The Week Ahead: Russians at last bid goodbye to Berlin

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The Independent Online
UNWELCOME guests, in the form of Russian troops, finally are packing up and heading home from eastern Germany and the Baltic states. After almost 50 years as the Kremlin's not-so-subtle guarantor of Communism in the former East Germany, Russian forces officially complete their four-year-long pull-out on Wednesday.

The German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, and Russia's President, Boris Yeltsin, will attend a farewell ceremony in Berlin with mixed emotions. The German leader will be glad to see the backs of the Russians but his Russian counterpart will be pressed to deal with the problems of providing them with jobs and housing. Mr Yeltsin is, no doubt, aware of the danger of dissatisfied men in arms.

Wednesday is also the deadline for Russian troop withdrawal from Latvia and the provisional date for Moscow's forces to leave Estonia. While the two countries are preparing noisy celebrations to mark the final withdrawal, the Russian soldiers are slipping quietly away. Russian troops pulled out of Lithuania last year.

To show just how far it has come since the days of the Soviet Union, Moscow is taking part in the first Russian-US joint military exercises in the Orenburg region, about 1,100km (700 miles) south- east of Moscow on Friday. The nine-day exercises call for 250 US army troops to join an equal number of Russian soldiers in Totskoye.

Moscow's changing outlook is not reflected only by its dealings with the West. With the arrival of the Chinese President, Jiang Zemin, in Moscow on Friday, the two former rivals for the Communist crown are expected to bury the hammer and sickle and make the first moves towards full-scale political and economic co-operation. During his five-day visit, Mr Jiang and Mr Yeltsin are due to sign a whole package of documents to establish proper relations between the two great powers.

The liberal Free Democrat party, a junior partner in the ruling German coalition, holds a crucial conference in Nuremberg on Saturday. It will outline a strategy for the general election on 16 October. Chancellor Kohl's coalition is close to winning the election. But it could still fall short and be forced into sharing power, or making way for the centre-left, according to polls. The Free Democrats differ with Mr Kohl's Christian Democrats on some issues, especially taxation.

In Panama, President Guillermo Endara, sworn in as leader by the US during its 1989 invasion to oust Manuel Noriega, leaves office on Wednesday. His term is widely considered a flop. Mr Endara leaves with single digit approval ratings and an image as a do-nothing president. Latin American leaders have criticised him as a lackey of the United States, and Washington has rebuked him for failing to crack down on the drugs and drug money that pass through Panama. The man who will replace him as president, Ernesto Perez Balladares, dismissed Mr Endara recently as 'bright but incompetent'.

The trial of a British couple, Adrian and Bernadette Mooney, for attempting to smuggle a baby out of Romania, begins on Friday. The couple, who were arrested at the Hungarian border last month with baby Monica, face charges that carry a prison term of up to five years. A Romanian prosecutor investigating the case said at least four other children had been illegally adopted through the same network. Three Romanians still under arrest and Monica's young unmarried gypsy parents, who are free on bail, are to be tried along with the Mooneys

The US Vice-President, Al Gore, visits Palestinian self-rule areas in the West Bank and Gaza on Sunday. Pakistan's Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, may cancel a planned visit to the Gaza Strip on the same day as it clashes with a meeting between the PLO leader, Yasser Arafat and the American Vice-President.

Her visit, if it takes place, would be the first by a head of government to Palestinian-administered Gaza since Israel granted self-rule to the area in May.

He's still at it after all these years. The former US president now turned international troubleshooter, Jimmy Carter, and his wife, Rosalynn, begin a tour today of seven African countries, to review programmes he has helped fund, to improve human rights and eradicate parasitic diseases.

The Carters fly out to Mauritania before travelling to Liberia, Ghana, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia and Egypt, where he will speak at the International Conference on Population and Development.