World Watch

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The conflict in the Middle East inspired violence in France, where over 90 attacks on Jewish targets were reported in just two weeks. Synagogues were fire-bombed, Jewish-owned businesses defaced, and students suffered anti-Semitic insults as they left Jewish schools. Leaders of France's 750,000 Jewish community do not believe the attacks were a coordinated effort, but rather staged by some among the large numbers of disadvantaged French youths of Arab descent who are mimicking the intifadeh in Israel. The backgrounds and records of 10 suspects arrested in the spree appeared to confirm that hypothesis.

Europe's fledgling single currency, the euro, hit a new low against the U.S. dollar last week as controversy swirled around the head of the European Central Bank. e.c.b. president Wim Duisenberg's remarks in a newspaper interview helped set off the latest plunge which took the euro down as low as 83.24ยข. Foreign exchange specialists and some politicians even questioned whether the Dutch central banker is up to the job. But removing Duisenberg would only exacerbate the euro's woes. At week's end he vowed to follow the standard advice for all monetary officials: to say as little as possible.

Floods and mudslides swept through the alpine regions of northern Italy and southern Switzerland last week, killing at least 35 people. Italy's industrial heartland came to a standstill as floodwaters blocked more than 170 roads and damaged factories around Turin. The Swiss canton of Valais and the Italian regions of Val d'Aosta, Piedmont and coastal Liguria were declared disaster areas with damage to agricultural land and infrastructure estimated to exceed $1 billion. As floods receded in the mountains, the waters surged eastward, causing the evacuation of tens of thousands living in Italy's Po and Ticino River basins.

The Basque terrorist movement eta struck again for the second time in a week in Andalucia. Air Force medical colonel Antonio Muñoz Cariñanos, a leading throat surgeon, became the 15th victim of terrorist violence since eta called off a 14-month cease-fire in January. Two gunmen burst into his private consulting rooms in the center of Seville and shot him twice in the head. Police soon arrested two men who were identified as Jon Igor Solana and Harriet Iragi, alleged to be responsible for three murders and five failed attacks in the southern region since July.

A Syrian plane taking seed, fertilizer and a delegation of agricultural engineers to Iraq last week was the latest flight to break U.N. sanctions imposed after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Over two dozen humanitarian flights have landed in Baghdad in the month since French and Russian aircraft flouted procedures and flew to the Iraqi capital without approval. Tun Myat, the U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, dismissed the significance of the sanctions-busting flights. "They give more moral support than anything else," he said.

Joint military and police patrols arrested the leaders of a Nigerian nationalist group last week in a crackdown on violence which had claimed more than 100 lives in the commercial capital, Lagos. The arrests followed days of rioting between northern, predominantly Muslim Hausas and southern, mostly Christian, Yorubas. The government declared a state of emergency and banned the Odudua Peoples Congress, composed of human rights activists, Yoruba tribal leaders and Yoruba separatists, and "similar organizations."

One of the most contagious and deadly of human diseases has killed 51 people and possibly infected 75 more in northern Uganda. The outbreak of ebola has been traced to the death from the disease of Esther Awete six weeks ago. The next victims were her mother, three sisters and three other relatives, who all took part in Awete's funeral. Prompt action by Ugandan and international health workers appeared by the week's end to have slowed the spread of the outbreak.

The Zimbabwe government called out troops to assist police in confronting rioters protesting against rises of up to 30% in food and transport costs as the country's economy continues its disastrous slide. More than 100 people were arrested during almost a week of unrest in the crowded townships around the capital. While President Robert Mugabe's cabinet met to consider price controls on essential foods, business and industrial leaders warned that unless the economic crisis is halted up to 300 major companies in the mining, manufacturing and key service sectors could close down by December, resulting in the loss of 400,000 jobs. Unemployment in Zimbabwe already exceeds 50%.

Burma's military government freed James Mawdsley, a 27-year-old British-Australian democracy activist, after he had served 13 months of a 17-year prison sentence. Mawdsley was jailed in September 1999 for illegally entering Burma and handing out pro-democracy leaflets. The military also said it had released six elderly members of the opposition from prison at the request of United Nations special envoy Razali Ismail, who visited the country in early October. Amnesty International has said there are more than 2,000 political prisoners in Burma's jails.

Calls for the resignation of President Joseph Estrada of the Philippines following alleged gambling payoffs of over $8.6 million have reached fever pitch. Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who resigned from the cabinet a week before, last week led an opposition coalition aiming to oust the President. While demonstrators thronged the streets Manila's Cardinal Jaime Sin called for his resignation and former President Corazon Aquino joined in the fray, saying "No government can continue with such charges hanging over its head." Meanwhile, the whistle blower, Ilocos Sur Governor Luis Singson, has vowed to expose more scandals.

Three members of the outlawed meditation group Falun Gong died while in detention in northern China, according to a Hong Kong-based human rights group. The Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy in China said that at least 57 members of the spiritual movement have died in police custody since July. Falun Gong was banned last year, after some 10,000 adherents staged a mass protest in Beijing. Since then, a steady stream of protests by Falun Gong followers has irked the Chinese leadership, the most recent drawing hundreds of people to Tiananmen Square on Oct. 1, China's National Day.

After more than half a century of animosity, North Korea and the United States are moving rapidly toward rapprochement. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was due to visit Pyongyang last week for talks that could pave the way to a visit by President Bill Clinton as early as next month. Washington wants to be sure Pyongyang is willing to move forward on issues that divide the two sides. Topping the agenda will be North Korea's missile exports and how the country can get off Washington's list of terrorist nations.

Some 22 soldiers were reported killed as their Black Hawk helicopter transport crashed during heavy combat in northwestern Colombia. The Black Hawk was lending support to embattled national police who were fending off an attack by Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas. Another 30 soldiers were killed in ground fighting and 47 police officers were feared killed or taken prisioner by farc. The killings came just days after talks aimed at ending Colombia's 36-year civil war broke up without reaching an agreement on a cease-fire between the government and rebel forces.

At his inauguration eight months ago Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo offered to resign the presidency if he could not solve the 1998 killing of Roman Catholic Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi. The bishop was killed outside his home shortly after he published a report that blamed the military for 90% of the 200,000 killings during the country's 36-year civil war. Last week Portillo's government released a two-page report on the Bishop's murder. Human rights campaigners called the report a joke which added no new information to the case.