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Woman seeking to lead France

By TIMES WIRES
Published September 30, 2006


VITROLLES, France - Sego- lene Royal, who tops polls as the Socialist choice to run for French president next spring, formally announced her candidacy Friday.

Royal, 53, a lawmaker, said in southern France that she would seek her party's nomination.

The party will hold a vote Nov. 16 to nominate the Socialist candidate. Should that first round produce no clear winner, a second round is planned for Nov. 23.

"Here, amid party militants and the French, I answer the question with simplicity, also with graveness, conscious of the weight of my words and the importance of the act: Yes, I accept this mission to conquer for France," Royal said at a party meeting.

Attacking the man likely to be the governing conservatives' choice, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, Royal said in a speech that "what we need is a real change."

German officials call for staging of canceled opera

BERLIN - German lawmakers called on authorities Friday to guarantee the security of a Berlin opera house that pulled a production featuring the severed head of Mohammed, amid ongoing calls to stage the production as a sign of moral courage.

A leading member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party said he understood the decision by the director of the Deutsche Oper to cancel its previously scheduled fall performances of Mozart's Idomeneo after security officials determined that the three-year-old production posed an "incalculable security risk."

But he joined Merkel and other members of her Cabinet in calling for the production to be staged.

The furor over the decision to cancel the opera is among the latest incidents in Europe involving Islamic sensitivities following publication of cartoons of the prophet in a Danish newspaper and recent remarks by Pope Benedict XVI decrying holy war.

In France, a high school philosophy teacher and author who carried out a scathing attack against the prophet Mohammed and Islam in a newspaper commentary said he had gone into hiding under police protection after receiving a series of death threats, including one disseminated on an online radical Islamist forum.

Robert Redeker, 52, wrote in the center-right daily Le Figaro 11 days ago that Mohammed was "a merciless warlord, a looter, a mass-murderer of Jews and a polygamist," and called the Koran "a book of incredible violence."

Elsewhere ...

ISRAEL: A bomb blew up under the driver's seat of a car in a central Israeli city Friday, killing an associate of a crime family and wounding five bystanders. Police said the blast in Rishon Letzion was the work of a rival crime gang. The bomb killed Yossi Afriat, a debt collector and close associate of the Abarjil crime family who has a lengthy criminal record, police said. Rescue officials said a 10-year-old boy and a baby were among the wounded.

RUSSIA: The chief editor of Kommersant, a leading business daily noted for its critical reporting on the Kremlin, quit the paper Friday, one month after a deal was announced to sell it to a Russian steel magnate with ties to the state gas monopoly Gazprom. Kommersant's new owner, Alisher Usmanov, accepted the resignation of Vladislav Borodulin, said Pavel Filinkov, commercial director of the Kommersant Publishing House.