World Polulation Conference: Abortion deadlock continues

CAIRO - The UN conference was more deadlocked than ever on the abortion issue yesterday, as the Vatican and its small band of allies dug their heels in deeper, fulfilling most delegates' worst fears and causing concern over their global image, writes Nicholas Schoon.

What on earth were 180 nations, gathering to finalise a 20-year action plan on the great issues of population growth, family planning and women's rights, doing by getting trapped in this emotional topic? The head of the US delegation, the Under-Secretary for Global Affairs, Tim Wirth, said agreement could be reached. But Baroness Chalker, Britain's Overseas Development Minister implied it was time to stop negotiating with the Vatican camp.

She expects the Holy See and a few nations to exempt themselves from the final, negotiated agreement, by putting in a written reservation. There have been so many threats, implied and specific, that they would wreck the conference, added Lady Chalker, who has met the Pope twice and discussed the subject. One of the Vatican delegation said: 'We have legitimate views against abortion which many people in her country share. Talk of wrecking the conference is unfortunate.'