The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 7 September 2002

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Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, said at a press conference in Sedgefield that a dossier on Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons development would be published. 'I hate war. Anyone with any sense hates war,' he said. 'We are in absolute agreement that Iraq poses a real and an unique threat to the security of the region and the rest of the world.' In new procedures imposed by the government, the Criminal Records Bureau still had 7,000 school staff to vet when the autumn term began, and many children had to be sent home. Kerim Chatty, aged 29, was charged by the authorities at Vasteraas in Sweden with planning to hijack a plane and illegal possession of a weapon after being arrested as he was about to board a Ryanair flight to Stansted when a gun was found in the wash-bag in his hand luggage. The Fire Brigades Union prepared to ballot its members about going on strike for the first time nationally since 1977; 900 army Green Goddess fire engines were put on standby. A company called Moby Monkey Ltd was fined £50,000 by the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services for sending out text messages urging recipients to claim a £500 'mystery award', which turned out to be a travel discount with conditions attached; calls for claiming it cost £1.50 a minute. Mr Ross Finnie, the rural development minister in the Scottish Parliament, apologised to Mr Digby Jones, the director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, for calling him 'an English prat'. There was much interest in a kind of sourdough loaf sold by Waitrose for £9.62; named after Pierre Poilane who created it in 1932, it is round and weighs more than 4lb. Victoria Beckham, wife of the footballer David Beckham, gave birth to a son weighing 7lb 4oz; he is to be called Romeo.

The summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg agreed among its many deliberations to set targets halving the two billion people living without proper sanitation by 2015; but a move backed by the European Union to set a target for use of renewable resources for power production was defeated by an alliance of the United States and the so-called G77 bloc of developing and oil-producing countries. President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe upstaged Mr Tony Blair at the summit when he made a speech blaming Britain for the crisis in Zimbabwe; 'Blair, keep your England and let me keep my Zimbabwe,' he said, to applause. Mr Mugabe had walked out during Mr Blair's speech, but President Sam Nujoma of Namibia had also taken a critical attitude: 'Here in southern Africa we have one problem and it was created by the British,' he said. Israel's Supreme Court ruled that it was lawful to expel relatives of Palestinian terror suspects from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip, but only if they posed a security threat. The Israeli government decided to examine recent army actions in which civilians had been killed; a woman, her two sons and a cousin, sleeping in an orchard in the Gaza Strip, were killed by a shell that sent out 3,000 deadly flechettes; four workers were shot on suspicion of breaking into a Jewish settlement in the West Bank; five people, including children aged nine and ten, were killed when a helicopter fired on a car near Jenin, although the intended target, a known terrorist, escaped. More than 150 died when Typhoon Rusa, the worst for 40 years, hit South Korea, bringing floods and mudslides. Mrs Marta Andreasan, the European Union's former chief accountant, who had criticised its accounting methods, was suspended on full pay. Disa Eythorsdottir, an American professional bridge player, was stripped of her silver medal at the world open championships for refusing a drug test; the World Bridge Federation has accepted drug testing in an attempt to get bridge accepted as an Olympic sport. Tribesmen blockaded the main road from Pakistan to Afghanistan in the Khyber Pass after their houses were blacked out because of unpaid electricity bills.

CSH