The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 12 October 2002

A speedy round-up of the week's news Ê

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Police raided the offices of Sinn Fein in the Northern Ireland Assembly building at Stormont and several private addresses before charging Sinn Fein's head of administration at Stormont with passing on documents that could be 'useful to terrorists in planning or carrying out acts of violence'; two others were also charged. The action came after a year's investigation of spying by the Irish Republican Army at the Northern Ireland Office; transcripts of conversations between Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, and President George Bush of the United States were said to have been copied. Mr David Trimble, First Minister in the Northern Ireland Assembly, flew to London for talks with Mr Blair. In an Internet poll mounted by YouGov on behalf of the Daily Telegraph, only 5 per cent of respondents agreed that Mr Iain Duncan Smith provided 'strong and effective leadership' of the Conservatives. At the Conservative party conference, Mrs Theresa May, the party chairman, said that they had a reputation as the 'nasty party'. 'A number of politicians have behaved disgracefully and then compounded their offences by trying to evade responsibility. We know who they are,' she said. 'Some Tories have tried to make political capital by demonising minorities.' Dr Rowan Williams, the next Archbishop of Canterbury, politely refused to respond to detailed questions by a delegation from the Church Society, a conservative Evangelical body, about his beliefs concerning sexual activity outside marriage, and the status of Scripture. Lord Archer got into trouble with prison authorities for publishing a diary of his time at Belmarsh which mentions other prisoners by name. David Tovey was found guilty at Oxford Crown Court of racially aggravated damage inflicted by his campaign of racist graffiti; he had earlier been convicted of possessing arms and explosives. Mr David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, said that the ten countries applying for membership of the European Union would be deemed 'safe' when applications for asylum were being considered; the government introduced the measures late in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill, as it entered the report stage in the Lords. Thurrock Council, Essex, strongly opposed a plan by the Home Secretary to moor a barge accommodating 620 asylum seekers at Tilbury. The government announced plans to inoculate health workers against smallpox in the face of a terrorist risk.

An explosion holed a French supertanker, the 158,000-ton Limburg, off Yemen, igniting its oil; the incident was thought to be an attack by al-Qa'eda. Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based television station, played a tape that a known source said was from Osama bin Laden; 'The youths of God are preparing things that would fill your hearts with terror and target your economic lifeline,' it said. Richard Reid, from Brixton, south London, pleaded guilty before the district court in Boston, Massachusetts, to having tried at the end of last year to blow up a transatlantic flight, with explosives packed into his shoes; he said he was a follower of Osama bin Laden. Pakistan tested its Hatf IV missile, also known as the Shaheen 1, capable of carrying nuclear warheads far into India. Pakistan also held elections, although the constitution has already been adjusted by General Pervaiz Musharraf to give him control over future governments. Israel killed 15 and wounded 100 in a raid on the Gaza Strip; it said most of the dead were armed men. The United States State Department said it was 'deeply troubled' by raids on Palestinian areas that killed civilians. In Ivory Coast, rebels continued to hold the centre of Bouake. A Russian was arrested at a Siberian customs post trying to smuggle 27 tons of enriched uranium out of the country. The Pope canonised Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei. Prince Claus of the Netherlands, the consort of Queen Beatrix, died, aged 76. Professor Robert Horvitz, an American, Dr Sydney Brenner and Sir John Sulston, both British, shared the Nobel prize for medicine for their work on the genetic make-up of Caenorhabditis elegans, a nematode worm.