World Watch

4 minute read
Penny Campbell

Strange Tentfellows
Muammar Gaddafi was the Saddam Hussein of his day; America’s Public Enemy No. 1. Ronald Reagan sent jets to bomb his compound in 1986 after Libyan agents blew up a Berlin disco popular with U.S. soldiers. Gaddafi’s regime sold arms to the I.R.A., brought down Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie in 1988, killed an unarmed policewoman with a blast of machine gun fire from its London embassy, and still supports Robert Mugabe’s despotism in Zimbabwe. So seeing Tony Blair shake Gaddafi’s hand last week in a ceremonial tent near Tripoli was a head-snapping diplomatic moment. But to Blair, the reward justified the awkwardness: after years of negotiations with London and Washington, Gaddafi has crated his nascent nuclear and chemical weapons programs. Moreover, he’s no friend of al-Qaeda, which loathes his secular state, and is willing to share intelligence to bring it down. The idea that a pariah regime like Gaddafi’s can find friends and prosperity through improved behavior is one Blair and George W. Bush want the whole Middle East to register. A new $200 million oil exploration deal for the Anglo-Dutch giant Shell, with more in the pipeline, doesn’t hurt either. For his part, Gaddafi is tired of isolation and sanctions, which have cost Libya tens of billions of dollars. Yes, he’s a dictator, not a democrat of the sort Bush and Blair say they want to foster in the Middle East. But at least he’s

inside their tent.

The Killing Continues
KOSOVO Two U.N. peacekeepers died in an ambush as the fallout continued from the worst wave of violence to sweep Kosovo since the 1999 war. NATO troops and international police arrested almost 200 suspects in the previous week’s riots, in which ethnic Albanian mobs targeted the Serbian minority, leaving 28 dead. U.N. agencies estimate that almost 4,000 Serbs were displaced, 366 homes destroyed, and 41 churches burned.

Broken Truce?
IVORY COAST Former rebels and the opposition withdrew from the power-sharing government after 25 people were killed in clashes between security forces and demonstrators protesting President Laurent Gbagbo’s failure to fully implement a January, 2003 peace agreement that had ended five months of civil war. Gbagbo’s government called the protests an “armed revolt”; the opposition said it was a peaceful march.

In a Diplomatic Hole
MEXICO The rescue of six British cavers trapped for a week in flooded caverns provoked a diplomatic spat between the Mexican and U.K. governments. The British Ministry of Defense denied Mexican news reports that the men were looking for uranium, and said they were part of a military caving association on a training exercise. Mexican authorities detained all 13 members of the expedition for questioning.

Steady Grip on Power
EL SALVADOR The right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) won the presidential election for the fourth time in a row. Its candidate, Tony Saca, took 58% of the vote compared to 36% for his main rival, Schafik Handal of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, the former guerrilla coalition.

MEANWHILE IN THE U.K. …
Attack of the Clichés The phrase “at the end of the day” topped a poll of the most irritating clichés in the English language. The poll, conducted by the Plain English Campaign among its 5,000 supporters, identified other terms deemed past their sell-by date: “to be honest,” “like” and “thinking outside the box.” Fortunately for the unimaginative — and headline writers the world over — some old favorites escaped sanction. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, after all.

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