Home > Uncategorized > Politics this week: 31st March – 6th April 2007

Politics this week: 31st March – 6th April 2007

Tortuous diplomacy continued in an effort to free 15 British sailors and marines captured recently by Iran, which said they had trespassed into Iranian waters at the top of the Persian Gulf. Britain, which denied the charge, said it has proposed direct talks with Iran. See articleE+

Following a threat from Kurdish members of Iraq’s parliament to leave the unity government, a plan was agreed upon to offer compensation and land in Iraq’s Arab south for Arabs willing to leave the disputed city of Kirkuk, which Kurds want to include in their region. See article

Iraq’s most influential cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has been notably quieter in the past year or so, seemed to reject the unity government’s plan to allow members of Saddam Hussein‘s Baath Party back into public service. Sunni Arabs say this may hamper Shia-Sunni reconciliation.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of America’s House of Representatives, defied President George Bush by making a controversial visit to Syria, a country the Bush administration has sought to ostracise. See article

Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, suggested holding talks with Saudi Arabia on the Arab League’s plan, relaunched last week, for normalising relations with Israel. The Arab League’s secretary-general, Amr Moussa, dismissed the comments as a call for a “free-of-charge normalisation”, while a Saudi official said that Israel would have to accept the plan’s principles before talks could be held.

Southern African leaders, meeting in Tanzania to discuss conditions in Zimbabwe, asked South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki to mediate between Zimbabwe’s opposition and its president, Robert Mugabe, whom they refused to criticise. In Zimbabwe itself, the ruling party said Mr Mugabe would be its candidate again in next year’s presidential election. See article

The United Nations said that about 47,000 people had fled Mogadishu in the past two weeks after fighting flared in the Somali capital, killing about 400 people, most of them civilians. See article

Former Maoist insurgents in Nepal joined an interim government in coalition with seven mainstream parties, an important landmark in the peace process. The Maoists took five out of 21 cabinet posts, including the departments of information and local development.

The South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation held a summit in Delhi, marked by the usual professions of seriousness about co-operation and the usual lack of concrete measures to realise it.

Six Islamist militants were executed in Bangladesh. The militants were convicted of a series of bombings in 2005 that gave rise to fears the country might become a hub for international terrorism. See article

Local-commune elections in Cambodia resulted in another landslide win for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party of Hun Sen, the prime minister. The opposition made accusations of fraud. See article


At least 28 people died when a tsunami hit the Solomon Islands. Hundreds of homes and much infrastructure were destroyed. Many survivors moved to camp on inland hills, in fear of aftershocks, and were reported to be in desperate need of water, food and tents.

Argentina’s government marked the 25th anniversary of the start of the Falklands War with an announcement that it was pulling out of an agreement with Britain regarding oil exploration in the South Atlantic. See article

More chaos afflicted Brazil’s airports. After a five-hour strike by air-traffic controllers, the government agr
eed to their demands for higher pay and for some to be transferred from the air force to a civilian agency. Brazil has been dogged by air-traffic control problems since September.

In his first political intervention since undergoing surgery last year, Cuba’s Communist president, Fidel Castro, published a newspaper article claiming that American plans to boost ethanol use would lead to food shortages. See articleE+

America and South Korea agreed on a plan to form a free-trade area. It must be ratified by Congress and South Korea’s parliament and faces obstacles in both places.

Environmentalists claimed a victory when America’s Supreme Court, in its first “global warming” case, ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency did have the power to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, and criticised it for not having done so. The decision puts more pressure on the Bush administration to take action on reducing greenhouse gases. See article

Presidential contenders released details of the money they raised during the first three months of this year. Hillary Clinton claimed to have the most, $26m. Republican candidate Mitt Romney claimed $21m. Barack Obama did not disclose a sum, but it was rumoured to be in excess of $20m. See article

A report forecast that this year American farmers would plant their largest amount of corn since 1944, driven by the demand for ethanol as an alternative fuel.

David Hicks was sentenced to seven years in prison by a military tribunal at Guantánamo Bay. But Mr Hicks, who made a plea bargain and admitted helping al-Qaeda, will serve only nine months and in his native Australia.

In an escalating political confrontation, Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yushchenko, dissolved parliament and called a new election on May 27th. But his rival (and prime minister), Viktor Yanukovich, refused to accept the dissolution. As is now customary, flag-waving protesters from both sides took to the streets. See article

As expected, Romania’s government fell apart and the prime minister, Calin Popescu Tariceanu, formed a new minority administration. He also dropped the well-known justice minister, Monica Macovei, who is a protégée of the president, Traian Basescu.


France broke the world rail-speed record when a high-speed train travelling on the new line from Paris to Strasbourg touched a top speed of nearly 575kph (357mph).

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