The Week Ahead: Hopes for progress rise in Cyprus talks

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The Independent Online
A CANADIAN steps in where others fear to tread - Joe Clark, a former prime minister (1979-80), has accepted the role of United Nations special envoy to Cyprus and will join negotiations in New York today on a possible settlement for the divided island.

President Glafcos Clerides and Rauf Denktash, leader of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (an entity recognised only by Ankara), will discuss a UN plan to reunite Cyprus as a federation with separate zones for the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities.

President Bill Clinton sees 'perhaps the best chance in a long time' for a successful conclusion to the issue, while newspapers in Nicosia are cautiously optimistic. Diplomats have warned that Mr Denktash, a skilled negotiator, will give nothing away, but add that the Turkish Cypriots are anxious to distract attention from the Asil Nadir affair and keen to seek international goodwill in New York.

In what should be an example to all regions seeking secession, Eritrea, which voted overwhelmingly for independence in a referendum marked by much singing and dancing, officially splits from Ethiopia today.

Germany's top legal authority, the Federal Constitutional Court, is due to give its ruling on Friday on a controversial bill to liberalise abortion. The issue is one of the most divisive in united Germany; eastern Germans are fiercely protective of their rights to abortion, which was virtually outlawed in West Germany. The bill to ease restrictions in the west was narrowly passed in the Bundestag in June, but members of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's conservative bloc filed a suit demanding that abortion remain banned.

On Wednesday, the Commonwealth of Independent States holds a summit meeting in Moscow. Russia, supported by Belarus and some of the Central Asian republics, is expected to seek greater co-operation and integration on economic and security matters, a line viewed with some suspicion by Ukraine and Turkmenistan.

Saturday is the fortieth anniversary of the conquest of Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing Norgay, whose grandson, Sherpa Tashi Tensing, is expected to reach the summit that day. The once-pristine peak now houses tons of rubbish discarded by climbers, but those angered by man's wanton destruction of the environment can take some comfort from the efforts of ecologists this week.

On Friday, the Namibian government is to auction six rare black rhinos; bids start at dollars 1m ( pounds 650,000). They will be among scores of animals on sale for breeding to game farmers; zoos and hunters need not apply. Namibia pioneered the removal of horns from black rhino in 1989, a project which cut substantially the numbers lost to poachers.

In Louisville, Kentucky, politicians, officials, teachers, environmentalists and businesspeople gather from today to Friday for a national conference to follow up last year's Earth Summit in Rio. Then the US position was marked by George Bush's refusal to sign the global treaty on biodiversity (the preservation of the variety of flora and fauna). From today to Thursday, biodiversity experts meet in Trondheim, Norway, for a conference under the UN Environmental Programme.

Returning to human endeavour, today sees the start of the French Open tennis championship in Paris. Monica Seles, winner of the women's title for the last three years, is expected to miss the tournament; she is still recovering from being stabbed in Hamburg on 30 April.

Next Sunday the Israeli telecom company Bezeq and the Jerusalem Christian Review launch a telephone hotline prayer service, aimed at attracting Christian tourists. The first prayer, to be offered at a ceremony in Jerusalem attended by Christian leaders and politicians, will ask for peace in the Middle East.