Queen praises world's humanitarian work

By wire services
Published December 23, 2005

LONDON - In a speech prepared for Christmas Day, Queen Elizabeth II praises the generous humanitarian response in a year blighted by terrorist acts and natural disasters, according to excerpts released today.

The last year has shown the "world is not always an easy or safe place to live in, but is the only place we have," the queen says in an address to be broadcast Dec. 25.

Her speech comes in a year when suicide bombers struck at the heart of London, killing 52 commuters, and a powerful earthquake left tens of thousands dead in Pakistan and India. A day after the queen's speech last year, a devastating tsunami claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in Southeast Asia.

The speech will be broadcast throughout the Commonwealth - the 52-nation club of Britain and its former colonies. The traditional fixture is the only occasion of the year in which the queen writes a speech without the advice of the British government.

Call to Bolivian leader is Spanish hoax

MADRID - The Spanish government expressed outrage on Thursday after a comedian for a conservative radio station here held a five-minute telephone conversation with the new president of Bolivia while claiming to be the Spanish prime minister. Spanish officials were taken by surprise Tuesday evening when Evo Morales, who was elected president of Bolivia on Sunday, announced that Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero had called to congratulate him on his victory and to invite him to Madrid.

The New York Times quoted an unamed official in Zapatero's office who said Zapatero said he never spoke to Morale, when shown the comments that appeared on the news wires.

The radio station Cope, which is owned by Spain's Conference of Catholic Bishops and is a critic of the Zapatero government, broadcast the telephone call on Wednesday, revealing that it was behind the prank.

"Thank you very much," Morales said after the comedian invited him to Spain, according to a transcript provided by the news agency Europa Press. "I'd like to visit you, Mr. President."

On Thursday, Miguel Angel Moratinos, Spain's foreign minister, summoned the Vatican's envoy to demand that steps be taken to prevent such "deplorable acts" from happening again at the radio station.

Opposition leader to support Karzai

KABUL, Afghanistan - The new chairman of Afghanistan's Parliament, Muhammad Yunus Qanooni, said Thursday he would resign as leader of the opposition and support the government of Afghanistan in the interests of the people.

His comments, at a press conference in the Parliament building, were seen as a peace offering to President Hamid Karzai, whom he has opposed since leaving the government in 2004 to run against him in the presidential race. Qanooni came a far second to Karzai in that race but defeated an ally of Karzai and six others to be chairman of the Parliament.

As representatives were voting for the two deputy chairmen of the Parliament, Qanooni said, "Many times in the past I have mentioned that if the elected representatives of the people trusted me to serve as the head of Parliament, I would resign from the leadership of the opposition party of Afghanistan. And now I am standing on my promise."