The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 22 February 2003

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Perhaps a million people rallied in Hyde Park after a march through London in opposition to war against Iraq. Meanwhile Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, said in a speech to a Labour spring conference in Glasgow, 'I do not seek unpopularity as a badge of honour. But sometimes it is the price of leadership, and the cost of conviction.' He later announced he would go to meet the Pope in Rome. Hasil Mohammed Rahaham-Alan was charged under the Terrorism Act after a hand grenade was allegedly found in his luggage at Gatwick airport after a flight from Caracas. Since 11 September, 304 people have been arrested in Britain on suspicion of terrorism, but only three have been convicted. Asked on television if he thought a terrorist attack on Britain was inevitable, Sir John Stevens, the Metropolitan police commissioner, said, 'I am afraid I think it probably is.' Traffic fell by 25 per cent on the first day of charging motor-cars to use eight square miles of central London; of 190,000 vehicles using the area, about 100,000 paid £5, 10,000 did not and will be fined, and the rest were exempted. The Conservatives chose Mr Steve Norris as their candidate for mayor of London. Inflation remained at the same rate as in December, at 2.7 per cent, with the headline rate, including mortgage payments, staying at 2.9 per cent. A referendum on the euro looked unlikely this year after Mr Blair wrote a foreword to a Treasury report which suggested that euro-zone countries' economies were not flexible enough. David Beckham, England captain and Manchester United player, had two stitches in his eyebrow where it was cut by a boot kicked by Sir Alex Ferguson, the team's manager, 'in one of those freaks of nature that happens', after a 2-0 defeat by Arsenal in the Football Association Cup. Dolly, the first sheep to be cloned, is to be stuffed and displayed at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh after dying of a progressive lung disease, aged six. Paul Kelleher, who beheaded a statue of Lady Thatcher, was jailed for three months.

A summit of European Union leaders declared that 'war is not inevitable' but 'inspections cannot continue indefinitely in the absence of full Iraqi co-operation'. President Jacques Chirac of France rounded on eastern European nations, which had openly supported America: 'If they wanted to diminish their chances of joining the EU, they couldn't have chosen a better way,' he said. There were big demonstrations against war on Iraq in Italy, Spain, the United States, France and Germany. On 14 February, Mr Hans Blix, the UN weapons inspector, had reported to the UN Security Council that 'the period of disarmament through inspection could still be short if immediate, active and unconditional co-operation were forthcoming'. M. Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister, said, 'There is an alternative to war: disarming Iraq through inspections.' Mr Colin Powell, the American secretary of state, said, 'String it out long enough and the world will start looking in other directions and he [Saddam] will get away with it again.' Mr Tariq Aziz, the deputy prime minister of Iraq, visited the Pope, who asked Saddam Hussein to show a 'concrete' commitment to disarmament. President Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority said that he would appoint a prime minister. The planned reunion of Cyprus to enable accession to the European Union was disrupted by the victory of Mr Tassos Papadopoulos in elections for the presidency of the Greek-speaking part of the island; he has opposed a settlement with Turkish Cypriots. About 120 died after a man started a fire that swept through two trains at an underground station at Daegu, South Korea. Twenty-one were crushed to death in the doorway of the Epitome nightclub in Chicago at 2 a.m. in a panic after pepper-spray was used to break up a fight between two women; emergency exits were locked. A foot of snow fell on Central Park, New York, in a day, breaking a record from 1902.