December 2 1996


December 2 1996



The former Soviet republic of Belarus was paralyzed by a confrontation between President Alexander Lukashenko and the parliament. Lukashenko faced impeachment proceedings over a constitutional referendum set for last Sunday that, if approved, would allow him near-dictatorial powers. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin brokered a peace deal making the referendum nonbinding. But parliament refused to approve the pact.


After meeting Cuban President Fidel Castro at the Vatican, Pope John Paul II said he would visit the Communist island. The papal trip, expected next year, is seen as a step towards breaking a 40-year diplomatic impasse between Cuba and the Catholic church.


Thirty-seven people died and at least 81 were injured in a fire that swept through a highrise commercial building on the edge of Hong Kong’s tourist district. The blaze, the colony’s worst since 1957, brought immediate charges that fire regulations were lax.


Former South African president P. W. Botha declared he would never apologize for apartheid nor seek amnesty for crimes against black activists committed during his white-run government in the 1980s. After meeting privately with former archbishop Desmond Tutu, whose Truth and Reconciliation Commission is examining the apartheid era, the 80-year-old Botha agreed to continue informal meetings with Tutu.


Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, 45, denied published charges that he had sex with underage boys. Several newspapers said Di Rupo’s accuser was not credible, but parliament voted to investigate.


A hijacked Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767 carrying 175 passengers and crew crashed into the sea near the coast of Mozambique. About 45 people were reported to have survived the crash, which occurred when the plane ran out of fuel.

A fire in the Chunnel

Afire aboard a train in the two-year-old Channel Tunnel raised fears about safety in the 51-km link between Britain and France. It took firefighters more than 14 hours to extinguish the blaze, which broke out in a truck being carried on one of the high-speed trains that whisk people and vehicles across the English Channel in about three hours. All 34 people aboard were rescued, but investiga-

tors said the situation could have been much worse if there had been hundreds of passengers aboard. Although a stricken train is supposed to head for an exit at high speed, the brakes inexplicably locked, trapping the train in the tunnel more than 17 km from the French entrance at Calais. Heavy smoke filled the passenger car, yet the truck drivers and others inside were kept there for 15 minutes before being led to a service tunnel that runs between the two railroad links. French firefighters took 20 minutes to reach the train. An hour elapsed before British firefighters were alerted.

Heat from the blaze, which gutted one truck and damaged 15 others, was so intense that it buckled track and welded some of the wheels to the rails. Eurotunnel officials said it would take two weeks to clear all the damage. But limited freight services resumed four days after the accident, and passenger services were set to follow soon after. Competing ferry services take about seven hours to make the crossing.

Selling to Moscow


U.S. intelligence officials believe that key spy operations have been compromised by a CIA officer accused of selling secrets to Russia. Harold Nicholson, 46, the highest-ranking CIA employee ever to be charged, was due to appear in court in Alexandria, Va., this week. His lawyer said he would plead not guilty to selling Moscow the identities of CIA agents for up to $240,000. Since 1994, Nicholson had trained new recruits in undercover techniques at “The Farm,” the CIA’s espionage school near Williamsburg, Va., and had access to details of every student. He was also accused of revealing names of U.S. businessmen in Russia who helped the CIA. Officials feared he had blown operations in East Asia as well. Nicholson, however, was not considered as damaging as double agent Aldrich Ames, convicted in 1994 of selling Moscow the names of every major U.S. spy in the Soviet Union during the 1980s.

O.J. 's absolute denial

Simpson: intense

Looking jurors straight in the eye, O. J. Simpson repeatedly denied having anything to do with the murders of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. “That’s absolutely not true,” the former football star said ¿ over and over as he faced ° a courtroom grilling for the first time since the two victims were slashed to death in 1994. Simpson was acquitted of the murders a year ago after a trial in which he did not testify. Last week, he was forced to take the stand in a wrongful-death civil suit brought by the Brown and Goldman families. Looking intense and exasperated, Simpson responded to a rapid-fire series of questions from family lawyer Daniel Petrocelli. “You went to Nicole’s condo and you killed her,” Petrocelli said in a typical accusation. Simpson said it wasn’t true. He also insisted that he never hit, slapped or beat his wife, despite her statements in journals and to others. “I felt totally responsible for every injury she had,” he said. But asked how she got them, Simpson repeatedly replied: “I don’t know.”