World Watch

  • Share
  • Read Later

Despite public expressions of outrage against xenophobia and anti-Semitism, a spate of violent crimes directed at immigrants in Germany continues. A bomb attack in the western city of Düsseldorf, in which 10 people from the former Soviet Union — six of them Jews — were injured and an unborn child was killed, was followed by racist incidents in the eastern cities of Eisenach and Leipzig and the western town of Essen. The attacks overshadowed Germany's awarding of the first "green card" —a work permit for non-European computer experts — to Harianto Wijaya, an Indonesian, and potentially jeopardized government efforts to attract more skilled non-Europeans into Germany's economy.

Yugoslav authorities arrested four Westerners in Montenegro, asserting that they were planning to commit "terrorist acts." Two British police trainers with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (O.S.C.E.) mission in Kosovo — identified as Adrian Prangnell and John Yore —” and two Canadian construction contractors — Shaun Going and Liam Hall, of Calgary-based Meridian Resources — were detained on the Montenegrin side of the border with Kosovo. The Yugoslav government said the men were demolition experts involved in training police forces in Montenegro, where the pro-Western leadership seeks to secede from the central government in Belgrade. O.S.C.E. representatives called the accusations "absolutely absurd," saying the four were taking a break in Montenegro from their work in Kosovo. The arrests are a sign of Belgrade's growing pressure on the Montenegrin government. Earlier, four Dutch citizens were arrested in Montenegro and charged with plotting to assassinate Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's crumbling coalition government was weakened further by a series of blows that may foreshadow its demise. In a race for the mainly ceremonial job of President, the Knesset voted down the frontrunner, Shimon Peres, of Barak's Labor Party, opting for the relatively obscure Moshe Katsav, of the opposition Likud. Then, Foreign Minister David Levy, of the Gesher Party, resigned, citing his opposition to Barak's willingness in recent peace talks to cede parts of East Jerusalem to a future Palestinian state. Levy was the 10th cabinet member — out of a total of 22 — to quit in recent weeks, seven of them in opposition to concessions to the Palestinians contemplated by Barak. Finally, the Knesset approved a bill in preliminary reading calling for new elections.

President Robert Mugabe sent out mixed messages on the invasion of nearly 1,000 white-owned farms in Zimbabwe. Following talks with President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, he first said that the invasions by war veterans and other government supporters would conclude by the end of August. Mugabe later told backers that the occupations would continue. His statements came in the same week as a general strike — called by trade unions and commercial farm workers to protest the lawlessness associated with the occupations — brought much of the country to a standstill. "We are now in the process of settling people," Mugabe told black farmers, "and have identified the slightly more than 3,000 farms we shall gazette and acquire. The war vets will stay on all the farms until we resettle them." The government also bowed to market pressures, devaluing Zimbabwe's dollar by 24%.

In multiple attacks, extremists fighting for an end to Indian rule in Kashmir killed more than 100 people, including 33 Hindu pilgrims on their way to a religious shrine outside the town of Pahalgam. The attacks, on the worst day of militant violence in the decade-long rebellion in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, follow a unilateral cease-fire declared by the Hizbul Mujahedin, one of the main Muslim insurgent organizations in Kashmir. Other militant groups, however, were enraged by the conciliatory move. India's Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, said the attacks were carried out on Pakistan's instructions, in an effort to derail talks between the Hizbul Mujahedin and New Delhi. Pakistan and several other guerrilla groups denied responsibility.

India's most-wanted man, Koose Maniswamy Veerappan, and members of his gang abducted southern India's greatest screen legend, Rajkumar, and three close associates. The kidnapping of Rajkumar, the 73-year-old star of more than 200 films, stunned India and provoked angry protests on the streets of the state capital, Bangalore. Veerappan, a longtime poacher of ivory and sandalwood, has been sought by the authorities for about 20 years. He is said to have killed nearly 150 people. Now over 50, Veerappan has let it be known that he is ready to leave the jungle — but he wants an amnesty. In a recorded message later delivered to two media outlets, Rajkumar — who wields considerable political clout in Karnataka — urged state authorities to accept his abductor's amnesty demand.

Wrapping up the first round of ministerial-level meetings in Seoul, the two Koreas took another major step toward rapprochement, agreeing to reconnect a rail link and to reopen border liaison offices. In their first meeting in eight years, the two sides also agreed to hold another round of talks in Pyongyang in late August to continue discussions on implementing their historic June agreement. Meanwhile, a working-level meeting will be held shortly to discuss ways to relink the railway between Seoul and Shinuiju, the westernmost town on the border between North Korea and China. The two sides also agreed to open formal dialogue channels at the truce village of Panmunjom and to regularly hold cabinet-level talks. While South Korea said it would permit the entry of pro-Pyongyang ethnic Koreans living in Japan, it did not convince the North to set up a military hotline or to exchange military leaders' visits.

Ignoring international protests, four Japanese whaling ships have set sail in recent weeks with orders to hunt for sperm and Bryde's whales, species protected under U.S. law. The move could prompt Washington to slap import curbs on Japanese products if the Pacific Ocean hunt goes ahead. No nation has hunted these species since 1987, the year after an international ban on commercial whaling took effect. Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries says populations of sperm and Bryde's whales have recovered sufficiently to allow the catches, which it argues are needed to gather scientific data. Under an exemption to the ban, Japan already catches minke whales for what it calls "scientific research." The meat is sold on Japanese markets.

Chile's Supreme Court is reported to have voted to strip General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte of his political immunity, paving the way for trial on alleged human rights abuses during his 17-year dictatorship. Currently, Pinochet faces more than 150 criminal charges. The President of the Supreme Court, Hernán Alvarez García, said after the vote — which followed more than four hours of debate — that the decision will not be released until it has been written in full and signed by all 20 justices. CaracasPresident Hugo Chávez Frías of Venezuela won a landslide victory for a six-year term, capturing 59% of the vote. His closest challenger, Francisco Arias Cárdenas, claimed 38% of the ballots cast. Chávez's party, the Fifth Republic Movement, also won 16 of 23 governorships and 60% of the new unicameral Congress, consolidating the President's political movement across the country. Chávez now promises to reactivate Venezuela's moribund economy with a new jobs program and an increase in social spending for the most needy.

St. John's
A boarding party from the Canadian Navy seized control of a American-owned ship, ending an 18-day standoff in international waters off Newfoundland. The G.T.S. Katie had been contracted by the Canadian government to transport military cargo worth over $148 million — and representing more than 10% of the army's operational equipment — back from peacekeeping duties in Kosovo. But the Ukrainian captain had refused to bring the vessel into Canadian waters because of a dispute over payment between the ship's Maryland-based owners and a Montreal freight-handling contractor. Defense Minister Art Eggleton said Canada could not allow the dispute to interfere with the country's military capability.