EU diplomats meet with Israel
JERUSALEM, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- A high-level European Union delegation met in Jerusalem with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, hoping to end the conflict in Gaza, officials said.
Livni is also the acting prime minister.
"We would like very much to obtain a cease-fire, the sooner the better. And in that direction we are going to keep on working and the cooperation with Egypt is going to be fundamental," said Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief.
Voice of America reported Monday that the Israeli government has offered assurances of cooperation and humanitarian access, but gave no indication that a cease-fire with Hamas is imminent.
"I can understand the desire of the international community to see the region calm. This is our dream as well," Livni said. "This is what we are looking for. Unfortunately, there are those who cannot accept the idea of living in peace in this region."
Describing Hamas as a terrorist organization linked to Hezbollah in Lebanon, to Syria, and to Iran, she said Israel's fight against Hamas goes beyond self defense.
"What we are doing represents the battle in this region in the fight against extremism and terror," Livni said.
Judge OKs more time to indict Blagojevich
CHICAGO, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- A federal judge in Chicago Monday granted prosecutors more time to indict Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The judge granted prosecutors a 90-day extension, meaning they will have until April 7 to return a grand jury indictment against Blagojevich, Chicago Public Radio reported.
Blagojevich has been accused in a federal complaint of corruption, including trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. In addition to the federal investigation, an Illinois House panel is determining whether it will recommend impeachment proceedings to the full House.
Last week, prosecutors asked the courts to extend that deadline because the case against Blagojevich was complicated and because courts were not in session during the holidays, Chicago Public Radio reported.
When prosecutors announced federal corruption charges against Blagojevich in December, they filed a criminal complaint. By law, prosecutors then had 30 days to present their case to a grand jury and get an indictment.
Franken declares he's won U.S. Senate seat
ST. PAUL, Minn., Jan. 5 (UPI) -- Democrat Al Franken, with a Canvassing Board ruling in hand, declared Monday he has won the U.S. Senate seat from Republican Norm Coleman, who hasn't conceded.
"After 62 days of careful and painstaking hand inspection of nearly 3 million ballots, after hours and hours of hard work by election officials and volunteers across this state, I am proud to stand before you as the next senator from Minnesota," Franken said at a news conference outside his Minneapolis townhouse with his wife Franni at his side.
He called his 225-vote win following a recount of the Nov. 4 election that initially gave Coleman a 215-vote margin "incredibly humbling" because of the closeness off the vote and the responsibility of the job before him. He said he's "ready to go to Washington and get to work just as soon as possible."
He also acknowledged that "this isn't an easy day for Norm Coleman and his family, and I know because that Franni and I and our kids have had plenty of time over the last couple months to contemplate what this would be like if the election turned out differently."
But Coleman attorney Tony Trimble said it's not over yet, despite the state Canvassing Board's ruling, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.
"This process isn't at an end. It is now just at the beginning. We will now contest the results," Trimble said.
That election contest -- a lawsuit -- bars Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a Democrat, from signing the election certificate needed to make Franken's victory official. Under state law, any court challenges must be settled first.
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told Congressional Quarterly there will likely be an attempt to seat Franken this week. The new senators are to be sworn in Tuesday.
Coleman is expected to make a statement on Tuesday.
Court rules against breakaway churches
SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- The California Supreme Court Monday ruled churches that disaffiliate from national denominations may not retain title to church property and assets.
The court found that the property of St. James Episcopal Church in Newport Beach, Calif., does not belong to the congregation, but rather to the national church, the Los Angeles Times said. The congregation left the national church following the 2003 ordination of V. Gene Robinson, a gay man, as bishop of New Hampshire.
"When it disaffiliated from the general church, the local church did not have the right to take the church property with it," said Justice Ming W. Chin, who authored the court's unanimous decision.
Monday's ruling may complicate decisions by local churches considering disaffiliation, the newspaper said. A growing number of Protestant congregations in the United States have been dissenting on decisions by national churches, mainly on issues of sexual orientation and gender.
Seven hundred conservative Episcopal congregations decided last month to organize a dissident church in North America, the Times said.
The Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, suggested the ruling would encourage congregations to remain with their national organizations.
Eric Sohlgren, an attorney for St. James Parish, said the ruling might discourage local congregations from affiliating with national churches to begin with. Sohlgren said St. James night appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Several other denominations -- including Methodists, Presbyterians and Seventh-Day Adventists -- joined the Episcopal Church in the court case.