January 18 1999


January 18 1999



Thousands of people fled Freetown, capital of the west African nation of Sierra Leone, as rebels stormed the city in the latest chapter of an eight-year civil war that has left nearly 10,000 dead. The insurgents rejected a truce proposed by elected President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and vowed to battle Nigerian-led west African troops defending Kabbah’s government.


Israel issued deportation orders against 14 members of a Denverbased doomsday cult known as the Concerned Christians. Officials said the group intended to provoke violence in Jerusalem as the year 2000 approached, possibly by assassinating a leading political figure. The cult believes a massive upheaval could usher in the second coming of Christ.


Saying he is routinely presented with gifts, International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch claimed he did nothing wrong by accepting firearms worth more than $2,000 as part of Salt Lake City’s winning bid for the 2002 Winter Games. But two top officials of Salt Lake’s organizing committee resigned amid reports of payments to IOC members, including a $400,000 (U.S.) scholarship fund for relatives.


In a rare admission of official guilt, Iran detained an unspecified number of intelligence ministry officials over the slayings of five dissident writers and politicians. The five, killed late last year, were all critical of the regime’s hardline clergymen. While Tehran claimed the agents were working for foreign governments, the arrests were clearly part of the power struggle between moderate President Mohammad Khatami and the conservative mullahs.


Six Canadians were charged with drug trafficking after Nicaraguan police raided what they said was a massive marijuana plantation. Only Paul Wylie, 45, of Burlington, Ont., was held in jail, but the government said it may seek extradition of the five other Canadians and an American. The group claimed they were growing industrial hemp, not marijuana, and had government approval.


Prince Edward, the youngest son of the Queen, poses with fiancée Sophie RhysJones in London after announcing their engagement.The couple’s five-year romance began when Rhys-Jones, a public relations expert, handled the publicity for the prince’s charity tennis match in 1993.

In contrast to the highprofile nuptials of his two brothers, Edward wants to hold a smaller family wedding this summer. Many of Britain’s acerbic royal watchers predicted that his marriage, like those of his sister Anne and princes Charles and Andrew, would end in divorce. Edward amiably disagreed. “We are the best of friends,” he said, “and we happen to love each other.”

A UN spy scandal over Iraq

As U.S. and British jet fighters continued their duel with Iraqi planes and anti-aircraft batteries, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein appeared to score a major political victory over his enemies when it was revealed that United Nations weapons inspectors had spied on Iraq. U.S. officials admitted that American agents, working with the inspection team, had installed sophisticated eavesdropping equipment in the very heart of Hussein’s security apparatus in Baghdad and intercepted coded radio communications for almost three years. According to the Americans, the UN team agreed to install the equipment when it became apparent that they would have to use covert methods to determine where Hussein’s cache of chemical

and biological weapons might be found.

The revelations, which first appeared in The Washington Post and The Boston Globe, drove a wedge between the United States and the UN Security Council, which is increasingly divided over whether to lift trade sanctions on Iraq. U.S. officials are concerned that Iraq’s friends on the council, such as Russia or China, could use the spying controversy as an excuse to try to end the economic embargo without Iraq first meeting its obligation to disarm. Iraq, meanwhile, sought to parlay the disclosure into a public relations bonanza. It called on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to remove all American and British UN employees from the country, calling them “spies and saboteurs.”

Hoop dreams resume as the NBA settles

The National Basketball Association finally ended a player lockout that shut down the game for 13 weeks. NBA owners and the players’ union agreed to split $2 billion (U.S.) in annual revenues 55 to 45 in favour of the players while placing a $ 14-million cap on salaries. Stars who already make more can get 105 per cent of their previous year’s pay, while rookies’ minimum wage is now $275,000. The deal was struck only after the league cancelled the first 32 games of the season; play will resume on Feb. 5. For the Vancouver Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors, the priority is winning back fans. “It’s going to take time,” said Vancouver forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim.