In a move that outraged unionists, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson announced that the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary will change to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The change is part of sweeping reforms recommended by the Patten Commission to make the police--92% Protestant in a country that is 40% Catholic--seem more even-handed. It comes at an awkward time for unionist leader David Trimble, already under pressure for joining the new executive in Belfast before the Irish Republican Army had destroyed any of its guns. He has pledged to quit as First Minister unless international monitors certify by Jan. 31 that the I.R.A. is destroying its weapons. The timing of Mandelson's announcement has led to speculation that it is part of a deal with the I.R.A. to speed up the decommissioning process.
The Christian Democratic Union's financial scandal deepened last week when former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl resigned as honorary chairman after refusing to divulge the names of secret donors from whom he received about $1 million in illegal campaign contributions between 1993 and 1998. Less than two days later--after an audit of the cdu's accounts revealed another $4.5 million of unknown origin--the party's chief financial officer, Wolfgang Hüllen, was found hanged in his apartment. Kohl has been vehemently accused by his comrades of "violating his duties" and destroying the party's credibility.
A U.S. soldier serving with the Kosovo peacekeeping force was charged with the killing of an 11-year-old girl and flown to a military prison in Germany. Staff Sgt. Frank J. Ronghi, 35, a weapons squad leader, is accused of murder and indecent acts with a child. A photograph of the dead Albanian girl showed a badly bruised and battered face. Her body was found in a field, but neighbors say the murder took place in a basement less than 20 m from her father's home. The top U.S. officer in Kosovo, Brigadier General Ricardo Sanchez, apologized to the child's father in a letter which read in part: "I did not know your daughter but as a father I feel a deep sense of loss and can imagine your pain."
There was a dramatic thaw in relations between Greece and Turkey as George Papandreou became the first Greek Foreign Minister to visit Ankara since 1962. Having initially blocked Turkey's bid to join the European Union, Greece did an about-face, offering to help press for its membership. Turkey proposed a series of confidence-building measures to solve territorial disputes in the Aegean and both sides chipped away at the issue of Cyprus. But the greater progress was in propagating the good will created last year when the two countries came to each other's aid after major earthquakes.
Israeli-Syrian peace talks ran into a snag after Damascus announced it saw no point in continuing until Israel declared its willingness to return all of the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau Syria lost to Israel in the 1967 war. A third round of talks scheduled for last week was suspended indefinitely. Israel has indicated that it is willing to return the Golan but, before making that commitment explicit, wants to tie down security arrangements to prevent a surprise attack from Syria. U.S. President Bill Clinton, sponsor of the talks, said he was working on the "sequencing" dispute. With the Syrian talks floundering, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in an effort to refuel negotiations on a final, comprehensive agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The UNITA rebel movement in Angola was accused of shooting down two U.N. aircraft more than a year ago and of killing civilians--including three French children touring with their parents this month--in northeastern Namibia near the Angolan border. Robert Fowler, chairman of the U.N.'s Angola sanctions committee, provided the Security Council with video evidence of a UNITA defector saying that the rebels used a shoulder-fired missile to bring down the U.N. aircraft, in which 23 people died. In Namibia, UNITA troops captured on the border have said that they had instructions to "rob and kill" civilians and that the UNITA command was preparing for an offensive against Angolan and Namibian troops in the area.
The government of Burundi announced it would soon begin closing its controversial regroupment camps. But the head of the camps closest to Bujumbura, the capital, later said they would not close until peace is restored. The government's announcement follows the appointment of former South African President Nelson Mandela as chief mediator in talks to end the country's civil war, which has left more than 200,000 people dead since 1993. Mandela told the U.N. Security Council that the Burundian government had failed its people by showing a lack of urgency in trying to end the war. The Burundian army, dominated by the Tutsi minority, has put more than 300,000 civilians--mostly Hutu, who make up the majority of the population--into more than 50 camps in an attempt to isolate rebel fighters. Meanwhile, aid agencies report that up to 1,000 Burundians are crossing the border into Tanzania every day to avoid harassment from both government soldiers and the rebels.
More than three months after a military coup ended civilian rule in Pakistan, a Karachi court indicted ousted Prime Minister Muhammed Nawaz Sharif on charges of attempted murder, kidnaping, terrorism and hijacking. Sharif and six co-defendants are charged with trying to prevent a Pakistan International Airways flight carrying army chief General Pervez Musharraf and 198 civilian passengers from landing in Karachi on Oct. 12. When the plane did land, allegedly with only seven minutes' fuel left, Musharraf took control of the country. If found guilty of the latter three charges, Sharif--who pleaded not guilty--could be given the death penalty. His trial is to begin this week.
Police were ordered to shoot rioters on sight as Muslim mobs attacked Christians and ethnic Chinese on the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok. At least five people were killed and more than a dozen churches and Christian-owned buildings torched in three days of arson and looting. Thousands of local Christians and foreign tourists fled after violence erupted at a Muslim rally calling for peace in the Moluccas, where at least 1,700 have died in religious clashes over the past year. Violence is raging in four of Indonesia's 29 provinces, with several regions demanding independence, but President Abdurrahman Wahid insists he is in control. "What crisis?" he said last week. "We know how to settle the problems."
Just hours after a three-man junta claimed power in Ecuador, the armed forces chief, General Carlos Mendoza, dissolved the body and allowed Vice President Gustavo Noboa to resume civilian rule. In a rapidly changing series of events--amid a bloodless military-civilian uprising precipitated by Ecuador's severe economic crisis--President Jamil Mahuad fled the presidential palace on Friday for an undisclosed location. The short-lived junta--composed of Mendoza, indigenous leader Antonio Vargas and former Supreme Court Justice Carlos Solorzano--stepped aside under heavy U.S. pressure to return power to the elected government or face the loss of aid and investment. Mendoza later resigned his official posts. Events remained confused at the weekend.
Chile elected its first Socialist President since the bloody 1973 overthrow of Salvador Allende Gossens by General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. Celebrated former dissident Ricardo Lagos Escobar, at the helm of the governing center-left coalition, Concertación, received 51% of the vote, narrowly defeating conservative opponent and former Pinochet aide Joaquín Lavín. Lagos, a moderate 61-year-old economist and lawyer, promised economic growth with social justice. Although he first rose to prominence by challenging Pinochet on television, Lagos refused to comment on whether the ex-dictator should stand trial, saying it was for judges to decide.
RIO DE JANEIRO
More than 500 tons of crude oil gushed from a broken underwater pipeline, polluting an area of more than 40 sq km and endangering plant and animal life, in the worst ecological disaster to hit Rio de Janeiro state in more than a decade. The leak from the Reduc oil refinery, owned by the federal petroleum giant Petrobras, spread across Guanabara Bay into ecologically sensitive mangrove swamps, home to such endangered species as the yellow-throated alligator and the blue egret.