World Watch

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U.S. officials said President Bill Clinton would not be deterred from making his third visit to Northern Ireland, which starts on Dec. 12, despite the first sectarian murders in the region for 18 months. The two deaths, from gun attacks, injected an ominous mood into efforts to resolve issues clogging the peace process, such as paramilitary arms and policing. While the Irish Republican Army renewed a commitment to dispose of its weapons on its own terms, British and Irish officials said this was not enough progress to give Clinton hope of midwifing a breakthrough in the troubled province.

Camp Zeist
The trial of two Libyans accused of the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing was adjourned until next month. Although lawyers for co-defendant Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi are under pressure to put their client on the witness stand, they say they will do so after they have received what they describe as a critical document from the Syrian government. The trial, which has been disrupted by postponements in the past, was delayed again until Jan. 8. But the presiding judge said he would tolerate further delays only in exceptional circumstances.

Leaders of the European Union's 15 member states were poised at week's end to make wide-ranging treaty changes that will clear the way for the first of 12 candidate countries currently negotiating for membership to join by mid-2004. Before addressing sticky issues of reweighting votes among member states and expanding policy areas where decisions could be reached by majority rather than unanimous voting, the leaders signed off on a plan to ban meat and bone meal from all farm feed and keep all cattle aged 30 months or older out of the food chain unless they tested negatively for "mad cow" disease. The leaders also defused fears that plans for a European Rapid Reaction Force could undermine nato by spelling out modes of consultation with the alliance.

A delegation from the imf rushed in to patch Turkey's bleeding economy with a $7.5 billion emergency loan — a larger-than-expected intervention that turned panic selling on the Istanbul exchange into equally frenzied orders to buy. Turkey's financial crisis began two weeks ago, when the country's crowded banking sector found itself without lines of credit to cover foreign borrowing. Overnight interest rates at one point reached 2,000% as the central bank tried desperately to stop the outflow of Turkish lira. A government body has now taken over 11 banks and initiated criminal proceedings for embezzlement against some of the owners. But the markets are still watching nervously to see that Ankara gets on with anti-inflation measures — such as accelerating privatization and keeping the public sector under control — for which the imf has already put on standby another $2.9 billion.

Ghanaians voted for a new President and Parliament in polls that observers called mostly free and fair. Seven candidates vied for the presidency, with current Vice President John Atta Mills and an opposition leader, John Agyekum Kufuor, seen as the front-runners. A runoff election is thought likely as no candidate is expected to win the necessary 50% in the first round, though Kufuor was leading in early vote counting late last week. This election marks the end of the 19-year rule of Jerry Rawlings, the former fighter pilot who seized power twice in Ghana and led a harsh military regime before turning to democracy a decade ago. He is constitutionally barred from running again. The vote comes during a period of crisis in Ghana, where low gold and cocoa prices have crippled the economy and corruption is widespread.

Local elections in South Africa were marred by violence in a squatter camp known as Mandela Park in Katlehong township, east of Johannesburg. A mob stoned and fired on residents near a polling station, killing six people. At least eight men were arrested by the police. The conflict was linked to a history of clashes between the African National Congress and the opposition United Democratic Front in the area. Elsewhere in the country the voting for local governments was generally peaceful, with the African National Congress winning some 60% of the popular vote, although it lost a bit of ground since only about half of the electorate participated.JerusalemIsraeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak stunned the nation on Saturday evening with the announcement that he would submit his resignation. His decision, which he said he had reached after consulting with family members the previous evening, means that a special election for the post of prime minister must be held within 60 days. Barak said he will stand for reelection, and his decision is widely seen as a tactical maneuver to avoid the possibility of squaring off against former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a general election. Under Israeli law Netanyahu, who is not currently a member of the Knesset but whose personal popularity ratings eclipse Barak's, is not eligible to run for the prime ministership during a special election.

Pakistan's military government, which has ruled the country since the ouster of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from power in a non-violent coup last October, announced that it had released Sharif from jail and was exiling him to Saudi Arabia. Sharif had been serving a life sentence on terrorism and hijacking charges relating to last year's coup, when he attempted to prevent a plane carrying General Pervez Musharraf from returning to Pakistan. Musharraf's subsequent seizure of power, which he initially insisted was only a temporary measure, was welcomed by many Pakistanis who had grown frustrated by government corruption. ManilaThe impeachment trial of Joseph Estrada started in Manila, the first-ever such proceeding against a President of the Philippines. Estrada faces charges of, among other things, bribery, corruption and violation of the constitution arising from his alleged receipt of $4 million in gambling pay-offs. He has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. Two-thirds of the 22-member Senate, which is acting as the jury, must vote against Estrada in order for him to be removed from office. In its first few days, the trial has hosted a war of words: after prosecutors referred to him as a thief and a crook, Estrada reportedly responded that the people demanding his resignation were losing their minds.

Cuba said it intended to cut direct telephone ties with the U.S. because of a failure by American phone companies to pay a new tax imposed by the island's government. In October, Havana slapped a 10% tax on basic long-distance calls made between the two countries, to protest U.S. legislation that would allow frozen Cuban funds to be used to pay compensation to families of Cuban-American pilots killed in 1996 when their planes were shot down by Cuban fighters. Havana says that U.S. companies have refused to pay the telephone tax, claiming they have not received authorization to do so from the American government. It is the second time in two years that Cuba and the U.S. have clashed over phone links.

Accompanied by their own veterinarian in their specially adapted Panda One aircraft, two giant pandas arrived to a red-carpet welcome and a new home at the National Zoo. Tian Tian, 3, whose name means "more and more," and Mei Xiang, 2, which translates as "beautiful fragrance," are on loan from China for 10 years, in exchange for a $1 million annual contribution to the China Wildlife Conservation Association, to aid in panda conservation. The pair will likely restore the Panda House as the top attraction at the zoo since the death last year of Hsing-Hsing, a male panda the Chinese government gave to the U.S. capital after former President Richard Nixon's visit to China in 1972.

Three British explorers who had planned to cross the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia in the 1916 footsteps of explorer Ernest Shackleton were forced to abandon their adventure because of unusually severe weather. After reaching the island on Nov. 27, the three — Jock Wishart, Duncan Nicoll and Jonathan Chastney — were repeatedly hindered by gale-force winds that made landing their chartered ship, the Grigoriy Mikheev, difficult to impossible at numerous bays. Also, a heavy fall of soft new snow in the Antarctic spring significantly increased the danger of avalanches in areas where the men were able to trek briefly. Given the unpredictability and severity of the weather and the safety risks, the trio opted to return home.