The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 7 December 2002

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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The government announced that 700 health workers and servicemen would be vaccinated against smallpox, and that it was buying more vaccine so that the whole population could be vaccinated if necessary; the action was said by the Prime Minister's spokesman not to be in response to any specific threat. Mr David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, agreed with his French counterpart that Britain should take 1,000 Iraqis and 200 Afghans from the Sangatte Red Cross camp near Calais, which is to close on 30 December; the migrants began arriving immediately. The Fire Brigades Union cancelled an eight-day strike that was to have started last Wednesday, and their dispute was taken to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. The government introduced a Hunting Bill which would outlaw hare-coursing and stag-hunting in England and Wales, but tolerate foxhunting under licence from an independent registrar; ratting and rabbiting with dogs would also be allowed. Mr Allan Leighton, the chairman of the Royal Mail, said that it could go bust unless it was allowed to increase the price of letter postage by a penny. Slam-door trains will still be in use in 2005 after a decision by the Strategic Rail Authority to delay the withdrawal of 400 trains made in the 1960s. Mr Harold Brown, butler to the late Princess Margaret, was found innocent of stealing things from the estate of Diana, Princess of Wales; the prosecution case against him at the Old Bailey collapsed even before the jury was sworn in. The florist's shop at Holt, near Wrexham, owned by Mr Paul Burrell, formerly butler to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, caught fire after a presumed arson attack. The switching on of Christmas lights at Holt, Norfolk, was sabotaged when wires were cut. Parents were prohibited from taking photographs or videoing the nativity play by children at Sundon village school, Bedfordshire, lest paedophiles made use of the images.

President George Bush of the United States said that Iraq must provide a 'complete and credible' declaration of its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programmes by 8 December or face the consequences. Meanwhile Mr Paul Wolfowitz, the American deputy defense secretary, toured Europe to recruit support for war against Iraq; he paid special attention to Turkey, where America wants to locate bases, and he said the country should be helped to join the European Union. Mr Jack Straw, the British Foreign Secretary, and Mr George Papandreou, the Greek foreign minister, joined Mr Wolfowitz in Ankara to press for a United Nations-sponsored resolution of the division of Cyprus. Three terrorists drove a car at the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel near Mombasa, Kenya, killing 13 and themselves. The dead included three Israelis, two of them children, and members of a Kenyan musical band. On the same day missiles were fired at a chartered aircraft taking off from Mombasa bound for Tel Aviv, with 261 passengers and ten crew aboard; the missiles missed and the aeroplane completed its flight. American sources said that the atrocities were thought to be the work of the Somali-based group al-Itihad al-Islamiya, which they said had links with al-Qa'eda. Three alleged members of the Irish Republican Army went on trial in Colombia, accused of teaching terrorism techniques to Marxist rebels, but the trial was adjourned until next February after witnesses refused to attend court in fear of their lives. In Greenland's general election, its 38,000 voters gave increased support to the Inuit Ataqatigiit (or Brotherhood) party's call for independence from Denmark, which is responsible for its law and order, defence and foreign policy, but the Siumut (social democratic) party pipped it at the post.