Home > Uncategorized > Politics this week: 2nd – 8th December 2006

Politics this week: 2nd – 8th December 2006

A report on Iraq by a panel of foreign-policy experts headed by a former American secretary of state, James Baker, and a former congressman, Lee Hamilton, recommended that George Bush’s administration should start reducing the number of American troops there—bar unforeseen circumstances—by the spring of 2008. Their primary mission should be to bolster and train the Iraqi army. See article

The report also called urgently for a Middle East regional summit, including Syria and Iran and addressing such thorny issues as Palestine. Mr Bush did not say whether he would heed the report’s findings but said he would take them “very seriously”.

Robert Gates received the approval of the Senate to become America’s new defence secretary. Eyebrows were raised at Mr Gates’s stark assessment that America was not winning the war in Iraq, a contradiction to recent statements made by his boss.

Hundreds of humanitarian workers were evacuated from el-Fasher, capital of the Sudanese state of North Darfur, after clashes between government-backed janjaweed militias and rebels. The town is the hub of the government’s counter-insurgency campaign in the area and a UN-aid base. See article

According to preliminary results, Madagascar‘s incumbent president, Marc Ravalomanana, a dairy tycoon, won a new five-year mandate in a presidential poll on December 3rd. See article

Joseph Kabila was sworn in as Congo‘s first freely elected president in more than 40 years. He defeated his rival, Jean-Pierre Bemba, in a run-off election last month.

John Bolton resigned as America’s ambassador to the United Nations. The diplomat, who has had a prickly relationship with the world body, was given the job by Mr Bush on a temporary basis and needed to be approved by the Senate, an unlikely proposition given that the Democrats, who will soon control the chamber, blocked his permanent appointment last year. See article

Nancy Pelosi, the incoming speaker in the House of Representatives, tried to smooth things over with some of her colleagues after she bypassed the two most senior Democratic congressmen on the intelligence committee to appoint Silvestre Reyes as its chairman. The two senior contenders had been backed by, respectively, the party’s “Blue Dog” conservative coalition and the black caucus.

NASA, America’s space agency, revealed that it intends to build a permanent manned base on the moon. Construction work is planned to start in 2020, once a new breed of rockets to deliver people and components there has been designed and tested.


Hugo Chávez, Venezuela‘s left-wing president, won a resounding victory in his country’s presidential election. With nearly all votes counted, he had won 63% to 37% for Manuel Rosales, his social-democratic opponent. See article

General Augusto Pinochet, Chile‘s elderly former dictator, was rushed to hospital after a heart attack. Following surgery, he appeared to recover.

Felipe Calderón took office as Mexico’s president, and announced cuts in his own and other public-sector salaries to finance an increase in spending on health care and fighting crime. See article

Canada’s Liberal Party, the main opposition, chose Stéphane Dion, a former academic and cabinet minister from Quebec, as its leader in preference to Michael Ignatieff, a writer and journalist, and two other candidates. See article

The spat between Turkey and the European Union continued to reverberate around Europe. The leaders of France and Germany called for a further review in 15 months’ time. A last-ditch offer by Turkey to open one port and one airport to (Greek) Cyprus seemed unlikely to succeed. See article

Finland, which currently holds the European Union presidency, is to become the 16th out of 25 members to ratify the draft EU constitutional treaty. The German presidency early next year promises to find some way of reviving the treaty, which was rejected by French and Dutch voters in the summer of 2005.

France launched its much-hyped international television news channel, France 24. The aim of the channel, which is government-financed, is to challenge Anglo-American channels such as CNN and BBC World. France 24 will broadcast in French and English; later an Arabic channel will be added.

British police went to Moscow to investigate the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. But they were told by Russian authorities that they could neither make arrests of, nor seek to extradite, any Russian nationals. Traces of polonium, the radioactive substance used to kill Mr Litvinenko, were found at the British Embassy in Moscow. See article

Hundreds of people died in the Philippines as Typhoon Durian caused torrential mudslides from the slopes of Mayon volcano. The storm later went on to pound Vietnam‘s south coast. See article

A court in the Philippines capital Manila sentenced an American marine to up to 40 years in prison for raping a local woman last November. America and the Philippines squabbled over custody of the marine during his appeal. See article


Frank Bainimarama, commander of Fiji‘s armed forces, staged a coup against the government of Laisenia Qarase. Although the coup was widely condemned, John Howard, Australia‘s prime minister, ruled out military intervention. See article

The Labor Party, Australia‘s main opposition, voted out its leader, Kim Beazley, and replaced him with Kevin Rudd, the party’s foreign-affairs spokesman. See article

As prospects for a revival of the peace process continue to worsen, Sri Lanka‘s government announced sweeping anti-terrorism measures. But it stopped short of banning the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Despite a 2002 “ceasefire”, more than 3,400 people have died in fighting this year.

The opposition in Bangladesh called off its latest strike and blockade, which yet again had brought the capital, Dhaka, to a standstill in protest at alleged efforts to rig the election due in January. See article

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