The Week Ahead: King Hussein tries to woo US

JORDAN'S King Hussein visits the United States to meet President Clinton on Friday to crown a process of fence-mending taking place since the king's sympathy for Iraq in the Gulf war prompted a crisis in relations.

Mr Clinton sees signs of democratisation in Jordan as a good reason to strengthen ties. King Hussein's support for Arab-Israeli peace talks has also won him points in Washington.

King Hussein may have a harder time when he meets congressional leaders. Many view him as an apologist for President Saddam Hussein and are still smarting from his condemnation of the US-led operation against Iraq and for delaying United Nations sanctions against Iraq. But if King Hussein wants dollars 35m ( pounds 23m) of aid to be unfrozen, he will need to woo congressional approval.

The king is also to check in for tests at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to ensure that the cancer which forced him to have a kidney removed last year has not recurred.

During the royal visit, talks on peace in the Middle East resume in Washington tomorrow, and Arab, Palestinian and Israeli delegations have all promised to turn up. The US is expected to step up its efforts to broker a joint statement between the Palestinians and the Israelis, setting out areas of agreement and disagreement. Limited though this achievement would be, officials feel it would at least mark some tangible sign of progress.

A tangible sign of progress is what they have been longing for in Brazil, where the latest economics minister, Fernando Enrique Cardoso - the country's fourth in eight months - makes his first policy speech in the cabinet today. He will urge austerity and fiscal responsibility as a cure for the country's 32 per cent monthly inflation rate, but probably reject so-called shock treatments and price freezes which have persistently failed in the past.

Mr Cardoso will target central government mismanagement and spendthrift state and local governments. The stakes are high. If his back-to-basics plan works, Mr Cardoso could find himself favourite for next year's presidential elections.

But Brazilians probably feel that anyone would be better than the disgraced Fernando Collor de Mello, who has been summoned to Brazil's Supreme Court tomorrow for questioning on charges of corruption and forming a criminal group. Federal investigators reckon Mr Collor, who resigned as president in December as his trial for impeachment opened, funnelled up to dollars 1bn through dummy accounts and shadow companies to an influence-peddling ring run by his campaign treasurer.

In Germany, Chancellor Helmut Kohl is having a rough time. Under fire for having missed memorial services for Turks killed in an arson attack, he addresses MPs on Wednesday in an emergency debate on racism. Elsewhere in Europe, protest demonstrations are planned against stricter immigration laws in France all this week and in Italy on Thursday.

Japan's nuptial revelries go on: a banquet at the Imperial Palace lasts from tomorrow until Thursday. But, from tomorrow, if you go to an American minor-league baseball match, not only will you be banned from smoking, you won't be able to chew tobacco either.

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