In a show of British support for the 3 September agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation on limited Palestinian autonomy in Jericho and the Gaza Strip, Douglas Hurd leaves for the Middle East tomorrow. He will be making his first trip to Lebanon as Foreign Secretary, and will also visit Israel, the occupied territories and Jordan before going on to Malta - another first for him. With Yasser Arafat alienating huge sectors of Palestinian opinion by his high-handed approach to the question of which boys will get which jobs in the new administrations, Mr Hurd will try to stoke up a peace process challenged by loss of steam.
With presidential elections scheduled for May, Malawi's President, Hastings Kazumu Banda, said in his new year message that Malawi and Mozambique defence officials would meet on Wednesday to discuss the fate of 2,000 Young Pioneers who fled to Mozambique last month after the army began disarming them. Members of the deeply unpopular force, long used to quash internal dissent, had killed two soldiers in the northern town of Mzuzu. President Banda wants the thugs to come home, but has said parliament will repeal the 1964 act that allowed them to assume paramilitary functions.
Talks continue today and tomorrow between India's Foreign Secretary, J N Dixit, and his Pakistani counterpart, Shaharyar Khan, in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, over the future of Kashmir. Some 7,500 people have been killed in Kashmir since 1989, when Muslim separatists started fighting for their own state, or union with Pakistan. No one is talking up the chances of progress. 'We will explain each other's attitude and see if we can't reason and reduce the differences,' Mr Dixit said when he arrived in Islamabad. Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Ahmed Asif Ali, said: 'There is no optimism, as far as I am personally concerned.'
The people of Guatemala might be forgiven for seeing the Kashmiris as having an easy time of it. The war between the Guatemalan Nation al Revolutionary Unit and the government has lasted 30 years and claimed 100,000 lives. Representatives of rulers and rebels will be holding a preliminary three-day meeting from Thursday in Mexico City to try to revive peace talks suspended last May.
The Angolan peace talks resume in Lusaka on Wednesday after a Christmas break. Sixteen years of war ended briefly after a 1991 peace pact was implemented, but the war restarted after Jonas Savimbi, the Unita leader, rejected defeat in the elections of September 1992 and returned to the bush. UN relief workers estimate 3 million Angolans - almost one-third of the population - could starve to death if a treaty is not struck. Some 450,000 people have been killed since Unita took up arms in 1975.
More than 1,000 Angolans trapped behind battle lines are believed to be dying every day.