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International brief ~ EU Parliament calls for national referendums on European Constitution

[JURIST] The European Parliament Friday called on all the members of the EU to hold referendums on the new EU Constitution (text here [PDF]) by May of next year. The constitution, which was approved by the 25 EU leaders in June, must be approved by either a referendum or a majority in each member state's legislature. Spain has already made plans to hold its referendum on February 20, 2005, but many other countries have made no plans. EU representatives from Britain have expressed indignation that the European Parliament would try and force the hands of the national governments on when the referendum must be held. BBC News has more.... As previously noted in JURIST's Paper Chase, Morgan Tsvangirai, President of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was aquitted Friday of charges alleging that he had attempted to assassinate Zimbabwe's current ruler, Robert Mugabe, and sieze control of the government. The case was being closely watched by those in Zimbabwe as Tsvangirai is the only real threat to Mugabe's 24-year rule of the country. Various human rights organizations had called the trial nothing more than a farce, and had condemned Mugabe for using the courts to dispose of his political rivals. The biggest breakthrough in the case came when Tsvangirai's defense attorney, George Bizos, managed to get a prosecution witness to admit that the government had paid him $200,000 (USD) to testify against Tsvangirai. BBC News has a profile of Tsvangirai here. Zimbabwe's Daily Times has more.... Two individuals charged with involvement in the terrorist attack that blew up a train in the western Indian state of Gujarat were released Friday in compliance with a court order issued Wednesday. Judge Sonia Gokani, appointed to the POTA court in Ahmedabad, ruled that none of the witnesses gathered for testimony had been able to place Yusuf Patel or Imran Gani at the scene or link them in any way to the bombings. The Indian police Special Investigating Team (SIT) had requested their release, admitting that none of the evidence tied the two to the 2002 attack on the train that killed over 59 Hindus and sparked riots in Gujarat that left more than 1000 dead. Ninety-nine other individuals have been charged with some form of involvement in the bombing, but none of the trials have started. The Hindustan Times has more.... UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan requested more assistance in the role of peacekeeping from EU nations Thursday. At a National Forum for Europe meeting held in Ireland, Annan pointed out that less than 10 percent of all peacekeeping forces come from EU countries, and in Africa the ratio falls to less than 5 percent; he added that forces were desperately needed for UN peacekeeping, where demand is rapidly outstripping supply. The UN News Centre has more. Read the transcript of Annan's speech here.

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