Meaning of YEAR IN REVIEW 1998: WORLD-AFFAIRS in English

YEAR IN REVIEW 1998: WORLD-AFFAIRS

AFGHANISTAN Area: 652,225 sq km (251,825 sq mi) Population (1997 est.): 23,738,000 (including Afghan refugees estimated to number more than 1,500,000 in Pakistan and about 1,400,000 in Iran) Capital: Kabul Chief of state: President Burhanuddin Rabbani; de facto Taliban leader, Mohammad Rabbani Head of government: until July, Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar Afghanistan in 1997 had two de facto governments. A Taliban government, recognized by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, ruled about two thirds of the country, mainly in the south, including the capital, Kabul. The Taliban acknowledged as its leader Mohammad Omar Akhund ("Akhund" indicates "mullah"), who was honoured with an ancient Islamic title, "commander of the faithful." Their government, however, had been put together in Kandahar under the direction of an interim council, headed by Mullah Mohammad Rabbani, who could thus be considered the head of the Taliban government. An "opposition" government under Burhanuddin Rabbani continued to control large areas of the traditionally non-Pushtun north of the country. Rabbani's representative was allowed to occupy Afghanistan's UN seat, while the Organization of the Islamic Conference declared Afghanistan's seat vacant. In May a dispute within the opposition Jumbish-i-Milli party forced Gen. 'Abd ar-Rashid Dostam out of his stronghold in Mazar-e Sharif in the north. Dostam, who had used his Uzbek militia to bring down the communist government in 1992, was himself overthrown when one of his own generals, 'Abd al-Malik Pahlawan, turned against him. Dostam was forced to flee to Turkey, and Pahlawan opened Mazar-e Sharif to Taliban forces. It seemed that the last major centre of resistance to Taliban rule had been taken, and Pakistan became the first country to recognize the legitimacy of the Taliban government. Within a few days, however, Pahlawan again changed sides, and the Taliban were driven out of Mazar-e Sharif in a bloody battle in which several thousand of them were taken captive. In July, following an initiative by the UN special representative in Afghanistan, Norbert Holl, to build a broad-based government, a new anti-Taliban government with its capital in Mazar-e Sharif was announced. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who had been prime minister of the government driven from Kabul by the Taliban in September 1996, was not included. Burhanuddin Rabbani was retained in the office of president, and a Cabinet of technocrats was to be led by 'Abd ar-Rahim Ghafuzai (who died in a plane crash in September). More significantly, Ahmad Shah Masoud was renamed defense minister, and Pahlawan was to be foreign minister. In fact, this government was little more than a cover for the northern alliance's military effort to retake Kabul. The reinvigorated northern alliance of Pahlawan's and Masoud's forces plus Hazara Shi'ite militias pushed the Taliban back to within a few kilometres of Kabul. When a second Taliban attack on Mazar-e Sharif in September was repulsed, Dostam returned and Pahlawan was forced to flee. The situation at the end of the year was much as it had been in the beginning. Afghanistan was divided along ethnic lines--the Pashtun south and east unified under the Taliban and the Tajik, Uzbek, Turkmen, and Hazara areas in the north. The Taliban (Persian for "students") had first appeared in Afghanistan in late 1994 as youthful fighters from religious schools in Pakistan. They pledged to replace with Islamic law the destructive factionalism that had marked Afghan political life since the fall of the communist regime in 1992. Popular support and military success followed their progress, especially in Pashtun areas of Afghanistan. Within two years Kabul had fallen to them with little armed resistance. To the discomfort of the international aid agencies seeking to provide assistance, the severe Taliban interpretation of Islamic law called for public floggings and stoning to enforce rigid social restrictions, including a ban on many activities by women--e.g., attending school, working, or appearing in public unaccompanied by a male relative. Among Afghanistan's neighbours, Pakistan was sympathetic with the Taliban, if not indeed a supplier of material support and direction. Iran, at ideological odds with the Sunni Taliban, continued to align itself with the Shi'ite Hazara and Persian-speaking Tajiks of the opposition. The Muslim states of Central Asia were openly alarmed when the Taliban twice temporarily occupied Mazar-e Sharif. The local authorities in Dushanbe worried that refugees from Afghanistan might endanger Tajikistan's fragile political balance.STEPHEN SEGO Albania Area: 28,748 sq km (11,100 sq mi) Population (1997 est.): 3,293,000 Capital: Tiran Chief of state: Presidents Sali Berisha until July 23 and, from July 24, Rexhep Mejdani Head of government: Prime Ministers Aleksander Meksi until March 2, Bashkim Fino from March 11, and, from July 24, Fatos Nano The year 1997 would go into the books as one of the most tragic in Albanian history. In February the country suddenly plunged into chaos, and by March public order had broken down entirely. The drama was triggered by the collapse of pyramid investment schemes, which overnight rendered one out of three Albanians penniless. With astonishing speed the entire military establishment melted away, the security service dissolved, and the people broke into military depots and armed themselves with every type of weapon, including Kalashnikovs and even tanks--an estimated 650,000 weapons were seized. Most of the southern half of the country fell into the hands of ragtag rebels and criminal gangs. More than 10,000 persons fled to Italy, which in turn caused a governmental crisis in Rome. Calls came from all sides demanding the resignation of Pres. Sali Berisha. Albania became virtually without state rule, and several high government officials, including Defense Minister Safet Zhulali, fled abroad. On March 2 the People's Assembly proclaimed a state of emergency. Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi and his Democratic Party of Albania (PDS) Cabinet resigned and were replaced by a national reconciliation government headed by Bashkim Fino. New national elections were set for June 29. In late March the UN Security Council approved dispatching a multinational military force to Albania to oversee the distribution of international humanitarian aid and maintain order. Some 7,000 troops from eight European countries under Italian leadership participated in "Operation Alba." The Socialist Party of Albania (PSS; the former Communist Party) and its allies won a landslide victory in the relatively peaceful June elections. Berisha resigned, and former physics professor Rexhep Mejdani, secretary of the PSS, was elected president in July. A new 20-member multiparty Cabinet (excluding the PDS) was formed, with Fatos Nano, a PSS leader, as prime minister. The Albanian economy also suffered grievously. Unemployment soared over the 25% mark, and inflation had risen 28% by July. Gross domestic product, which had registered 8-11% increases in the previous few years, dropped by 7%. The currency was devalued from 108 to more than 150 leks to the dollar. LOUIS ZANGA This article updates Albania, history of. Algeria Area: 2,381,741 sq km (919,595 sq mi) Population (1997 est.): 29,476,000 Capital: Algiers Chief of state: President Liamine Zeroual Head of government: Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia The situation in Algeria throughout 1997 was highly complex. On the one hand, the government moved ahead with its constitutional reform process, holding legislative elections in June and municipal elections at the end of the year. On the other hand, violence reached new levels of horror, with repeated massacres occurring in the hinterland of Algiers that the security services appeared to be unable to control. At the same time, the economy improved, with an enlarged trade surplus and the promise of significant foreign investment in the non-oil sector for the first time since 1990. The year opened (and closed) with intensified outrages during the fast month of Ramadan, giving the lie to Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia's claim that only "residual terrorism" remained to threaten the nation. Early in the year, preparations for the legislative elections began, with the formation in March of a new political party closely aligned with Pres. Liamine Zeroual, the National Democratic Rally (RND), and with other parties adjusting to the new electoral law that banned religion and ethnicity from their platforms. In January the expected leader of the RND, 'Abd al-Haq Benhamouda, was assassinated, apparently by an opposition faction in the regime. The elections, on June 5, resulted in the expected victory for the RND, which gained 37% of the vote and 41% of the seats (156) and thus, together with the pro-government National Liberation Front's (FLN's) 62 seats, enjoyed a majority in the 380-member lower house of the legislature (the upper house, which controls the legislative process, is indirectly elected). Two Islamist parties, Society for Peace (MSP, formerly Hamas) and an-Nahda, won 96 seats, and the veteran Socialist Forces Front, largely because of electoral manipulation, obtained only 20 seats.The new government, appointed in July, reflected the electoral results, with the RND taking 20 of the 28 ministerial posts and the remainder being split between the FLN (4), MSP (3), and an-Nahda (1). In essence, the government team did not change. Charging widespread fraud, the opposition vehemently protested the conduct of the local elections in October. Despite claims by the government that it had mastered the security situation, the tempo of horrifying massacres in central Algeria increased throughout the year, culminating in hours-long incidents on the outskirts of the capital and with a reprise in the last days of 1997. The perpetrators--ostensibly the Armed Islamic Group--appeared to reflect the increasingly complex political situation, with the security forces, paramilitary units, and even government representatives also being accused of involvement. The massacres seemed to result from an intensifying struggle within the regime between the presidency and the army leadership over the ultimate control of Algeria's fate. Further disagreements were caused by a decision in July to release from prison two Islamic Salvation Front leaders, Abbasi Madani and 'Abd al-Kader Hachani, and a truce negotiated between the government and the Army of Islamic Salvation--the other major Islamist armed group--for October. Despite the turbulent political situation, economic circumstances appeared to improve, with the half-year trade surplus rising to $3,140,000,000, compared with $1,640,000,000 a year earlier, a result of rising oil and gas prices. Gas exports were expected to increase to 60 billion cu m per year by 2000 as a result of the new trans-Maghreb pipeline, which began operations in November 1996. GEORGE JOFF This article updates Algeria, history of. ANDORRA Area: 468 sq km (181 sq mi) Population (1997 est.): 64,600 Capital: Andorra la Vella Chiefs of state: Co-princes of Andorra, the president of France and the bishop of Urgell, Spain Head of government: Prime Minister Marc Forn Moln Led by Prime Minister Marc Forn Moln, the ruling Liberal Union (UL) party swept the parliamentary elections held Feb. 16, 1997. The UL, calling for greater deregulation of the economy and willingness to allow foreign investment, won 18 of the 28 seats in the General Council of the Valleys and would for the first time rule outright without the necessity of forming coalitions with smaller parties. The liberal National Democratic Grouping captured six seats, while the New Democracy and the National Democratic Initiative parties each won two seats. Officials expressed concern over the economy, as the number of visitors has dropped in recent years. Some shops closed, and import tax revenue fell. Import tariffs provided three-fourths of the country's revenues, which made possible its lack of income and corporation taxes. There were still some bargains to be found in Andorra--for example, alcohol, tobacco, perfume, and gasoline, all of which were heavily taxed in neighbouring France and Spain. Visitors looking for duty-free luxury goods could find bargains, as shopkeepers were able to maintain low profit margins because of their large sales volume.ANNE ROBY This article updates Andorra. Angola Area: 1,246,700 sq km (481,354 sq mi) Population (1997 est.): 10,624,000 Capital: Luanda Chief of State: President Jos Eduardo dos Santos Head of government: Prime Minister Fernando Jos Frana van-Dnem In spite of their nation's being the largest producer of oil in southern Africa, with the prospect of an ever-larger output, and in spite also of the enthusiastic involvement of international mining companies in the country's lucrative diamond-mining industry, the vast majority of the people of Angola had little to rejoice about in 1997. Continuing fears of a breakdown in the peace process restrained recovery from some 20 years of civil war, while the presence of an estimated 10 million-15 million concealed land mines, a relic of that same struggle and a topic much discussed worldwide during the year, not only caused thousands of casualties but also discouraged farmers from producing the food the country so badly needed. Faced with the continuing mistrust between the government and the opposition National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), the UN repeatedly felt constrained to revise its plan for the withdrawal of its peacekeeping force. In January the planned inauguration of a government of national unity was abandoned because Jonas Savimbi, the UNITA leader, refused to leave his headquarters at Bailundo in the central highlands, believing his life would be in danger if he visited Luanda. Moreover, after having been encouraged in his campaign against the government and supplied with arms for years by the U.S. and South Africa, he was reluctant to modify his own political aspirations to bring them into line with the less-sympathetic policies of a new South African government and of the U.S. More specifically, he balked at surrendering control of the roughly 80% of Angola's diamond trade that remained in UNITA's hands, arguing that since the government controlled the entire oil industry, it was unrealistic to expect him to be satisfied with the reduced proportion of the diamond trade that the government was offering to UNITA. In March the UN Security Council threatened economic sanctions against UNITA if the movement refused to join a government of national unity immediately. This seemed to spur Savimbi into action, and he said his followers would cooperate. When representatives of the ruling Popular Liberation Movement of Angola and UNITA met in Luanda on April 11 for the swearing-in ceremony, however, Savimbi himself did not attend. Likewise, UNITA had not implemented a number of clauses in the Lusaka peace accord of 1994. Nevertheless, UNITA representatives were appointed to a number of ministries, while Savimbi himself was granted a special role as leader of the opposition, with a generous salary and the right to question Pres. Jos Eduardo dos Santos on political issues. In a vain attempt to bolster its military position, UNITA sent reinforcements to Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) to assist the movement's one remaining significant foreign ally, Pres. Mobutu Sese Seko, in his efforts to turn back the advancing rebel forces led by Laurent Kabila. The government, however, sent troops to support Kabila, and the joint intervention in the Zairean war on opposing sides posed a serious threat to the peace process. The overthrow of Mobutu weakened UNITA's bargaining power, and in May the government felt confident enough to press harder for a settlement of its diamond-mining allocation offer by launching a military offensive against UNITA-held diamond-rich territory in the northeastern province of Lunda Norte. After initial setbacks UNITA forces reacted vigorously, which caused UN officials to express serious doubts about the credibility of reports that UNITA was disbanding troops to meet the terms of the Lusaka peace accord. Eventually, the UN Security Council gave the go-ahead for air and travel sanctions to be imposed on UNITA from October 30 in response to the rebels' failure to promote the peace process. Also in October, Angolan troops played a vital role in the restoration of Gen. Denis Sassou-Nguesso as president of the Republic of the Congo while at the same time destroying UNITA bases in the republic. KENNETH INGHAM This article updates Angola, history of. Antarctica Ice averaging 2,160 m (7,087 ft) in thickness covers 98% of the continent of Antarctica, which has an area of 14 million sq km (5.4 million sq mi). There is no indigenous human population. Human activity consists mainly of scientific research at approximately 40 year-round stations and additional summer-only camps; the population is about 4,100 in summer and 1,000 in winter. In addition, several thousand tourists (most of them ship-based) visit Antarctica annually in summer. The 42-nation Antarctic Treaty, which is the managerial mechanism for the region south of latitude 60 S, reserves the area for peaceful purposes, encourages scientific cooperation, prescribes environmental protection measures, allows inspections to verify adherence, and defers the issue of territorial sovereignty. The debate over how quickly the Antarctic ice sheet could melt reached beyond the science community in 1997 when a Popular Science cover story in February examined findings by glacial "dynamicists" (researchers who think Antarctica's ice sheet may have receded as recently as 3 million years ago) and "stablists" (those who believe the ice sheet has been stable for the last 10 million to 15 million years). The scientific debate was important because agreement on a clear picture of the past could help to cast a more accurate vision of Earth's future. The debate was also significant because 90% of the world's ice is on Antarctica, and if all this ice were to melt, the worldwide sea level would rise some 60 m (200 ft). The dynamicists, led by Peter Webb of Ohio State University and David Harwood of the University of Nebraska, reported that they had found sediments in the Transantarctic Mountains containing marine microfossils only three million years old, which suggested that the climate at that time may have been warm enough to melt the eastern part of Antarctica's ice sheet and enable ocean water to flood Antarctica's subglacial basins. If the eastern ice sheet shrank significantly then, another big thaw would be possible if Antarctica's temperature rose a similar amount. The stablists collected rock and ash samples from the same sedimentary layer studied by the dynamicists and found no sign of wetting or erosion, which suggested that the layers were not disturbed by a receding ice sheet as recently as three million years ago. The stablists theorized that the fossils might have blown in. It was believed that further research, including a large, six-nation drilling project at Cape Roberts that began in October 1997, might shed light on the answer to one of Antarctica's most perplexing questions. Meanwhile, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which would raise sea level 6 m (20 ft) if it were to collapse, was the subject of scrutiny. The ice in West Antarctica is unstable because it is situated on land below sea level; when glaciologists went to Antarctica, they found ice streams in the process of collapse. Climatologist Peter deMenocal told Time magazine in April, "When I began my Ph.D. in 1986, the conventional wisdom was that it took 1,000 years to end an ice age; in '91 that figure was lowered to 100 years, and then just two years later Richard Alley at Penn State published a paper about climate changing in two to five years." Robert Bindschadler of NASA said he suspected that West Antarctic ice had been collapsing for thousands of years and final collapse might not occur for a couple of thousand more, but there was no guarantee the collapse would be orderly and predictable. In late 1997 a large research camp at Siple Dome in West Antarctica was continuing investigations of the ice sheet's behaviour. At sea, ships and oceanographers of seven nations measured the potentially enormous climatic role of carbon and other biogenic elements within the Southern Ocean and between the ocean, the atmosphere, and the seafloor. The region had been deemed a source of carbon dioxide (a gas thought to contribute to the greenhouse effect), which would mean that the Southern Ocean contributed to global warming. The new cruises showed instead that the Southern Ocean seemed to be absorbing about 200 million to 400 million tons of carbon per year. It appeared likely that this represented a change in the behaviour of the ocean and not just a better data set. The oceanographers found that movement of carbon between the Southern Ocean and the atmosphere was highly susceptible to perturbation and was less well understood than fluxes in less-remote areas. The international program, called the Southern Ocean Joint Global Ocean Flux Study, was expected to continue most of the decade. More evidence was found that Antarctic plants and animals, always thought of as hardy survivors because of the harsh climate, are susceptible to human-caused change. Biologists found the first direct evidence that abnormally high levels of ultraviolet rays, which penetrate the protective ozone layer during the period of Antarctica's infamous ozone hole, cause damage to the DNA of higher animals. Kirk Malloy and William Detrich, both of Northeastern University, Boston, found extensive DNA lesions in the eggs and larvae of icefish--Antarctic fish that lack hemoglobin. Meanwhile, up to two-thirds of emperor and Adlie penguins in rookeries near Australia's Mawson research station were found to have a poultry virus, probably caused by human disposal of poultry products. Penguins at a remote site were free of the virus. The virus also could have been spread by movement of people carrying it on footwear, clothing, equipment, and vehicles. An estimated 7,322 shipborne tourists visited Antarctica in the 1996-97 summer, down from the 9,212 of the previous year. The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, however, projected that the annual number would exceed 10,000 in 1997-98 and future years. Perhaps 100 tourists landed by airplane, and additional sightseers were aboard commercial flights that did not land in the Antarctic. Forty-eight percent of the shipborne tourists were from the United States. Germany, Great Britain, Japan, and Australia also contributed significant numbers. The Antarctic Peninsula was the most popular destination, with Cuverville Island the most visited spot. It was reported that a vast iceberg that could supply a fifth of the world's drinking water for a year had broken off East Antarctica and begun a 10-year drift to the north. Neal Young, an Australian glaciologist, said the berg covered more than 3,000 sq km (1,160 sq mi) when it calved from the West Ice Shelf in May 1996. It broke into five or six bergs, the biggest of which was an estimated 300 m (985 ft) deep and was grounded off the coast north of Australia's Davis Station. The total amount of ice involved was equivalent to about a third of all the ice Antarctica dumps into the sea each year. GUY G. GUTHRIDGE This article updates Antarctica. This article updates Antarctica. Antigua and Barbuda Area: 442 sq km (171 sq mi) Population (1997 est.): 64,500 (excluding evacuees from Montserrat) Capital: Saint John's Chief of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General James Carlisle Head of government: Prime Minister Lester Bird The offshore banking sector created major problems for Antigua and Barbuda in 1997, the government having to announce in February that it intended to close four out of five such banks owned by Russians and Ukrainians on the grounds of "irregularities" in their operations. There was some uncertainty, however, over whether existing law permitted such action. In August the so-called European Union Bank, which claimed to be the first offshore Internet bank, went into receivership following the disappearance of its two Russian founders. A "fraud alert" was issued for the two. U.S. officials had in 1996 identified Russian criminal elements as being active in money laundering through Caribbean offshore banking locations. Antigua and Barbuda had almost 60 registered offshore banks, but the government decided in 1997 not to issue any new licenses for the time being. Control of local government in Barbuda passed to the Barbuda People's Movement in March when the party captured all five seats under the country's partial election system, which takes place at two-year intervals. The party already controlled the other four seats on the Barbuda Council. DAVID RENWICK This article updates Antigua and Barbuda. Arctic Regions During 1997 U.S. and Canadian oil and gas companies made renewed efforts to proceed with exploration and development in environmentally sensitive areas of arctic Alaska and the northern part of Canada's Yukon. In January BP Exploration Alaska Inc. announced plans to increase capital spending in Alaska by $1 billion to $3.5 billion over the next five years and reverse the fall in oil production from Alaska's North Slope. The company expected to increase its share of oil production to nearly 600,000 bbl a day by 2002, a reversal from the decline once considered inevitable. The firm also hoped to add five billion barrels in recoverable oil reserves over the following decade, in addition to possible development in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, a federally owned reserve west of Prudhoe Bay, or in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Reports that BP Exploration and Chevron USA were proceeding to develop the 100 million-bbl Sourdough Prospect oil field as early as 1998 raised concern among environmental groups. The Alaska Wilderness League feared that the project, which bordered the ANWR and the 600,000-ha (1.5 million-ac) coastal plain, could result in a network of pipelines, roads, and drilling pads that might affect the wildlife in the 7.7 million-ha (19 million-ac) refuge, which was also the birthing grounds of the 150,000 porcupine caribou herd that migrated into the Yukon and Northwest Territories (NWT). In February a wilderness bill was introduced in the U.S. Congress to give permanent wilderness protection to the coastal plain. A dispute between Alaska and the U.S. government over ownership of the tidelands, offshore lagoons, and estuaries along the approximately 200-km (125-mi) Arctic Refuge coastline could also affect development. Alaska planned to lease these lands to oil and gas companies, whereas the U.S. wanted to protect them as part of the ANWR. In May a Yukon company, Northern Cross Ltd., applied for permits to reopen 25-year-old wellheads for testing purposes near Eagle Plains--an area that was part of the porcupine caribou herd's winter feeding range. By June the Canadian government had approved the company's plans to begin redeveloping its natural gas property. Environmental groups were concerned that the project would give pro-development lobbyists ammunition to encourage development in the herd's North Slope calving grounds. The 13 regional for-profit corporations created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act celebrated their 26th anniversary in 1997. The largest of the corporations reported a net worth of $265 million in 1997 and paid out over $13 million to its aboriginal shareholders. In southeastern Alaska native corporations provided an estimated one in 10 jobs. The Trans-Alaska pipeline marked its 20th anniversary. According to a report issued in October by the Northwest Territories, the cost estimated for carving a new territory, Nunavut, out of the NWT in 1999 would be almost double (about $286 million) the amount that the federal government originally had budgeted ($150 million). The additional funds would be needed to establish a government and infrastructure for Nunavut. The NWT would decentralize its main government departments in communities across the Arctic in an effort to spread employment opportunities among the widely dispersed communities, where average unemployment hovered around 30%. Two mines planned for the Northwest Territories could make Canada one of the world's top diamond-producing nations. Joint ventures by British, Canadian, and Australian companies--led by Broken Hill Pty. Co. (BHP) and Rio Tinto PLC--could produce 10% of global diamond output. The NWT's 43 diamond projects outnumbered gold and other mining ventures. The BHP and Rio Tinto projects, costing an estimated $900 million and $750 million, respectively, were expected to yield 11 million carats of high-quality diamonds as early as 1998. In September, faced with an extensive environmental-impact assessment process and demands by the Innu and Inuit aboriginal groups for impact and benefits agreements, Inco Ltd., the world's largest nickel producer announced a one-year delay, until late 2000 at the earliest, in the proposed start-up of its Voisey Bay nickel project in northern Labrador. Inco had already paid $4.3 billion to acquire the project--billed as the largest nickel find ever--and had planned to invest another $1.4 billion-$2 billion in a mine, mill, and smelter. Also in September, after four years of negotiations, it was reported that a $28 billion U.S.-Russian oil venture to develop the Priobskoye oil field in Siberia had broken down because of financial disagreements between the Russian oil giant Yukos and Amoco, its American partner. After spending more than $100 million, and with proven reserves of some 600 million tons of oil, Amoco expected to boost its own reserves significantly. The Amoco deal was the second major U.S.-Russian venture to unravel in the same period. Citing "legal" difficulties, the Russian government in August annulled the results of a bid won by the Exxon Corp. to develop huge oil fields in Russia's far north. In January former Canadian prime minister John Turner, acting on behalf of the World Wildlife Fund, dropped a lawsuit after reaching an agreement with the federal government that a system of protected places--free from mining and other resource development--would be established in the NWT by the year 2000. The federal and NWT governments agreed to set aside 12% of the NWT as ecologically protected areas and acknowledged that project proponents and environmental-impact assessors would take into account the notion of "potentially protected natural areas" in the course of evaluating the impacts of future resource developments. After four years of research, the biggest conservation project in North America moved closer to reality. The creation of the "Y2Y," a 3,000-km (1,800-mi) expanse of parks and wilderness preserves stretching through the northern Rocky Mountains from Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming to the Yukon and NWT, was announced in October. The purpose of Y2Y was to create a development-free corridor of prime habitat so that wildlife could move freely between Canada and the U.S. The wildlife population there included 27,000 moose, 15,000 elk, 9,000 sheep, 5,000 mountain goats, 3,500 woodland caribou, 1,000 wolves, and 1,000 grizzly and black bears. In June a study by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program reported that ozone depletion, ultraviolet (UV) radiation, climate change, and pollutants generated by humans were a more serious threat to the Arctic environment than had previously been believed. The occurrence of ozone "holes" in the Arctic atmosphere in the spring was particularly damaging because humans and ecosystems were more vulnerable to UV radiation at that time. The report also concluded that the impact of the warming climate in the Arctic, already under way, could influence the rest of the Earth both by increasing the sea level through glacial melt and by altering oceanic circulation, which was responsible for transporting colder water from the Arctic to lower latitudes. KENNETH DE LA BARRE This article updates Arctic. This article updates Arctic. Argentina Area: 2,780,092 sq km (1,073,400 sq mi) Population (1997 est): 35,409,000 Capital: Buenos Aires Head of state and government: President Carlos Sal Menem, assisted by Ministerial Coordinator Jorge Rodrguez Pres. Carlos Menem experienced a year of mixed fortunes in 1997. His popularity, which had reached a low point in late 1996 following a series of corruption allegations against members of his government launched by former economy minister Domingo Cavallo, underwent a modest revival after a successful visit to the U.S. in December 1996. Menem's discussions with U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton partly secured special status for Argentina as a non-NATO ally. This was confirmed by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in August 1997. Early in the year it became apparent that the economic recovery was strengthening significantly after a strong final quarter of 1996, and this increased the prospect that the economy would grow more than the 5% officially projected for the year. Local political developments were less encouraging. Talks between the opposition Radical Civic Union and the Frepaso grouping over possible joint electoral tactics for the midterm congressional polls (to elect half the Chamber of Deputies) began in late 1996 and continued into 1997. At the beginning of August, the two parties announced that they would form an electoral alliance (the so-called Alliance for Work, Justice, and Education) for both the congressional polls in October 1997 and the presidential elections in 1999. Menem also encountered difficulties with the judiciary following court rulings early in the year that his efforts to push through further labour reforms by decree were unconstitutional. A pact in May between the government and the nation's major labour federation also failed to advance the reforms. Differences between Menem and his likely successor for the Justicialist National Movement (Peronist) presidential nomination in 1999, Buenos Aires Gov. Eduardo Duhalde, intensified in the wake of the murder of journalist Jos Luis Cabezas in January and flared up over other issues on repeated occasions during the year. In mid-February another bone of contention was the introduction of a bill by a close associate of Menem concerning the use of national referenda to decide on constitutional reforms; this was viewed as a possible attempt to embark on making changes that would allow Menem to run for a third term as president in 1999. After months of speculation about possible Cabinet dismissals in the wake of repeated allegations that several members had had illicit dealings with business magnate (and alleged planner of organized crime activities within the government) Alfredo Yabrn, Justice Minister Elas Jassn resigned on June 26. He was replaced by Ral Granillo Ocampo, who had been serving as ambassador to the U.S. In late September there were signs that Menem was considering replacing the Chief of Cabinet Jorge Rodrguez, whose efforts to fulfill that role apparently had failed to meet the president's expectations, but Rodrguez was still in office at year's end. In the October 26 elections the opposition Alliance (Alianza), took 46% of the vote while the ruling Peronists (PJ) won only 36%. It lost its slim majority and took 52 of the 127 seats up for renewal; the Alliance received 61 seats, with the remainder divided among smaller parties. In the state of Buenos Aires, the victory of the Alliance's Graciela Fernndez Meijide over Hilda Duhalde (wife of the PJ provincial governor, Eduardo Duhalde) by a wide margin (54% to 38%) reduced the likelihood that the governor would secure his party's nomination to run for the presidency in 1999. Concerning the economy, the publication of first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) figures in June showed that expansion was strong, with an increase of 8.1% compared with the same period of 1996, when there was a decline of 3.2%. The performance continued during the second quarter, with GDP growth provisionally put at 7.8%, giving an average of 8% for the first half of the year; Economy Minister Roque Fernndez predicted growth of at least 7% for the whole year. Despite robust growth and continuing low inflation (0.8% for the year to the end of August), unemployment continued at a high level and in May stood at 16.1% (down from 17.3% in October 1996). Menem pledged to reduce this to 6-8% by the end of his term in 1999, but the creation of new jobs did not appear to be rapid enough by the final quarter of 1997 to help the Peronists avert a significant defeat by the opposition alliance in the October elections. During the first three quarters of 1997, the country's trade account registered a sharp deficit of some $2,980,000,000, compared with a surplus of $491,000,000 in the same period of 1996. For the year as a whole, the Economy Ministry was predicting a deficit of $4.1 billion (revised up from $2 billion at the start of the year), increasing the current-account deficit to more than $8 billion. At the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in late September, it was indicated that Argentina (which had met its first-half fiscal deficit target agreed upon with the IMF) would sign an agreement for a $1 billion loan from the Fund by the end of the year. SUSAN M. CUNNINGHAM ARMENIA Area: 29,743 sq km (11,484 sq mi). The disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, with an area of 4,400 sq km (1,700 sq mi), and has been part of Azerbaijan since 1923. Population (1997 est.): officially 3,773,000; actually about 3,000,000 (plus 150,000 in Nagorno-Karabakh) Capital: Yerevan Chief of state: President Levon Ter-Petrosyan Head of government: Prime Ministers Armen Sarkisyan and, from March 20, Robert Kocharyan The unresolved Karabakh conflict continued to have an impact on both domestic politics and foreign policy in Armenia in 1997. In March Pres. Levon Ter-Petrosyan appointed as prime minister Robert Kocharyan, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh republic, who embarked on a crackdown on corruption and tax evasion. Powerful Yerevan Mayor Vano Siradegyan was elected chairman of the ruling Pan-Armenian National Movement in July. Although Kocharyan and other senior officials met with representatives of the banned main opposition Dashnak (Armenian Revolutionary Federation) party in April to discuss conditions for its reinstatement, the trial of 31 Dashnak members on charges of terrorism continued. Ter-Petrosyan's announcement in September that Armenia had accepted a peace plan for Nagorno-Karabakh that required major unnamed compromises from Armenia provoked calls by the opposition for his resignation and new parliamentary elections. In May several tiny left-wing political groups began lobbying for Armenia's accession to the Russia-Belarus union, collecting over a million signatures in favour. Ter-Petrosyan and Russian Pres. Boris Yeltsin signed a major treaty on friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance in August. A second agreement on supplying Russian gas to Armenia and its export via Armenia to Turkey was also signed. ELIZABETH FULLER This article updates Armenia, history of. Australia Area: 7,682,300 sq km (2,966,200 sq mi) Population (1997 est.): 18,508,000 Capital: Canberra Chief of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Sir William Deane Head of government: Prime Minister John Howard Austria Area: 83,859 sq km (32,378 sq mi) Population (1997 est.): 8,087,000 Capital: Vienna Chief of state: President Thomas Klestil Head of government: Chancellors Franz Vranitzky and, from January 28, Viktor Klima The beginning of 1997 was marked in Austria by a change in government leadership. Chancellor Franz Vranitzky, who had taken office in June 1986, resigned on January 19, saying that 10 years were "a sufficient spell" for the job and that he wanted to make way for a younger generation. Vranitzky designated as his successor Finance Minister Viktor Klima, who was sworn in as chancellor on January 28. Klima, who was well known for having successfully brokered a difficult 1996-97 budget, quickly appointed a new Cabinet and in his formal declaration of government policy called maintaining a high level of employment in Austria "the central question for the future." Despite the smooth transition of power, Vranitzky's resigna

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