The World This Week

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The Independent Online
PARTIES of various stripes in South Africa may well be feeling apprehensive when the appeal by Winnie Mandela - who is staring at six years in jail - opens on Wednesday. Mrs Mandela, convicted in 1991 on charges of kidnapping and being an accessory in the death of young Stompie Seipei Moeketsi, has been free on bail since her conviction. She will probably not turn up in person at the Bloemfontein courtroom.

The lawyers from each side will argue it out until Friday before three judges. Unusually, the state is asking for an even higher sentence. The prospect of Mrs Mandela in jail cannot be very appealing to the government, which hardly wants an ANC martyr figure. But the ANC is unlikely to lend more than token support to the disgraced Winnie if she should find herself behind bars. A judgment is expected in two or three weeks.

Also feeling apprehensive no doubt, an EC 'troika' of foreign ministers from Denmark, Britain and Belgium - representing the current, last and next EC presidencies - visits Moscow to meet President Boris Yeltsin, the Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, and the Foreign Minister, Andrei Kozyrev, on Thursday until Saturday.

The trip was organised to discuss Russia's position on the former Yugoslavia, but has become an act of solidarity with Mr Yeltsin as he fights for his political life. Mr Kozyrev and the US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, plan to press on with their meeting in Washington tomorrow and Wednesday to prepare next month's summit between Mr Yeltsin and President Bill Clinton.

There is more certainty surrounding the outcome of the second round of the French elections on Sunday: it is expected to seal the fate of the Socialist Party. The week also sees a couple of smaller electoral contests: Lesotho, a country enclosed by South Africa, holds its first general lections for 22 years on Saturday, marking a return to civilian rule. And on Sunday, in another electoral first, the republic of Serbian Krajina in Croatia holds parliamentary multi-party elections.

Israel's Likud Party holds its first primaries for the party leadership on Thursday. The winner needs 40 per cent of the vote to avoid a run-off and to become the party's candidate for prime minister. Of the two main contenders, Benjamin ('Bibi') Netanyahu and Ze'ev Benjamin Begin, Mr Netanyahu is expected to win easily and then promises to bring down the coalition government led by the Labour Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin.

Also convening this week is India's ruling Congress party which is expected to see an assault upon the authority of the Prime Minister, Narasimha Rao. The country is reeling from a number of bomb attacks. Mr Rao has been battered by a strong political challenge from Hindu nationalists. Many in Mr Rao's own party blame him for not fending off the strong Hindu nationalist upsurge.

The space shuttle Columbia is finally due to take off from Cape Canaveral today (or, says Nasa, tomorrow or Wednesday) after being delayed by high winds. More likely to stick to its schedule, Antwerp launches a seven- month festival of culture with a big fireworks display on Friday. And, celebrating with ice rather than fire, the Japanese rock singer Yasunori Sugawara gives the first-ever concert in Antarctica on Friday for environmental preservation and world peace. Since it costs pounds 8,466 per head to go to hear him, it is likely that his audience will comprise mainly passing whales and penguins. Sounds very cool.

At least Mr Sugawara will be spared the horrors of the 'Golden Raspberries' award - an anti-Oscar ceremony for Hollywood's worst efforts of the year - which takes place in Los Angeles on Sunday. Bodyguard, starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, leads the field with seven nominations.