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 28 April - 5 May 1997

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Britain's Labour wins landslide victory

The United Kingdom has voted to end 18 years of Conservative Government, giving Tony Blair's Labour Party a decisive majority in the House of Commons. "A new dawn has broken!" Blair told cheering party workers at the his victory celebrations.

The outgoing Conservative Prime Minister, John Major, congratulated Tony Blair in the early hours of Friday morning, and conceded that: "We have been comprehensively defeated." His position as leader of the Conservative Party is now seriously jeopardised.

Labour has been transformed by Blair since 1995 when he took over the Labour leadership following the death of John Smith. Blair, 43, will be Britain's youngest Prime Minister in well over 100 years. He was expected to name Gordon Brown as his Chancellor, Robin Cook as Foreign Secretary and Jack Straw as Home Secretary. John Prescott is expected to take the title of Deputy Prime Minister and to lead a new super-ministry combining parts of the department of the environment and the transport department.

Related sites:
The Labour Party
The Conservative Party
The Liberal Democrats

Peruvian troops end siege

Peruvian soldiers ended the four-month siege of the Japanese Ambassador's residence in Lima by storming the building, freeing all bar one of the 72 hostages. The 14 Marxist guerrillas holding them were killed in the attack. Two troops died from injuries sustained during the forty-minute assault, while one hostage, Dr Carlos Giusti, a Peruvian Supreme Court judge, died of a heart attack after being shot in the leg. There have been allegations that two of the guerrillas were executed and others were shot as they tried to surrender.

Related sites:
Peruvian Hostage Crisis site
Latinworld Peru

Winnie Mandela holds on to top post

Winnie Mandela was re-elected by an overwhelming margin as the President of the African National Congress's influential women's league, surprising critics who expected her to face a much tougher fight. The ANC leadership, which has been embarrassed by scandals linked to Mrs Mandela, had favoured Dr Nkosazana Zuma, the Health Minister, for the post, but Dr Zuma's nomination never materialised.

Related sites:
ANC homepage

Iraq hiding more weapons

Colonel Terry Taylor, the head of the latest United Nations inspection team to visit Iraq said his group had found clear evidence that Baghdad was still concealing the full extent of its secret weapons programme. The team uncovered an advanced biological weapons programme which the Iraqis had kept concealed. Iraqi Prime Minister Tareq Aziz denied his country is hiding small but significant quantities of banned weapons.

Related sites:
UN Home Page

UN mounts search for Zairian refugees

The United Nations (UN) has mounted an aerial search for 80,000 Rwandan refugees in eastern Zaire, while aid agencies have accused the Tutsi-dominated rebels of trying to achieve a "final solution" by condemning them all to death. At the United Nations, Secretary General Kofi Annan called the refugee crisis "slow extermination".

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

Troop agreement between Russia and China

The presidents of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have signed a treaty on troop reductions along the former Sino-Soviet border. After years of hostility between China and Russia, relations between Beijing and Moscow have been gradually improving since 1989. Earlier in the week Russia's President Yeltsin and China's President Jiang Zemin had said in a joint declaration that "No country should seek hegemony, practise power politics or monopolise international affairs" - apparently a veiled attack on what they see as America's attempt to dominate the post-Cold War world.

Related sites:
China People's Daily
Russia Today

Russia responds to crisis with budget cuts

The Russian Government, which is facing a budget crisis, is considering a new draft tax code and huge spending cuts. The two measures are intended to encourage fresh foreign cash and help the Government to proceed with market reforms. Low Russian tax revenues are an obstacle to a resumption of regular payments by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of its US$10 billion three-year loan.

Related sites:
Russia Today

France hit by wave of strikes

Strikes have disrupted French air, sea and rail traffic, stopping numerous trains, cutting half the flights at French airlines and stranding ferries to Corsica and Tunisia. Train conductors extended their protest in various regions. Six trade unions called the strike in a fresh sign of opposition to the centre-right Government's austerity measures designed to allow France to join a single European currency.

Related sites:
Le Monde (in French)

Two teens found dead in West Bank

Two teenage girls were found stabbed to death in a West Bank nature reserve near Jerusalem. Israeli police said it was probably a Palestinian terrorist attack. There were signs the girls had been stabbed and dragged. The police did not reveal the girl's identities or their nationalities.

Related sites:
Jerusalem Post

IMF warns against delay on Euro

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said a delay to the launch of the European single currency in 1999 could cause dangerous turbulence in financial markets. An IMF spokesperson said any delay would be dangerous in the short term and would mean postponing the single currency for years.

Related sites:

News Archive

News 5 May - 12 May
News 12 May - 19 May
News 19 - 26 May
News 26 May - 2 June
News 2 June - 9 June
News 9 - 16 June
News 16 - 23 June
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News 30 June - 7 July
News 7 - 14 July
News 30 7 - 14 July
News 21 July - 28 July

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©Kensington Publications 1997