The World This Week

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The Independent Online
HEADS OF government of the Group of Seven industrialised countries hold an economic summit in Munich today until Wednesday, when Russia's President, Boris Yeltsin, comes in search of Western aid. He insisted he would not plead 'cap in hand' and the IMF says it will give him sorely needed credit to support reforms of the Russian economy.

Mr Yeltsin then moves on to Helsinki for the summit of the Conference on Security and Co- operation in Europe (CSCE) which meets on Thursday and Friday. He remains in Helsinki for a state visit on Friday and Saturday. The Finns want to talk to him about Russia's troop build-up south of the Finnish border from St Petersburg to Murmansk naval base. Mr Yeltsin will be accompanied by his Defence Minister, Pavel Grachev.

Russia has issued soothing noises to Finland on the matter: there was no need to worry about the build-up of former Soviet troops withdrawn from eastern Europe, the message ran: their deployment was only temporary, while plans were being worked out for disbanding them. Finland's Prime Minister, Esko Aho, hopes the build-up can be discussed as part of the CSCE process that would deal with regional troop deployments.

Other matters expected to be raised at the CSCE meeting are Italy's proposals for settling the conflict over Nagorny Karabakh. Japan has been invited to attend. Yugoslavia says it will not attend. The CSCE, once a forum where the superpower blocs could get together and talk, is now somewhat adrift in a post-bloc world. With neither the clout of the UN nor the regional focus of the EC, it is casting about for a role.

Sweden's Prime Minister, Carl Bildt, and the Foreign Minister, Margaretha af Ugglas, meet Baltic States leaders in the Lithuanian capital, Riga, tomorrow to discuss pressure to be put on Russia to expedite the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Baltic States. The Balts, like the Finns, are concerned that the process is taking longer than they thought.

Some 40,000 workers at Poland's copper-producing combine at Lubin are expected to decide tomorrow whether or not to go on strike. The miners want the government to honour a 1989 agreement made with the Communists that miners should receive twice the average wage in the manufacturing industry. This presents a tricky conundrum to a country which is formally without a government. If the copper miners succeed, they are likely to be followed by the far more numerous coal miners.

Keeping alive the spirit of Rio, UN talks start on Wednesday in Geneva on tightening the Montreal Protocol on substances that damage the ozone layer.

Cuba's National Assembly meets on Friday and Saturday to debate changes to its constitution, including the introduction of direct elections. Officials plan to drop all references to the former Soviet Union and emphasise the 19th century Cuban patriot Jose Marti as the chief inspiration for Cuba's communist system. MPs may also agree a provision for the declaration of a state of emergency, perhaps in anticipation of possible troubles to come.

Panama's former strongman Manuel Noriega, who was found guilty in April on eight out of 10 charges of drug-dealing and racketeering, is to be sentenced on Friday in Miami. He faces up to 120 years in prison.

Kurt Waldheim steps down on Wednesday as Austria's president after six years during which he was ostracised by the world for having lied about his Nazi past. He hands over the presidency to Thomas Klestil, a career diplomat who already has a glittering array of international engagements ahead of him. 'I feel relieved,' Mr Waldheim said just before quitting, echoing, no doubt, the feelings of many of his compatriots.