World briefs 12/17/02

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Canada ratifies Kyoto Protocol after long debate

TORONTO -- Canada ratified the Kyoto Protocol on Monday, leaving the fate of the 1997 treaty on reducing greenhouse gas emissions up to Russia. Without another big endorsement, the pact could die due to insufficient global participation.

Canada's ratification followed months of rancorous debate. Parliament approved it last week, voting along party lines, with Prime Minister Jean Chretien's Liberal Party majority overcoming opposition from pro-business groups.

To take effect, the Kyoto Protocol must be ratified by at least 55 countries, including those responsible for 55 percent of the world's emissions in 1990.

While nearly 100 countries have ratified it, the rejection of the treaty by the United States -- responsible for 36.1 percent the world's greenhouse gas emissions in 1990 -- means every other industrial country must agree to meet the threshold. Russia, which was responsible for 17.4 percent, has indicated it would ratify the accord, which would bring it into effect.

Activist standing trial for defacing Thatcher statue

LONDON -- A man decapitated a statue of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher destined for Parliament because he felt it "represented the ills of the world's political system," a prosecutor said Monday.

Peter Kelleher, 37, was arrested in July after whacking the 8-foot-high statue with a cricket bat, then knocking off its head with a heavy metal pole.

He has acknowledged defacing the $240,000 statue, but said it was a legitimate political protest that should be exempt from punishment.

Public service strike hits German commuters

MUNICH, Germany -- Striking tram and subway drivers donned lederhosen and banged on cow bells Monday to underline their call for a pay increase, stepping up a protest that stranded commuters and schoolchildren across Germany.

More than 1 million commuters jammed the roads around Munich in an attempt to reach workplaces despite the lack of public transport. Several other cities, including Frankfurt and Berlin, also experienced temporary disruptions as public service workers held short protests ahead of new pay talks Wednesday.

Federal and state leaders have said they can't afford the minimum 3 percent wage increase labor unions are demanding for Germany's almost 3 million civil servants. Some officials have even suggested a pay freeze.

Labor unions said the work stoppages were a warning that they will hold their first major strike in a decade early next year if demands are not met.

Con man apologizes for causing Blair controversy

LONDON -- An Australian con man who helped Prime Minister Tony Blair's wife close a $790,000 property deal apologized Monday for embroiling the Blairs in controversy -- but said he would tell all in a future autobiography.

Peter Foster insisted neither he nor Cherie Blair had done anything wrong when he helped her save $109,000 on two apartments in Bristol, west of London.

"I apologize to Tony and Cherie for the mess a little help from your friends can get you into," Foster said in an address broadcast live on British TV stations.

Foster has served jail time in Australia, the United States and Britain, mostly related to a series of diet pill scams.

Cherie Blair's dealings with Foster, who faces deportation because of his criminal record, have created a political mess for the prime minister.

Pro-hunt protest turns angry outside Parliament

LONDON -- Hundreds of fox-hunt supporters staged a noisy protest outside Parliament on Monday, jeering at legislators who arrived for a House of Commons debate on a bill to limit hunting with dogs.

An effigy of Prime Minister Tony Blair blazed in Parliament Square and police struggled to control the crowd.

Police said about 1,500 protesters took part; at least five were arrested.

Although pro-hunt demonstrators previously have marched in the capital, their protests usually are quiet and peaceful, counting on sheer numbers for impact.

-- From wire reports

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