December 1 1997


December 1 1997


Russian President Boris Yeltsin demoted his economic reform chief, Anatoly Chubais, and fellow reformist Boris Nemtsov. Chubais was fired as finance minister while Nemtsov lost the energy portfolio, but both remained deputy premiers. Chubais had been caught up in a corruption scandal over a $125,000 book advance he received. He was replaced by another liberal, but Nemtsov said the shakeup reflected deep divisions over the future of reform. Analysts said it bolstered the more cautious Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin.



More than 300 people were killed when 1,200 Hutu rebels raided a jail in northwest Rwanda and attempted to free prisoners awaiting trial for their part in the 1994 genocide of 500,000. The Tutsi-led army repulsed the attack, the most brazen since Hutu refugees returned from the former Zaïre last year.


A fugitive serial killer released a South African diplomat’s wife after holding her hostage in Taipei and turned himself in. Chen Chin-hsing confessed on national television to a string of murders and kidnappings. His criminal odyssey began in April with the killing of the teenage daughter of a popular actress. Two others involved in the spree later committed suicide during shootouts with police.


British Prime Minister Tony Blair apologized for his government’s handling of a funding scandal that became the first major stain on his six-month-old Labour government. Blair said he was “hurt and upset” to be accused of questionable ethics after it was revealed that a key Labour Party donor stood to benefit from a government decision to exempt Formula One racing from a cigarette advertising ban.


Six U.S. congressmen visiting Germany said they were embarrassed at a congressional attempt to scold Bonn for its treatment of the Church of Scientology. A week earlier, the House voted 318 to 101 against a resolution urging President Bill Clinton to express concern over Germany’s crackdown on Scientology, which Bonn does not view as a legitimate religion.


Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip stand with their sons and grandsons at a Westminster Abbey thanksgiving service to mark the golden anniversary of their wedding on Nov. 20,

1947.The ceremony and a luncheon hosted by Prime Minister Tony Blair turned into a chance for a troubled monarchy to show it is trying to modernize. In a speech at what was billed as a People’s Banquet, the Queen pledged to be more responsive to the public’s wishes. She was clearly responding to criticism of the Royal Family’s initial coolness to public grief over the death of her former daughter-in-law, Diana, Princess of Wales, 10 weeks earlier. Reading the public’s message can be difficult, she said, “but read it we must.” Seated at a table with a jockey, a girl scout leader, a policewoman and an auto assembly worker, the Queen talked of “a remarkable 50 years” that included the advent of television, the Beatles and surfing the Net.The anniversary came just as a new poll showed support for the monarchy has dropped to 32 per cent,from 65 per cent in 1983.

Saddam finally backs down

United Nations weapons inspectors returned to Iraq, defusing a crisis that had threatened to end in a new military confrontation between Washington and Baghdad. Saddam Hussein’s government allowed the inspectors to resume their work after Russia persuaded him to rescind an order expelling all American members of the UN team. Seventyfive inspectors, including four Americans, went back to Baghdad after an absence of 11 days. The head of the UN commission that oversees their work, Richard Butler, said they would first concentrate on finding stocks of nerve gas that Iraq is suspected of possessing.

At the same time, the United States continued building up its forces in the Persian Gulf. The aircraft carrier USS Washington arrived in the Gulf and six F-117 Stealth fighters landed in Kuwait. The Americans have about 30,000 troops in the region, and President Bill Clinton said the world must maintain vigilance to ensure that Iraq’s ability to manufacture weapons of mass destruction is eliminated. U.S. officials expressed skepticism about the deal that Moscow reached with Baghdad, but the Russians said they promised Saddam only that they would work towards the removal of UN sanctions against Iraq.

A freed Chinese activist pledges to return

Freed Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng vowed in New York City that he would return to China, but he wasn’t sure when. Wei, China’s leading democratic activist, was unexpectedly released from prison and put on a plane to the United States, ostensibly for medical reasons, while serving 14 years for subversion. The move followed Chinese President Jiang Zemin’s generally successful U.S. visit, during which President Bill Clinton publicly lectured him on human rights. Wei, treated for various health problems, said prospects for eventual democratic reform in China were “excellent.” Beijing said China’s courts would decide how to deal with him if he returned.