The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 7 June 2003

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, faced an investigation by the all-party Commons foreign affairs select committee into claims that he had misled the nation about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He said this week: 'Those people who are sitting there and saying, "It's all going to be proved to be a big fib got out by the security services, there will be no weapons of mass destruction," just wait and have a little patience.' He added, 'We are going to assemble that evidence and present it properly.' A dossier published last September had said, 'Intelligence indicates the Iraqi military is able to deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes.' Mr Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary, said at the end of last week, 'We were told Saddam had weapons ready for use within 45 minutes. It's now 45 days since the war has finished and we still have not found anything.' Miss Clare Short, the former international development secretary, said, 'We were misled: I think we were deceived in the way it was done.' She added, 'The suggestion that there was a risk of chemical and biological weapons being weaponised and threatening us in a short time was spin. That didn't come from the security services.' The Queen celebrated the 50th anniversary of her Coronation with a service for 2,250 in Westminster Abbey and a funfair for 500 children in the gardens of Buckingham Palace. Two days earlier, London enjoyed its hottest May day since 1953. Beagle 2, a craft due to land on Mars on Christmas Day, was launched from Kazakhstan with the European Space Agency's rocket. The case against five men accused of a £5 million plot to kidnap Victoria Beckham collapsed after the court heard that the main witness was a convicted liar who had been paid £10,000 by the News of the World. Mary Hughes, aged 65, from Manchester, survived when she fell on to a snooker cue, impaling herself through the neck; firemen sawed it in half before taking her to hospital.

President George Bush of the United States met Arab leaders at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, and then the Israeli and Palestinian Prime Ministers in Aqaba, Jordan. Mr Bush had left early a summit of the Group of Eight at Evian, in France, but not before he and President Jacques Chirac of France, who fell out over the war against Iraq, had stood each with his hand on the other's back. The leaders declared that North Korea and Iran were a 'pre-eminent threat to international security'; President Vladimir Putin of Russia announced that it would suspend its nuclear-assistance programme to Iran as long as it refused to co-operate with United Nations inspectors. Western leaders had earlier gathered in St Petersburg, for its 300th anniversary. In Burma the government arrested Miss Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the opposition National League for Democracy, and closed its offices. In Zimbabwe, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change called a week of strikes and protests against the continuing rule of President Robert Mugabe; the MDC leader, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, was arrested for a time, as were opposition MPs and supporters. UN hospital workers and Red Cross workers were among those attacked, robbed and raped as Hema militiamen of the Union of Congolese Patriots led by Thomas Lubanga continued to massacre ethnic enemies in Bunia in eastern Congo where UN soldiers from Uruguay remained incapable of stopping the murderous violence; rival Lendu fighters killed Hemas nearby. President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland criticised the godless tone of the proposed European constitution; 'I am an atheist,' he said, 'but there are no excuses for making references to ancient Greece and Rome, and the Enlightenment, without making references to the Christian values which are so important to the development of Europe.' China began to fill the 350-mile-long reservoir behind the new Three Gorges Dam. Three weeks of heat reaching 120?F claimed more than 1,000 lives in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.