Hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets of the capital yesterday to oppose a referendum that would eliminate term limits for President Hugo Chavez and help him establish a socialist state in Venezuela.

CARACAS, Venezuela
Thousands protest Chavez referendum

Blowing whistles, waving placards and shouting “Not like this!” the marchers carried Venezuelan flags and dressed in blue – the chosen color of the opposition – as they streamed along Bolivar Avenue.

“This is a movement by those of us who oppose a change to this country’s way of life,” said former lawmaker Elias Matta. “There can’t be a communist Venezuela, and that’s why our society is reacting this way.”

The rally marked the close of the opposition’s campaign against the proposed constitutional changes, which will be submitted to a vote Sunday. Chavez plans to lead rallies in favor of the reforms today.

CAIRO, Egypt
Bin Laden urges Europeans to leave Iraq in new tape

Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden called on Europeans to stop helping the United States in the war in Afghanistan, according to excerpts of a new audiotape broadcast yesterday on Al-Jazeera television.

Bin Laden said it was unjust for the United States to have invaded Afghanistan for sheltering him after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, saying he was the “only one responsible” for the deadly assaults on New York and Washington.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack dismissed the new tape as typical of bin Laden’s tactics and expressed faith in the European allies.

“I think our NATO allies understand quite clearly what is at stake in Afghanistan as well as elsewhere around the world in fighting the war on terror,” he told reporters.

Hollywood offers new compromise to striking writers

Hollywood studios presented a sweetened contract offer to striking film and TV writers yesterday, and negotiators requested a four-day recess to consider it, the producers’ organization said.

The talks will resume Tuesday, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said in a statement. There was no immediate comment from the Writers Guild of America.

Talks had been held under a media blackout since Monday.
The producers said the new offer, dubbed the “New Economic Partnership,” included payments for work shown on the Internet, the key sticking points in the talks.

Musharraf vows to end state of emergency soon

Pervez Musharraf, newly sworn in as a civilian president and minus his trademark general’s uniform, promised yesterday to lift the state of emergency by Dec. 16 and restore Pakistan’s constitution ahead of parliamentary elections.

Musharraf urged opposition parties to participate in the election and help strengthen democracy, returning to his usually forceful persona after blinking back tears Wednesday when he resigned as commander of Pakistan’s military and ended a 46-year army career.

“This is a milestone in the transition of Pakistan to the complete essence of democracy,” he told officials, diplomats and generals at his oath-taking ceremony in the presidential palace.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

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