World Watch

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Northern Ireland's fledgling home-rule government was suspended on Friday as the Irish Republican Army and other paramilitary groups made no move toward divesting themselves of their stores of explosives and weapons. With the threat of Friday's deadline looming, negotiators representing the British and Irish governments and all sides in the province attempted to defer the return to direct rule from London. But despite an 11th-hour offer of progress from Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams, Secretary of State Peter Mandelson announced suspension of the two-month-old body. "I very much regret this course of action," said Mandelson.

"Now I don't have to clean anymore," said Finland's newly elected and first woman President, Tarja Halonen, 56, as she toured the presidential mansion, Talludden, and learned that housekeepers came with the job. On an 80.2% turnout Social Democrat Foreign Minister Halonen beat opponent former Prime Minister Esko Aho of the Center Party in the final round of the two-tier presidential election process. Although Halonen had held a strong lead in opinion polls the result was close: she took 51.6% of the votes against Aho's 48.4%.

Unprecedented racial violence paralyzed the small town of El Ejido in Almeria, Spain, injuring more than 80 people--26 of them policemen. The trouble erupted after 26-year-old Encarnación López Valverde was stabbed and killed in a bungled handbag snatch, allegedly by a 20-year-old Moroccan youth. Gangs of angry local citizens went on the rampage to avenge her death. Simmering tension between Spanish-born and immigrant agricultural workers, fueled by the killings of two local farmers two weeks before, erupted in three days of violence. Protest strikes by the immigrants at the height of the rioting cost an estimated $3 million in lost produce.

An assassin shot dead Yugoslav Defence Minister Pavle Bulatovic and two associates as they dined in a popular restaurant in Belgrade. The killer sprayed the Minister and his party with bursts from an AK-47 assault rifle through the restaurant window, then escaped. The authorities branded the murder "an act of terrorism" and accused Western secret services and Serbian opposition of plotting the assassination. The Montenegro-born Bulatovic was a close political ally of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Last month, gunmen murdered indicted war criminal and notorious paramilitary leader Zeljko Raznatovic, better known as Arkan, in Belgrade's Intercontinental Hotel. In that case, however, police ruled out political motives.

U.S. and European negotiators intervened swiftly in an attempt to salvage the limping Israeli-Syrian peace process after Israeli warplanes rocketed Lebanese power stations before dawn on Feb. 8, plunging the cities of Beirut, Baalbek and Tyre into darkness. Israel was retaliating for the killing of five of its soldiers in 10 days of attacks by Hizballah guerrillas in Southern Lebanon. Israel blamed the escalation on Syria, which it accused of encouraging Hizballah. With its retaliatory attack, Israel was rewriting informal rules, honored since 1996, under which it would refrain from hitting civilian installations unless its own civilians were targeted. By week's end the region returned to regular exchanges of fire between military units inside Lebanon, resulting in the deaths of an additional two Israeli soldiers. Nonetheless American diplomats hinted at an early resumption of talks.

A tropical low pressure zone in the Mozambique channel brought a week of torrential rains across a broad area of northeastern South Africa, causing the heaviest floods in 50 years. Widespread damage rendered an estimated 100,000 people homeless and caused at least 40 deaths in South Africa alone, with fears of further fatalities elsewhere. Rising waters stranded tourists and swept wild animals down raging rivers in the Kruger National Park, while floodwaters tore through villages in Mozambique, Botswana and Swaziland. Several areas were labeled disaster zones as rivers burst their banks and roads even in major cities like Johannesburg and Pretoria were closed to traffic.

Sudan's government broke its own cease-fire last week when it bombed a school in rebel-controlled territory in the south, killing 13 students according to the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army. spla spokesman Samson Kwaje said the plane, a Russian-made Antonov bomber, dropped six bombs on the school. All those killed were under 14, Kwaje said. The attack came three weeks after the Sudanese government promised a cease-fire on all fronts in the 17-year civil war. More than 2 million people have died in fighting and famines since rebels in the Christian and animist south began fighting in 1983 for greater autonomy from the Muslim and Arabic north.

The flight from Kabul to Mazar-e-Sharif should have taken less than an hour, but as the Ariana Boeing 727 took off air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane. Three hours later the aircraft landed in Tashkent as it became clear that hijackers had taken control. After stopovers in Kazakhstan and Moscow the plane flew on to London's Stansted Airport, where it stood on the tarmac for three days before the hijackers gave themselves up. British police arrested 22 hijackers, who, together with 74 of the passengers, requested political asylum.

Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid said that Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security General Wiranto, under fire for his alleged role in the violence in East Timor last year, must either resign or be fired. Wahid, in Bangkok for a trade meeting, said Wiranto's position would be clarified in an announcement on Monday, but that the minister would be out of the cabinet one way or the other. "It's up to him whether to resign or not," said Wahid. "If he does not resign, I will change the cabinet anyway." In spite of repeated calls from Wahid for his resignation, Wiranto has thus far refused to quit, and he has continued to attend cabinet meetings. The stand-off between Wahid and Wiranto has prompted fears about the possibility of a military coup in Indonesia, and kept foreign investors and international human rights observers on edge.

Japan's opposition parties ended a two-week boycott of Japan's Diet that stalled deliberations on a huge pump-priming budget for Japan's sickly economy. The government's decision to use its majority to ram a seat-cutting bill through the Diet sparked the rare protest by the Democratic Party and the smaller Communist and Social Democratic parties. The opposition parties backed down after the ruling coalition, buoyed by victories in local elections, agreed to offer more time for debate. The protest failed to catch fire with the public and one opposition politician called the action a "misjudgment."

A dawn raid by some 2,500 federal police ended a sit-in by students at Latin America's largest university, the public National Autonomous University of Mexico, that had lasted nearly 10 months. More than 700 protesters were arrested but most were freed within days, leaving 174 in jail to face more serious charges, some of terrorism. The protest began on April 20 over a proposal to raise annual tuition fees from a token few cents to the equivalent of $140. After university authorities conceded on that issue, hard-liners gave the dispute more radical political overtones, continuing to occupy university buildings and shutting out 270,000 other students.

The coalition government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez became increasingly divided when three of his key comrades in a failed 1992 military coup charged that Chavez's government is riddled with corruption and that Chavez himself is involved. The three, who may form their own opposition party, allege that Chavez's so-called peaceful revolution is losing direction. One accuser, retired Lieut. Colonel Jesus Urdaneta, who resigned from his Chavez-appointed job as head of the secret police after a political tiff last month, presented the attorney general with evidence of 46 cases of corruption, including one directly involving Chavez.

At least one prisoner died and seven police guards were injured in a riot by leftist prisoners serving time on terrorist charges at the Yanamayo maximum security prison in southern Peru, around 1,315 km southeast of Lima. Disturbances began on Feb. 6 in the remote prison, located some 4,000 m above sea level, apparently in protest over the conditions for inmates, mostly members of the Maoist Shining Path and Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. After a violent clash with some 50 inmates, 24 prison officers were taken hostage by prisoners. After about 300 military commandos ended the protest three days later, authorities alleged the one slain inmate was murdered by Shining Path prisoners because he favored an end to the protest.