World Watch

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Promises of government aid coaxed protesting French fishermen to end their siege of Channel ports, but did nothing to assuage the fury of motorists and truckers stranded by the action. Blockades of French ports and access points to the Channel Tunnel ended after the Agriculture Ministry promised financial assistance to fishermen protesting soaring fuel prices. But British motorists and trucking companies victimized by protesters' obstruction of public thoroughfares denounced the French government's failure to protect their right to free movement. Hundreds of truckers and taxi drivers began blocking roads into France's major cities late in the week, seeking similar assistance.

Three neo-Nazis were convicted of murder and sentenced to lengthy jail terms for the fatal beating of a Mozambican-born man. A state court in eastern Germany handed down the maximum life sentence to 24-year-old Enrico Hilprecht and nine year terms to his two 16-year-old co-defendants. Judge Albrecht Henning said the court came to the conclusion that the three killed Alberto Adriano solely because of the color of his skin. The violence of the attack caused a wave of revulsion in Germany, with calls from the public and politicians to act decisively against neo-Nazi groups.

Russia's disastrous August continued with a fire in Moscow's Ostankino TV tower that killed three people and knocked out most television and radio service to the region's 18 million residents. Limited broadcasting resumed midweek, but officials said it would take at least a year and cost more than half a million dollars to completely repair the landmark tower. President Vladimir Putin, reacting to the latest disaster, and frustrated by continuing criticism of the government's response to sinking of the Kursk submarine, criticized Russian businessmen and the independent media, saying only economic development would prevent future calamities.

Negotiations continued for the release of six hostages, including five British soldiers, held by a renegade militia group in Sierra Leone. Five other British servicemen were released earlier in exchange for a satellite phone, but the Sierra Leone government rejected the conditions set by the West Side Boys militia for the freeing of the remaining captives. Information Minister Julius Spencer said the demands — including a review of the country's peace agreement and the release of their supporters from jail — had not been made directly to the government.

Peace in Burundi moved a step closer with Tutsi political parties saying they would reconsider signing a power-sharing accord and a proposal by former South African President Nelson Mandela to discuss a cease-fire later this month. Four Tutsi parties refused to sign a peace plan adopted by President Pierre Buyoya, the army and 13 other groups in Arusha, Tanzania, last week, saying the document did not protect minority rights. But talks mediator Mandela has invited parties to South Africa for further discussions and proposed a Sept. 20 meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss a cease-fire. The peace plan, signed in the presence of President Bill Clinton, was also spurned by Hutu rebel groups.

Pakistan's military ruler General Pervez Musharraf consolidated his power base by reassigning several top-ranking army officials in the first major shakeup of his 11-month regime. Most significantly, Musharraf replaced his chief of general staff, Lieut. General Mohammed Aziz Khan — a hardline conservative with Islamist sympathies who helped carry out the coup that put Musharraf in power last October — with Lieut. General Mohammed Yousuf Khan, known for liberal views that are more in keeping with Musharraf's own. Mohammed Aziz Khan is believed to have masterminded Pakistan's invasion of India's Kargil heights last summer. His transfer, days before Musharraf's attendance at the U.N. millennium summit in New York, is seen as signaling a liberal policy shift.

The nine-day roadside standoff between Burma's ruling military junta and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi and 14 of her supporters ended when riot police forced Suu Kyi to return to her home in Rangoon. Shortly after, the government reportedly raided the headquarters of her political party, the National League for Democracy, seized documents and placed several party members under house arrest. Suu Kyi, 55, and her followers were stopped by police in the Rangoon suburb of Dala on Aug. 24 and ordered to return home. The entourage was en route to a political meeting in the countryside. To protest the restrictions on her freedom of movement, Suu Kyi and her party members, including 73-year-old vice chairman Tin Oo, remained in their vehicles for more than a week before police removed them.

Muslim rebels freed six Western hostages but then kidnapped an American in the southern Philippines. U.S. officials refused to consider a demand by Abu Sayyaf rebels for $10 million for the release of Jeffrey Schilling, reported to be in ill-health. Six European and South African hostages held since April were released after Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi reportedly paid a ransom of $1 million per captive. A spokesman for the rebels, who also demanded the release of three Islamic militants held in U.S. jails, earlier threatened to execute the 24-year-old American. But he said the latest hostage would not be hurt while negotiations continued.

East Timor celebrated its first year of independence from Indonesia, with thousands attending a service in the capital conducted by Nobel laureate Bishop Carlos Belo. Fears of renewed militia attacks failed to materialize on the anniversary, but U.N. peacekeepers were on high alert following sporadic incursions by pro-Jakarta militias from Indonesian-controlled West Timor, where an estimated 100,000 East Timorese remain in refugee camps. Nearly 250,000 East Timorese were forced over the border last year by rampaging militia, who destroyed buildings and infrastructure following the referendum backing independence.

The Australian government announced restrictions on visits by U.N. human rights inspectors after criticism of Australia's treatment of asylum seekers and of its aboriginal people. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said U.N. committees would not be allowed to visit Australia, nor would information be volunteered to the international body. Earlier this year, the U.N. Human Rights Committee had urged the repeal of sentencing laws of two Australian jurisdictions which it said discriminated against Aborigines. U.N. comittees have also criticized the policy of holding immigrants in detention centers while their applications for refugee status are under review.

President Bill Clinton said he would delay plans to develop a national defense system against ballistic missiles. The announcement effectively leaves the decision of whether to develop the system to his successor and delays the projected 2005 completion date for at least a year. Clinton said he did not have enough confidence in the system's technology. The program, costing at least $30 billion, would involve deployment of missile intereceptors to destroy incoming warheads, as well as the construction of several early-warning radar sites. It has been dogged by spectacular test failures as well as objections from European allies and Russia, who contend that missile defenses violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

President Bill Clinton visited Colombia to show his support of that country's efforts to combat the drug trade. Clinton, accompanied by a 35-member delegation of cabinet officials and senior congressional representatives, met Colombian President Andres Pastrana to launch a controversial $1.3 billion military aid package. Unconfirmed reports said more than 20 people were killed in anti-U.S. protests in provincial areas. In Bogotá, protesters threw rocks at the U.S. Embassy and a policeman was killed during riots at the National University. Police arrested three alleged rebel farc sympathizers with bomb-making material several blocks from one of Clinton's stops. Leaders of Latin American countries meeting at a regional summit to establish a free trade zone expressed concern that U.S. involvement in the conflict in Colombia could cause it to spill over into their countries.