World Watch

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Rifts in Northern Ireland's power-sharing government deepened as the paramilitary groups' cease-fires frayed at the edges. Nationalist ministers held talks with Dublin in defiance of a ban imposed by First Minister David Trimble, who is trying to force the Irish Republican Army to disarm. Supporters of Trimble, who is also leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, said his tough stance was further justified when four men died in feuding between Protestant terrorist groups and a policeman was critically hurt in a bomb blast. Separately, inspectors who viewed i.r.a. arms dumps said the terrorist group is serious about peace.

Caught in the storms that ravaged England and northern France last week, an Italian tanker carrying 6,000 tons of chemicals sank in the English Channel 60 km northwest of Cherbourg. The bulk of the Ievoli Sun's cargo was styrene, a major component of plastics that may be carcinogenic. The chemical began leaking from the ship soon after it sank, but experts downplayed the risks posed to human and marine life. The sinking came only 11 months after the oil tanker Erika broke up, polluting long stretches of France's Atlantic coastline, and brought renewed calls from Paris for regulation of maritime safety by the European Union.

Austria's right-wing Freedom Party suffered a further setback after allegations that police had handed over confidential information about political opponents to the party. The revelations followed a mid-October trouncing when only 12.5% of voters in the state of Styria chose the party still regarded as J&stilde;rg Haider's, even though he resigned as leader in February. It is barely a year since Haider led the party to win 27% of votes in national elections and ministerial roles in the governing coalition. Eleven police officials have been suspended following the allegations in a book by former policeman Josef Kleindienst. Vatican CityThe Vatican condemned the sale of the 'morning after' pill in Italy, claiming it amounted to an abortion carried out by chemical means. The Italian Health Ministry approved the use of the pill in September, calling it an emergency contraceptive. The Pontifical Academy for Life, an office for ethical questions, released a statement discouraging health-care workers from prescribing or selling the pill. Since the pill blocks a possibly fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall, the Academy said it dealt with a human embryo and therefore produced an abortion.

Islamic Jihad militants struck with a car bomb in central Jerusalem last Thursday, just when it appeared a late-night deal between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres might have defused the six week-long battle between Palestinian rioters and gunmen and Israeli soldiers. The bomb killed two people, one of them the daughter of a leading Israeli politician. The Arafat-Peres pact was prompted by serious fighting on the edge of Jerusalem Wednesday and the shooting of an Israeli security guard in East Jerusalem. By week's end, the death toll in this round of violence was up to 169, mainly Palestinians.

As fighting resumed in war-torn Sierra Leone, the United Nations appointed a senior British army officer as chief of staff to peace-keeping forces. The appointment of Brigadier Alastair Duncan reflects the U.N. Security Council's new determination to contain the conflict. Britain is also to provide a rapid reaction force including 500 Royal Marines to boost the 12,500-strong U.N. presence in the country. Taking advantage of the end of the rainy season, rival groups of Kamajor and Revolutionary United Front rebels have attacked and burned villages near the towns of Bo, Kabala and Lunsar.

Violence followed shambolic elections in Zanzibar last week. Protesters took to the streets to challenge the Tanzanian government's decision to rerun the vote only in some areas of the Indian Ocean island. Ballots were delivered late or not at all to areas where the opposition Civic United Front was expecting to do well in the election for their own president and parliament as well as for President of the United Republic of Tanzania and the National Assembly. Though the Zanzibar Election Commission nullified the results in 16 of the 50 electoral districts, the c.u.f. and international observers demanded the vote be rerun in all districts.

New Delhi
The once gentlemanly sport of cricket was marred by more match-fixing allegations. India's Central Bureau of Investigation confirmed rumors that corrupt bookies had been paying players to perform badly to better the odds in an illegal gambling circuit. Many of the game's top players — including India's Mohammad Azharuddin, Nayan Mongia and Ajay Jadeja; West Indies' Brian Lara; Salim Malik and Asif Iqbal from Pakistan; Sri Lankans Aravinda da Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga; and England's Alec Stewart — were named in the report. Although former Indian captain Azharuddin has confessed that he received money, most of the named players have denied the allegations.

Even as Philippines President Joseph Estrada offered to submit himself to a referendum, his opponents were growing more numerous and more unimpressed. The country's economy has suffered badly since allegations were made that Estrada had received $11.4 million from illegal gambling payoffs and tobacco taxes. Following the defection of Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to the opposition, many of his close senior economic advisers have resigned, as have two Cabinet members. Three senators, including Senate President Franklin Drilon, and 41 congressmen led by House Speaker Manuel Villar quit the ruling party as calls for Estrada's impeachment grew.

A Singapore Airlines 747 bound for Los Angeles crashed on take-off at Taipei's Chiang Kai-shek International Airport, leaving 81 dead and 40 hospitalized, many of them with severe burns. Another 58 passengers and crew, including the pilot, survived relatively unharmed. Weather conditions may have been a factor in the accident as high winds and rain from approaching Typhoon Xangsane lashed the airport, though wind force and visibility were still within the range normally considered safe for flying. Taiwanese air accident investigators said that the aircraft had been trying to take off from a runway closed for repairs and had hit two excavators before crashing in flames.

Eight people were killed and at least 22 wounded when a small group of special-forces soldiers staged an abortive mutiny at Fijian Military Forces headquarters. Nine of the rebels were facing court martial for their alleged involvement in the May 19 coup attempt led by George Speight. They reportedly hoped to kidnap military commander Commodore Frank Bainimarama, whom they blame for Speight's arrest on treason charges. At week's end, 12 mutineers had been captured by troops and Suva was under curfew as the hunt continued for eight rebels still at large.

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