The World this Week

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The Independent Online
MARKING THE culmination of 24 years of negotiations, representatives of some 130 countries gather in Paris on Wednesday to sign a treaty aimed at eliminating chemical weapons. Delegates, who meet until Friday, are to sign a document that bans the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons and calls on countries that have chemical weapons to eliminate them over 10 years.

At least 65 countries must ratify it before it comes into effect in 1995. Arab countries are expected to refuse to sign until Israel signs the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Even Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel, shares the Arabs' stand. They take the view that they cannot be expected to give up their development of a weapon of mass destruction while Israel refuses to do the same. Israel, widely assumed to have a nuclear capability, neither confirms nor denies that it has nuclear weapons, maintaining only that it 'will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons to the region'.

Ministers of the Arab League will probably decide formally not to sign the treaty when they meet in Cairo today. The meeting of the league's 20 member states plus the Palestine Liberation Organisation was called at the PLO's request to discuss the plight of the 400-odd deportees camped in the no-man's land between Israel and Lebanon. On Sunday the Israeli High Court conducts a hearing on the legality of the expulsions.

Meanwhile, Arab countries in the Organisation of Islamic Conference hold a summit in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, also today, to discuss the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The leaders plan to explore ways of stopping what they call Serbian aggression in Bosnia. The organisation has set Friday as a deadline for the UN Security Council to implement peace resolutions in Bosnia. The Islamic countries say that if concrete steps have not been taken by then, they will start shipping arms to the Bosnian Muslims.

While the future of the UN- sponsored peace talks on Bosnia remains clouded with uncertainty, the beleaguered UN Secretary- General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, is in Germany today for talks with the Foreign Minister, Klaus Kinkel, and Chancellor Helmut Kohl about Germany's role in UN military missions.

Bonn is having difficulty in reaching a consensus on the terms for ending the constitutional prohibition on German troops operating outside the Nato area. It wants the opposition Social Democrats to support a constitutional amendment that would let German troops join UN peace-keeping and combat missions. Mr Kohl has offered 1,500 troops to help the UN safeguard relief supplies in Somalia, although wrangling is still going on about the constitutionality of such actions.

The SPD says it will challenge the planned deployment in the Constitutional Court. It does not mind German troops taking part in UN peace-keeping missions, but resists government pressure for troops to join multinational missions that could involve fighting, such as the Gulf war. Mr Kohl will make a statement on German participation in UN peace-keeping operations on Thursday.

A decision is expected on Thursday in Berlin on whether the trial of the cancer-stricken former East German leader, Erich Honecker, will be cancelled on medical grounds. Mr Honecker's supporters have bought him a ticket to Chile, in the expectation that he will be set free. There is less chance for a reprieve for Italy's Socialist leader, Bettino Craxi. Italian magistrates are due tomorrow to ask parliament to lift Mr Craxi's parliamentary immunity, so that they can press ahead with charges that he was aware of illicit American funding for his party.

Tomorrow at the Paris Opera is the funeral of the ballet star Rudolf Nureyev, who died last week.