You too are parents and can understand our anxiety. Spare the lives of our boys." Antonella Agliana beamed these words to Iraq via al-Jazeera, hoping to elicit sympathy from the insurgents who held three Italian hostages, including her brother Maurizio. Three days before, word of a different videotape, which al-Jazeera declined to air, had galvanized Italy. It showed a fourth captive, Fabrizio Quattrocchi, calmly saying, "I'll show you how an Italian dies," before taking a bullet in the neck. Iraq 's continuing turmoil has been boosting antiwar feeling in Italy, but last week, public solidarity with Agliana and the other captives was intense.
The government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi tried to extricate the hostages through secret talks, and denied reports it was paying a ransom. But when Berlusconi crowed that, with the imminent departure of Spanish troops from Iraq, Italy was now Washington 's closest ally on the Continent, an Iraqi mediator declared his remarks "inopportune" but said he understood the men were still alive. About 50 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq in the past month, as insurgents try to scare away contractors, aid workers and other civilians vital to reconstruction. There's no fixed pattern in how the captives are treated. A Swiss couple was released unharmed last week, but a Danish abductee was confirmed dead. Five unharmed Japanese hostages found their roughest ride
Following the Money
UNITED NATIONS Secretary General Kofi Annan launched an independent inquiry into allegations of corruption relating to the U.N.'s Iraq oil-for-food program. The panel is to investigate claims that top U.N. officials were among those involved in defrauding the $67 billion program.
BRITAIN In raids in northern and central England, police arrested 10 people of North African and Iraqi Kurd origin on suspicion of terrorism. Authorities refused to comment on reports that the 10 were planning a bomb attack on soccer club Manchester United's stadium, but stepped up security at the ground.
SPAIN Just days after taking office, new PM José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero arrived in Casablanca for discussions on terrorism and illegal immigration with his Moroccan counterpart, Driss Jettou. "This visit is much more significant than just going to eat a bowl of couscous," Spain 's new director general of communications, Javier Valenzuela, told TIME. "We want to show the world that Morocco, an Islamic nation, and Spain, a Christian one, are united in the fight against terrorism."
CYPRUS Greek Cypriots ignored the pleas of the E.U., the U.N. and the U.S. and voted by a margin of three to one to reject a U.N. plan that would have reunited the divided island after 30 years of armed standoff. Turkish Cypriots backed the plan. Ankara announced that Turkish troops will now stay on the island indefinitely and called for international recognition for Turkish Cyprus as a separate state. Some Greek Cypriots voted against the plan because they feared investment in the less developed north would lure tourists away from their side of the island.
The Big Thaw
LIBYA The U.S. eased economic sanctions against Muammar Gaddafi's regime, allowing a resumption of oil imports to the U.S. and most commercial activities. Gaddafi has pledged to end his WMD program.
MEANWHILE IN BRITAIN ...
The English National Opera has banned its employees from using the traditional showbiz greeting "darling" because it might constitute sexual harassment. New guidelines on workplace protocol also outlaw suggestive remarks or lewd conduct. But old-school thespians need not despair: so far, at least,"luvvie" and "sweetie" have escaped censure.