Hariri rally defies fears of unrest
Government supporters carrying balloons and Lebanese flags filled a downtown square Wednesday to remember a slain former prime minister and criticize Syria. Hezbollah-led opposition supporters looked on from behind razor wire separating the two sides.
The mood was subdued amid fears the divided country could erupt. Hundreds of troops were deployed to deter a clash between the sides a day after bombs tore through buses and killed three people.
The demonstration, which ended in the afternoon without incident, lacked the fervor seen at past protests mounted by both sides of Lebanon’s political spectrum.
Tens of thousands of supporters of the U.S.-backed government packed Martyrs Square to commemorate Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister killed in a suicide bombing on Feb. 14, 2005. But save for a few outbursts of slogan chanting and small groups singing and dancing to the beat of drums, the rally was uneventful.
Parliament rejects U.N. Kosovo plan
Serbia’s parliament on Wednesday overwhelmingly rejected a U.N. plan that would give virtual independence to the breakaway province of Kosovo.
The rejection sends a strong signal that Serbia will be unlikely to compromise over its southern province, meaning a resolution to the dispute over Kosovo’s final status will probably have to be imposed by the U.N. Security Council.
The proposal, drawn up by U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari, does not explicitly call for Kosovo’s independence, but envisions granting the province its own flag, anthem, army, constitution and the right to apply for membership in international organizations.
The plan was rejected by a vote of 255-15.
Kosovo’s Prime Minister Agim Ceku said Serbia’s views would have no impact on the province’s future status. “What matters is what the European Union and the international community are saying, and not what Belgrade is saying,” he said.
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil
Band leader killed by gunmen
Violence cast a shadow over Rio’s famed Carnival early Wednesday when gunmen killed a leader of one of the premiere samba band groups, police said.
Guaracy Paes Falcao, 42, vice president of the Salgueiro samba band, was fatally shot before dawn while leaving the group’s headquarters. Falcao was with an unidentified woman who was also shot dead, police spokesman Renato Barone said.
The city’s samba “schools,” or neighborhood groups, kick off the traditional Carnival parade in this city’s “Sambodromo” stadium Sunday. Other celebrations across the country begin as early as today.
Police did not suggest a motive yet for Falcao’s death or have any suspects.