial resignations. Breivik, 33, admits carrying out the murders on July 22 last year, but denies criminal guilt. His 10-week trial ended in June and a verdict is due to be announced on August 24. The panel of five trial judges will have to rule on Breivik’s sanity when they deliver their ruling. Their conclusion will determine whether he is given a long prison sentence or is sent to a secure psychiatric ward.
ROMANIA ““ (BBC) Romania’s top court has ruled that a referendum on the impeachment of President Traian Basescu was invalid because turnout failed to reach 50%. The decision thwarts efforts by Prime Minister Victor Ponta to oust Mr. Basescu, a bitter rival. Mr. Basescu, who was suspended from his post pending the referendum, can now return to the presidency. In the July 29 referendum, more than 87% voted for impeachment, but only 46% of registered voters took part. The rivalry between Mr. Ponta and Mr. Basescu reached a stand-off after the former accused the president of obstructing government policies and starting a witch hunt against politicians from rival political parties. But, ahead of the Constitutional Court’s verdict on Tuesday, Mr. Ponta said: “If six judges decide to declare the referendum invalid”¦then Basescu returns to his post.” Romania’s acting president and co-leader of Mr. Ponta’s ruling alliance, Crin Antonescu, promised to abide by the court ruling. “I took note of the court decision and as previously announced, we will obey the decision,” he said. A former oil tanker captain, Mr. Basescu, who has been president since 2004, has accused the center-left coalition led by Mr. Ponta of trying to take over control of independent institutions in Romania. The center-right president’s popularity has fallen since he introduced a program of wage cuts and tax increases as part of two deals with the International Monetary Fund in 2009 and 2011.
SPAIN ““ (BBC) Spain’s short-term borrowing costs have fallen boosted by hopes that the European Central Bank (ECB) will soon start buying its bonds. The struggling country, which investors fear could need a full sovereign bailout, sold 4.5 bn euros ($5.5bn) of bonds. It sold 18-month bonds at 3.33%, lower than the 4.24% interest rate it was forced to pay in July. The ECB has said it would come up with ways to help eurozone countries. “The focus is very much on the ECB’s pledge of intervention, in combination with the EFSF,” said Deutsche Bank economist Mark Wall, referring to the eurozone rescue fund. The ECB is expected to detail its plans for addressing the eurozone’s debt crisis in September. The rate of interest Spain is paying on its debts remains very high due to investor concerns that it may require a full sovereign bailout. Last week, Spanish Prime Minister Mariana Rajoy said he would consider asking the ECB to buy Spanish bonds, depending on the conditions attached. “If it seems reasonable, we will do (it),” Mr. Rajoy said. The government has asked for bailout for its banks of as much as 100bn euros in June, but speculation persists it will need a full government bailout.
TURKEY ““ (BBC) Four children are now known to have died in a bomb blast in the southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep on Monday evening. A total of nine people were killed and 69 injured, officials said, when a remote-controlled car bomb went off near a police station. A bus and other vehicles near the police station were set on fire. The PKK Kurdish rebel group denied carrying out the attack, saying it did not attack civilians. In another development, Turkish media report that nine soldiers and a village guard were killed when a mini bus they were traveling in rolled over into a ditch in the southeastern province of Sirnak on Tuesday. It appears that the driver lost control of the vehicle on a bend and there was no suggestion of a rebel attack. Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay blamed the PKK, AFP news agency reports. However, in a statement published by the pro-Kurdish Firatnews agency, the PKK said: “Our forces have nothing to do with this attack. We do not attack civilians.” No other group has said it carried out the attack. Classified as a terrorist organization by the EU and the US, the PKK launched a guerilla campaign in 1984 for an ethnic homeland in the Kurdish heartland in the southeast of Turkey. Some 40,000 people, including civilians, have been killed in its war against the Turkish state.