The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 29 May 2004

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, said that political control of military action would pass to the Iraqi government after 30 June. Speaking at his regular monthly press conference, he said, ‘Let me make it a hundred per cent clear: after June 30 there will be the full transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi government. If there is a political decision as to whether you go into a place like Fallujah in a particular way, that has to be done with the consent of the Iraqi government.’ British troops should leave Iraq now, according to 35 per cent of respondents to an ICM poll for the Guardian; 45 per cent said they thought they should remain in Iraq as long as necessary. Two British civilians were killed when their vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Baghdad; one of them was Bob Morgan, a retired senior project director for BP on a six-month contract for the Foreign Office, seconded to the Coalition Provisional Authority to advise the Iraqi oil minister. Mr Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, flew to New York for a meeting of the G8 group of leading economies, which called on oil producers ‘to provide adequate supplies to ensure that world oil prices return to levels consistent with lasting global economic prosperity and stability’; but a price above $40 a barrel adds £2 billion a year to British tax revenues. Of those who told a YouGov survey for the Daily Telegraph that they were very likely to vote in the European elections on 10 June, 31 per cent intended to vote Conservative, 23 Labour, 18 United Kingdom Independence party, 15 Liberal Democrats and 6 Green. Foreign guests of the government, but not British voters, will be able to watch proceedings in the House of Commons from seats forward of the glass screen in the Strangers’ Gallery, following a security review after guests of a Labour peeress threw condoms filled with purple-dyed flour at Mr Blair. The Rail, Maritime and Transport union planned train and Underground strikes in June. The Royal Mail is to miss its own target for delivering post; it aims to deliver 92.5 per cent of first-class letters some time on the day after they were posted, but the level in south-west London stands at 80.6 per cent. Milton Shulman, the drama critic of the London Evening Standard for 38 years, died, aged 90. A fire in a London warehouse destroyed works of art belonging to Mr Charles Saatchi, including ‘Hell’ by the Chapman brothers, for which he had paid £500,000.

A draft resolution on Iraq to be put to the United Nations by America and Britain speaks of a multinational force ‘under unified command’ with authority to ‘take all necessary measures’ to maintain security and prevent terrorism; elections would be held by 31 January 2005 for a ‘transitional national assembly’ that in turn would draft a new constitution. Video footage was produced of a wedding party near the Iraqi border with Syria, which was attacked at night by an American helicopter, with the loss of more than 40 lives. The main motorway from Baghdad to Basra remained closed to all but US military use. General George Casey, a four-star general, is to replace Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez as commander of US forces in Iraq. President George Bush of the United States fell off his bicycle and grazed his hands, chin and nose. Israeli troops left the Rafah refugee camp on the border of Gaza and Egypt after a week in which 45 Palestinians were killed, including eight protesters who died when a tank opened fire; dozens of houses were demolished or destroyed. At least 500 people died in floods in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Five people were killed when part of the roof of the new Air France terminal 2E at Charles de Gaulle airport collapsed. Dr Antonina Presnyakova died after pricking her finger with a needle containing the Ebola virus at the Vektor State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology outside Novosibirsk in Siberia.