SERBIA The ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party, led by former paramilitary and indicted war criminal Vojislav Seselj, won 82 seats in parliamentary elections more than any other political party. The vote the first since Slobodan Milosevic's party was thrown out of power three years ago also saw the ex-strongman's own Socialist Party of Serbia just meet the threshold to return to parliament. Seselj's party advocates returning Serbian troops to Kosovo, downgrading ties with the U.S. and Europe, and suing NATO for reparations for the U.S.-led bombing of Belgrade in 1999. The Radicals failed to win the majority required to form a government, but got enough seats to ensure that any coalition of reformist parties that succeeds in doing so will probably fall before the year is out, triggering another election. Reform-minded Serbs, still a majority but splintered among several parties, are glumly comparing their country to post WW-I Germany, when a series of weak governments gave way to the Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler. "We live in a Weimar reality," said Djordje Vukadinovic, a Belgrade political scientist.
PORTUGAL Prosecutors brought formal charges against 10 high-profile suspects held in preventive custody since early 2003 in connection with a long-running pedophile scandal. Those indicted on child sex-abuse charges include a former chauffeur and handyman; a former director at the state-run Casa Pia children's
No Time to Lose
CYPRUS Turkish Cypriots inched closer to an agreement to reunite the island when veteran leader Rauf Denktash, who's resolutely opposed reunification, handed his rival Mehmet Ali Talat, who favors a deal, the task of forming a new government after last month's elections. Talat's priority is to restart stalled peace talks with the south before May 1, when Greek Cypriots are due to join the European Union. The goodwill generated since Denktash opened up the border last April will be tested if Talat succeeds in bringing both sides to the negotiating table next month. "The Turks will have to appear realistic, and reasonable to the world this time around," says Turkish Cypriot commentator Metin Munir. "There is not much room, or time, left to maneuver."
No Foul Play
EGYPT Egyptian and French officials ruled out terrorism as the cause of a plane crash early Saturday that killed all 148 passengers and crew, blaming a technical fault. The Boeing 737 belonging to Egyptian charter company Flash Airlines was carrying mostly French tourists returning to Paris . It plunged into the Red Sea shortly after takeoff. French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said France would do everything it could to help Egypt find out what caused the fault. A report Sunday said Flash Airlines was banned from flying to Switzerland after safety shortcomings were detected during a routine check at Zurich airport in October 2002.
AFGHANISTAN U.S. and U.N. officials sought to end a deadlock at a meeting to reach agreement on a new constitution for the country. The assembly, or loya jirga, broke down in chaos after 200 of the 502 delegates boycotted a vote on a number of controversial amendments. It reconvened only to stall again, reportedly over the issue of the rights of minority tribes.
GUATEMALA Conservative businessman and former Guatemala City Mayor Oscar Berger was elected President in a second-round runoff with 54% of the vote, easily beating center-left rival Alvaro Colom, who received 46%. Berger promised to boost the ailing economy by encouraging investment and stamping out the corruption that tainted the administration of outgoing President Alfonso Portillo.