The Baltimore Sun


Last king of Afghanistan

Mohammad Zahir Shah, the last king of Afghanistan, who returned from three decades of exile to bless his war-battered country's fragile course toward democracy, died yesterday in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai said.

Well-meaning, if weak, during his 40-year reign, the king was a symbol of yearned-for peace and unity in a nation still struggling to emerge from the turmoil that began with his 1973 ouster in a palace coup.

When the fall of the Taliban at the end of 2001 offered fresh hope for national reconciliation, many clamored for the king's return - not only from exile but to retake the throne.

The king returned to Afghanistan from Italy in April 2002, but stood aside in favor of a young anti-Taliban tribesman, Mr. Karzai. A new constitution passed in January 2004 consigned the monarchy to history with Mohammad Zahir Shah named the ceremonial "Father of the Nation," a position that dissolves with his death.

"The people are relying on you, and you should not forget them," the king told the Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, which ratified the charter. "I hope you will try your best to maintain peace, stability and the unity of the Afghan people."

Since his return, he left Afghanistan several times for medical treatment.

Mr. Karzai, who announced the king's death during a news conference broadcast live nationwide, called the king a "symbol of national unity" who brought development and education to the country. The king remained a leader in his final years but one who didn't seek the power of a throne, he said.

He said Afghanistan would observe three days of mourning.


Leader of Jewish sect

Rabbi Sherwin Wine, the leader of a sect of Judaism that saw the religion as a culture instead of a faith, died Saturday in Farmington Hills, Mich.

Rabbi Wine, who founded the first congregation of Humanistic Judaism in suburban Detroit in 1963, was killed in an automobile accident in Essaouira, Morocco, according to the Web site of the Society for Humanistic Judaism. He and his partner, Richard McMains, were on vacation when a vehicle hit their taxi.

The cabdriver also was killed, while Mr. McMains remained hospitalized, the Web site said.

Rabbi Wine, who lived in Birmingham, Mich., founded the Birmingham Temple in 1963 and helped establish the Society for Humanistic Judaism in 1969. He retired in 2003.

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