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US Puts Bosnia Back Together Again
AFTER the UN-declared "safe areas" of Srebrenica and Zepa in Bosnia fell to rebel Serbs in July, the US took the lead in brokering a peace for the former Yugoslavia. Nearly four years of a brutal, ethnic war had left more than 200,000 dead and 2 million displaced.
A Serb attack on Sarajevo on Aug. 28 that killed 39 civilians pushed the US-led NATO, already embarrassed by the safe areas debacle, to pummel Bosnian Serb positions with massive airstrikes.
Bosnian Muslims took advantage of the strikes, reclaiming one-third of the land they had lost to Serbs. This, and Croatia's lightening offensive in August that effectively "ethnically cleansed" Croatia of Serbs, sent all the interested parties back to the negotiating table.
US-led peace talks in Dayton, Ohio, resulted in an agreement on Nov. 21, signed by the presidents of Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia. The accord provides for a weak central government comprising two largely autonomous entities: the Bosnian Serbs' "Republika Srpska" and a Muslim-Croat federation.
About 60,000 NATO troops - one-third of them American - began entering Bosnia in December. NATO took over the operation from the largely unsuccessful UN mission. It has a one-year mandate.
It's still not clear if NATO will arrest indicted war criminals. Because Bosnian Serb military commander Gen. Ratko Mladic reportedly was present at the massacre site of Muslim civilians near Srebrenica, he was indicted by the UN War Crimes Tribunal for committing crimes against humanity. Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was also indicted.
- Faye Bowers
The Comeback of '95 Belongs to Communists
ONCE "the specter that haunted Europe," as Karl Marx described communism in 1848, was a coherent and unified body of thought inspiring revolutionaries across the European continent.
A century later, that specter marched across Eastern Europe in the form of the Soviet Army, imposing Moscow's monolithic Communist rule from the barrel of a gun.
Today, the Communist and former Communist parties have shocked the world with their electoral successes in Russia and Eastern Europe in 1995. These parties are a mixed bunch, however. They pick and choose the elements of socalism that best suit their interests.
Even the Russian Communist Party, the most unreconstructed party in the former Soviet empire, won Dec. 17 parliamentary elections on a platform that the party's founder, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, would have regarded as irredeemably bourgeois.
After the wave of anticommunism that swept governments away six years ago, disappointment in several countries with the fruits of political and economic reform have swung the pendulum back.
In Russia, the Communist Party won 21 percent of the vote in elections to the Duma, (lower house of parliament) on Dec. 17, as many votes as its two nearest rivals combined.
In Poland, a former Communist Cabinet minister, Alexander Kwasniewski, beat Lech Walesa in presidential elections Nov. 17. The Polish vote was an especially bitter defeat for Mr. Walesa, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts through the underground Solidarity movement to end Communist rule.
But these successes, which come on the heels of similar comebacks in Hungary and Bulgaria, do not herald a return to the days of the Iron Curtain.
Rather, they reflect a nostalgia - especially among older people - for the certainties and social benefits of communist life, and a revulsion at the cruder aspects of Eastern Europe's crash conversion to capitalism, which has often entailed corruption and crime.
- Peter Ford
Africa's Rich Giant, Nigeria, Snubs World
NIGERIA'S military regime led by Gen. Sani Abacha, who came to power in a bloodless coup in 1993, came under increasing international pressure to hasten the transition to civilian rule. Outrage with the government's human rights abuses peaked in November with the execution of dissident writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni minority activists.
The Commonwealth group of Britain and its former colonies suspended Nigeria as a member. South African President Nelson Mandela, after being accused of being too soft by pursuing quiet diplomacy, assumed a leading role in calling for international sanctions against Nigeria, especially aimed at its large oil exports.
General Abacha has so far not swayed from his Oct. 1 announcement that he planned to stay in power for at least another three years before returning the country to civilian rule. Pressure continues on the government to release Moshood Abiola, winner of the annulled 1993 elections, and scores of other political prisoners.
- Judith Matloff
French Send World Atomic and Political Shockwaves
FRANCE flaunted its flair for the dramatic all through 1995.
In May, voters elected a conservative president, Jacques Chirac, who promised a return to "grandeur." His election ended 14 years of socialist rule under President Francois Mitterrand, who anchored France firmly in the European Union.
Mr. Chirac quickly took center stage as a leader in Europe.
First, he decided in June to test eight nuclear bombs (later lowering the number to six) in French Polynesia in the South Pacific. He set the world on notice that France remained a military power of consequence but triggering strong worldwide protests.
Then, Chirac helped embolden the US and NATO to take a stand against Bosnian Serbs after they overran two UN "safe areas" in Bosnia this summer.
But France was soon distracted from its efforts to establish a beefier global role. Before it set off its first nuclear test Sept. 6, terrorists began to attack Paris with bombs of their own in July. Prime suspects were Algerian extremists, targeting France for its stalwart support of Algeria's government. The terrorist attacks have killed eight people and injured 170 others.
Not long afterward, Prime Minister Alain Juppe dropped a (political) bombshell when he laid out plans in November to restructure the railroads and reduce social security, only to see public unions protest by shutting down public transport for 3-1/2 weeks.
France wrapped up the year with drama on the defense front as well, ending on Dec. 5 a 30-year absence from NATO's military command structure, just as NATO agreed to enforce Bosnia's US-brokered peace plan.
- Gail Russell Chaddock
An Israeli Bullet Sets Mideast on New Course
A YOUNG, right-wing Jewish activist killed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin Nov. 4 in an attempt to halt Israeli-Palestinian progress toward peace. The killing actually created more support for Rabin's goals.
Under his leadership, Israel made giant steps toward a comprehensive Mideast peace. A soldier who led Israeli forces in the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict, Rabin secured peace pacts with both the Palestinians and Jordan.
Despite attempts by right-wing Israelis and Palestinian radicals to derail the 1993 peace deal, Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat signed their second agreement in Washington on Sept. 28, committing Israelis to expand Palestinian self-rule on the West Bank by withdrawing from six additional West Bank towns - Jenin, Tulkarm, Nablus, Qalqiya, Bethlehem, and Ramallah. Jericho was granted autonomy in May 1994, along with the Gaza Strip.
The hopes for a peace agreement between Israel and Syria were raised at year's end. Shuttle diplomacy by US Secretary of State Warren Christopher in mid-December roused Syrian President Hafez al-Assad and new Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres to agree to reconvene talks in Washington Dec. 27-29.
In Iraq, Saddam Hussein's iron grip appeared to be loosening. Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel Hassan, the second-most-powerful man in Saddam's regime, defected to Jordan on Aug. 8, along with his brother and their wives - Saddam's daughters.
But Saddam moved to bolster his popularity. He organized an election - he was the only candidate - in October and invited hundreds of foreign journalists. Surprise: He took 99.47 percent of the vote.
- Faye Bowers
Japan Quakes, Gags, and Remembers
IF it weren't for Hideo Nomo, the Los Angeles Dodgers' made-in-Japan star pitcher, 1995 would be a year of unmitigated bad news for the Japanese.
Mr. Nomo's success this season was a partial balm for Japan's national ethos, which was scraped and diminished by a series of unhappy events. The earthquake that struck Kobe and the Hanshin region on Jan. 17 made clear that Japanese construction isn't as tremor-proof as people once imagined.
On March 20, terrorists released nerve gas on the Tokyo subway system, part of a lethal and quixotic attempt by a religious group to topple the government. Aum Shinri Kyo's privileged, youthful adherents suggested to some that Japan's rigid educational and employment systems drove them into the embrace of an extremist.
The country's economic recession dragged into its fourth year, and the traditionally low rate of unemployment inched higher. The yen has dropped in value since April 19, when it momentarily reached 79 yen to $1, but remains burdensome to exporters.
Several financial scandals, including Daiwa Bank's Sept. 26 admission that a trader in its New York branch had lost $1 billion of its money, indicated that the reputation of the bureaucrats at the Ministry of Finance may exceed their competence. On Dec. 26, they promised regulatory reforms.
Many Japanese spent some time this year - the 50th anniversary since the end of World War II - reflecting on their nation's wartime brutalities. Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama offered the most convincing war apology yet on Aug. 15, but many Asian countries remain skeptical of Japanese contrition.
Even the relationship between Japan and the US sagged. The rape of a Japanese schoolgirl on Sept. 4, allegedly by three American servicemen, has sparked the biggest protests against the US military in decades.
- Cameron W. Barr
A Little War in Chechnya Reveals the Wrath of Yeltsin's Russia
A LITTLE over a year ago, Russia launched its largest military effort since Afghanistan to bring the rebellious, independence-seeking republic of Chechnya back into the national fold. Since then, more than 20,000 people have been killed there - the vast majority civilians.
Today, Chechnya is still an occupied country within Russia. Troops took over the battered capital of Grozny in January and patrolled the streets in tanks. Rebel forces still control the mountains to the south.
On June 14, about 100 rebel Chechens seized a hospital in the Russian town of Budennovsk, about 50 miles from Chechen border. They took an estimated 1,500 hostages in a move to show the Kremlin they were willing to take the war beyond Chechnya's border. The hostages were released several days later after Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin personally intervened. Peace talks to end the war began in Grozny June 19.
Moscow and Chechnya reached a military accord July 30. Fighting fell to a tense lull until the Kremlin scheduled a vote on Dec. 17 to elect a new head of Chechnya, which prompted fresh offensives from rebels.
Gudermes, Chechnya's second largest city, saw some of the fiercest fighting in the war after rebels invaded on Dec. 14. Russian troops took 10 days to reestablish control. At least 300 civilians were killed.
President Boris Yeltsin has shown other minorities in Russia, as well as the rest of the world, how punishing Russia's wrath can be. Russian troops also now control the route of a major oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea across Chechnya and Russia. The export of organized crime from Chechnya, which has long prompted Moscow's wrath, dropped sharply.
- Marshall Ingwerson
In an Oct. 30 referendum, Quebec voters came just shy of splitting their province from Canada and creating a new nation.
Britain and Ireland compromised Nov. 28 on a peace deal for Northern Ireland, egged on by President Clinton. The plan may lead to talks with representatives of the IRA.
Colombia's Cali drug cartel was broken with the arrest or surrender of six druglords, though drug trafficking itself hasn't been curtailed. President Ernesto Samper had to fight off charges that he had accepted drug money.
In a first test of its US-restored democracy, Haiti elected a new president, Rene Preval, Dec. 17 to replace his ally, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
World leaders gathered in New York for the United Nation's 50th anniversary in October.
Newly democratic, South Korea turned on its former military rulers, Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae Woo, charging them with corruption and mutiny. In North Korea, Kim Jong Il failed to secure his father's former dictatorial titles as his nation faced a famine.
China's Navy took over a few islands from the Philippines in the South China Sea, sending shivers through Asia. The Philippines got the islands back with help from allies.
Taiwan enraged China by arranging a "private" visit to the US for President Lee Teng-hui in June. Beijing also let loose "test" missiles near Taiwan to influence legislative elections on December 3.
Turkey, after being admitted to a customs union with the European Union, saw the strongest showing yet of its pro-Islamic party, Refah, in Dec. 24 parliamentary elections.
Where Freedom Declined and Gained Around the World
Civil liberties rose or fell in these nations in 1995:
Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Brunei, Djibouti, Dominica, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Ghana, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Philippines, Poland, Rwanda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda
- Freedom House, New York think tank