World Watch

6 minute read

Albanian Insurgents Provoke Strong Backlash
The risk of renewed ethnic war drew closer when 10 members of the Macedonian security forces were killed in an ambush by Albanian extremists. The assaults triggered retaliatory strikes by government forces, who attacked several Albanian villages with helicopter gunships and artillery. Masked ethnic Macedonian civilians, outraged at the rebel ambush, rampaged through Albanian communities smashing shop windows and beating residents — the first time civilians took to the streets since violence first erupted a month ago. The rebels say they are fighting for Albanian rights but have yet to distinguish their claims from those of existing Albanian parties already in government. In Washington, George W. Bush met Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski and promised to “support the necessary steps Macedonia is taking.”

Next Battle, Please
Prime Minister Tony Blair cleared the way for a general election by announcing that the country was winning its battle against foot-and-mouth disease. Blair had earlier postponed local elections from May 3 to June 7 to avoid a campaign during a national emergency. Analysts said that this week he would also call the general election for June 7 to take advantage of the double-digit lead that polls show his Labour Party enjoys over the opposition Conservatives.

The E.U.’s Future
German proposals for a strong European executive with more legislative and economic powers drew a cool response from other E.U. countries. The plan, drawn up by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s Social Democratic Party, would create a new European legislative chamber to take the place of the Council of Ministers, and would give the European Parliament total control over the European Union budget. France’s European Affairs Minister, Pierre Moscovici, summarily rejected the plan. Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands reacted positively, but Austria and Denmark warned against the creation of an E.U. “superstate.”

Damage Done
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ordered Britain to pay damages to the relatives of 12 people, 10 of them members of the Irish Republican Army, shot dead in Northern Ireland between 1982 and 1992. The killings, mostly carried out by security forces, were not declared unlawful but the judges said they had been improperly investigated. Responses to the ruling split along sectarian lines. Nationalists said it confirmed that state killings were covered up. Unionist First Minister David Trimble described the decision as “astonishing and perverse.” Britain is considering an appeal.

The Pilgrim Pope Seeks Forgiveness
Before he arrived in Greece Pope John Paul II was reviled by Greek Orthodox hard-liners as “the grotesque, two-horned monster of Rome.” But protesters were disarmed by the frail Pontiff’s entreaty for God’s pardon of 1,000 years of Roman Catholic sins against the Orthodox Church. The Pope’s six-day pilgrimage continued in Syria and Malta.

Intifadeh Report
Israeli and Palestinian leaders were considering their responses to a report by a U.S.-led commission investigating the violence that began last September. The report will not be made public until both sides have responded, but Palestinian officials said it recommended that Israel halt the expansion of Jewish settlements. The panel, led by former Senator George Mitchell, did not apportion blame for igniting the conflict or ask for an international force to be sent to the region. Reports said the commission called for a cease-fire agreement and the resumption of security cooperation between the two sides.

Khatami Will Run
President Mohammed Khatami ended months of intense speculation that he would shun a second term by announcing three days into the five-day official registration period that he would run for re-election. In a dramatic address, Khatami repeatedly broke down in tears as he described why, despite his personal inclination to step down, he had decided to run again for the sake of the nation. More than 180 people, including three women, have registered as candidates for the June 8 presidential election.

Chiluba Stands Down
President Frederick Chiluba dropped his bid for a third term in office after members of his ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy began impeachment proceedings against him. “I will leave office at the end of my term … this is in the best interests of the nation,” he said in a television address. Chiluba also dissolved his cabinet, saying he would form a new government to serve until elections in October. The announcement followed a motion to impeach brought by party members after Chiluba sought to change the constitution by expelling nine cabinet ministers and 12 legislators opposed to his re-election.

Violence Begets Violence in North Africa
Berber demonstrators took on police in the Algerian city of Bejaïa. They were protesting a crackdown that followed riots — over a student’s death in detention — that left at least 40 dead. The Berbers, one-third of the population, are demanding official recognition of their language, Tamazight, as well as employment and better housing. Though Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced an inquiry into the causes of the clashes, the main Berber party pulled out of the government.

The impeachment of embattled President Abdurrahman Wahid looked increasingly likely following his weak response to a second parliamentary censure for alleged corruption. In a speech, Wahid failed to respond to accusations of financial irregularities, and opposition leaders dismissed plans for a cabinet reshuffle as “useless.”

Kim Jong Il told a visiting E.U. delegation that he will maintain a ban on missile tests until 2003 and would agree to a second summit with South Korea. The commitments were announced by Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson, the first Western leader to visit North Korea. In Seoul, South Korean President Kim Dae Jung praised the E.U. delegation for “playing the role of a messenger of peace.”

G.M. Children
Researchers in New Jersey confirmed the births of the world’s first genetically modified babies. Thirty children have been conceived through the new fertility treatment, ooplasmic transfer, which takes part of a donor’s egg and injects it into an infertile woman’s egg along with sperm. Some of the babies carry genetic material from all three “parents.”

Golden Mystery
Authorities began investigating claims that former President Alberto Fujimori stole $1 billion from the country’s coffers, including 53 gold bars worth about $500,000, from the Central Bank, during his 10-year term as President.

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