The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 26 April 2003

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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The Daily Telegraph said that documents found in the ruined Iraqi foreign ministry in Baghdad by a Daily Telegraph reporter were said to discuss payments to Mr George Galloway, the MP for Glasgow Kelvin. Mr Galloway said: 'I have never solicited, nor would I have accepted had I been offered, any financial assistance of any kind from the Iraqi regime.' Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, told the Sun how he had explained to his children that a Commons vote on the Iraq war might bring him down: 'I did sit down with them at one point and I explained that this was going to be extremely difficult and it was possible the thing could go against me,' he said. Mr Blair also retailed a telephone conversation with Mr Jose Maria Aznar, the Prime Minister of Spain, about the war: 'He rang me to say, "I have the support of only 4 per cent of my people." I replied, "Crikey – that's even less than the number who think Elvis Presley is still alive."' Mr Aznar visited Mr Blair for talks about Iraq and the Middle East. A couple who live at Walcot Hall near RAF Wittering were awarded £950,000 compensation from the Ministry of Defence for the noise of Harrier jets training overhead. Thousands of commuters were stranded in chaos at Ealing Broadway when engineering works that had closed Paddington station over the Easter weekend remained uncompleted the next day. On the London Underground only 49 of the Central Line's 77 trains were back in operation after the derailment on 25 January that had led to their withdrawal. Fires broke out in Scotland and Wales after weeks of dry weather. Sir Paul Getty, the American-born oil heir who became a philanthropist and Anglophile, died, aged 70. A man who had made a suicide pact to jump off Beachy Head with an acquaintance, but decided not to, hanged himself after being charged under the 1961 Suicide Act with aiding and abetting the suicide of the man who did jump.

Lieutenant-General Jay Garner, the American in charge of the reconstruction of Iraq, toured the country. More than a million Shia pilgrims flocked to the city of Karbala, where Hussein, the grandson of the prophet, is believed to be buried, for a religious festival prohibited under Saddam Hussein. Eight of the 55 high-ranking members of the fallen regime wanted by the Americans were arrested, including Mohammed Hamza al-Zubaidi, 18th on the list, who had a hand in the bloody suppression of the Shiite revolt in 1991. Jamal Mustafa Sultan al-Tikriti, Saddam's only surviving son-in-law, and Barzan al-Tikriti, his half-brother, were also arrested. Kurds in Kirkuk threatened Arabs living there and told them to leave. China, and even France, said sanctions against Iraq should be lifted but Russia said they should stay until United Nations inspectors had declared it free from illegal arms. Mr Mikhail Kasyanov, the Prime Minister of Russia, said his government hoped that Pope John Paul would visit the country in 'the near future'. The mayor of Beijing was sacked after the city suddenly admitted it had 339 cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, not the 37 it had previously admitted. China's health minister was also dismissed from his party post. The country put its total number of cases at more than 2,000, of whom 97 had died. Hong Kong had more than 100 deaths, and 1,500 cases. President Olusegun Obasanjo claimed a sweeping victory in Nigeria's presidential election; a European Union observer group said the elections were 'marred by serious irregularities and fraud – in a certain number of states, minimum standards for democratic elections were not met'. In Bangladesh 108 bodies were recovered after a double-deck ferry sank in the Buriganga river near Dhaka; more than 200 were missing. Another ferry, carrying 90 members of a wedding party, capsized in the Meghna river, 50 miles from Dhaka, and 60, including the bride, were drowned.