December 4th, 2007 14:25 EST
World Chronicle: December 4
KHARTOUM, Sudan- Gillian Gibbons, a high school teacher who was arrested on November 25 after giving a teddy bear the name “Muhammad,” returned today to Great Britain. Being originally sentenced to 15 days in prison-- a verdict that many Sudanese thought too lenient for a crime that the Islamic law anticipates up to six months in prison or 40 lashes-- Gibbons was pardoned by the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir. On her flight back home she was attended by two Muslim members of the British House of Lords who had played a major role in securing her pardon.
Despite her latest problems in Sudan, Gibbons is reported to have had kind words for Africa. The Associated Press quotes her as saying at London's Heathrow airport, “I am very sorry to leave Sudan. I had a fabulous time. It is a beautiful place and I had a chance to see some of the countryside.” She also praised the Sudanese people for being “extremely kind and generous,” quite a surprising statement concerning the fact that only last week thousands of Sudanese marched the streets of Khartoum demanding Gibbons to be executed.
CARACAS, Venezuela- Although the majority of his people voted against his constitutional amendments, President Hugo Chavez has not lost his socialist fever. Surprisingly, the Sunday referendum debacle is now pictured by the government-controlled media as the most visible sign that Venezuelan democracy lives up to the western standards. Quoted by the Associated Press, Chavez said in a public speech today, “I want you all to know I'm not withdrawing a single comma of this proposal. I will continue making this proposal to the Venezuelan people. The proposal is still alive.”
Chavez's second term ends in 2013 and, with the constitution remaining intact, he will be barred from running for the third term.
BEJING, China- Joseph Gan Junqiu was ordained a bishop today, being one of the few Chinese Catholic hierarchy with the approval from both the Vatican and the Chinese government. The two-hour long ceremony, which was held in the southern city of Guangzhou (former Canton), was attended by hundreds of Catholics, some of them had to stay outside the cathedral as the police cordoned off the building, fearing overcrowding.
Bishop Junqiu, 43, studied in Belgium and France, and has declared his fidelity to Pope Benedict XVI, a move required from all the Catholic clergy but not practiced in China where the Chinese Catholic Church is controlled by the communist regime. Chinese bishops and cardinals are appointed regardless of the pope's position.
Although China cut off diplomatic ties with the Vatican in 1951, the recent years have brought the improvement in the mutual relations. The consecration of Junqiu is perceived as another step in Pope Benedict XVI's diplomatic offensive aiming at establishing official recognition of the Holy See in communist China.
BRUSSELS, Belgium- After six months of a political deadlock, Belgium is on the most promising way to get a new government. As news agencies report today, Guy Verhofstadt, who was the prime minister in the former government, would try to mediate between parties that are to form a new ruling coalition. In divided Belgium, parties from both regions-- Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia-- are constitutionally required to have their representatives in the central government. Verhofstadt is quoted by the Associated Press as saying, Tuesday, “Our nation is going through one of the most serious political crises of the past decades.” The former prime minister referred to recent calls from various nationalist group to end up the federation and divide Belgium into two independent countries.
Despite being one of the smallest countries in Europe, Belgium teeters on the verge of political collapse. The rich Flanders region demands bigger autonomy and perceives Wallonia as a poor relative, continually asking for money.
KIEV, Ukraine- Yulia Timoshenko is a candidate for Ukraine's next prime minister, announced today representatives of the two ruling parties. It will be the second time for Timoshenko when she stays at the helm of the government, the previous term was disrupted by President Yushchenko dismissing his former ally from the times when both politicians orchestrated the Orange Revolution and deposed Moscow's puppet government in 2005.
The September parliamentary election was won by Yulia Timoshenko's party with President Yushchenko's bloc came the third. Although the two parties are pro-Western and support free market reforms, personal ambitions successfully stalemated previous agreements.
ANKARA, Turkey- Six Kurdish rebels were killed today, reports the Turkish army. According to the army's website, four men and two women belonged to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an organization which Turkey and the United States consider terrorist, and took part in the assassination of 12 Turkish soldiers in October.
Turkey was reported, last week, to have crossed the Iraqi border in the pursuit of Kurdish rebels. The tensions on the Turkish-Iraqi border have intensified since October when 12 Turkish soldiers were killed in an ambush orchestrated by the PKK. Both the American and Iraqi governments warned Ankara against entering its southern neighbor's territory.