Home > Uncategorized > Politics this week: 13th – 19th January 2007

Politics this week: 13th – 19th January 2007

The American secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, toured the Middle East to promote George Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq; she also sounded out the Palestinians and Israelis over the possibility of reviving a peace process, and proposed a three-way meeting soon. As well as Israel and the Palestinian territories, she visited Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. See article

Israel’s top general, Dan Halutz, resigned over the handling of last summer’s war in Lebanon. Meanwhile, the justice ministry announced a criminal investigation into corruption allegations against the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, whose government looks increasingly fragile.


Sectarian carnage in Iraq persisted. A bomb attack on a university in Baghdad killed at least 70 people, many of them female students, while attacks elsewhere in Baghdad and in the disputed city of Kirkuk killed at least another 100. The government, meanwhile, said it had agreed to a new law to distribute oil revenue fairly among Iraq‘s people.

Tunisia‘s interior minister said that an armed group that was broken up by security forces in a recent shoot-out were radical Islamists who had infiltrated from Algeria. This raised fears that groups linked to al-Qaeda were trying to build a north African front.

On a tour of Latin American countries with anti-American governments, Iran‘s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said he would put $1 billion into an Iranian-Venezuelan fund to help poor countries throw off the “yoke of American imperialism”. But back home, powerful figures criticised him for his bellicose foreign policy and extravagant economics. See article

The African Union continued its effort to raise an 8,000-strong peacekeeping force for Somalia to replace the Ethiopian army which, with American backing, has swept the Islamists from power in the past few weeks. See article

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Spain’s socialist prime minister, said he had made a “mistake” in predicting improved relations with ETA, the Basque terrorist group. His prediction had been made one day before ETA broke a ceasefire on December 30th with a bomb at Madrid’s airport that killed two people. See article

Breaking a seven-month political stalemate, a centre-right coalition under Mirek Topolanek formed a government in the Czech Republic. It relies on two defectors from the opposition for its majority in the deadlocked parliament.

A vote in Ukraine‘s parliament diminished the power of the presidency. The measure was another blow to President Viktor Yushchenko, and a victory for Viktor Yanukovich, the prime minister. Yulia Tymoshenko, the president’s former ally, sided with Mr Yanukovich for the vote.


Security was increased in the Moscow metro and at transport and infrastructure facilities across Russia following warnings of an impending terrorist attack. The security services said they were acting on a tip-off from foreign colleagues.

Fidel Castro has had three operations for diverticulitis— an inflamed colon—and is now suffering from peritonitis, and other complications, according to a detailed account in El País, a Spanish newspaper. Cuban officials have refused to discuss their president’s condition, except to deny American claims that he has cancer.

In the first confession by a senior paramilitary leader in Colombia under a controversial peace process, Salvatore Mancuso gave details of the killing of more than 300 people in 87 different militia operations. See article

Evo Morales, Bolivia‘s president, sent the army to patrol the country’s third city, Cochabamba, after two people were killed and dozens wounded in clashes between his supporters and those of the local governor, who supports regional autonomy.

Meeting in Cebu, the Philippines, leaders of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed to accelerate their move toward a regional free-trade area, and signed an agreement on migrant labour. An accord was also reached with China on liberalising trade in services. See article

China and Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution put forward by America condemning the junta in Myanmar and demanding political reform. Indonesia, its ASEAN partner, abstained.

The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan met in Islamabad. There was no breakthrough, but both sides spoke positively of a peace process that had appeared in jeopardy after last July’s bombings in Mumbai. See article

Fakhruddin Ahmed, a former World Bank economist and central-bank governor, was appointed the new head of Bangladesh‘s caretaker administration. With the country in a state of emergency enforced by the army, Mr Ahmed promised to arrange credible elections. See article

In important steps towards cementing peace in Nepal, Maoist rebels took seats in an interim parliament, and promised to dissolve their parallel government. They also began to register and lock up their weapons.

Senior Afghan and American officials continued to accuse Pakistan of harbouring Taliban militants active in Afghanistan. Pakistan denied the charges and mounted air strikes on a militant camp in South Waziristan, a tribal area bordering Afghanistan. See article

The Philippines army claimed to have killed Abu Sulaiman, a leading member of the Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf, in a gun battle. The group has been linked with al-Qaeda.


Barack Obama took his first formal step towards running for president by forming an exploratory committee. The senator from Illinois, who has held his seat for two years, is considered a front-runner for the Democratic nomination along with a certain senator from New York who is expected to make her intentions known (officially) soon. See article

Jury selection began in the trial of Lewis “Scooter” Libby. The former chief of staff for the vice-president, Dick Cheney, is accused of perjury in an investigation into the leaking of a former CIA officer’s name to the press. The Plame affair was a headache for George Bush prior to the 2004 election.

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