The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 15 May 2004

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, apologised conditionally for crimes that British soldiers might have committed in Iraq: ‘We apologise deeply to anyone who has been mistreated by any of our soldiers.’ He and Foreign Office ministers denied having seen until very recently a Red Cross report of alleged Coalition abuses that was delivered to high Coalition officials in February. More evidence was found for the inauthenticity of photographs published by the Daily Mirror purporting to show British troops mistreating Iraqi prisoners. Mr John Scarlett was named as the next chief of MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service; he had been chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee when he took control of the dossier on Iraq of September 2002, which incorporated suggestions from Downing Street advisers. A plastics factory in Glasgow collapsed killing seven after an explosion; people were trapped in rubble. Mr Luc Vandevelde announced his departure from Marks & Spencer, where he was chairman. The stock market fell along with stocks around the world; oil prices rose. The Venerable Anthony Crockett, the Archdeacon of Carmarthen, was appointed Bishop of Bangor although he divorced his first wife in 1985 and remarried in 1999. The House of Lords upheld a decision of the Court of Appeal preventing West Yorkshire police from refusing an application from a ‘Miss A’ on the grounds that she is a transsexual who would be unable to perform body searches under rules requiring an officer to be of the same sex as the person searched. A Manx shearwater first ringed in 1957 was found breeding off North Wales; it has so far migrated more than half a million miles.

More and more terrible photographs were published of United States personnel tormenting and degrading Iraqi prisoners. Mr George Bush, the President of the United States, announced that he had apologised for the outrages when he met the King of Jordan. ‘These events occurred on my watch,’ Mr Donald Rumsfeld, the American defence secretary, told the Senate defence committee, ‘there are many more photographs, and indeed some videos.’ A video posted on a militant Islamic website showed the beheading of Nick Berg, an American civilian, by a group affiliated to al-Qa’eda. Clerics close to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called on the Mahdi army militia, led by the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, to leave Najaf. American forces moved against the Mahdi army in Kufa, Karbala and Najaf. Mahdi army men attacked British forces in Basra and Amarah. Palestinians killed six Israeli troops by blowing up a military vehicle in Gaza City; heads and limbs were taken as bargaining chips. Akhmad Kadyrov the President of Chechnya, a republic of the Russian Federation, was assassinated when a bomb was set off at a victory day parade; he had been favoured by President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Mr Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia took control of the region of Adjara as Mr Aslan Abashidze, its separatist ruler, fled to Moscow. In Sudan about 70,000 people who had fled the kingdom of Shilluk, 500 miles southwest of Khartoum, faced starvation; a million had already fled fighting in the Darfur region to the west, where Arab militias attacked black Muslim villagers. The Binladin Group, founded by Osama’s father, was on the shortlist to build a 2,313ft tower, the world’s tallest, in Dubai. From next year government documents in Taiwan will be written from left to right instead of from top to bottom. The culprit who spread the Sasser virus to a million or so computers was said to be Sven Jaschan, an 18-year-old still at school in Lower Saxony. Picasso’s ‘Boy with a Pipe’ (1905) was sold for £58 million (including buyer’s commission). Mr Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, applied to Lord Lyon King of Arms, the heraldic authority in Scotland, for a grant of arms.

CSH