TEL AVIV, Israel

Sharon plans for new broad coalition

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said yesterday he planned to replace his minority government with a broad coalition to push through his Gaza withdrawal plan and promised not to launch attacks on Palestinians unless provoked during the Palestinians’ election campaign.

Sharon’s governing coalition has disintegrated in recent days after the premier fired the moderate Shinui Party for voting against the budget, leaving him with only 40 seats in the 120-member Knesset. If Sharon cannot patch together a new coalition, he will be forced to call early elections, endangering his plans to pull out of Gaza next year.

Sharon said he will court the opposition Labor Party and ultra-Orthodox parties.

“We are standing before fateful decisions, and it’s important that there be a broad and stable coalition,” Sharon told a gathering of Israeli journalists.

He reiterated his intention to carry out his “disengagement” plan, under which Israel would withdraw from the Gaza Strip and four small West Bank settlements next year.

 

BAGHDAD, Iraq

Central Baghdad, Green Zone bombed

Mortar barrages hammered the heavily fortified Green Zone and elsewhere in central Baghdad yesterday, killing at least one person and underscoring the vulnerability of even Iraq’s best-protected areas ahead of national elections.

Also yesterday, a car bomb exploded next to a Bradley fighting vehicle near Beiji, about 155 miles north of Baghdad, wounding two U.S. soldiers and two Iraqi National Guardsmen, said Master Sgt. Cynthia Weasner of the 1st Infantry Division. No other details were available.

President Bush insisted that crucial elections set for Jan. 30 must not be delayed, rejecting calls from more than a dozen political parties there to postpone them until security at the polls can be ensured.

“It’s time for Iraqi citizens to go to the polls,” Bush told reporters in the Oval Office yesterday.

The Pentagon has said U.S. troop strength in Iraq will be raised from 138,000 to about 150,000 by mid-January in order to provide security for the election.

 

WASHINGTON

FDA delays approval of female sex-drive drug

A hormone patch that works to restore a woman’s sex drive should not be approved until more studies are completed to determine the drug’s risks, federal health advisers said yesterday.

Several members of the Food and Drug Administration advisory committee said they were not satisfied with the number of women studied so far, the length of the studies and the modest benefits of the drug.

Procter & Gamble sought to market the testosterone patch Intrinsa to women who lost their libido after their ovaries were removed. The company told the panel it had not raised significant safety concerns in clinical trials, and it urged the panel not to delay approval of the first drug for female sexual dysfunction.

 

PUGHTOWN, Pa.

The United Methodist Church defrocked a lesbian minister who lives with her partner yesterday for violating the denomination’s ban on actively gay clergy — the first such decision by the church in 17 years.

A 13-member jury made up of Methodist clergy convicted the Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud on the second day of her church trial. Methodist law bars “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” from ministry. Nine votes were necessary for a conviction and the jury voted 12 to 1 to find Stroud guilty.

It then voted 7 to 6 to defrock Stroud, the bare majority necessary in the penalty phase of the trial, though her supportive congregation in Philadelphia has said Stroud can continue performing most of her duties.

 

-Compiled from Daily wire reports

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