Briefs 1203


Striking high court throws Egypt into deeper chaos

CAIRO — Egypt’s rebellion of the judges against President Mohammed Morsi became complete on Sunday with the country’s highest court declaring an open-ended strike on the day it was supposed to rule on the legitimacy of two key assemblies controlled by allies of the Islamist leader.

The strike by the Supreme Constitutional Court and opposition plans to march on the presidential palace on Tuesday take the country’s latest political crisis to a level not seen in the nearly two years of turmoil since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in a popular uprising.

Judges from the country’s highest appeals court and its sister lower court were already on an indefinite strike, joining colleagues from other tribunals who suspended work last week to protest what they saw as Morsi’s assault on the judiciary.

The last time Egypt had an all-out strike by the judiciary was in 1919, when judges joined an uprising against British colonial rule.

The standoff began when Morsi issued decrees on Nov. 22 giving him near-absolute powers that granted himself and the Islamist-dominated assembly drafting the new constitution immunity from the courts.

Bersani wins Italy primary, heads to general vote

ROME — Pier Luigi Bersani, the head of Italy’s main center-left Democratic Party, won a runoff primary Sunday to be the main center-left candidate for Italy’s 2013 general elections — a vote that polls indicate could well be won by the Democratic Party given the utter disarray of the opposing center-right.

Preliminary results gave Bersani 60.8 percent of the vote compared to Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi’s 39.1 percent, with two-thirds of the votes counted.

Even before the results were released, Renzi conceded the victory to Bersani in a Twitter message, writing: “It was the right thing to try, it was beautiful to do it together. Thank you all from the heart.”

The primary had been closely watched since the Democratic Party has a significant lead in the polls over former Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right People of Freedom party, which has been in chaos following the media mogul’s 2011 downfall, a series of corruption scandals within party ranks and Berlusconi’s indecision over whether to run for a fourth term.

The 2013 general election — expected in March or April — will decide if Italy continues on the same path to financial health charted by Premier Mario Monti, appointed last year to save Italy from a Greek-style debt crisis. The former European commissioner was named to head a technical government after international markets lost confidence in then-premier Berlusconi’s ability to reign in Italy’s public debt and push through structural reforms.

Syrian warplanes bomb Damascus suburbs

BEIRUT — Syrian warplanes and artillery blasted parts of the capital Damascus and its rebellious suburbs on Sunday, part of what activists described as intense fighting as rebels try to push their way into the center of President Bashar Assad’s power base.

In central Syria, a car bomb killed at least 15 people, the official news agency reported.

The fighting over the past few weeks in Damascus is the most serious in the capital since July, when rebels captured several neighborhoods before a swift government counteroffensive swept them out.

The Britain-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighter jets struck twice in the suburb of Daraya as regime artillery pounded other districts just south of Damascus.

The Syrian air force also launched airstrikes on the northern city of Aleppo, some cities in the northern province of Idlib and the Mediterranean city of Latakia, the Observatory said. The group relies on reports from activists on the ground.

By wire sources