IRAQ Giancarlo Rodino is reluctantly, angrily packing his bags. The Italian nurse was one of several dozen foreign aid workers set to leave Iraq last week after the abduction of two female Italian volunteers in central Baghdad. "We're not going because we're scared," he said. "But it's useless to try to work when you have become a target."
In broad daylight last Tuesday, a group of heavily armed men dragged away Simona Torretta and Simona Pari, both 29, and two Iraqi volunteers from the office of their humanitarian agency, A Bridge for Baghdad. Speaking from the Iraqi capital, Rodino, 47, said he'd worked in recent months with both Italian women who, like most aid workers, didn't consider themselves targets. Rodino said of the culprits: "They're cowards, twice over: for taking aid workers and for taking women." At week's end, there was little sign of progress in efforts to secure their release.
European hostage taking is becoming distressingly routine: two French journalists were also still being held last week. Two Italians have been killed in the past five
The Milburn Return
BRITAIN Prime Minister Tony Blair brought key ally and ex-minister Alan Milburn back into his Cabinet. Milburn, who quit as Health Minister 14 months ago to spend more time with his family, will be responsible for strategy in elections expected next year a role previously held by Blair's political rival, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown.
EUROPEAN UNION The European Commission gave its first approval to genetically modified seeds. The 17 strains of maize seed, engineered by U.S. biotech firm Monsanto to resist certain insects, can now be grown anywhere in the E.U. Environmental groups fear cross-contamination of conventional crops.
POLAND Parliament unanimously passed a resolution demanding that the government seek reparations from Germany for the destruction and losses suffered by Poland as a result of "German aggression, occupation and genocide" during World War II. The move was seen as a response to pressure by the Prussian Claims Society, a group of Germans seeking compensation for property lost when they were forced out of territories handed to Poland after 1945 a claim angrily rejected by Poles. "I would like to underline that it was not us that started this spiral. It was the other side," said Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka.
BELARUS President Alexander Lukashenko announced a referendum on a constitutional amendment to allow him to run for a third term. Elected in 1994, Lukashenko won a referendum in 1996 to extend his initial five-year term by two years; Western observers criticized his 2001 re-election as unfair.
INDONESIA A suspected suicide car bombing outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta killed nine Indonesians and injured 182. Police said the attack bore the hallmarks of Jemaah Islamiah, a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda. Australian Prime Minister John Howard has been a staunch ally of the U.S. war on terror.
|MEANWHILE IN THE NETHERLANDS ...
Pass the Sauce
Dutch farmers have a hot tip for stopping hungry rabbits from nibbling at crops. They've been spraying their fields with the spicy American sauce Tabasco. One bite, they say, and the bunnies hop right off. The farmers are now trying to get the condiment recognized as a pesticide so it can qualify for subsidies.