People: To sleep in - perchance to scheme

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The Independent Online
After sacking Ahmad al- Khodair as prime minister and taking his job, Saddam Hussein laid down a strict rule for his ministers. On Monday, he decreed: 'Every one of you should be at your ministry at eight in the morning. Only those who are sick will be authorised to contact the cabinet secretary to inform him of the problem. That will enable us to know that someone is sick, to inquire after his condition and to wish him a speedy recovery.

'But all those who are not sick should be present at 8am. I don't want any other excuses. Those who pretend to have slept late have no excuse. Instead of going to bed at two in the morning, they should retire at one. If they don't get to bed before two, even though they have to get up at five or six, they will have to learn to go to bed earlier.'

When the acting head of state in Kiribati, Tekire Tameura, turned up at his office on Wednesday, he was removed by the police. 'I was forced out by the police under the instruction of the Chief Justice,' Mr Tameura said. 'They thought my term of office had expired but my appointment was by the president himself and, I think, to remove my appointment, it has to be done by the president.'

The Pacific island group was plunged into constitutional crisis on 24 May. The government fell after a parliamentary no-confidence vote and was replaced by a Council of State made up of the chairman of the Public Service Commission (Mr Tameura), the chief justice and the speaker of parliament.

Mr Tameura's term as chairman expires tomorrow, and a successor has been named by the other members, Faqir Mohammed and Beretitara Neeti. He said he would appeal against the move but would abide by any court decision. However, Mr Mohammed is the country's only judge and a temporary one would have to come from Australia or New Zealand.

Three Venuses have also been evicted - from the Chamber of Deputies in Rome. Irene Pivetti, the Speaker of the Italian parliament, had three 16th-century paintings of seductive nudes removed. They included one in her study, by Luca Giordano, of a sleeping Venus being spied on.

La Stampa assailed Ms Pivetti, a member of the federalist Northern League, saying: 'She has yet again given proof of her religious fundamentalism, this time in its most typical form - sexual phobia.' Her spokesman said the nudes were removed 'mostly on the basis of aesthetics'.