The Week Ahead: Gambia's new morality cramps sex tourists' style

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The Independent Online
BRITISH charter flights to Gambia resume tomorrow - they had been suspended after a military coup in July. But anyone seeking a late summer break should be aware of the climate of moral austerity that now prevails in this West African tourist paradise: the new head of state Yahya Jammeh, a devout Muslim, will not tolerate women tourists visiting his country in search of sex.

'We are Africans and we have our own moral values,' he warns. 'Any trade that is based on sex is immoral so if there is a particular group of tourists who come here purposely for sex, and knowing the effects of such type of sex, we cannot condone that.'

Many of the tens of thousands of tourists who head for Gambia's beaches every year are said to be European women seeking sex with young Gambian men. 'We are not sex machines,' Lieutenant Jammeh insists. 'I want that to be clear to whoever comes here purposely for sex.'

In Lesotho, troops are on alert in preparation for a national strike called for today and tomorrow to protest against last week's coup by King Letsie III. The head of the caretaker government, Hae Phoofolo, says he is bracing for a period of instability in the wake of the King's decree dissolving parliament. 'The people have a right to protest, but they are angry and will not listen to reason.'

France seeks to recapture the drama of the Liberation of Paris 50 years ago, with an elaborate celebration at city hall on Thursday night followed by a huge parade down the Champs Elysees on Friday. Vintage tanks and cars will parade through the city, followed by a huge fireworks display.

The Soviet President Boris Yeltsin has decreed today the 'Day of the State Flag of Russia,' marking the anniversary of the collapse of a Communist coup in 1991. The day will henceforth be an annual holiday in honour of Russia's white-blue-and-red tricolour which, the decree explains, is 'covered with the glory of many generations of Russians'. The flag day will 'teach present and future generations of Russian citizens respect towards state symbols'.

The failure of the Communist coup against Mikhail Gorbachev three years ago - that far-off time when the red Soviet flag had a hammer-and-sickle in the corner - hastened the end of the regime.

In one corner of the former Soviet empire, the rebel Dnestr republic in Moldova introduces its new currency today to replace Soviet-era roubles. Residents of the Russian-speaking region will be able to swap unlimited amounts of the existing currency with the new coupons - at the rate of 100 to the old Soviet rouble - until October, on the presentation of a certificate showing their place of work.

The Goethe Prize, which is awarded every three years on the occasion of Goethe's birthday, will be given this year to the art historian Ernst Gombrich at St Paul's church in Frankfurt on Sunday.

About 2,200 couples will be married in mass weddings across Iran from Thursday to Sunday to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The weddings will be arranged and financed by the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee, which will also provide a dowry.

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