BY Wire reports
Saturday, February 23, 2013
2/23/13 at 3:04 AM
Cairo: Upcoming Egyptian vote called 'recipe for disaster'
Egypt's president set parliamentary elections to begin in April - a decision that an opposition leader denounced Friday as "a recipe for disaster" because of the ongoing political turmoil in the country.
About 15,000 people took to the streets in the Suez Canal city of Port Said to demonstrate against President Mohammed Morsi, hanging effigies of him in the main square. Residents have been on a general strike for six days, demanding punishment for what they considered a heavy-handed police crackdown during unrest in the city.
Morsi scheduled the staggered, four-stage voting process to begin April 27 and end in June. The newly elected parliament would convene on July 6, according to a decree issued late Thursday night.
But Mohamed ElBaradei, who leads one of the main opposition groups, the National Salvation Front, wrote on his Twitter account Friday that Morsi's "decision to go for parliamentary elections amidst severe societal polarization and eroding state authority is a recipe for disaster."
Beirut: More than 200 hostages in Syrian villages freed
Gunmen from rival Sunni and Shiite Muslim villages in northern Syria have freed more than 200 people snatched in tit-for-tat kidnappings this month, easing tensions that threatened to touch off more sectarian violence, activists said Friday.
In Syria's largest city of Aleppo, three explosions that appeared to be caused by missiles killed at least 14 people, activists said, adding that dozens of others were feared to be trapped under the rubble of damaged buildings.
The wave of abductions in a rural part of Idlib province highlighted how much the civil war between the regime of President Bashar Assad and the hundreds of rebel groups seeking his ouster has enflamed tensions between Syria's myriad religious groups.
Caracas, Venezuela: Crowds hold candlelight vigil for ailing Chavez
Hundreds of Venezuelans held a candlelight vigil Friday for President Hugo Chavez, praying for their leader while he remained in a hospital undergoing cancer treatment.
Chavez's supporters gathered on a large staircase in a hillside park near the presidential palace. They lit candles at sunset and sang along with a recording of a healthy Chavez belting out the national anthem.
"We're praying for the president, for him to get through all of this," said Ana Perez, a seamstress holding a candle and shielding her flame from the breeze with a piece of paper.
Chavez hasn't been seen since he returned to Venezuela on Monday from Cuba, where for 10 weeks he was recovering and fighting complications following his latest cancer surgery Dec. 11.
Tunis, Tunisia : Islamist party names conservative as leader
Tunisia's ruling Islamist party named an interior minister seen as a conservative loyalist to form a new government Friday, in a signal the party is unlikely to back down to opposition demands to try to smooth over the country's political crisis.
Ali Larayedh, accused of failing to stem violence by ultraconservative Muslims when he was in charge of Tunisia's security as interior minister, said he would start immediate consultations on forming a new government, according to the state news agency TAP.
The killing of an opposition leader last month plunged Tunisia into its deepest political crisis since it started the Arab Spring uprisings two years ago.
Athens, Greece: Heavy rainfall kills one, floods hundreds of homes
Torrential rainfall in Greece's capital Friday crippled traffic, inundated basements and streets, and was blamed for the death of woman whose car was trapped in floodwater, authorities said.
The overnight storm swept across greater Athens, flooding hundreds of homes, causing blackouts in parts of the city and forcing authorities to close major roads and a central subway station in Athens. "We have many, many problems - it's hard to know where to begin describing it," Deputy Fire Chief Vassilis Papageorgiou said.
London: Catholic cardinal urges allowing priests to marry
Roman Catholic priests should be allowed to marry and have children, Britain's most senior Catholic cleric said Friday.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who heads the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, said the requirement for priestly celibacy is "not of divine origin" and could be reconsidered. He told BBC Scotland that "the celibacy of the clergy, whether priests should marry - Jesus didn't say that."
He said that "many priests have found it very difficult to cope with celibacy," and while he had never considered marriage, "I would be very happy if others had the opportunity of considering whether or not they could or should get married."
A woman holds a candle and a poster of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at a candlelight vigil in Caracas, Venezuela, to pray for his health as he remains in a hospital undergoing cancer treatment. See story above. ARIANA CUBILLOS/Associated Press