THE MIDDLE EAST
Nothing to Hide, But in No Hurry to Comply
Ignoring a fresh U.S. call for a complete pullback from reoccupied Palestinian areas, Israel sent tanks and troops back into the city of Qalqiliya and three villages, while asking the U.N. to delay pending clarifications a fact-finding mission to investigate Israeli forces' attack on the Jenin refugee camp. Denying allegations of a massacre at Jenin, Israel insists that the U.N. inquiry include an investigation of Palestinian "terrorism" and that both sides agree on a framework for the U.N. team's activities. In Ramallah, the Greek and Turkish Foreign Ministers met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at his besieged headquarters and reported some progress in resolving the standoff at Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity. Nine youths and the bodies of two policemen were allowed to leave the church, where 250 people have been holed up for weeks.
Yugoslavia's former army commander turned himself in to the U.N. war-crimes tribunal but pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. General Dragoljub Ojdanic, who was army chief during the 1999 war in Kosovo, is the most senior war-crimes suspect to face charges after former President Slobodan Milosevic. He was the first to hand himself over after the Yugloslav government ordered 23 people to surrender or face possible arrest and extradition. "I have nothing to be ashamed of," he said.
In the most shocking incident of its kind in recent German history, a 19-year-old expelled pupil opened fire on school staff members, killing 13, as well as two students and a policeman, before turning the gun on himself. Police said the scene at the Gutenberg Gymnasium in the eastern city of Erfurt was a "picture of horror," with bodies strewn throughout the building. The shooting followed a similar revenge attack at a school outside Munich in February and came as parliament coincidentally voted to extend already strict controls on weapons ownership.
Scrambling to Save The Country's Soul
After the earthquake, the rescue work. French political leaders rallied behind President Jacques Chirac to crush the far-right National Front's candidate, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in the second round of presidential voting on May 5. While Le Pen who edged past Socialist Lionel Jospin to face center-right Chirac in the runoff promised another electoral shock, Chirac refused to debate him. Stating that Le Pen's "intolerance and hatred" made that impossible, Chirac said France's situation was grave, with "its soul, its cohesion, its role in Europe and the world" at stake.
A Slice of the Pie
A long-awaited summit on dividing the oil-rich Caspian Sea between its five surrounding states ended in complete disarray. The Caspian's status is still governed by a 1940 agreement between the U.S.S.R. and Iran, and the summit was meant to end a decade of bitter squabbling. But the meeting failed to adopt even a planned declaration after Iranian President Mohammed Khatami walked out and Turkmenistan accused Azerbaijan of intransigence over a disputed oil field. "More problems emerged than expected," admitted Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Authorities confirmed that an explosion that killed 16 people outside Africa's oldest synagogue was deliberate and said the act was planned by a man suspected of links to international Islamic groups. Investigators said the blast, caused by an exploding fuel truck, was similar to the attack on the U.S. embassy in Tanzania. Police arrested an uncle of the truck driver, accusing him of complicity in the incident.
Police arrested former President Pasteur Bizimungu and said he would face charges of illegal political activity and threats to state security. Bizimungu headed the first government of national unity after the 1994 genocide. He resigned two years ago over policy differences and set up his own political party, which was immediately banned. Police also detained former Public Works Minister Charles Ntakirutinka after seizing documents from his home.
The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) warned that more than 5 million people faced starvation as the effects of a regional drought worsened. Launching an appeal for urgent international funding to avert a humanitarian crisis, the WFP said the number needing emergency relief in the region was expected to double in the next few months. The agency is already trying to feed 2.6 million people in Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Government officials said an agreement had been reached to allow U.S. cooperation in antiterrorist operations near the Afghan border. Although the agreement limited U.S. involvement to "advisers" only, some reports said covert military teams had participated in attacks on suspected al-Qaeda hideouts. Afghanistan's interim government, meanwhile, released the first of hundreds of Pakistanis arrested last year.
Punishment for "Notorious" Priests
To broad disappointment among Roman Catholics and victims' advocates, U.S. cardinals ended an emergency Vatican meeting on sexual abuse by priests without adopting a retroactive zero-tolerance policy. The prelates agreed to ask the Vatican for permission to defrock "notorious" pedophile priests but left open the matter of those accused in just one or two past cases. At a conference in Dallas in June, the cardinals will shape a mandatory policy on the abuse issue, which has rocked the church in the U.S.
Rebels Get Personal
Maoist rebels blew up the family home of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba during a five-day general strike called as part of their campaign to overthrow the government and the monarchy. In the main cities the strike was only partially observed, but in the countryside nearly all businesses closed down. Two thousand people have died in the fighting since November.
A report by a Congressional committee stirred diplomatic consternation in Belfast and elsewhere after it named the I.R.A. as part of a global terror network based in Colombia. The report, compiled after a nine-month investigation, accused the I.R.A. of training Colombian guerrillas alongside Iranians, Cubans and possibly Basque separatists. Refusing an invitation to appear before the Committee, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said he was satisfied with the I.R.A.'s denial that it had sent anyone to train rebel groups in Colombia. "Irish Republicans pose no threat to U.S. national-security interests in Colombia," he added.
President Eduardo Duhalde faced his biggest crisis ever with the exit of yet another Economy Minister and the five-day closure of all banks. Duhalde named Roberto Lavagna as the country's sixth Economy Minister in 12 months, after the protest resignation of Jorge Remes Lenicov. Banks reopened for limited operations only after Congress passed a law making it almost impossible for consumers to withdraw cash.