July 1 1997


July 1 1997




A Saudi dissident deported from Canada to the United States on terrorism charges was taken to hospital in Washington after suffering an asthma attack before he was to plead guilty. Canadian authorities last week refused asylum to Hani Abdel-Rahim Hussein al-Sayegh, alleging he drove the truck that exploded at a U.S. army housing complex in Saudi Arabia in 1996, killing 19. U.S. officials charged Sayegh with a lesser crime in exchange for his co-operation with the FBI, which suspects Iranian involvement in the attack.


British Conservatives elected William Hague, 36, as their youngest leader since 1783. Hague, who had billed himself as a bridge-builder between rival factions, gave the party chairmanship to Lord Cecil Parkinson, 65, a symbol of the glory days under Margaret Thatcher. Hague said Parkinson’s political experience was more important than his 1983 resignation from cabinet after getting his secretary pregnant.


Turkey’s president asked secularist leader Mesut Yilmaz to form a new government to replace the “odd couple” coalition of Islamist former prime minister Necmettin Erbakan and Conservative foreign minister Tansu Ciller. Erbakan resigned after months of pressure from the secularist military.


A forum on endangered species in Harare relaxed a seven-year ban on ivory trading to allow Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana to sell limited amounts to Japan. While some conservationists warned new poaching would lead to an “elephant holocaust,” others agreed with the three countries that their combined elephant herd of 150,000 had grown too large.


After a month-long dig, two Italian archeologists concluded that the walls of Jericho never came tumbling down. The Bible says Joshua stormed the ancient West Bank city around 1400 BC and the walls fell after his priests circled the site, blowing trumpets, for seven days. But the University of Rome experts found no rubble, ash or other evidence that the city was sacked during the time of Joshua.

A Russian splash at the G-7

The Group of Seven summit of industrialized countries reached a historic crossroads in Denver as Russian President Boris Yeltsin became virtually a full participant and politics eclipsed economics to a greater degree than ever. Dubbed the “Summit of the Eight,” the meeting devoted little more than an hour to economics—the only portion of the talks from which Yeltsin was excluded. The primacy of the annual forum—which brings together the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, Britain, France and Italy—has waned since the end of the Cold War and the emergence of regional trading blocs. Increasingly, it has seemed a photogenic platform for a combined statement on the hot issue of the day, as well as a setting for a series of more pressing bilateral meetings among participants.

U.S. President Bill Clinton, for example, urged Yeltsin to use his influence with Serbia to ensure compliance with the Dayton peace accord in the former Yugoslavia. And although NATO expansion was not on the agenda, both

France and Germany lobbied for the admission of Romania and Slovenia to the organization— along with Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, Washington’s choices.

At the main meeting, the group welcomed a new round of Russian economic reforms and agreed to give Ukraine $400 million to shore up the destroyed Chernobyl nuclear reactor. The leaders also pledged to extend new aid to poor countries, provided they overhaul their economies to give free markets greater rein.

The summit got off to a divisive start as Clinton played to the home audience. He touted America’s recent economic successes as a model for the others—a claim that appeared to annoy everyone else. ‘We are doing better in terms of economic growth, interest rates and the deficit than the Americans,” said Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. “I think the Canadian model might be better.” Chrétien and most of the other leaders were due to attend a major UN conference on the environment in New York City this week.

Boycotting Disney

Claiming the Walt Disney Co. promotes homosexuality, the influential Southern Baptists voted overwhelmingly to boycott everything owned and distributed by the huge entertainment corporation. Delegates from the largest Protestant group in the United States said their 15.7 million members should retaliate against Disney for granting employee health-care benefits to same-sex partners, allowing “gay days” at Disney theme parks, and purportedly straying from its roots in family entertainment. In recent years, con-

servative groups have even claimed The Lion King contains a homosexual relationship between a meerkat and a warthog, and that The Little Mermaid shows a priest becoming sexually aroused at a wedding. But the final straw seems to have been comedian Ellen DeGeneres coming out earlier this year as a lesbian—along with her sitcom character Ellen on Disney-owned ABC. Still, many of the 12,000 delegates who met in Dallas feared it would be hard to keep members away from Disney products. U.S. President Bill Clinton, who identifies himself as a Southern Baptist, refused to observe the boycott.