The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 8 March 2003

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, said in a speech in Swansea: 'In 1938 Chamberlain was a hero when he brought back the Munich agreement. And he did it for the best of motives. He had seen members of his precious family, people he loved, die in the carnage of World War I. He was a good man. But he was a good man who made the wrong decision.' This followed a motion in the Commons on action against Iraq passed by a majority of 194, but opposed by 199 MPs - 121 of them Labour - who supported an amendment stating that the case for war was 'as yet unproven'. London is to hold an exercise simulating a 'catastrophic incident', according to Mr David Blunkett, the Home Secretary. Mr Blair and Mr Bertie Ahern, the Irish Taoiseach, went to Hillsborough Castle, Co Down, for talks with parties supporting the Belfast agreement of 1998; it had been hoped that the Irish Republican Army would announce the giving-up of hidden arms dumps on 17 March, but negotiations became bogged down, and the first consequence was the postponing of elections to the assembly by a month. The International Monetary Fund said in its annual report on the British economy that Mr Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, should raise taxes and reduce public spending to avoid making the hole in Treasury finances bigger. The number of asylum seekers who arrived in Britain last year rose by 20 per cent over the year before to 110,000. A black man whose sperm was mistakenly used at an in-vitro fertilisation clinic was declared by Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, the senior judge in the family division, to be the legal father of a white woman's twins. Sir Malcolm Williamson, the Master of the Queen's Music, died, aged 71. Mr Andy Gilchrist, the leader of the Fire Brigades union, was reported to have paid £817 for dinner with five male colleagues at the Cinnamon Club curry house in Westminster; there were four bottles of claret at £85 each. The bank account of Khalid al Fawwaz, an alleged member of al-Qa'eda, the terrorist network, arrested in Dollis Hill, London, was said by Miss Ruth Kelly in a parliamentary answer to have contained £23.19 million, but in fact contained £23.19; a typing error was blamed.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, said to be one of the top five in al-Qa'eda, was arrested in the house of Ahmad Abdul Qadoos, a member of Jamaat-e-Islami, the extreme Islamist party, in Westridge, a suburb of Rawalpindi, Pakistan. A Kuwaiti by birth, he gained an engineering degree in the United States and is reputed to have played a large part in the attacks on Manhattan and Washington on 11 September 2001 and other terrorist outrages. He was taken away by the Americans for interrogation. Iraq destroyed ten of its al-Samoud 2 missiles under the supervision of United Nations weapons inspectors in two days, but about 110 more remained. The Turkish parliament voted by 264 to 250 to allow thousands of American troops to use bases in Turkey; but the decision carried no force because, with 19 abstentions, it failed to secure a majority of those entitled to vote. M. Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister, said on British television: 'Do we need a second resolution? No. Are we going to oppose a second resolution? Yes - as are the Russians and many other countries.' Mr JosZ Maria Aznar, the Prime Minister of Spain, met Mr Blair, whom he supports on action against Iraq, in Madrid and announced an Anglo-Spanish policy proposal for a powerful presidency of the European Council. A bomb in a knapsack killed 19 and wounded 100 at Davao airport on Mindanao in the Philippines. Israeli forces made a night raid into the Gaza Strip, blowing up a dozen houses thought to have been used by suicide bombers; they killed eight Palestinians including a pregnant woman and a boy of 14. The interior minister of Thailand announced that 993 people have been shot dead in the first three weeks of a campaign against drugs.

CSH