A weekly digest covering major political and economic developments around the world, continent by continent and personality by personality.

News round-up for the week of 12 - 19 May 1997

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Hundreds die as rebels advance on Kinshasa

Hundreds of civilians and soldiers were reported killed as Zairian rebels advanced on Kinshasa, Zaire's capital city. About 200 civilians and more than 100 soldiers from both sides of Zaire's civil war have been killed in fighting around the town of Kenge, 150 miles east of Kinshasa. Rebel leader Laurent Kabila, who's forces rose up against President Mobutu's regime last October, have said they are building up for a final push against the capital.

Related sites:
UN Home Page
Zaire Watch
The Great Lakes Crisis

Irish PM welcomes Blair

John Bruton, the Irish Prime Minister, hailed Tony Blair's election as the new British Prime Minister as an 'improvement for the better' for Ireland after their first meeting since the general election. But the new Government warned that it was unlikely that Sinn Fein will be present when Ireland's peace talks process reopens on June 3 because there was no sign of an IRA ceasefire. Dublin by contrast believes that Sinn Fein might still be able to join the talks from the start.

Related sites:
The Labour Party
Department of the Taoiseach

US Ambassador to return to Vietnam

A former US pilot who was shot down during the Vietnam war and held prisoner in the notorious 'Hanoi Hilton' prison has become the first US ambassador to Hanoi in 22 years. Douglas Perterson's priority will be to increase efforts to account for over 2000 American personnel still listed as missing-in-action in Indochina following the war.

Related sites:
Veterans of Vietnam war,Inc.

Australia's Howard denounces rise of 'racist' MP

Australia's Prime Minister John Howard has attacked Pauline Hanson, an MP with surging popularity whose controversial views on race have divided Australia and are threatening relations with neighbouring Asian countries. Having been criticised himself for failing to take a strong enough line against Ms Hanson's calls for cuts in Asian immigration and Aborigine welfare projects, John Howard accused the former fish-and-chip shop owner of empty populism, cheap sloganeering and bitter and divisive recriminations.

Mrs Hanson was thrown out of Mr Howard's Liberal party for her views before the last election in March 1996. Her One Nation political party and a book called 'Pauline Hanson - The Truth' has caused a storm because of its hardline attack on multi-racial culture in Australia.

Related sites:
John Howard's home page

Russia claims right to use nuclear weapons first

Russia staged a military parade in Red Square to mark the victory over Nazi Germany and declared that its newly adopted national security doctrine included the right to use nuclear weapons first in the event of war. Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovsky revealed the change in policy in a radio interview, and said nuclear weapons would only be used if there was no other option. His comments come at a time when Russia is fiercely opposing NATO's expansion as a threat to its own security.

Related sites:
Russia Today

UN criticises Israel over 'torture'

The UN Committee against Torture has called on Israel to stop interrogating Palestinian detainees with methods including sleep deprivation and violent shaking, saying these methods constitute torture and are in breach of international law. The committee said the 1987 Convention against Torture, which Israel has signed, made it clear that the threat of terrorism is no justification for cruel treatment. The Israeli Ambassador Yosef Lamdan rejected the committee's conclusions, saying they were based on the hearsay evidence of non-governmental organisations

Related sites:
UN Home Page
The Jerusalem Post
Center for Peace in Middle East

French poll points to win for conservative coalition

France's ruling conservative coalition is heading for a 100-seat majority, according to an opinion poll by the IFOP institute published in Le Journal du Dimanche. This reversed earlier predictions that the Left was gaining the upper hand.

Related sites:
Le Monde

EU rebukes Italy

The European Commission was set to rebuke Italy for failing to get its deficit in line with Maastricht and not submitting convergency plans for monetary union in time, according to a letter leaked to La Repubblica newspaper. The Rome daily claimed that although the warning was one of ten such letters issued to EU member states, the one addressed to Italy was by far the severest.

Related sites:
La Repubblica

Kasparov beaten by Deep Blue

Chess history was created when Garry Kasparov conceeded defeat to the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue. The victory is the first time a computer program has beaten a reigning world champion in a classical chess match. Kasparov appeared to be under psychological stress following game two of the six-game series when he needlessly resigned in a drawn position. The fiesty grandmaster, generally considered to be the best chess player in the history of the ancient game, apologised for his performance but insisted that the match was unfair because he had no access to the computer's pre-match games.

Related sites:
IBM: Kaparov vs Deep Blue
Club Kasparov

Fiji turns back to monarchy

The Pacific island of Fiji is preparing to re-embrace the monarchy 10 years after becoming a republic following a military coup. The Government of General Sitiveni Rabuka, who led the coup against in 1987, is keen to establish a special relationship with Queen Elizabeth II. The General hopes to renew Fiji's membership of the Commonwealth which it left at the time of the coup.

Related sites:
Fiji Magic

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