The World This Week

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The Independent Online
THE PRIME MINISTER, John Major, briefly escapes troubles at home when he visits Egypt on Friday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the battle of el-Alamein, an Allied victory which secured the Suez Canal and marked a turning-point in the Second World War. Some 13,500 Allied soldiers and 32,000 German and Italian troops died in nearly two weeks of fighting.

The German Chancellor Helmut Kohl was to have attended too, but cried off. On Saturday Mr Major will have talks with President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, before the commemoration of the battle on Sunday.

War memories will accompany the Queen on her five-day trip to Germany which begins today. The visit was intended to express British solidarity and interest in German unification, with the emphasis on east Germany, but the historic theme of reconciliation between former enemies has acquired an immediate urgency with Anglo-German relations at their lowest point for years.

The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, join President Richard von Weizsacker at a state banquet in Bonn today. Tomorrow, after lunch with Chancellor Kohl, the Queen goes to Berlin to view British armed forces' last tattoo in the city before they return home at the end of 1994.

On Wednesday she goes to east Berlin, her first visit to what was East Europe, lays a wreath to victims of the Berlin Wall and rides a red London double-decker bus - something she is unlikely to do at home. On Thursday the party visit Dresden, destroyed by RAF bombers in 1945, for a remembrance service. Local peace campaigners have criticised the Queen's 55-minute trip to Dresden as too short. Before returning home on Friday, she will lay flowers at the tomb of her great-great- aunt, Empress Victoria, in the Friedenskirche in Potsdam.

France's National Assembly opens its budget debate tomorrow, and the opposition is expected to put a no-confidence motion. On the same day, the President of the Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front of New Caledonia, Paul Neaoutyine, puts to the UN decolonisation committee in New York the case for the independence of the Pacific territory from France. French children bring a packet of rice to school tomorrow, which will be sent to Somalia for Somali children by the children's fund, Unicef.

EC environment ministers meet in Luxembourg today to discuss whether to ensure within 10 years that 90 per cent of all packaging waste is 'recovered'. Proposals aim to ensure that 60 per cent of all waste is recycled. They would oblige companies to spend more on making packaging easier to recycle, and force local authorites to separate rubbish. Southern European countries are expected to reject the proposals, while Germany and the Netherlands want the rules tougher still.

The former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega appeals on Friday in Miami against his 40-year prison sentence on drug charges. He says his rights as a prisoner of war have been violated. The trial opens today of the former CIA operative Clair George on charges related to the Iran-Contra affair. Meanwhile, the Nicaraguan President Violeta Chamorro, whose country was ruined by the US-backed Contra war, continues a tour of Scandinavian countries this week and next in pursuit of economic aid.

The space shuttle Columbia blasts off on Thursday from Cape Canaveral on a mission which will unload a laser-reflecting satellite, test a robotic vision system, measure ozone, tend rats, melt metals, chill and heat helium, grow crystals, collect saliva and monitor back pain. It will include 'a little bit of everything', said one of the six astronauts.