World in brief: Uribe defends record on rights
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe made a spirited defense of his human rights record Wednesday as he argued before protesters and skeptical members of Congress that his nation deserves a free trade agreement with Washington.
President Bush praised the embattled Uribe as a “true democrat, a strong leader and a friend” after a White House visit.
The Colombian leader got a rousing welcome at a pro-trade Council of the Americas gathering, where he denied links to paramilitary groups and said rejecting the free trade deal would send the wrong message to Latin America.
But later he faced chants of “asesino” – assassin – as he plunged into a crowd of stunned protesters to challenge recent allegations that some of his government’s officials have had links to Colombia’s notoriously murderous right-wing paramilitaries.
Once widely acclaimed as a strong, pro-U.S. leader who had tamed violence in Colombia, Uribe is attempting to clear doubts over allegations of links between government officials and paramilitary groups.
Erdogan calls for early elections
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Wednesday for early parliamentary elections in Turkey, offering a plebiscite on his ruling party’s brand of populist, religiously rooted politics, which the country’s secular elite regards as an entry for political Islam.
Erdogan’s call to move elections to June 24 from Nov. 4 capped a tumultuous week in which his choice for president was approved by a parliament Erdogan’s party dominates, only then to be annulled Tuesday by Turkey’s highest court.
Hundreds of thousands turned out for a protest in Istanbul, fearful that Erdogan’s choice would represent a rollback for liberal individual freedoms. The military, calling itself “the absolute defender of secularism,” bluntly threatened to intervene.
3,608 moms join breast-feed event
More than 3,000 Filipino mothers breast-fed simultaneously in day-care centers and hospitals Wednesday in a campaign to counter advertising claims that artificial baby foods are better than breast milk.
Breast-feeding advocates, social welfare officials and UNICEF organized the event – also hoping to set the first Guinness record for the most mothers breast-feeding at the same time in multiple locations.
At least 3,608 mothers took part nationwide, according to an initial count on the organizers’ Web site.