Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


The World This Week

JAPAN'S Prime Minister, Kiichi Miyazawa, fights this week to restore authority over his country's government and its ruling party, both battered by scandal. Coming days see important hearings on the Sagawa money-and-mobsters affair, the announcement of a political reform package and a cabinet reshuffle to revive the fortunes of his unpopular government.

Noboru Takeshita, the former prime minister and grandee of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), appears before parliament today for the second time to face interrogation about his alleged links to organised crime. He is followed tomorrow by two former executives of Sagawa Kyubin, the trucking company at the heart of the scandal. On Friday, an aide to the disgraced LDP powerbroker Shin Kanemaru is to be questioned on what happened to the dollars 4m ( pounds 2.5m) his boss took in illegal donations from Sagawa Kyubin.

The LDP meanwhile announces on Wednesday measures to clean up the political system and prevent more illegal funding scandals - three of which have rocked the party since 1988 - undermining confidence in the party that has ruled Japan since 1955.

And on Saturday Mr Miyazawa reshuffles his cabinet. The appointments will be scrutinised for evidence of the Prime Minister's reforming intentions. He is expected to appoint a new finance minister, probably Yoshiro Mori, to deal with Japan's economic downturn. Keenly awaited by the public is the appointment of justice minister: after the uproar at the casual way state prosecutors handled the Sagawa scandal, Mr Miyazawa is under intense pressure to appoint a Mr Clean. This could be Hyosuke Kujiraoka, a party veteran who recently declared he was disillusioned by factional manoeuvring and corrupt practices.

Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, visits Rome today on a European tour that brings him to London tomorrow. On Wednesday he lunches with John Major and addresses MPs. The trip comes as the Middle East peace talks resume in Washington today for two weeks. Palestinians want the United States to intervene more forcefully and put more pressure on Israel, but serious attempts to make progress are likely to be put on ice until Bill Clinton takes office in January.

Nato defence ministers meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday and are expected to make a final decision on the European Fighter Aircraft project. And European heads of government meet for an EC summit in Edinburgh on Friday and Saturday.

Thursday is Human Rights Day, the day when the Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded in Oslo to Guatemala's indigenous rights activist Rigoberta Menchu.

Elections take place today for 12 seats in the House of Assembly in Tobago. The island has been linked with Trinidad in a unitary state since 1889, but Tobagonians complain they are being neglected by the central government, prompting talk of secession among the 44,000 islanders.

Giorgio Strehler, Italy's greatest theatre director, appears in court in Milan on Thursday accused of embezzling pounds 300,000 of an EC grant he was given to fund courses for aspiring actors and theatre technicians at his Piccolo Teatro in Milan. The maestro is accused not of pocketing the money, but of frittering it away on telephone bills, cleaning the theatre and costumes for a recent production of Faust.

Another example of a show- business initiative turning sour is the 42nd Miss World contest on Saturday at Sun City, the gamblers' pleasure resort in the South African 'homeland' of Bophuthatswana. Eighty-four contestants will take part - though none from the homeland itself. The African National Congress says it will disrupt the event unless free political activities are allowed in Bophuthatswana.

Also kicking out against intolerance, Italy's football players are to carry banners denouncing racism on to the pitches before matches on Sunday. They are alarmed by a rise of right-wing violence orchestrated on the terraces by shaven- headed 'naziskins'.