Judges at the Lockerbie trial rejected an appeal to acquit one of the two Libyans accused of masterminding the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Defense lawyer Richard Keen had sought to have the case against Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah thrown out for lack of evidence. But presiding judge Lord Sutherland said the testimony of a prosecution witness, entries in Fhimah's diary and his association with co-accused Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi provided sufficient evidence for Fhimah to remain on trial.
Roma parliamentarians and elected representatives held their first-ever international congress in the Czech Republic to share information and discuss ways to improve Roma representation. According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (O.S.C.E.), which organized the gathering jointly with the Czech Foreign Ministry, there are only five deputies of Roma origin in national parliaments in all of Europe. At the local level there are 20 Roma mayors and 400 councilors. Worldwide, there are an estimated 12 million Roma, most of whom live in Central and Eastern Europe.
Six U.N. police officers serving in Bosnia were ordered home because of "inappropriate behaviour" after a raid on three nightclubs. The six were accused of taking protection money from owners of bars in which 33 women, some as young as 14, were believed to be working in forced prostitution. Bosnia is a common destination for women from Eastern Europe who are so desperate for work that they accept offers of glamorous foreign travel and high-paying positions only to find themselves working as virtual slaves in bars and nightclubs. It is also a transit point for women being trafficked into Western Europe.
The U.N. Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea opened the first land access route between the two warring Horn of Africa neighbors. The opening of the safe corridor comes ahead of the deployment of 4,200 U.N. peacekeeping troops. The mission is also negotiating the opening of an air access corridor, essential for medical evacuations and for resupply of equipment for the troops. After two years at war, Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a cessation of hostilities agreement last June. Both sides continue to disagree about where their border should be.
Israeli police formed a highly visible presence on the city's streets in an effort to prevent violence on the first Friday of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The heightened security came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak put forward new proposals to revive peace talks, which were subsequently rejected by Palestinian leaders. Unable to defeat a bill that would have started the Knesset on the road to dissolution, Barak said he'd be ready for new elections most likely in May and would try to make the poll a referendum on his handling of the peace process.
In the latest move in its deepening dispute with the U.N., Iraq halted oil exports at midnight last Thursday. In doing so, Iraq was following through on its threat to halt supplies unless buyers paid a 50¢ a barrel surcharge into an Iraqi bank account, thus breaking U.N. sanctions. The U.S., together with several oil-exporting countries in the Middle East, pledged to compensate for any shortfall, but the extra output could take weeks to filter through. Iraq has been growing steadily more defiant of sanctions in recent months. Last week Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz again rejected new weapons inspection proposals.
Nearly two months after a suicide attack blasted a hole in the side of a U.S. warship, killing 17 sailors, the U.S. and Yemen have agreed to cooperate on the investigation into the bombing. U.S. officials publicly praised the deal signed in Aden last week, but privately were said to be frustrated by the limits it imposes. Under the terms of the agreement, U.S. investigators will be allowed to attend interrogation sessions with suspects but must submit all questions in writing to Yemeni investigators, who will in turn interrogate the suspects directly. According to Yemen's Prime Minister, the investigation has already pointed to involvement by Osama bin Laden, whom the U.S. accuses of masterminding the 1998 bombings of two of its embassies in Africa.