The World this Week

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The Independent Online
THE EGYPTIAN President, Hosni Mubarak, flies to China today at the start of a tour that will take him to North Korea, Russia and Poland. Mr Mubarak is trying to carve out a position independent from other Middle East countries, notably Saudi Arabia, with whom relations are cool since an Egyptian soldier died in a border clash between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and to establish good relations with other world powers.

Another statesman who tried to reach out for new allegiances, the former West German chancellor Willy Brandt, who died last week, will be given a state ceremony of farewell on Saturday in the Reichstag, the former parliament building in Berlin. President Richard von Weizsacker and Chancellor Helmut Kohl will be among those taking part.

A court in Berlin is expected to decide on Thursday whether the former East German leader Erich Honecker is fit to go on trial for manslaughter. He is accused of having pursued a shoot-to-kill policy against those attempting to escape from Communist East Germany over the Berlin Wall.

President Boris Yeltsin of Russia visits the Georgian President, Eduard Shevardnadze, in Tbilisi tomorrow and will meet the President of the Abkhazian parliament, Vladislav Ardzirba, and leaders of the North Caucasus to discuss the crisis in the region.

Italy's three main trade union confederations are to hold a four-hour general strike tomorrow to protest against proposed cuts in the health service and pensions. On Wednesday, Paris taxi drivers strike for 24 hours to protest against the new licensing system, which awards penalties for driving offences. Outside the French capital, farmers have called for big demonstrations on Wednesday to protest against what they complain is the government's failure to negotiate changes in the EC Common Agricultural Policy.

The Organisation of African Unity's committee on southern Africa meets on Wednesday in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, to discuss sending observers to South Africa. The organisation is to recommend that OAU observers work together with UN and other international observers. The initiative follows a request from the African National Congress (ANC) leader, Nelson Mandela, for the OAU to send observers.

A mass march on the South African parliament building in Cape Town is planned for today. The march is to be led by the ANC's secretary-general, Cyril Ramaphosa, and the South African Communist Party leader, Ronnie Kasrils. It coincides with a special 10-day session of the South African parliament to debate legislation on the transition to non-racial democracy.

The trial of the Malawi dissident Chakufwa Chihana, who is charged with sedition, is due to start today. The trial was to have taken place last month but was postponed after objections by Mr Chihana's defence that he had not been given the 21 days' notice required by law in order to prepare for the trial.

The winner of the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine is to be announced today in Stockholm, the winner for economic science tomorrow, for physics and chemistry on Wednesday and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced in Oslo on Friday.

On Columbus Day today, a protest march of indigenous peoples from North and South America arrives in Mexico City. They are using the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Columbus's arrival in America to press for the recognition of their rights. Further protests are expected in Bogota and La Paz.

The US space agency Nasa has also chosen Columbus Day as the symbolic start of its electronic search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Its dollars 100m (pounds 59m) programme will try to find interstellar radio waves through the extensive use of radio telescopes.

Around our own planet, an Air France Concorde, '1492', will try to set a round-the-world commercial record, leaving Lisbon today and travelling west before returning to Lisbon tomorrow. The flight aims to make the trip in 33 hours 55 minutes. Some 50 passengers paid dollars 23,000 each for their chance to win a place in the Guinness Book of Records. The plane will make six 90-minute stops and four cabin-crew changes, so that the passengers can be served fine French wines by wakeful attendants for the whole trip.

They can all expect to be safely home again by Wednesday, the UN International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction.