The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 24 April 2004

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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A referendum on the proposed constitution for the European Union will be held, the government conceded; the next argument was over the timing. ‘Parliament should debate it in detail and decide upon it,’ Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, told the Commons, ‘then let the people have the final say.’ After meeting President George Bush of the United States in Washington, Mr Blair said that they would seek a United Nations Security Council resolution to authorise a ‘central role’ for the UN in Iraq after America relinquishes nominal control on 1 July. In raids intended to catch terrorists, 400 police arrested six men and a woman in Greater Manchester, one man in Staffordshire, one in South Yorkshire and another in the West Midlands; those arrested were of Kurdish and North African origin. Eton appointed a Muslim tutor to care for Muslim boys. The government withdrew funding worth £120,000 from Sinn Fein after the Independent Monitoring Commission found that the IRA was still preparing terrorists for violence. Dr Jeffrey John, whose appointment as Bishop of Reading was withdrawn because he was living chastely with another man, was named as Dean of St Albans. Thirty-four of the 125 Common Councillors of the City of London are freemasons, according to an official answer to a councillor’s question. Ms Judy Boynton resigned as finance director of Shell, which has been badly hit by admitting it had overstated its oil reserves. Tesco’s profits rose by 22 per cent to £1.7 billion. Mrs Joyti De-Laurey, a secretary at the City bankers Goldman Sachs, was convicted on four counts of using a false instrument and 16 counts of obtaining a money transfer by deception to take £4,303,259 from her employers. Norris McWhirter, co-founder of The Guinness Book of Records, died, aged 78. A 51-year-old man won £878,939 from a £4 stake at a Bournemouth bookmaker’s by naming six winning horses last Saturday.

Mr Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister of Israel, during a visit to Washington, gained public support from President Bush for his policy of withdrawing from Gaza but keeping some Israeli settlements in occupied territory; the President did not object to the absence of any recognition of a right for Palestinians to return to live in Israel. Israel assassinated Abdul Aziz Rantissi, aged 56, the leader of the Islamist terror group Hamas, whose founder, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, it had assassinated a month earlier. Hamas appointed a new leader but kept his name secret. Israel released from jail Mordechai Vanunu after he had served 18 years for telling the Sunday Times about Israel’s nuclear weapons. Mr Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the new Prime Minister of Spain, announced on his first day the immediate withdrawal of its 1,300 troops from Iraq. The coffin of a policeman, Francisco Javier Torronteras, who died when seven terrorists blew themselves up at Leganes, a suburb of Madrid, on 3 April, was broken open and his body hacked and burnt. In Iraq, car bombs killed at least 68 Iraqis, many of them children, in Basra. Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shiite cleric and militia leader, made less of a nuisance of himself. The United States agreed not to attack the Sunni city of Fallujah if civic leaders turned in leading insurgents. Five US marines died in a gunfight near the Syrian border, bringing the number of American deaths in Iraq this month to more than 100; perhaps 1,000 Iraqis have died this month. In Jordan King Abdullah praised the intelligence service for foiling an al-Qa’eda chemical bomb attack on Amman that might have killed 20,000. Voters in Slovakia rejected Mr Vladimir Meciar for the post of non-executive president, electing instead Mr Ivan Gasparovic. Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, the former President of Fiji, died, aged 83. Diego Maradona, the 43-year-old Argentine former football player, had a heart attack that put him in intensive care; his doctor denied it was caused by cocaine, which he ‘had not been using of late’. Jim Cantalupo, the chief executive of McDonald’s, the burger chain, died of a heart attack, aged 60.

CSH