The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 1 March 2003

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, said, in an emergency statement to the House of Commons on Iraq, that 100 per cent co-operation by Saddam Hussein was necessary, and 'anything less will not do'. A day's debate followed in the Lords and Commons, where many Labour members were prepared to vote against the government. Mr Blair had visited the Pope in the company of his wife, and became the first serving prime minister to attend a papal Mass. At the General Synod of the Church of England, on the eve of the enthronment of Dr Rowan Williams as the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, prayers were offered for the British Prime Minister, the President of the United States, Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government. The Most Revd David Hope, the Archbishop of York, said that Ash Wednesday, 5 March, should be a day of fasting and prayer 'for all those caught up in the crisis'; the Pope had made a similar call. The Conservatives wallowed in a crisis of confidence in their leader, Mr Iain Duncan Smith. 'You don't look tall if you surround yourself by short grasses,' Mr Michael Portillo said on the wireless. 'You look tall if you surround yourself by the tallest grasses.' In response to these controversial remarks, Mr Duncan Smith called Mr Portillo 'self-indulgent to the point of madness'. The row had reached this pitch after Mr Duncan Smith repeatedly laughed when questioned on Today about changes of staff in the Conservative party. 'Ha, ha, ha. Here's the answer to everybody ...this is the most uninteresting subject that I can imagine,' he said. Abdullah El Faisal, a Jamaican-born convert to Islam, was found guilty at the Old Bailey of soliciting the murder of Hindus, Jews and Americans; tapes of his exhortations had been put on sale. Matthew Kelly, a television presenter, is not to be prosecuted after Surrey police found 'insufficient evidence' to support allegations made against him of the sexual abuse of children in the 1970s. The Home Office came up with the idea of giving local education officers powers to impose fixed-penalty fines on parents who take their children on holiday in term-time. The pound fell to its lowest rate of exchange against foreign currencies since February 1999 after figures showed that manufacturing investment had fallen to its lowest since 1965, when an index of such things was started. Christopher Hill, the Marxist historian and former Master of Balliol, died, aged 91.

The United States, Britain and Spain tabled a motion in the United Nations Security Council declaring, 'Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded it in resolution 1441.' France and Germany, with the support of Russia, made a rival proposal to extend the period of weapons inspection. Dr Hans Blix, the UN's chief weapons inspector, wrote to the Iraqi ambassador ordering the destruction by 1 March of dozens of al-Samoud 2 missiles and machinery to produce missile motors because they breach the range-limit of 93 miles set by UN resolutions at the end of the Gulf war in 1991. Saddam Hussein, in an interview with Dan Rather of CBS, said, 'We do not have missiles that go beyond the proscribed range.' Asked about the possibility of his leaving Iraq, he said, 'We will die here. We will die in this country and we will maintain our honour.' Mr Blix will also present to the UN Security Council next week a list of 30 unanswered questions about Iraq's weapons programmes. Mr Kofi Annan, the secretary-general of the UN, visited Turkey, Greece and Cyprus in an attempt to secure the reunification of the island; Britain offered to surrender its sovereign bases on Cyprus. North Korea fired a missile into the Sea of Japan. Mr Colin Powell, the American secretary of state, flew to China in an attempt to secure its co-operation in opposing Iraq and the nuclear threat from North Korea. An earthquake killed hundreds in the western edge of Xinjiang, near China's mountainous border with Kyrgyzstan; people made homeless endured nights at temperatures of minus 10˚C. A fire started by fireworks during a performance of the hard-rock band Great White at the Station club at West Warwick, Rhode Island, killed 96. Mr Derek Bond, a 72-year-old from Bristol on holiday in South Africa, was kept in jail for three weeks because the Federal Bureau of Investigation thought he was a man wanted for fraud in Texas, even though he looked quite different.

CSH