The World This Week: Foreign News

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The Independent Online
HELP IS at hand for those suffering withdrawal symptoms after the recent overdose of EC summit news. The coming week offers no fewer than two Community- related summits: an EC-Canada summit in Ottawa on Thursday, and an EC-US one in Washington the next day.

These are annual events, largely concerned with trade. John Major and Jacques Delors, President of the European Commission, will doubtless concentrate on the one issue studiously avoided in Edinburgh: the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (Gatt).

Since this is largely finalised, at least as far as EC-US relations are concerned, the meetings will be more cordial than last year's ill- tempered affairs. There is still a question mark, though, over whether Mr Major will meet Bill Clinton, the president-elect. But the Prime Minister and his wife, Norma, have already arranged to visit George Bush privately at Camp David.

As fears grow of bloodshed spreading to Kosovo and Macedonia, the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) will discuss moves to contain the Balkan crisis at a two- day meeting starting in Stockholm today. France will open a discussion on action taken so far to deal with the Yugoslav civil war, while the US will seek new measures against Serbia. Although the

52-nation CSCE was seen as a linchpin for European security after the fall of Communism, it has failed to influence events in former Yugoslavia, and there is little hope that the meeting will change this.

Milan Panic, the rump Yugoslavia's Prime Minister, will preside over a final big election campaign meeting of opposition leaders in Belgrade on Thursday, before legislative and presidential elections on Sunday. The rally will be held in front of the federal parliament building, and loudspeakers will be set up all over the capital, in protest at the banning of opposition broadcasts from state television, run by Serbia's hardline President - and Mr Panic's opponent - Slobodan Milosevic.

Despite Mr Panic's popular appeal and Mr Milosevic's falling support, the latter is still the front- runner, his hardline message commanding the respect of many Serbs. A Milosevic victory might well be followed by more sanctions, isolation, and possible expulsion of Yugoslavia from the United Nations.

Boris Yeltsin, the Russian President, will briefly leave his turbulent country on Thursday for China - a three-day visit almost cancelled during Mr Yeltsin's quarrel with the Congress of People's Deputies last week. Mr Yeltsin and his Chinese counterparts are expected to sign a declaration spelling out the 'principles' of Sino-Russian relations, as well as trade agreements.

Russia will also start to mend fences with Japan on Wednesday, when the latter's Deputy Foreign Minister, Kunihiko Saito, meets his counterpart, Georgy Kunadze, in Moscow to discuss prospects for a Yeltsin visit next year. The meeting is the first contact since Mr Yeltsin cancelled a visit to Tokyo at the last minute in September, causing Japan serious embarrassment, because of Japan's insistence on Russia's returning the Kurile Islands. Without their return, Tokyo says, it cannot help Russia economically.

South Korea's jaded voters elect a new president on Friday, choosing between the front-runner Kim Young Sam (Democratic Liberal), Kim Dae Jung (of the opposition Democratic Party) and Chung Ju Yung (of the minority United People's Party). But most people have little faith in the candidates, the parties or the electoral process. A recent opinion poll showed 55 per cent of voters believed the campaign was corrupt; 37 per cent of them blamed Mr Chung and his party.

The voters themselves are, of course, far from blameless: in a recent survey, 12.9 per cent admitted accepting bribes.