The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 15 March 2003

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Britain joined the United States and Spain in tabling an amendment to the draft resolution before the Security Council of the United Nations, reading: 'Iraq will have failed to take the final opportunity afforded by resolution 1441 unless on or before 17 March 2003 the Council concludes that Iraq has demonstrated full, unconditional, immediate and active co-operation with its disarmament obligations.' Miss Clare Short became the first Cabinet minister to threaten resignation if Britain went to war without securing a UN vote; to add injury to Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, she accused him of recklessness over Iraq and being 'reckless with our government, reckless with his own future, position and place in history'. Mr Ron Davies announced that he would not stand again in May for his seat in the Welsh assembly after telling the Sun, which was hounding him, that he had visited Tog Hill near Bath, a place of resort for homosexuals, to watch badgers; 'I feel badly bruised,' he said at a press conference. More than 20 Tory MPs voted with the Labour majority to abolish Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, which prohibits promotion of homosexuality in state schools; Mr Iain Duncan Smith, the Leader of the Opposition, voted for its retention, which annoyed some 'modernisers' in the party. A Home Office white paper on anti-social behaviour proposed on-the-spot fines for children of ten caught riding bicycles on the pavement. Adam Faith, the pop singer who topped the charts in 1959 with 'What Do You Want (If You Don't Want Money)', died of a heart attack, aged 62, after performing at the Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent. The soap opera Crossroads, revived two years ago, will end in the summer.

The United States made it clear again that it would go to war with Iraq if it did not comply with disarmament requirements, even if the United Nations gave no further backing to such a move. Mr Donald Rumsfeld, the American defence secretary, said that Britain's role remained 'unclear' until the UN resolution was resolved. The United States tested in Florida a 21,000lb bomb, 40 per cent bigger than the 'daisy-cutter' used in Afghanistan; it is called Moab, an acronym for 'massive ordnance air blast' but is jokingly referred to as 'mother of all bombs'. Mr Kofi Annan, the secretary-general of the UN, said that an attack without the authority of the Security Council would mean that 'the legitimacy and support for any such action would be seriously impaired'. M. Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister, flew to Angola, Cameroon and Guinea to persuade them to vote against a resolution. Mr Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected to the Turkish parliament in a by-election, enabling him to become Prime Minister; America hoped that once that was settled he would arrange for parliament to allow US troops to pass through Turkey to attack Iraq. A UN plan to reunite Cyprus, allowing it to join the EU, collapsed. Mr Eddie Fenech Adami, the Prime Minister of Malta, called a general election for 12 April, four days before it is due to sign an accession treaty with the European Union; the election followed a referendum in which 53 per cent of those who voted supported joining the EU - a figure which failed to exceed 50 per cent of those entitled to vote. A Palestinian bomber killed himself and 15 others on a bus in Haifa, wounding 55. In a day of retaliation Israel killed 15 and two days later an Israeli rocket killed a Hamas leader, Ibrahim Maqadmeh, and three of his associates in a car in the Gaza Strip. President Yasser Arafat appointed a prime minister, Mr Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). Mr Michel Jalbert, a Canadian whose home village of Pohenegamook is divided by the border with the United States, was prohibited from ever returning to the United States after pleading guilty to entering the country with a weapon as a felon, a status he owes to a teenage conviction for theft; he had strayed a few yards over the border with a shotgun in his car to buy petrol.