News round-up

2 - 9 July 1997

NATO to expand

NATO has offered membership to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in a move that amounts to the organisation's most radical development since its creation in 1949. At the Madrid summit, leaders from NATO's 16 current members decided to limit the expansion to the three most advanced new democracies in eastern Europe.

An official statement said that NATO will expand further at some other time, though no dates were given, and praised Romania and Slovenia for their efforts at political, economic and military reform. The expansion puts the three new members under NATO's nuclear umbrella.

Czech demonstrators block nuclear plant

About 450 Czech tried to block the main road outside the site of the controversial nuclear power station, Temelin, where construction began before the end of communist rule in 1989. The new plant is expected to open by the end of the century. Environmentalists and the Government in nearby Austria say the plant presents a potential safety risk.

King's supporters in Albanian shoot-out

Supporters of King Leka of Albania, who is fighting to regain his throne, exchanged fire with police in Tirana, leaving one dead and several wounded. Violence broke out after a poorly attended rally during which supporters sang songs calling for the return of the monarchy and protested about what they claim was vote rigging by the Socialist Party in a referendum on the future of the monarchy.

FBI uncover Russian gang's arms deal

Two alleged Russian gang members operating in America have been arrested in Miami for offering to supply black-market arms including tactical nuclear weapons. Both are charged with conspiring to deal in explosive materials without a licence, as well as a plot to transfer and disperse nuclear material.

Polish peasant attack Govt budget plan

Poland's co-ruling Peasant Party (PSL) demanded that the 1998 budget deficit should remain at this year's level and criticised the finance ministry's plan to slash it to cool surging domestic demand. PSL, the smaller party in the coalition Government, said it wanted the 1998 budget gap to stay at 2.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) rather than see it cut to 1.9 percent, as Finance Minister Marek Belka wants.

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