With the Associated Press
Lebanon Heads Toward an Abyss
The clock is running down for Lebanon to get a new president and avert a political standoff that could push the country toward civil war. The term of the current, pro-Syrian president, Emile Lahoud, ends November 24, and the tension now is over whether the western-backed ruling parliamentary coalition will be able to install a president from its own ranks. That would be a major blow to Syria, which has dominated Lebanese affairs for 30 years, and for its ally, the radical Shiite group Hezbollah.
Hezbollah and its opposition allies blocked a Parliament vote for a new president by boycotting the session. The 128-member Parliament is scheduled to meet again on October 23, and there is talk of trying to find a compromise candidate. Another impasse could lead to Lebanon being split into rival governments if the 68-member pro-government majority follows through on its threat to vote without a quorum for its own candidate.
A Jail Suite for an Ex-President
For Alberto Fujimori, who enjoyed the luxuries of Peru's Presidential Palace from 1990 to 2000, life is now circumscribed by the walls of a two-room jail cell. He is allowed four hours a day of outside exercise, family visits twice a week, the use of a typewriter and guitar, and a conjugal visit every 15 days.
Extradited from his refuge in Chile, the former president, 69, returned home in the custody of Peruvian police on September 22 to face charges of corruption and sanctioning death-squad killings before his government collapsed amid scandals in 2000.
A New Man on the Hot Seat in Tokyo
Japan last week got a new prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, 71, following the abrupt resignation of his unpopular predecessor, Shinzo Abe, after a scandal-marred year in the post.
The Bush administration is hoping that Fukuda will persuade the Diet, the nation's parliament, not to pull the plug on Japan's main contribution to the war on terrorism. Japan has sent naval vessels to the Indian Ocean, where they refuel American and allied warships tied to operations in Afghanistan. The Japanese operation will end after October 31 unless the parliament extends the current authorization. President Bush, in a congratulatory call to Fukuda, pressed for the refueling operation to continue and invited him to visit the White House, as early as next month.
All in the Family, Russian Version
Running Russia, it seems, is something of a family business. The prime minister's son-in-law is the defense minister. The health minister is married to the energy minister. The daughter of the deputy Kremlin chief of staff is married to the son of the justice minister.
For those not privy to what goes on behind the high walls of the Kremlin, this bit of insight comes from the Russian magazine Kommersant-Vlast (and was picked up by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty). The report noted that after Russian President Vladimir Putin recently selected Viktor Zubkov to become prime minister, Zubkov's son-in-law, Anatoly Serdyukov, submitted his resignation as defense minister. Putin rejected the resignation and reappointed him to the post.