THE MIDDLE EAST
Peace Buried in the Rubble That Was Jenin
The fallout from Israel's offensive in the Jenin refugee camp seemed certain to jeopardize peace efforts, despite Israeli assurances that the operation was aimed at rooting out potential suicide bombers. Describing conditions after the two-week siege as "horrifying beyond belief," U.N. Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larson said Israel had "lost all moral ground" in the conflict. But U.S. President George W. Bush defended Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a "man of peace," saying Israel was meeting a timetable to pull back from Palestinian territories. With the army still encircling West Bank towns, Yasser Arafat's Ramallah compound and Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, the U.N. Security Council reaffirmed a call for Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian territories and voted to send a fact-finding team to Jenin.
An independent report into the 1995 Srebrenica massacre blamed Bosnian Serb forces led by General Ratko Mladic for the deaths of up to 8,000 Muslim men, but it also strongly criticized Dutch peacekeeping forces and political leaders. After a few days' reflection, the entire Dutch government resigned. Prime Minister Wim Kok said the international community "is anonymous and cannot take responsibility in the name of the victims and survivors of Srebrenica. I can and I do."
Echo of Sept. 11
When an aircraft crashed into the 30-story Pirelli tower in the center of Milan, many feared a repeat of Sept. 11. Initial investigations revealed that minutes before the crash, 67-year-old Luigi-Gino Fasulo, pilot of the four-seater tourist plane, had radioed air traffic control that he had landing-gear problems. Fasulo and two women died and 29 other people were injured. "This had nothing to do with the haunting images of the Twin Towers," said Interior Minister Claudio Scajola. "Sure, tragedy struck, but it could have been worse."
The first major trial of suspected Islamic terrorists linked to the al-Qaeda network got off to a turbulent start in Frankfurt as the court evicted one of the accused for shouting threats and insults in Arabic. Four Algerians face charges of planning to detonate a bomb in the French city of Strasbourg in December 2000. Federal prosecutors say they and a fifth accused all trained in camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan from 1998 and belonged to an international terrorist organization called the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat. The trial is expected to last up to 12 months, and the defendants face up to 10 years in jail if convicted.
Swiss banks will be ordered to return $535 million of embezzled money to Nigeria. The money was stashed in Switzerland by the African state's former military ruler, General Sani Abacha. The Nigerian government has agreed to drop criminal proceedings against the family of the late dictator and allow them to retain $100 million of the estimated $3 billion that Abacha was alleged to have looted during his five-year rule. Nigeria will eventually recover more than $1 billion from banks around the world.
Not Over Yet
At least 17 members of the pro-Moscow Chechen police were killed in an ambush in central Grozny. On the previous day six Russian soldiers died and 11 were injured in a mine attack, reportedly in retaliation for Russian mortar strikes on the southern village of Gorgachi, which killed two children and a pregnant woman. Two hours after the Grozny explosion, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared in his State of the Union address that the "military stage" of the conflict in the rebel republic was over.
Bin Laden Tapes
Two Middle East television stations broadcast videotapes showing Osama bin Laden. Both tapes were compilations of film apparently made in December, together with narration, graphics and footage of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. The first tape, shown on the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera station, included film of Ahmed Al Haznawi, identified as one of the hijackers, reading out his will. On the second tape, televised by the Middle East Broadcast Corp., bin Laden described the hijackers as "our brothers, the martyrs," called the attacks the "blessed operations" and boasted that they cost the U.S. $1 trillion.
Four months after a presidential election led to at least 35 deaths in violent demonstrations, Madagascar looked to be on the verge of an outcome. The two candidates, incumbent Didier Ratsiraka and self-declared President Marc Ravalomanana, agreed to a recount of the votes, and, if that produces no clear victor, to a new ballot under international supervision. In the election Ratsiraka apparently won 42% of the vote to Ravalomanana's 46%, but the Supreme Court annulled the result last week.
Around 10 million workers, mainly from 220 or so state-run companies, went on strike to protest new labor laws, closing ports, steel plants and banks. Trade unionists denounced the laws, which will make it easier to sack staff and speed up the privatization process, as "anti-worker" and warned that they will step up protests.
Homecoming for an Exiled King
Some people hadn't slept all night and others danced in the streets as former monarch Mohammed Zahir Shah came home after nearly 30 years in exile. Fears for his safety had delayed his return from Italy several times, but the country's most dangerous places still seemed to be the southern plains and the eastern mountains. A U.S. warplane accidentally dropped a laser-guided bomb on Canadian soldiers training near Kandahar, killing four, and in the mountain valleys southeast of Gardez, British marines began their first combat deployment since 1982.
In a move to further distance his administration from the British colonial legacy, Hong Kong's Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa announced a revamp of the civil service. Under the new system three senior secretaries and 11 ministers, political appointees chosen by Tung, will run the territory's government as of July 1, the start of his second five-year term of office.
By Popular Demand
Xanana Gusãmo won a landslide victory to become East Timor's first elected President. The former freedom fighter won 82.7% of the vote and will be inaugurated on May 20 as the leader of the world's newest independent country. In 1999 troops and militias aligned with the Jakarta government rampaged through the countryside, killing hundreds of people and creating 260,000 refugees following a U.N.-sponsored referendum, in which voters favored secession from Indonesia.
His ejection lasted only 48 hours, and last week Hugo Chávez was back in the presidential palace in Caracas. After resigning under pressure from the military in the face of violent demonstrations a week before, an apparently chastened Chávez pledged to change his policies and his demeanor. The new Chávez, however, seemed a lot like the old, blaming political foes and the media for his troubles.