The World This Week: Latins hold their own summit

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The Independent Online
IGNORED by leaders at last week's summit of the world's richest nations, Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking nations launch their own summit this week, hoping to carve out a place in the international scheme of things for their own development plans.

Brazil's President Itamar Franco and King Juan Carlos of Spain will open the two-day Ibero-American summit on Thursday in the Brazilian beach paradise of Salvador de Bahia. The 21 leaders will try to hammer out a regional development plan that will win the backing of industrialised countries.

A spokesman, touching upon the neglect of Latin nations shown at last week's Tokyo meeting of the world's industrial powers, said their aim was to 'reinsert themselves on to the international agenda in the developed world . . . We want to point out we are still moving ahead in our political and economic development'.

The presence of Cuba's President, Fidel Castro, should liven things up - Brazil's small Cuban exile community is already protesting.

At last year's summit, Mr Castro was bombarded with insults by Cuban opposition protesters, who are getting more vocal as Cuba's fortunes decline. But Mr Castro's aims - more aid from rich nations for Latin America and more democracy in world lending institutions - will be supported by many.

There are headaches for Spain's newly re-elected Prime Minister, Felipe Gonzalez, who is due to announce his new government by tomorrow, ahead of the ceremonial opening of parliament on Wednesday. Mr Gonzalez's hopes of a broad coalition to tackle the country's economic crisis were dashed when both the Catalan and the Basque parties refused to join him. Mr Gonzalez now faces the prospect of steering a minority government through an obstacle course of piecemeal policy deals.

Haiti's political parties will be seeking common ground when they meet at the UN in New York on Wednesday to discuss how to restore democracy, and to approve the transition process agreed recently by the ousted president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and the military chief, Raul Cedras, who toppled him.

Russia's constitutional assembly convenes today for a full session which President Boris Yeltsin hopes will be the last. He wants the amended draft constitution to be approved, but the parliamentary chairman, Ruslan Khasbulatov, resists the handover of powers to the president.

The appeals court in Paris rules tomorrow on whether it will reconsider last year's jail sentences for four former public health officials convicted in an HIV-tainted blood scandal. They were charged with knowingly distributing HIV-positive blood to haemophiliacs, resulting in more than 1,200 contaminations and 300 deaths. On Wednesday, Bastille Day, campaigners against Aids start handing out condoms on the Riviera, and plan to cover 250 beach bars, discos and campsites.

The International Olympic Committee reports on the venue of the 2000 Games some time this week and is rumoured to put Sydney ahead of its main rival, Manchester. This could cause nail-biting as the committee's president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, visits Manchester today and meets John Major - who has pressed Manchester's case - on Wednesday.

A Rolls-Royce showroom opens in Moscow on Friday, the latest in the company's efforts to offset falling trade at home with a boost in foreign sales. But if it's choice Muscovites want, they'll have to wait. The operation kicks off with just three vehicles.