The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 8 May 2004

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Labour published a summary of its achievements, under the title Britain is Working. Mr Tony Blair celebrated the seventh anniversary of his becoming prime minister even more quietly than Lady Thatcher celebrated the 25th anniversary of her becoming prime minister. Dr Paul Drayson, who used to run PowderJect, a company awarded a £32 million government contract, and Sir Kumar Bhattacharyya were two donors to the Labour party among its 23 nominees as new peers; but the Tories had three donors among its five new peers, including Sir Stanley Kalms. Mr Blair visited Dublin to make optimistic noises with Mr Bertie Ahern, the Taoiseach, about the future of the Northern Ireland Assembly, which has been suspended since October 2002. Photographs purporting to show a British soldier urinating on a hooded Iraqi, kicking him and beating him with a rifle were published by the Daily Mirror, which said that the soldier came from the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment; but military experts cast doubts over the genuineness of the photographs. Postwatch, a consumer organisation, said that the Royal Mail lost 14.4 million items a year. Miss Martha Lane Fox, a founder of Lastminute.com, was seriously injured in a motor accident in Morocco. Leeds United is to be relegated from the Premier League. The 11th Duke of Devonshire died, aged 84. Coastguards’ navigation was put out of action by the Sasser virus, a new computer worm that harms Microsoft software. Mr Joe Trussler, the Speaker of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports, criticised the government for not having appointed a warden in succession to the Queen Mother, who died in 2002.

US Marines withdrew from Fallujah in Iraq. American forces announced surprisingly that Major General Jasim Mohammed Saleh, a former member of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard, would lead an Iraqi force in Fallujah; after two days they found someone else, Major General Mohammed Abdul-Latif. Shiite militiamen attacked an American base in Najaf with mortars, and about 20 Iraqis were killed in the response. Mr Thomas Hamill, a lorry driver from Mississippi shown on television saying, ‘They attacked our convoy’ as he was abducted in a car by Iraqis on 9 April, escaped from his captors. In the whole of April at least 137 Americans were killed in Iraq. In the United States, CBS Television showed still photographs of Iraqi prisoners in a Baghdad prison being ill-treated by American forces. Mr Abdel-Baset al-Turki resigned as Iraq’s US-appointed human rights minister in protest. Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, who was in command of the prison, has been admonished, although she says she knew nothing about the ill-treatment; investigations continue. In the port city of Yanbu in Saudi Arabia five Westerners and a Saudi were shot dead by four gunmen, who were in turn killed by the National Guard. The gunmen were members of al-Qa’eda, according to the Saudis; one of them, named as Mustafa Abdul-Qader Abed al-Ansari, was said by the Saudi interior ministry to have spent some time in London with a group that sought to overthrow the Saudi monarchy. Turkey said it had foiled an attack on the summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to be held in Istanbul in June; it arrested 16 people said to be members of Ansar al-Islam, a group linked to al-Qa’eda. Three bombs exploded outside an Athens police station, 100 days before the opening of the Olympic Games. Mr Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister of Israel, said that he would amend his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip after it was rejected by a referendum of his Likud party. A new German law requiring businesses to employ one apprentice for every 15 workers is to apply to legalised brothels, a government spokesman said. The blood of St Januarius liquefied as usual in Naples on 1 May.

CSH