World Watch

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Belfast
Violence erupted in Northern Ireland's loyalist Protestant community, forcing British troops back on the streets of Belfast for the first time in two years. Three men were killed in feuding between the Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force, both outlawed groups meant to be observing a cease-fire under the 1998 Good Friday agreement. Police had hoped to quell the violence with the rearrest of u.d.a leader Johnny Adair, released last September after serving five-and-a-half years of a 16-year terrorism sentence, but Protestant leaders said they feared the violence would increase as rival militias sought reprisal.

Athens
Wildfires fueled by intense heat and high winds raged out of control across the Balkan peninsula. At least seven people died when a series of blazes swept through the mountainous terrain of northwestern Greece near the Albanian border. Flames also consumed hundreds of hectares of land in the southern Peloponnese peninsula. In neighboring Bulgaria, soldiers were deployed to put out blazes in some 20 regions throughout the country and the government said it would seek international aid to cope with the devastation. In Croatia, fires burned along the Eastern Adriatic coast and were also reported in southern Serbia.

Manama
All 143 people aboard Gulf Air flight 072 from Cairo to Bahrain were killed when the Airbus A320 plunged into the shallow waters of the Persian Gulf, less than two km off the coast of Bahrain. The victims included many families with children returning from summer holidays in preparation for the school year. As relatives arrived in Bahrain's capital to begin the grim task of identifying bodies, investigators searched for clues to the cause of the crash. The plane's voice and flight data recorders were quickly recovered, and preliminary reports indicated excess speed may have played a role in the disaster. The pilot reportedly made several attempts to land before the plane crashed into the sea.

Freetown
Days after promising to cooperate with the U.N. on disarmament, Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front launched fresh assaults on U.N. and government soldiers. The rebels' pledge came after field commander Issa Sesay was named to replace imprisoned leader Foday Sankoh, and had raised hopes of progress toward peace. The nine countries whose troops are participating in the U.N. peacekeeping force called on the international community to support their mission and help promote a political solution in the country.

Bujumbura
Four people were killed and more than 50 injured when a grenade exploded in a marketplace in Burundi's capital. Tensions were still high at week's end on the eve of the signing of a peace accord to end the country's seven-year civil war. Proposals for powersharing, an amnesty and general elections were due to be signed on Aug. 28 in Tanzania in a ceremony attended by leaders including U.S. President Bill Clinton. Burundi's President Pierre Buyoya and Tutsi leaders said they would sign part but not all of the draft agreement mediated by former South African President Nelson Mandela.

Harare
Zimbabwean authorities moved to evict squatters from some white-owned farms near the capital, then scaled back the operation, saying it had been carried out with excessive force. Police began evicting more than 700 so-called war veterans, destroying the makeshift dwellings they had built since moving onto the farms in March. But President Robert Mugabe's spokesman later expressed regret for the way in which the operation was handled, saying that the eviction of squatters on land not earmarked for takeover by the government would go ahead "within the usual standards of human dignity." Mugabe, who had promised to end illegal occupations, continues to broadly support the veterans' "invasion" of the more than 1,500 white-owned farms the government has designated for seizure.

Hyderabad
At least 130 people were killed when heavy monsoon rains hit India's southern Andhra Pradesh state, resulting in the most destructive deluge in 50 years. The state capital, Hyderabad, one of India's leading I.T. centers, was cut off by flash flooding that swept away some 20 people and left 35,000 others homeless. More than half the city's normal annual rainfall fell in just 24 hours.

Beijing
According to a report from a Hong Kong-based human rights group, Chinese authorities in the province of Henan arrested 130 members of an outlawed Christian Church. The evangelical Protestant China Fangcheng Church, which claims half a million members, is among more than a dozen Christian groups that have been branded sects and banned by Beijing. The arrests came the day after a bishop of the official Chinese Catholic Church, which does not recognize the Vatican's authority, said in a speech in the U.S. that Chinese religion was entering a "golden age."

Taipei
The most ferocious storm to hit Taiwan in years, Typhoon Bilis, raged through the island causing 11 deaths and more than 100 injuries. The government estimated crop damage from flooding at nearly $130 million and more than 90,000 homes were without running water for several days. One of the hardest-hit areas was the central Taiwan region, which is still recovering from a massive earthquake last September. President Chen Shui-bian cut short a visit to Chad, the last leg of his first overseas trip, to help supervise the recovery effort. Bilis weakened after making landfall in mainland China, but was still strong enough to trigger a landslide that destroyed 1,000 homes on the coast.

Jakarta
Hoping to shore up confidence in his 10-month-old government, Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid announced a long-awaited cabinet reshuffle. Lawmakers gave a lukewarm response to the new lineup, which includes 18 of the 35 members of the former cabinet, four ex-military officials and several close Wahid associates. Opposition leaders accused Wahid of creating a "crony cabinet" and chastized him for failing to include more members from the parliament's two largest parties, Golkar and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, led by Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri. Meanwhile, the Attorney General ordered former President Suharto to stand trial on corruption charges on Aug. 31.

Wellington
With the appointment of Dame Silvia Cartwright to the largely ceremonial post of Governor General, all of New Zealand's top constitutional positions will be held by women when Cartwright takes office in April. She joins Prime Minister Helen Clark, opposition leader Jenny Shipley, Attorney General Margaret Wilson and Chief Justice Sian Elias. Cartwright was the first female Chief Judge of New Zealand's District Courts and in 1993 she became the first woman appointed to the nation's High Court. In a separate development, a New Zealand newspaper reported that last March, police in Auckland uncovered a possible plot to blow up a nuclear reactor in Sydney during September's Olympic Games. The disclosure set off widespread alarm, but officials in both New Zealand and Australia downplayed the seriousness threat.

Ottawa
In a high-profile visit to his country's two North American Free Trade Agreement partners, Mexican President-elect Vicente Fox called on first Canada, then the U.S., to broaden ties with Mexico. In his first stop in Ottawa, Fox proposed that nafta might eventually be developed into a European-style common market. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien rejected the proposal, saying that such an arrangement would ultimately fall victim to U.S. domination. In the U.S., Fox called for the relaxation of barriers along the 3,000-km border between the U.S. and Mexico, a proposal that was also received coolly.

Asuncín
In a historic defeat for Paraguay's ruling Colorado Party, which had won every general election since 1947, pediatrician Julio C├ęsar Franco of the opposition Liberal Party eked out a victory of less than one percentage point to win the vice presidency. The narrow margin caused an 11-day delay in the vote count as election officials scrutinized ballots. Colorado leaders had alleged incidents of fraud, but the Organization of American States said the election was remarkably open and fair. The vice presidency had been vacant since the assassination of Luis Argaña in March last year. Luis Argaña's son, Felix Argaña, was Franco's main opponent for the post.