tampabay.com

President-elect fends off his first scandal

By TIMES WIRES
Published May 10, 2007


PARIS

Nicolas Sarkozy won the French presidency Sunday, told his countrymen to start working harder, then took his family for a cruise on a billionaire buddy's 200-foot yacht off the coast of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. Political opponents called the timing and the opulence of the vacation "indecent." Wednesday's newspapers carried grainy front-page photographs of President-elect Sarkozy in saffron shorts with his 10-year-old son, Louis, standing on the deck of what one headline dubbed "the floating palace." "I have no intention of apologizing, " a defiant Sarkozy, 52, said Wednesday morning after jogging on a small island off the Malta coast. "I'll be president of the republic in eight days. In theory, I could have rested for eight days, but I'll only take two and one-half. No one can argue with that."

JERUSALEM

Group claims it's holding journalist

An obscure Palestinian group claimed in a tape released Wednesday that it was holding BBC correspondent Alan Johnston and demanded as a condition of his release that the British government free a jailed Muslim cleric. The statement, if confirmed, would be the first public demand made by kidnappers since Johnston was seized at gunpoint in Gaza City two months ago. The BBC said the tape shows a picture of his identification card, a possible sign that the claim is true, but not one of Johnston himself. The recorded statement, by a group called Army of Islam, was provided to the Arabic-language Al-Jazeera television network though not aired. Also Wednesday, the Palestinian information minister said Hamas militants suspended a TV program that featured a Mickey Mouse lookalike urging Palestinian children to fight Israel and work for global Islamic domination.

TEHRAN, IRAN

Rival to president keeps job as mayor

The moderate-leaning mayor of Iran's capital was re-elected Wednesday in a City Council vote that signaled waning support for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose allies campaigned hard against the choice. Mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf is considered a likely rival to Ahmadinejad in the 2009 presidential election. The mayor is a conservative who backs the Islamic government, but also a pragmatist who has stressed efficiency over hard-line ideology in running Tehran.

Elsewhere

Lagos, Nigeria: Gunmen seized four American workers in Nigeria's southern oil region, and an Italian oil company said Wednesday that daily crude production had been cut by nearly 100, 000 barrels a day by the worst bombing to hit the petroleum industry in months.

Hanoi, Vietnam: Vietnam will put three pro-democracy activists on trial today for spreading subversive propaganda, the first of two trials scheduled this week as part of an ongoing crackdown against dissidents.