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News Briefs

San Francisco Mayor Unapologetic About Same-Sex Marriages


A year into his job, Mayor Gavin Newsom could hardly be more popular. A survey last weekend put his approval rating among San Franciscans at more than 80 percent.

Polls show a mainstay of his support has been his stance on same-sex marriage. But with Democrats reeling from Sen. John Kerry’s defeat on Tuesday, Newsom’s decision in February to open City Hall to thousands of gay weddings has become the subject of considerable debate among Democrats.

Most of the talk has been confined behind closed doors, with some Democrats suggesting even before the election that Newsom had played into President Bush’s re-election game plan by inviting a showdown on the divisive same-sex marriage issue.

But when Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a fellow Democrat and Newsom supporter, answered a question about the subject at a news conference outside her San Francisco home on Wednesday, the prickly discussion spilled into the open.

“I believe it did energize a very conservative vote,” Feinstein said of the same-sex marriages. “I think it gave them a position to rally around. I’m not casting a value judgment. I’m just saying I do believe that’s what happened.”

She added: “So I think that whole issue has been too much, too fast, too soon. And people aren’t ready for it.”

Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who was a witness at the first same-sex marriage at San Francisco City Hall, said she received a flurry of angry e-mails on Thursday from people upset about Feinstein’s public dressing down of Newsom.

Iraqi Premier Calls For Greater German-French Involvement In His


Iraq’s interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, appealed on Thursday to what he called the “spectator” countries in the war in Iraq -- specifically France and Germany -- to become more involved in creating peace and prosperity there.

“I want to take this opportunity to call on the countries which are content to have a spectator role, to help us build a better Iraq,” Allawi told reporters in Rome, where he stopped on the eve of a meeting in Brussels, Belgium, with European Union leaders. Asked afterward if he was referring to France and Germany, strong critics of the U.S.-led war, he told Agence France-Presse, “Yes.”

Allawi is scheduled to meet in Brussels with President Jacques Chirac of France and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany in what could be an early test of any changing positions in Europe after President Bush’s re-election.

Allawi said his comments were not intended to be critical, but to win as much support as possible to make a stable and democratic Iraq a reality.

“We know there were countries that were against the war in Iraq,” he said. “But we have to look to the future and to forget the past. And I invite all these countries to build a commercial relationship with Iraq based on reciprocal interests and our partnership and friendship.”

U.S. Recognizes Macedonia, Despite Greek Concerns


The United States announced Thursday that it would recognize a former Yugoslav republic as the Republic of Macedonia, touching off protests in Athens and celebrations in the streets of Skopje, the tiny nation’s capital.

Macedonia, a member of the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq, gained independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991. Since then, Greece has opposed official recognition of its name, arguing that it implies territorial ambitions on the northern Greek province of Macedonia.

Greece imposed a trade embargo on the landlocked nation in 1994 and insisted that it enter the United Nations under the provisional name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, pending resolution of the name dispute. Nearly a decade of subsequent U.N.-brokered talks made little headway.

After learning of the decision by the United States, the Greek foreign minister, Petros Molyviatis, summoned Thomas J. Miller, the U.S. ambassador to Greece, to voice Greece’s displeasure. Molyviatis also canceled a trip to Brussels, Belgium, where a meeting of the European Union had been expected to deal with efforts to resolve the name dispute.

Dip In Oil Prices Spurs Stocks Higher


As the price of oil fell Thursday and President Bush began to lay out his agenda for a second term, share prices rose sharply, pushing a key market gauge out of the doldrums for the first time since February.

The rally was also powered by some good earnings news and the announcement that Altria, the owner of Philip Morris and Kraft Foods, was considering separating the company into two or three groups. Altria’s stock rose 8.5 percent and accounted for almost a fifth of Thursday’s 177-point jump in the Dow Jones industrial average.

The gains, which were bigger than the bounce during Wednesday’s first post-election trading, pushed the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index up 18.47 points, or 1.6 percent, to a high for the year of 1,161.67. The index is up 4.5 percent for the year.

The Nasdaq composite index climbed 19.30 points, or 1 percent, to 2,023.63 and is up 1 percent for the year. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 1.8 percent, to 10,314.76, but is down 1.3 percent for the year.