From Volume 5, Issue Number 9 of EIR Online, Published Feb. 28, 2006

Western European News Digest

Italian 'Reform' Minister Resigns After Provoking Riot

When the now ex-Reform Minister of Italy Roberto Calderoli, from the Lega Nord (Northern League) party, appeared on TV wearing a T-shirt with a Mohammed cartoon on it, his appearance was a major factor in inflaming emotions during a large demonstration against the cartoons in the Libyan town of Benghazi. After burning the Danish flag, the demonstrators tried to storm the Italian consulate, the only European building around. Police opened fire on the violent crowd, leaving 10 dead and many wounded. The Benghazi police chief and the Libyan Interior Minister have resigned.

On Feb. 17, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi demanded Calderoli's immediate resignation, after Calderoli met with Lega Nord's leader Umberto Bossi. Calderoli resigned the following day. This is the first European minister to resign in the continuing drama surrounding the cartoons.

Call To End British Queen's Prerogative Powers

On Feb. 6, the new Conservative Party leader David Cameron called for the devolution of the Queen of England's most important powers to be matters of parliamentary debate and decision. The most important of the four Prerogative Powers is the right to declare war without parliamentary consideration and democratic vote. Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair is said to be opposed to Cameron's latest call; he permitted only one non-binding debate in all the recent five wars the British have been involved in, and that was on the latest British participation in the Gulf War.

Laser Is Focus of Continuing Probe into Diana's Death

The Daily Express of London Feb. 6, and author David Pilditch, report that the special Metropolitan Police unit led by former Commissioner Lord Stevens are now investigating a charge that a blinding laser was used to cause the crash of the Mercedes Benz driven by Henri Paul, in which Princess Diana and her companion Dodi al Fayed died. The police believe the blinding laser, which can be hand-held, was used by an MI6 agent driving one of the motorcycles chasing the Mercedes, as it entered a tunnel in Paris.

The investigation, which was supposed to end with Lord Stevens' interview of Prince Charles in December, is now considered to be wide open and likely to reach surprising results, possibly implicating the royals themselves. Another charge, first made by EIR, that is under investigation, is that Henri Paul's blood sample had been tampered with to show high levels of alcohol, when Paul had not been drinking.

Foreign Ministry Meeting Over Cartoons Urged

The Danish political opposition is on the offensive, after it was revealed that the Foreign Ministry had recommended the Prime Minister meet with 11 ambassadors from Muslim countries, who had requested a meeting on Oct. 19, to express their concern about a series of anti-Muslim incidents, including the cartoons that had been published in September. At that time, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen refused to meet with them, saying that he had no power to intervene on the issue.

Egon Bahr Says Europe Is Kept 'Contained' by Brits

In an interview with the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily Feb. 21, senior German Social Democrat Egon Bahr, a former Cabinet Minister and long-time leader in numerous leading party functions with an emphasis on foreign and strategic policies, charged London with conscious sabotage of the functioning of the European Union. The liberalization of markets in Continental Europe has always been more important to the British, he said, than the strengthening of Europe as a political entity internationally.

Asked what should be done about it, Bahr replied: "[O]ne ought to pose the alternative to the British: either you cooperate fully, or you are basically out of it. But, the EU does not have the muscle to do that." Bahr added that this weakness is a product of incompetence.

German Firms Prepare for Avian Flu Pandemic

One-third of German firms are preparing for a worst-case scenario of avian flu outbreak. Primarily the bigger firms, banks, insurance companies in the private sector, but also firms and other entities in the public sector of Germany have either begun, or are beginning, to prepare for a reduction in working staff by 20 or more percent, because of infection.

Also, some of Germany's 16 states have begun to build up Tamiflu reserves for treating 20% (Saxony) or even 30% (Hessen) of the population in a pandemic emergency. Such a pandemic cannot be ruled out, once the expected 1 million birds that migrate to northern Africa during the winter, begin returning to Germany in the coming weeks.

In the avian flu situation as such, the H5N1 virus has been detected in more than 100 birds on the Baltic German island of Ruegen, and the two neighboring administrative districts of Mecklenburg, on the mainland. Ruegen has been put on catastrophe emergency status, which allows the deployment of special army decontamination units.

None of these 100-plus infected birds has been in the winter-migrating category; the real problem is only to come, therefore. Emergency slaughtering of chicken populations in some of the high-risk regions has begun. (See InDepth, for Helga Zepp-LaRouche's statement, "Threat of Pandemic Requires Crash Bio-Defense Initiative.")

Dresden Mayor Plans Housing Sale to Locust Fund

With the support of the CDU (Christian Democrats), the FDP (Free Democrats), and even some PDS (Left Party) members of the City Council, Dresden Mayor Ingolf Rossberg (FDP) is firmly committed to sell the municipal housing agency WOBA to the Frankfurt-based German branch of the U.S. investment fund Fortress. The final decision on the sale is set for March 9 at a price of 981 million euros. This involves 48,000 flats with 100,000-plus tenants. Rossberg claims the sale would eliminate all of the city's debt at once—and make the creditor banks happy, at once, too—which he did not say.

In addition to local opposition in Dresden—the SPD (Social Democrats), sections of the PDS, and the Greens—the Mieterbund (German Tenants Association) is harshly denouncing the planned sale as a "sacrifice to financial greed," as Mieterbund chairman Franz Georg Rips said. He warned that the high price paid by Fortress implies that more than 100,000 Dresden citizens will be hostage to a fund that is interested only in aggressive revenue increases.

Rips in particular denounced those in the PDS who have "chosen to pull the cart of investor interest, against the interests of the tenants to have affordable housing."

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