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 5 - 12 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 his victory celebrations.

The defeated Conservative Prime Minister, John Major, surprised colleagues by announcing his resignation as party leader, opening the way for an immediate contest to find his successor.

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 has named Gordon Brown as his Chancellor, Robin Cook as Foreign Secretary and Jack Straw as Home Secretary. John Prescott has been given the title of Deputy Prime Minister with responsibility for 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

US, Mexican Presidents meet to bridge differences

President Clinton is on a state visit to Mexico where he will meet President Ernesto Zedillo on a two day summit designed to emphasise their country's bilateral friendship. However Clinton is expected to privately warn Zedillo that he must crack down on the Mexican drug barons that have become America's top national security concern, or face economic sanctions in the future.

Since the NAFTA free trade area was set up in 1993, Mexico has been a $130-billion-a-year trading partner with the US. But critics say the increase in cross-border trade as a result of the agreement has made it harder to prevent drug smuggling. America believes that as much as 75 per cent of the cocaine entering the country comes through Mexico. The Mexicans contend that the problem lies in US, where more than half the world's illegal drugs are consumed.

Related sites:
Mexico's Index
Latinworld: Mexico

Zaire's Kabila threatens Mobutu

Zaire's rebel leader, Laurent Kabila, has given an ultimatum to President Mobutu, saying he had three days to resign or he would be chased from power. Kabila has refused to declare a ceasefire after the collapse of peace talks between the two adversaries, and his forces are closing in fast on Kinshasa, Zaire's capital.

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

Blair's Govt to end confrontation with Europe

Britain's new Labour Government has initiated what it calls a new era in the country's relations with the European Union (EU) by promising to end confrontation, while at the same time defending the nation's interests. Doug Henderson, the newly-appointed Minister for Europe, has said that the EU is an an opportunity, not a threat. He insisted that Labour would sign up to the Social Chapter, drawing criticism from the Tory opposition who say it will open the floodgates to more employment legislation from Brussels.

Related sites:
The Labour Party

French Socialists focus on unemployment

French Socialist leader Lionel Jospin has proposed an economic policy to boost employment and purchasing power without raising public spending. Jospin's opposition party's manifesto proposes a reform of payroll taxes to cut the cost of labour, a shorter working week and the creation of 700,000 jobs. The Socialists also want to cut Value Added Tax on basic goods and to raise the wealth tax.

Related sites:
Le Monde

N.Korea aid talks break down

Talks between Red Cross officials from the two Koreas have ended without agreement on food aid for North Korea, which is in the middle of a severe famine. The Beijing-based talks, the first between Red Cross officials from the two country's in five years, foundered on the issue of how much food should go to the North and how it would get there. However, in what was seen as a positive development, the two sides agreed to meet again soon.

Related sites:
Relief Web Korea
Famine in North Korea
UNCOR Emergency Service

Netanyahu says Syria, Iran pose threat

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that weapons flowing to Syria and Iran pose a threat, but that Israel has more powerful deterrents at its disposal. His comments follow Israeli accusations that Syria is producing a more lethal form of nerve gas.

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

US gives more nuclear funds to Ukraine

The US and Ukrainian defense ministers have signed an agreement for Washington to provide an additional $47 million to help Ukraine destroy former Soviet strategic nuclear missiles. The deal will add to $404 million the US has already given to Ukraine, which last year completed the removal of all nuclear warheads from its SS-19 and SS-24 long-range missiles.

Related sites:
NRDC on Nuclear Weapons

Biggest gold find could be fraud

The apparent discovery of gold in Borneo which was hailed as the biggest find this century could be a fraud. An independent survey found evidence of trickery on a scale it said was without precedent in the history of mining.

Strathcona Mineral Services, a consulting firm hired by Bre-X, the Canadian exploration company that claimed to have discovered the deposit in Indonesia's East Kalimantan province, Borneo, found core samples had been tampered with. There has been no conclusion yet as to who is responsible for the alleged fraud.

Related sites:
Busan Gold Project

Unemployment falls in US

The US unemployment rate fell to 4.9 per cent last month - its lowest rate in more than 23 years - from 5.2 per cent in March, even though the economy created jobs at only a modest pace. The latest figures match a level last seen in December 1973.

Related sites:
US Bureau of Labor Statistics

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