Pope to address sex-abuse scandal

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI is deeply disturbed by a child sex-abuse scandal in Ireland and will write a letter to Catholics there on the church's response to a report that found the church shielded more than 100 child-abusing priests from the law, the Vatican said yesterday.

Benedict met at the Vatican with senior Irish clergy to discuss a possible response to the devastating report issued last month. A Vatican statement released after the 90-minute talks said the pope studied the report carefully and expressed his "profound regret."

The report found that church leaders in the Dublin Archdiocese failed to inform authorities about sexual abuse by priests, while police failed to pursue allegations under the belief that church figures were above the law.

- AP

Turkey bans Kurdish party

ANKARA, Turkey - Turkey's top court yesterday banned a pro-Kurdish political party on charges of ties to Kurdish rebels, a decision likely to disrupt a struggling reconciliation process between the state and minority Kurds.

Hasim Kilic, head of the Constitutional Court, said the court also expelled Democratic Society Party chairman Ahmet Turk and another legislator, Aysel Tugluk, from parliament, barring them and 35 other party members from joining any political party for five years.

Kilic said the party had become "a focal point of activities against the state's unity" with its "actions and ties to the terrorist organization" - a reference to the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has fought for autonomy from the Turkish state since 1984.

- AP

Uganda acts on female mutilation

KAMPALA, Uganda - Uganda's parliament has approved a bill banning female genital mutilation. Minister of Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo said that the law, passed without opposition late Thursday, could give offenders a life sentence.

Female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision, is prevalent in portions of West and East Africa to limit women's sexual activity. More than 3,000 girls are affected each December in northeastern Uganda.

The girl's clitoris and sometimes other genital parts are removed. Doctors say it eliminates any pleasure for females during sex and can lead to complications during childbirth. Female genital mutilation is illegal in more than a dozen African countries, although laws are rarely enforced.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Berlin's new airport will be named after Willy Brandt, the West German leader who championed East-West relations and won the Nobel Peace Prize, the city airport authority said yesterday. The new airport - an expansion of the former East Berlin's Schoenefeld airport - is due for completion by 2011. Brandt, who was chancellor from 1969 to 1974, died in 1992.