The Week Ahead: Tokyo's man at the WHO fights to save his career

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The Independent Online
THE Director General of the World Health Organisation, Hiroshi Nakajima, fights for his diplomatic career at the organisation's annual assembly which opens in Geneva today. But, despite strenuous efforts by his staff and Western diplomats to unseat him, Mr Nakajima is expected to be re-elected for another five years when delegates vote at the end of the week.

Mr Nakajima's likely victory, despite criticisms that he demoralised WHO staff and appointed incompetent cronies to senior positions, says much about the decline in the influence of the old powers like Britain and the US who in the past could always get their man in. Japan wants to project itself on the world stage and, with the resources at its command, it would be a brave or foolhardy Third World nation that courted Tokyo's displeasure by shunning its candidates in world bodies.

If re-elected, Mr Nakajima is expected to announce a 'restructuring' of the WHO to remove some of his allies from key posts and create divisions to deal with nutrition and vaccines. Responsibility for budget and finance would go to the chief administrator, Dennis Aitken, a Briton.

Sceptics dismiss the shake-up as cosmetic, designed to stop big Western donors from turning away from the WHO and channelling health funds through other UN agencies. There is no hint of whether Mr Nakajima plans to replace the ancient, white Japanese carp in the WHO headquarters' ornamental pond: the carp, known as 'DG', had been killed and filleted by someone with the skill of a sushi chef.

In Paris, four former health officials face an appeals court today over the infection of 1,250 haemophiliacs by HIV- tainted blood. The scandal caused 300 deaths, some since the four officials were tried last October. The main defendant, the former head of the National Blood Transfusion Centre, Michel Garretta, serving the maximum four years for fraud and criminal negligence, says he was made a scapegoat. Jean-Pierre Allain, ex-director of transfusion research, received four years, two suspended, on the same charges. Jacques Roux, ex-director of public health, received a four years suspended sentence for not helping people in danger, and Robert Netter, ex-chief of the national laboratory, was cleared.

Some victims want the charges upgraded to wilful poisoning, which would carry a heavier sentence and necessitate a retrial.

Facing trial tomorrow in Dusseldorf is the legendary East German spymaster Markus Wolf, charged with treason and bribery for running hundreds of spies for 33 years in West Germany. The scale of his operations came to light only with the fall of Communism and the unification of Germany. Particularly effective were his 'Romeo agents' whom he trained to win the hearts and secrets of important secretaries in West German offices, including the US embassy in Bonn.

Wolf is loyal to his former agents and silent about whether any of his former spies are still lying low. 'If I wanted to buy my freedom with treachery,' he said, 'I could have done that a long time ago.'

The Indian film star Sunjay Dutt goes on trial tomorrow in Bombay on terrorism charges relating to a number of bombings which killed 250 people. The macho heart-throb's penchant for collecting guns points to links between India's film industry and Bombay's underworld gangs. Dutt denies involvement, although he admits to having bought an AK-56 assault rifle to add to his collection.

The leader of the Africa National Congress, Nelson Mandela, visits London tomorrow until Thursday during which he will meet John Major and address Parliament. He wants to woo British investors to post-apartheid South Africa.

Paraguay votes in elections on Sunday amid fears that the army may step in if the result does not suit it. The ruling Colorado Party's candidate, Juan Carlos Wasmosy, is expected to be beaten by businessman Guillermo Caballero Vargas, of the newly formed National Unity Party, and probably also by Domingo Laino, leader of the opposition Authentic Radical Liberals.

On Wednesday, an international seminar on the 'Relevance of Marxism' takes place in Calcutta to mark the 175th anniversary of Karl Marx's birth. And on Wednesday we can all celebrate 'No Diet Day'. Its aim is to protest against efforts by the media and the food and fashion industry to create an artificial 'problem' that makes women feel they need to diet.