The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 6 March 2004

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, said after the bombings in Iraq that there was ‘a struggle between good and evil’ going on there. Before the bombings, Mr Michael Howard, the leader of the Conservative party, said it was withdrawing support from the Butler inquiry into intelligence on purported weapons of mass destruction in Iraq because the inquiry was to be conducted in an ‘unacceptably restrictive fashion’; Mr Michael Mates, the Conservative MP on the Butler committee, said it was his duty to continue. Miss Clare Short was asked on Today on Radio 4 about spying on the United Nations and said: ‘These things are done. ... In fact, I have had conversations with Kofi [Annan] in the run-up to war thinking “Oh dear, there will be a transcript of this and people will see what he and I have been saying.”’ This followed the dropping of an Official Secrets Act prosecution against Katharine Gun, an employee at GCHQ who had leaked an email request from America before the Iraq war for Britain to spy on six countries that would decide a vote in the United Nations Security Council. Sir Andrew Turnbull, the Cabinet Secretary, wrote to Miss Short, saying, ‘I have to admit to being extremely disappointed by your behaviour.’ Mr David Blunkett announced that the Crown Prosecution Service will be renamed the Public Prosecution Service, which, he said, ‘will become much closer to being understandable by the public’. Cherie Booth said in a speech that Tony Blair had spent a night on a park bench when he came down to London between school and university; the strange story was confirmed by a Downing Street spokesman. The vice-chancellor of the Delaware chancery court ruled that Lord Black had not had the power to conclude a deal to sell Hollinger Incorporated’s control of the Daily Telegraph, The Spectator and its others papers directly to Sir Frederick and Sir David Barclay. The judge said plenty of harsh things about Lord Black: ‘It became impossible for me to credit his word.’ The judgment opened the field to all bidders. A new, bowler-hat-shaped helmet for policemen and women is being tried out by Greater Manchester, Wiltshire and Dyfed Powys forces.

On the Shiite feast of Ashura at least one suicide bomber and pre-set explosives near the shrine of Imam Husayn in Karbala killed about 85 and wounded more than 230; three suicide bombers in and around the shrine of Kazimiya in Baghdad killed about 58 and wounded more than 200; a firearms attack on Shiite worshippers in Quetta, Pakistan, killed 43 and wounded more than 150. A loudspeaker outside the Kazimiya shrine announced: ‘This is the work of Jews and American occupation forces.’ The Americans suspected Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant in Iraq; Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a vice-president of Iran, blamed al-Qa’eda. The day before, the 25-strong Governing Council in Iraq, appointed by the Americans, agreed on interim constitutional rules, called the Transitional Administrative Law, which disallow any law that goes against Islam. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti flew to the Central African Republic after pressure from the United States and France, which both sent detachments of marines to Port-au-Prince, overrun by rebel forces. In Caracas, demonstrators demanded a referendum to end the rule of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. The Social Democrat party in Germany, which is led by Mr Gerhard Schröder, the Chancellor, received its worst results since the war in elections to the state government in Hamburg, where the Christian Democrats won a clear victory. In Arlon, Belgium, the trial began of Marc Dutroux for child rape and murder, eight years after his arrest. Angelo Foti, a 73-year-old Canadian convicted of a shooting, chose a 24-month sentence in a jail where he could smoke rather than 20 months in a no-smoking one.