DIRE DAWA, Ethiopia — When drought and food shortages hit, it is the very young who suffer first, and most. Weighing only 10 pounds, Ayaan is among nearly 100,000 Ethiopian children whose lives are at risk. Just four days before her first birthday, she is lighter than an average 3-month-old baby. A clinic at Kersi, about 15 miles outside Ethiopia’s second city Dire Dawa, has seen an increasing number of such cases in recent weeks, as have locations across the south and west of the country. Much of the land is used to grow the cash-crop narcotic known as khat. In more than a dozen villages outside the city, this reporter witnessed groups of mainly young men, but also some women, getting high in the shade on the chewed leaves. Khat is an appetite suppressant, and local culture means that children often eat only after adults. As the doctor at the Kersi clinic told The Washington Times, “if parents are on khat, the whole family goes hungry.”
DUBLIN — EU foreign ministers faced mounting confusion at a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday in an attempt to salvage a political union of the 27-nation bloc after a veto by Irish voters. Some are urging other EU countries to press ahead with ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, even without Ireland’s approval, while others are demanding that the pact be scrapped altogether. “The rules are absolutely clear: If all 27 countries do not pass the Lisbon Treaty it cannot pass into law,” said British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. French European Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet told French radio that there was “no other solution” than for Ireland to hold a second popular referendum, akin to the scenario in which Ireland rejected an EU treaty in 2001 before passing it during a second attempt a year later.
DUBLIN — The party once led by the current European Union ambassador to Washington is claiming that the U.S. is actively opposing European integration, posing a potential embarrassment as Prime Minister Bertie Ahern prepares to address a joint session of Congress today. Lucinda Creighton, a spokeswoman for Ireland’s largest opposition party, Fine Gael, said in a web posting that “U.S. foreign policy has traditionally been opposed to EU integration.” “The U.S. supports the EU as an economic bloc but nothing more. The idea of a politically strong EU, acting as a check or counterbalance on the U.S. does not sit well with our trans-Atlantic friends,” said Creighton, a member of Ireland’s parliament.
DUBLIN — Before his recent resignation, outgoing Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern prefaced the annual St. Patrick”s Day pilgrimage to the White House by predicting “a hard year” ahead for the Irish economy. The banking crisis and credit crunch in the United States, as well as the falling dollar, worry Irish policy-makers. Ireland has 25 percent of its trade in dollars and has bet much of its recent economic boom on a 12 percent corporate tax rate — an enormous incentive for U.S. multinationals such as Intel and Microsoft to run pan-European operations out of Ireland. Google has the headquarters of its European and Middle East operations in Dublin. “The company is very pleased with how the Dublin operation continues to develop,” a Google spokesman said.
DUBLIN — Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern announced yesterday that he will step down next month after accusations of corruption. Ireland achieved record economic growth and peace with Northern Ireland during Mr. Ahern’s 11-year tenure, but an ongoing inquest into the prime minister’s personal finances has undermined his record. When Mr. Ahern became prime minister in 1997, Ireland was three years into a period of soaring economic growth and employment. One year later, Mr. Ahern left his mother’s funeral to finalize Northern Ireland’s Good Friday peace agreement. Tony Blair, the British prime minister at the time, praised Mr. Ahern’s role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland. “He will always be remembered … for transforming relations between Britain and the Irish Republic,” Mr. Blair said.
DUBLIN — Ireland’s Prime Minister Bertie Ahern this morning announced his resignation after 11 years in power, Mr. Ahern’s tenure saw Ireland achieve record economic growth, with Northern Ireland at peace. However, a recent inquest into Ahern’s personal finances saw questions raised over almost $781,000 in payments. Ahern will formally step down on May 6, after addressing Congress in Washington and receiving the Japanese prime minister in Dublin. “I have done no wrong and wronged no one,” said a visibly emotional Ahern at a press conference on the steps outside Dublin’s government buildings this morning. He said he had “never done anything to corrupt my office.”
DUBLIN — The resignation of Ian Paisley Jr. has prompted speculation that his octogenarian father, Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley Sr., will step down as well. With his father at his side, the younger Mr. Paisley quit his post as junior minister last week over links to a real estate developer from whom he bought a house. Known to locals as “Young Paisley,” he has not been cited for any crime nor has there been anything more than an implication of something inappropriate afoot. Still, the scandal was enough to force him out of the cabinet, although he will continue to serve in the national legislature.
PRISTINA, Kosovo — A torched embassy building in Belgrade was the latest target of Serbian anger yesterday, as the United States faced growing consequences of its support for Kosovo’s independence. Despite billions of dollars spent on security upgrades in the decade since al Qaeda bombed two embassies in Africa — including $1 billion budgeted for 2008 — rioters managed to break into an outer embassy building in Belgrade and set it ablaze, to cheers from rioting mobs outside. Embassies have been either rebuilt or reinforced with multiple security barriers whenever possible.