The Week Ahead: Skater awaits Olympic fate

THE American skater Tonya Harding is determined to take part in the winter Olympics which open in Lillehammer, Norway, on Saturday, despite a ruling by the US Figure Skating Association that grounds exist for disciplinary proceedings against her.

Ms Harding has 30 days to reply to the association's allegations that she was involved in an attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan.

This means that the hearing may not be held until after the Olympics. Her fate therefore lies with the US Olympic Committee, which says it will decide within the next two weeks whether Ms Harding remains in the team alongside Ms Kerrigan.

Ms Harding's supporters are in aggressive mood: 'If she's not able to skate, it will show that big bullies get their way,' says Elaine Stam, president of Ms Harding's fan club.

The plenary session of the European Parliament opens today in Strasbourg and goes on until Friday. MEPs are expected to debate a proposed ban on large motorcycles, equal rights for homosexuals, measures to combat international terrorism, the setting up of a European drug-monitoring centre, sexual harassment at work, a proposed social clause in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and enlargement of the European Union.

The disgraced former Communist leader of Bulgaria, Todor Zhivkov, 82, who has had a seven-year jail term for embezzlement postponed because of his heart problems, goes back to court tomorrow on new charges of inciting racial hatred. Also charged are the former prime minister Georgi Atanasov and the former interior minister Dimitar Stoyanov. The case stems from Zhivkov's policy in the mid-1980s of forcing Bulgaria's million ethnic Turks to adopt Slavic names, and he could be sentenced to eight years in prison.

The Armenian President, Levon Ter Petrosian, visits Britain tomorrow until Friday for talks with John Major and the Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, on developing political and economic ties.

While in town Mr Ter Petrosian will discuss the urgent matter of funds with Jacques de Larosiere at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Mr Hurd visits South Africa from Wednesday until Friday for talks with President F W de Klerk and Nelson Mandela.

Mr Mandela makes a return visit to Robben Island on Friday to mark the fourth anniversary of his release after 27 years in prison, most of which were spent on Robben Island.

Japan celebrates Northern Territory Day today and the Prime Minister, Morihio Hosokawa, is expected to call for the return of the disputed Kurile Islands, claimed by Russia. On Thursday he heads for Washington for two days to talk to President Bill Clinton about opening up Japanese markets.

Italy bans the purchase, sale and possession of contraband cigarettes on Thursday, on pain of a hefty fine. Also on Thursday the Berlin Film Festival opens with Bernardo Bertolucci's Little Buddha. Sophia Loren is due to be awarded a Golden Bear in honour of her life's work.

Austria's President, Thomas Klestil, 61, embarks on his much publicised two-day visit to Egypt today, unaccompanied by his mistress and political adviser, Margot Loffler, 39, who is being packed off for a long holiday under pressure from the Foreign Minister, Alois Mock. The President will be back in Vienna by Thursday to attend the glittering high point of the social season, the Opera Ball.

His waltzing partner is expected to be neither Ms Loffler nor his estranged wife, Edith, 60, who last week cleared her securities and jewels from the presidential safe, but his eldest daughter Ursula, 37, an air hostess.

Brazilian congressmen vote tomorrow on a bill that could make or break plans to bring down inflation and secure a vital agreement with the International Monetary Fund. Just the sort of thing most Brazilians will be glad to put behind them once the week-long carnival begins in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday.

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