The World This Week

IT IS Gay Ski Week in Aspen, Colorado. This annual event to promote homosexual rights has been given an extra edge by a decision by gay campaigners to boycott the resort. The boycott stems from a state referendum in November that voted to repeal several city ordinances protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and preventing the state from passing any such legislation in the future.

Homosexual campaigners regard the proposal as a carte blanche for any employer to sack or victimise gay employees purely out of prejudice. Some campaigners urged a world boycott of the Aspen slopes, but the organisers pressed ahead with the annual Gay Ski Week anyway - an event that regularly attracts thousands of people - promising it would be 'one big protest'.

A good turn-out is expected and the outcry seems to have had some effect: a judge has temporarily suspended the measure, pending a hearing.

Salvatore 'Toto' Riina, the Mafia capo di tutti capi, appears in court in Rome today, charged with ordering the murder of a rival Mafia boss, Vincenzo Puccio. It will be his first appearance since he was arrested nearly two weeks ago.

Artists and writers in Berlin lead a torchlight procession on Saturday, under the slogan 'We declare Never Again', to mark the 60th anniversary of Hitler's accession to power. This coincides with a wave of xenophobia in Central Europe, symbolised by a campaign in Austria launched today by the right-wing populist leader Jorg Haider for a referendum on stronger immigration controls.

The lower house of the Czech parliament votes for a president tomorrow for the first time. The former Czechoslovak president Vaclav Havel, nominated by the right-wing ruling coalition, is the favourite, followed by Marie Stiborova, backed by the opposition Left Bloc, and Miroslav Sladek, supported by the far-right Republican Party. Slovakia also chooses its president tomorrow. Of four candidates, two head the field: Roman Kovac, of the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia and Jozef Prokes, of the Slovak National Party. A run-off is thought likely, on Wednesday.

Heading for a different kind of clash, the Philippines President, Fidel Ramos, visits Malaysia from Wednesday until Friday to discuss with the Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamed, the Philippines' long-standing claim to the Malaysian state of Sabah. Mr Ramos promises to 'explore new approaches' to the dispute. Manila claims Sabah on behalf of the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu, which leased Sabah to Britain in the 18th century. Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, who claims to represent the heirs of the Sulu sultanate, warned that he would not recognise any deal that dropped the Philippines claim.

Russia dips its toes deeper into the chill waters of the capitalist market with the conclusion of its first shares auction on Sunday. The shares are being sold in Bolshevik, a state-owned company producing 250 tons a day of cakes and biscuits.

Britain's new ambassador to France, Sir Christopher Mallaby, will keep his toes dry when he crosses the Channel on Friday by train - the first British envoy to travel to his new post entirely by land. He will take a service engine to ride through the Channel Tunnel, which is due to open to ordinary mortals next year. Barring mishaps with leaves or snow, Sir Christopher should arrive in time to catch the international ready-to-wear women's autumn and winter fashion show, which opens on Friday.

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