World Watch

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In a landmark ruling, a court in France ordered U.S.-based Internet company Yahoo to block French users' access to its auctions of Nazi memorabilia. The decision, which complies with France's antihate laws, raises questions about whether a country can censor Internet content originating abroad. Yahoo decried last week's ruling as a violation of the U.S. constitutional right to free speech and said that it was technically impossible to wall off users in one country from sites in another. After hearing experts testify that Yahoo could theoretically screen 90% of French users from U.S.-based sites, Judge Jean-Jacques Gomez gave Yahoo three months to comply with the ruling or face fines of $13,000 a day.

European Union defense ministers agreed on specific national commitments of troops, ships and aircraft to make up a European Rapid Reaction Force. By 2003, the pool of men and matériel should enable the E.U. to dispatch 60,000 troops within 60 days and sustain them in a peacekeeping or crisis management mission for up to a year. Though under central command, the force would not amount to a European army, the ministers stressed. Instead, the troops would be deployed only on missions that did not engage nato as a whole.

Celebrations to mark 25 years of monarchy under King Juan Carlos were marred by the murder of former Socialist Minister Ernest Lluch by the Basque separatist group eta. Lluch, 63, who served as Health Minister from 1982 to 1986, had returned to his academic career — he was professor of economic history at the University of Barcelona — since abandoning active politics and was not considered an obvious eta target. His killing is the 21st assassination blamed on the Basque separatists since they ended a 14-month cease-fire in January.

Fighting broke out between troops loyal to Guinea-Bissau President Kumba Yalla and supporters of former military ruler General Ansumane Mane. The conflict began after General Mane blocked President Yalla's military appointments, accusing him of promoting on a tribal basis and destabilizing the army. Thousands fled Bissau fearing a repeat of the 1998 conflict in which Mane held the capital's well-fortified airbase for several months. On Friday, soldiers arrested Mane after driving him and his supporters out of that same airbase.

An estimated 70 Mozambican prisoners died, possibly of suffocation, in an overcrowded prison 1,600 km north of the capital Maputo. An international team of doctors will investigate the deaths. Earlier this month, Montepuez was the scene of violent clashes between police and supporters of the opposition Renamo party, who claimed that last year's general elections were rigged by the ruling Frelimo party. Foreign observers declared the election free and fair. Renamo and Frelimo fought a 16-year civil war until a 1992 peace deal led to multiparty elections.

Egypt recalled its ambassador to Israel for the first time in 18 years to protest heavy attacks by Israeli forces on Palestinian positions. The Israelis said the attacks were in response to the bombing of a school bus in the Gaza Strip that killed two adults and maimed several children. As the eight-week cycle of violence threatened to spiral out of control — Israeli troops shot dead four "militant suspects" and a Palestinian bomb exploded during rush hour near Tel Aviv — Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat signaled to both U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Russian President Vladimir Putin that he wanted to renew peace talks with Israel. At week's end, Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed to renew security cooperation by reopening joint liaison offices in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that had been closed after an Israeli soldier was killed in an attack on one of them.

New Delhi
India's Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee announced a unilateral cease-fire in Indian-held Kashmir during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in an attempt to get peace talks going with the territory's secessionist and pro-Pakistani insurgents. He resisted demands from nationalist Hindu M.P.s to step up the war after masked raiders in army uniforms murdered five Sikh and Hindu truck drivers on a main highway in the divided territory. The cease-fire offer was rejected by Kashmiri leaders in Pakistan as a tactical ploy. The territory's politicians said the war would end only when there was a political solution involving all parties to the dispute: Pakistan, India and Kashmiris.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori faced the greatest threat to his seven-month premiership when the opposition tabled a no-confidence motion in a chaotic parliamentary session. Koichi Kato, a reform-minded legislator in the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party, had vowed to break with his party and back the opposition's bid to oust the unpopular Mori. Threatened with expulsion from the party, however, Kato suddenly advised his supporters to abstain from voting. The motion was defeated by a margin of 237 votes to 190. An opinion poll by a Japanese television station showed that two-thirds of voters would prefer the gaffe-prone Mori to step down.

More than 400 refugees were repatriated to East Timor after a year of living in squalid camps in Indonesian-controlled West Timor. Many were former members of Indonesian-backed paramilitary groups who had previously been unwilling to return home out of concern for their safety. Around 100,000 refugees still remain in West Timor after fleeing the violent aftermath of East Timor's vote for independence last year. Meanwhile, in the city of Makassar, in southern Sulawesi, pro-Jakarta demonstrators punched and kicked Australia's ambassador to Indonesia, John McCarthy. The envoy had accused Indonesia's former military chief, General Wiranto, of having broad knowledge of the killings that took place in East Timor before the Australia-led U.N. peacekeeping force arrived.

The government of Tonga has given an Australian biotechnology company exclusive rights to study its people's gene pool. The Polynesian nation's isolation, small population (108,000) and well-documented family lineages will make it easier for researchers to identify genes that play a role in conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. The company, Autogen, will ask volunteers to provide samples of dna, the genetic "fingerprint" found in most cells. The Tongan government will retain ownership of the samples and receive a share of profits from Autogen's research. Similar studies are being conducted among ethnically homogeneous communities in southern Italy, Iceland and Norfolk Island.

Canadian police have arrested the man allegedly at the center of China's biggest corruption scandal. Lai Changxing, who was detained for immigration violations, has eluded Chinese authorities for more than a year. His Xiamen-based Yuanhua group of companies is alleged to have smuggled nearly $10 billion worth of crude oil, cars and other goods into China, depriving the government of billions of dollars in import duties. So far, 84 people have been convicted in the scandal known as the Yuanhua case. Of these, 11 have been sentenced to death. San JuanIn a multination drug sweep, police in 36 Caribbean countries and territories arrested nearly 3,000 people, including a number of suspected narcotics kingpins. The U.S.-orchestrated Operation Liberator was the third and biggest in a series of raids that began last year. Police seized more than 20 tons of cocaine, as well as $30 million in possessions and $2 million in U.S. currency. More than 1,600 hectares of coca plants and 800 of opium poppies were destroyed.

Buenos Aires
Argentina came to a near standstill during a 36-hour strike called by three major labor unions, to which around half of the country's 14 million workers belong. The strike is over President Fernando de la Rua's belt-tightening policies, including a five-year public spending freeze and cuts in state pensions. The austerity measures are being introduced as a condition for a $20 billion aid package from the International Monetary Fund. Argentina's recession is the worst in a decade, with more than 15% unemployment.