The World This Week

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The Independent Online
THE ARCTIC seas are alive with radioactive waste dumped for decades by the former Soviet Union, producing what the Russians now call an ecological time-bomb.

Fearful of the consequences of treating the high seas like a nuclear dustbin, more than 50 scientists from 13 countries meet in Oslo today until Friday to discuss the effects of radioactive dumping in the Barents and Kara seas, and how to clean them. The Russians promise to come clean on the fate of a number of sunken nuclear submarines sitting on the seabed.

Green campaigners say the Soviet navy tipped 15 nuclear reactors and more than 17,000 containers of radioactive waste in the Kara Sea over a period of 30 years.

Five French judges rule in Versailles on Friday on whether a former prime minister, Laurent Fabius, and two former ministers, Georgina Dufoix and Edmond Herve, should go on trial over the infection of 1,200 haemophiliacs with HIV from contaminated blood. They have to decide whether it is too late to bring charges. A statute of limitations stipulates that charges of 'non-assistance to persons in danger' must be brought within three years: the transfusions were given in 1985 but complaints against the ministers were not made until 1991.

Mr Fabius insists he was not responsible for the catastrophe in the light of medical knowledge of Aids at the time, and wants the trial to clear his name. Whatever the judges' decision, half the country is likely to scream that it is unfair, and the whole business is bound to cause more grief for the ruling Socialists.

Due to go ahead on Wednesday is the federal trial of four white Los Angeles policemen charged with civil rights violations over the videotaped beating of the black motorist Rodney King. A state court failed to convict, and the federal court may do the same.

In Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, some 100,000 veterans and others gather today where more than a million Russians perished in a battle that helped change the course of the Second World War. Russia's Vice-President Alexander Rutskoi and the German ambassador, Klaus Blech, will lay wreaths tomorrow to mark the Germans' surrender 50 years ago.

Bitterness between Russia and Germany may have faded, but that between Greek and Turkish Cypriots blazes on. In Greek Cypriot presidential elections on Sunday, President George Vassiliou faces a strong challenge from the right-wing Glafcos Clerides. Both favour UN attempts to unify the island, though Mr Clerides has backed away from the UN formula under which the Turks retain 29 per cent of the island.

The opposition coalition 'Front for Fighting Forces', led by Paschalis Paschalides, accuses Mr Vassiliou of preparing a sell- out, and the veteran socialist leader Vassos Lyssarides urges a vote for Mr Paschalides. 'A vote for the other two would be suicide, like going to the electric chair,' Mr Lyssarides warned. The other two are, however, well ahead.

Tonga holds elections on Thursday for nine parliamentary seats held by commoners. Parliament is dominated by the nobility but change may be on the way: two-thirds of the 55 candidates favour increased democracy.

Fancy buying a gunship? Or a submarine? All the ground-to-air missiles you can shift? Old Soviet army stocks go under the hammer in the Ukrainian city of Kharkov tomorrow.

Up for auction will be hundreds of tanks, dozens of missiles, artillery systems, fighter planes, two Kilo-class diesel-propelled submarines and a 40-ton military cargo plane. You may get a T-80 battle tank for dollars 2.2m ( pounds 1.46m) but a Mig-27k attack jet could set you back dollars 16m.

You will need a purchase certificate of final destination, transport documents and bank guarantees. Former Soviet republics will not catch the auctioneer's eye. Hurry while stocks last.