Meaning of YEAR IN REVIEW 2001: WORLD-AFFAIRS in English

Afghanistan Area: 652,225 sq km (251,825 sq mi)Population (2000 est.):25,889,000 (including Afghan refugees estimated to number about 1,100,000 in Pakistan and more than 1,200,000 in Iran)Capital: KabulChief of state: de facto Taliban Supreme Leader (Amir-ul-Momenin), Mullah Mohammad OmarHead of government: de facto Taliban council leader, Mullah Mohammad Rabbani The Taliban regime in Afghanistan further marginalized armed opposition during 2000, but the uncompromising severity of its fundamentalist Islamic view of society resulted in continued economic stagnation and international isolation. Facing economic and climatic disaster, Afghan citizens were denied both the benefits of normal commerce and much-needed international assistance. Clashes between Taliban and opposition forces occurred throughout the year. In September the anti-Taliban militia of Ahmad Shah Masoud was compelled to withdraw from Taloqan, capital of the northeastern province of Takhar. The significance of this Taliban advance was twofold. The area was traditionally home to many of Afghanistan's ethnic Tajiks, which meant that victory here by the Taliban, who were mostly Pashtuns, had an ethnic dimension. Takhar and its capital also straddled supply routes from Tajikistan to the Panjshir Valley, where Masoud had directed resistance to Taliban authority just as he had earlier resisted occupying Soviet forces. Masoud's long success in holding out against the Taliban was grounded in the reluctance of Afghanistan's large Tajik minority, together with other non-Pashtun ethnic groups, to accept domination by Afghanistan's Pashtun majority. Diplomatic efforts by neighbouring countries and international organizations to find a peaceful solution went on throughout 2000, mostly without visible results. In February the UN secretary-general's personal representative to Afghanistan met with many leading Afghans, including Burhanuddin Rabbani, the Afghan president ousted by the Taliban in 1996 but still recognized by the UN. The Organization of the Islamic Conference sponsored indirect discussions between Taliban and anti-Taliban representatives in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, in March and May, but the only agreement was on prisoner exchanges. Iran, which supported the anti-Taliban groups, and Pakistan, a Taliban ally, found several occasions to discuss a settlement. Perhaps most active were the Muslim republics of Central Asia, whose governments were especially vulnerable to destabilization from a strong fundamentalist regime in Afghanistan. The Taliban's open sympathy for Chechen separatism kept Russia wary as well. A special envoy of Turkmenistan's Pres. Saparmurad Niyazov met with Masoud in Tajikistan and with Taliban Supreme Leader (Amir-ul-Momenin) Mullah Mohammad Omar in the southern city of Kandahar. The Taliban remained uncompromising on basic issues, however. Representatives said they were prepared to talk about a broad-based government but insisted that the role of Mullah Omar was not negotiable. Taliban officials repeatedly demanded that they be given Afghanistan's UN seat, but there was no indication they were willing to surrender suspected international terrorist Osama bin Laden to international justice. Rabbani seemed to confirm Afghanistan's international reputation when he told the UN Millennium Summit in September that "foreign interference" had "turned our land into a terrorist training camp, a center for drug smugglers and a base for spilling instability." Afghanistan's economy, disrupted by more than 20 years of fighting, might have been expected to show signs of recovery under the relative stability in Kabul and the 90% of the country controlled by the Taliban, but little progress was visible. The official Taliban policy discouraging the participation of women in public life further slowed economic activity. Already forbidden to study and banned from most employment, women-including all female civil servants and teachers-were subjected to mass layoffs in April. In July employment by foreign aid agencies was put off-limits to women. Sanctions invoked by the United Nations in November 1999 in an effort to have bin Laden turned over to the U.S. or a third country also hindered the economy. Afghanistan's foreign assets were frozen, and international air traffic to and from the country was banned. One result was the loss of income from fruit production, traditionally one of the country's important exports. Overwhelmingly dependent on agriculture, Afghanistan's economy faced calamity when the worst drought in three decades continued into a second year. By midsummer the entire arid wheat crop, well over half the irrigated crops, and 60-80% of livestock had been lost in the southern provinces. Some relief came in early November, when heavy rains fell over large parts of the country. Stephen Sego Albania Area: 28,748 sq km (11,100 sq mi)Population (2000 est.): 3,490,000 (not including about 650,000 Albanians living abroad)Capital: TiranaChief of state: President Rexhep MeidaniHead of government: Prime Minister Ilir Meta Albania's political life in 2000 was dominated by the rivalry between the governing Alliance for the State coalition, led by the Socialist Party, and the opposition, dominated by the Democratic Party of former president Sali Berisha. Throughout the year the opposition focused attention on rallying support for its candidates in local elections on October 1 and 15. They accused the Alliance for the State of corruption and smuggling, charges that the coalition dismissed. The Alliance, for its part, highlighted its efforts to combat corruption through institutional reforms. The most significant success in administrative reform had come with the passage of a new law on the civil service on Nov. 11, 1999, designed to stop the practice of political appointments and to increase the independence and integrity of career civil servants. Implementation of the law and the creation of a workable institutional framework occupied much of the year. In addition to its reform efforts, the government could point to a significant increase in infrastructure development in Albania, most notably those projects that were financed within the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, the 28-nation agreement signed in 1999 to restore peace, stability, and prosperity to the region. Under the "quick start" package launched in March, Albania received about 112 million (about $109 million) for the rehabilitation of roads, railroads, harbours, power and water lines, and the airport in Tirana, the capital. The Stability Pact earmarked an additional 320 million (about $311 million) for near-term infrastructure projects to be implemented subsequently. In municipal elections held in October, the Socialist Party won in 50 municipalities and 218 communities, whereas the Democrats won only in 11 municipalities and 80 communities after calling for a partial boycott of the vote in the runoff. Two municipalities and 17 communities went to smaller parties and independent candidates. The Stability Pact also dominated Albania's foreign-policy agenda. Numerous projects designed to enhance cooperation between Albania and other southeastern European countries in the fields of human rights, democracy, and security were launched. Pres. Rexhep Meidani traveled to Kosovo on May 24, the first visit ever by an Albanian head of state to that heavily ethnic Albanian-populated province in Yugoslavia. Meidani emphasized Albania's commitment to the creation of "a Europe of the regions" (that is, rather than a continent based on traditional nation-states) and spoke against the desirability of creating a "Greater Albania" that would include ethnic Albanians in neighbouring countries, while stressing the need for closer regional and European integration. Following the election in October of Vojislav Kostunica as president of Yugoslavia, Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo made the resumption of regular bilateral relations dependent on Serbia freeing Kosovo Albanian prisoners and recognizing its responsibility for crimes against humanity in the Kosovo war. Fabian Schmidt Algeria Area: 2,381,741 sq km (919,595 sq mi)Population (2000 est.): 30,554,000Capital: AlgiersChief of state: President Abdelaziz BouteflikaHead of government: Prime Ministers Ahmed Benbitour and, from August 27, Ali Benflis The year 2000 opened on a high note for Algerian Pres. Abdelaziz Bouteflika as the 600-strong Army of Islamic Salvation and an additional 1,500 militants from other clandestine Islamic groups surrendered under a six-month partial amnesty that ended on January 13. The eight-year-long struggle between the Algerian army and the clandestine Islamist opposition-which had begun after legislative elections were aborted in January 1992 to prevent a victory by the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS)-appeared to be over. Within six months, however, the violence again escalated around the capital. Two groups-the remnants of the Armed Islamic Group and a new group, the Groupe Salafiyyiste de Dawa et Djihad-continued to attract supporters. President Bouteflika had other troubles too. He lost key army support after relations with Morocco worsened (see Morocco, below), and he was roundly attacked in the press by leading army generals. Bouteflika's attempt to restructure the army command in February resulted only in the removal of his predecessor's supporters in charge of the police and coastal defense. The government that he had appointed in December 1999 collapsed in August, and former prime minister Ahmed Benbitour accused Bouteflika of contravening the constitution with his controversial privatization proposals. In the new government-led by Ali Benflis-Abdelaziz Belkhadem replaced Youcef Yousfi as foreign minister, Gen. Larbi Belkhair became presidential adviser, and Gen. Mohamed Touati became presidential adviser for military affairs, appointments that emphasized the army's stranglehold on government. Army opposition to extending the amnesty blocked Bouteflika's plans for a general amnesty during the year. Governmental opposition to reconciliation with the remnants of the FIS was underlined by Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni's refusal in May to allow the registration of a new political party that would be led by veteran politician and alleged FIS sympathizer Taleb Ibrahimi. Bouteflika's domestic problems were eased slightly by his official visit to France in June, only the second by an Algerian president since 1962. He met with Pres. Jacques Chirac, addressed the French National Assembly, and obtained a $60 million debt-swap arrangement and the promise of cooperation on defense issues. In July Prime Minister Jos Mara Aznar Lpez of Spain made an official visit to Algeria-the first ever by a Spanish leader. The rise in world oil prices increased budgetary revenues by 16%. Early in the year foreign debt dropped by 7% to $28,310,000,000. Unemployment, however, continued to rise; it stood at 2.6 million at the end of 1998 and was expected to reach 4 million by the end of 2000 as privatization programs began to exact an impact. Inadequate rainfall also meant that Algeria's heavy dependence on imported food continued; two-thirds of the demand for cereal was met through imports. Following the December 30 parliamentary or Council of the Nation by-elections, the National Democratic Rally of former Algerian president Liamine Zeroual kept its majority in the Council by winning 36 of the 48 contested seats and securing a total of 76 seats. The National Liberation Front obtained 13 seats, the Socialist Forces Front gained 4 seats, and the Movement for a Peaceful Society captured 3 seats. George Joff Andorra Area: 468 sq km (181 sq mi)Population (2000 est.): 66,700Capital: Andorra la VellaChiefs of state: Co-princes of Andorra, the president of France and the bishop of Urgell, SpainHead of government: Chief Executive Marc Forn Moln Andorra had historically been a haven for smugglers, especially traffickers in illegal cigarettes. In 2000 concern about smuggling prompted a crackdown by the antifraud office of the European Union (EU), during which the possibility of bringing suit against several American cigarette manufacturers was raised. In order to circumvent tax dodgers, the EU proposed a plan to withhold taxes up front from interest paid into nonresidents' bank accounts and to do away with banking secrecy laws in Andorra, Switzerland, and other countries. Other, more recent types of crime were also shadowing the valleys of the Pyrenees. In February a network of money launderers for a Colombian drug cartel selling cocaine in Great Britain and Spain was broken up by Spanish police; some of the laundered money was found in banks in Andorra. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced in June that Andorra ranked 10th in the world in the number of years (72.3) a person could be expected to live in full health. Japan was the healthiest country, with an expected 74.5 years of good health, while Sierra Leone, at 25.9 years, was at the bottom of the list. In WHO's study of the world's health care systems, Andorra ranked fourth. Anne Roby Angola Area: 1,246,700 sq km (481,354 sq mi)Population (2000 est.): 10,145,000 (excluding more than 300,000 refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia)Capital: LuandaChief of state and head of government: President Jos Eduardo dos Santos Government forces engaged in combat with National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) rebels began 2000 in a strong position, having recently captured the rebel headquarters at Jamba, near the Namibian border, and having forced their opponents into remote, sparsely populated parts of the country. Namibia also became involved in the fighting on behalf of the government, though not without opposition from human rights campaigners in that country and protests from South Africa, which was concerned by the prospect of instability creeping nearer its borders. Early government successes in the campaign were followed by a UNITA counteroffensive in March. Government forces responded with vigorous ground and air attacks, which gave rise to protests from Zambia that its borders had been violated. The government also struck at UNITA's lifeline, the illicit sale of diamonds, by a January 31 decree that declared that all diamond transactions had to be made through a new state-controlled company, Ascorp. The difficulty of making this control effective was highlighted by a UN report, published on March 13, that criticized seven African countries, together with Belgium and Bulgaria, for breaking sanctions imposed on UNITA. (See Sidebar.) An increase of 1,600% in the price of motor fuel was announced in February and resulted in an immediate rise in the cost of food and public transportation; the cost increases led to an unprecedented demonstration in Luanda on March 11. On April 5, however, the government announced that it had signed a nine-month economic monitoring agreement with the International Monetary Fund, which, it was hoped, would prepare the way for an IMF loan by the end of the year. The implementation of the agreement was, however, fraught with problems. In spite of greatly enhanced revenues from the sale of oil, due both to increased output and to the rise in world prices, the Angolan people in general saw little improvement in their standard of living. While a handful of leading figures enjoyed considerable wealth, the majority of the population continued to live in poverty, and vested interests did all in their power to block reforms. In August, in an attempt to improve the situation, the National Assembly supported a government proposal to increase public spending, but the finance minister, Joachim David, felt compelled to point out that, with such a high proportion of the country's revenue committed to the war against UNITA, the economy was in a grave condition. Inflation continued to rise, and the IMF thought it necessary to urge the government to make greater efforts to carry out the reforms called for in the agreement. Kenneth Ingham Antarctica Ice averaging 2,160 m (7,085 ft) in thickness covers more than about 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, and there is no land-based industry. Human activity consists mainly of scientific research. The 44-nation Antarctic Treaty is the managerial mechanism for the region south of latitude 60 S, which includes all of Antarctica. The treaty reserves the area for peaceful purposes, encourages cooperation in science, prescribes environmental protection, allows inspections to verify adherence, and defers the issue of territorial sovereignty. The ocean around Antarctica experienced its fifth year of widespread poaching of Patagonian toothfish in 2000. The international Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources said that illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishers took 6,546 metric tons of the fish, while others said that this amount was a large underestimate because 9,000 metric tons of the fish, worth $45 million, passed through Port Louis, Mauritius, during the first nine months of 2000. (Legal fishers took 25,994 metric tons.) The species was sometimes marketed as deep sea bass or Chilean sea bass. (See also Agriculture and Fisheries: Fisheries.) Efforts to stop the illegal fishing included an attempt to end Port Louis's reputation as the main pirate port. The Antarctic Commission set up a paper trail, tracing catches from hook to market, that was claimed to be the most restrictive ever imposed to protect a high seas fishery. The illegal activity also had a high human cost; the Spanish-registeredpirate fishing vessel Amur foundered on October 9 during severe weather, drowning 14 of the crew of 40; in two years an estimated 61 people had died in three vessels that sank while pursuing toothfish illegally. An estimated 68,000 seabirds died trying to feed on bait hanging from longline hooks set out by the illegal fishers. This was an unsustainable mortality for the albatross, giant petrels, and white-chinned petrels that breed in the area. Antarctic Treaty negotiators worked toward ensuring that polluters paid for environmental damage in Antarctica. Liability, which some saw as a missing link in the protection of Antarctica, had been set aside as too difficult when the treaty nations approved the landmark Protocol on Environmental Protection in 1991. While environmental accidents in Antarctica were infrequent, a large fuel spill had occurred in 1989 when the Argentine ship Baha Paraso ran aground, losing some 600,000 litres (about 160,000 gal) of fuel, of which only about two-thirds was recovered. Further progress on liability awaited an Antarctic Treaty consultative meeting planned for St. Petersburg in 2001. Tourism increased, with 13,193 people visiting Antarctica in the 1999-2000 Antarctic summer, compared with 10,013 the previous season and 9,604 the year before. Most visitors were seaborne, arriving in 24 ships that made 143 voyages. U.S. citizens accounted for more than half of the visitors, according to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators and the U.S. National Science Foundation. Sir Ernest Shackleton's historic 1916 crossing of the South Atlantic island of South Georgia was retraced twice in 2000. Three mountaineers completed the journey over three days in mid-April following a six-day trek by the Shackleton 2000 expedition after its reenactment of Shackleton's open-boat journey from the Antarctic Peninsula to South Georgia. A boom in prices for Antarctic memorabilia was confirmed at an April auction with a record 93,950 (about $148,000) paid for a single item-the 1912 journal of surgeon Murray Levick, a member of Capt. Robert Scott's stranded party. The auction included a copy of Aurora Australis, the hand-published book of articles, poems, and sketches that Shackleton's British Antarctic Expedition produced at Cape Evans in 1908. A private buyer paid 37,600 (about $59,000). American scientists comparing modern and historic weather data found that Scott's party may have perished from unusually extreme cold during its attempted return from the South Pole in 1912. Scott wrote in his final message to the public that "our wreck is certainly due to this sudden advent of severe weather." Speculation about the reasons for the failure had varied, and such causes as the party's reliance on ponies, poor diet, and unfamiliarity with skis had been considered. The first evidence of life in Lake Vostok, 3,600 m (11,800 ft) below the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, was claimed on the basis of two investigations of ice cores from 120 m (395 ft) above the suspected water level. The studies suggested that despite the fact that it had been isolated from the atmosphere for hundreds of thousands of years, the lake could support a microbial population. On the basis of these findings, published in Science, researchers believed that microbes could thrive in other hostile places in the solar system. They determined that Lake Vostok is a terrestrial analogue to Europa, a frozen moon of Jupiter. (See Mathematics and Physical Sciences: Space Exploration.) A separate study also found live bacteria in snow at the South Pole, a discovery that confirmed that life on Earth persisted in the most hostile of climates. University of Florida geologists revealed evidence that the Antarctic Ice Sheet was massively unstable as recently as the last glacial advance in North America, which occurred about 20,000 years ago. Sediments from southern Atlantic Ocean bottom sites contained large grains of Antarctic quartz and other fragments that icebergs had transported north. The study, published in Science, was believed to demonstrate for the first time that instability in parts of that ice sheet coincided with warming in the Northern Hemisphere. Circumpolar ballooning experiments of the 1990s yielded their biggest payoff yet in 2000: evidence that the universe is geometrically flat. Images collected above Antarctica in 1998 by an ultrasensitive telescope aboard a balloon at the edge of the atmosphere appeared in the journal Nature in 2000. The journal said of its cover feature, "Columbus may have proved the Earth is round, but cosmologists have had the last word: the universe is flat." The evidence was shown in a map of tiny variations in cosmic microwave background radiation-ancient radiation that remained after the Big Bang. The variations revealed that this violent expansion flattened the geometry of space. Guy G. Guthridge Antigua and Barbuda Area: 442 sq km (171 sq mi)Population (2000 est.): 71,000 (including evacuees from Montserrat)Capital: Saint John'sChief of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General James Carlisle Head of government: Prime Minister Lester Bird In 2000 Antigua and Barbuda became, in the words of its prime minister, Lester Bird, "a more reliable partner" in the battle against money laundering and drug trafficking in the Caribbean by updating parts of its anti-money-laundering legislation during the early months of the year. This was followed in April by the signing of a letter of commitment to minimum regulatory standards as approved by the United Nations Offshore Forum. Despite these initiatives, however, Antigua and Barbuda did not escape being included in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's blacklist, issued in June, of 15 Caribbean countries allegedly operating "harmful tax regimes." This unflattering categorization incensed the government. Local businessmen, for their part, were upset with John St. Luce, the finance minister, for introducing a 2% turnover tax in his budget in March. The tourism industry was most concerned, claiming that the tax would make Antigua and Barbuda an even more expensive destination than it already was. David Renwick Arctic Regions The Arctic regions may be defined in physical terms (astronomical [north of the Arctic Circle, latitude 66 30 N], climatic [above the 10 C (50 F) July isotherm], or vegetational [above the northern limit of the tree line]) or in human terms (the territory inhabited by the circumpolar cultures-Inuit and Aleut in North America and Russia, Saami in northern Scandinavia and Russia, and 29 other peoples of the Russian North, Siberia, East Asia). No single national sovereignty or treaty regime governs the region, which includes portions of seven countries: Canada, the United States, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Greenland (part of Denmark). The Arctic Ocean, 14,090,000 sq km (5,440,000 sq mi) in area, constitutes about two-thirds of the region. The land area consists of permanent ice cap, tundra, or taiga. The population (2000 est.) of peoples belonging to the circumpolar cultures is 375,000. International organizations concerned with the Arctic include the Arctic Council, two institutions of the Barents Euro-Arctic Region, and the Indigenous Peoples' Secretariat. International scientific cooperation of the Arctic is the focus of the International Arctic Research Center of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. After more than two decades, oil and natural gas companies, governments, and some indigenous groups were in 2000 once again enthusiastic about developing the petroleum resources of northern Alaska and Canada. In the mid-1970s, citing uncertainties about the environment and unsettled land claims, a public commission headed by British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Thomas Berger had derailed plans to establish a pipeline corridor extending from the Beaufort Sea down the Mackenzie River valley to southern markets in the U.S. An alternative pipeline proposal was suggested that would have brought Alaska's Prudhoe Bay natural gas down the Alaska Highway to be joined to a connecting pipeline along the Dempster Highway in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. This spur line eventually would have tapped into gas reserves from the Mackenzie delta. Canada's National Energy Board had approved this alternative in July 1977. In 2000 the economics of natural gas markets and improved pipeline technology appeared to make the 1970s projects more viable than at any time in the past. Conventional gas reserves in other areas were in decline, and energy prices were at record high levels. Technology had also advanced to such an extent that a pipeline could be built at a fraction of its cost in the late 1970s and provide greater gas throughput. In addition, the settlement of land claims in the areas affected by the pipeline in Alaska and in the Mackenzie River valley offered many opportunities for the indigenous inhabitants to participate in the potential benefits of oil and gas development. Producers in the U.S. and Canada were also speculating that a pipeline would spur new exploration activities that would lead to the discovery of enormous additional natural gas reserves. By April the U.S. Federal Trade Commission had also approved the $27.6 billion purchase of the Atlantic Richfield Co. by BP Amoco PLC. As part of the deal, BP Amoco nearly doubled its share of Prudhoe Bay's natural gas, which gave the company a greater incentive to develop this huge resource. In May a yearlong round of government-to-government meetings began between Alaska's 227 federally recognized tribes to define the roles and responsibilities of tribes and state agencies. Tribal sovereignty advocates had lobbied for recognition in Alaska for more than a decade. Alaska tribes had long sought more authority and influence over a range of issues, including law enforcement, education, and the environment. Vigorous debate continued on the opening of the Arctic Natural Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil exploration and development. The ANWR, about eight million hectares (1 ha = 2.47 ac) in area, was established as part of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, signed into law by U.S. Pres. Jimmy Carter in 1980. Although the act was one of the nation's most sweeping pieces of conservation legislation, the ANWR's 607,287-ha coastal plain (known by its technical designation as the 1002 area) was not protected from future oil exploration. Conservation groups and the local Gwich'in Indians claimed that the area is precious for wildlife and as an Arctic ecosystem and that oil production would disrupt the 129,000-strong Porcupine Caribou Herd, the Indians' main source of food. In October the United States and Russia initialed an agreement that would help preserve the polar bear population, estimated between 22,000 and 28,000 worldwide. Quotas were established for subsistence hunting by native tribes in Alaska and the Chukchi okrug of Siberia. Throughout the year press reports, research studies, and indigenous knowledge confirmed that climate change was already reworking the Arctic landscape and affecting the lives of its inhabitants. Average temperatures in some parts of the Canadian North were rising at a rate of about 1 C (1.8 F) each decade. Glaciers were in retreat. In July the Associated Press reported that a warming climate was melting more than 50,000 billion tons of water a year from the Greenland ice sheet. This was adding to a 23-cm (9-in) rise in sea level throughout the world during the past century and was increasing the risk of coastal flooding. Scientists also reported a thinning of the polar ice cap. Arctic pack ice was melting so rapidly that predictions were that it might be possible within a few decades to use the legendary Northwest Passage routinely as a shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The climate change could result in the eventual extinction of plants and animals or their permanent forced migration to find other suitable habitats. In some areas it was expected that in order to survive species would have to move 10 times faster than they did during the last ice age. In September the Toronto Globe and Mail reported that RAO Norilsk Nickel, the world's largest nickel-mining company, had announced a restructuring of its vast mining operations in Siberia. Already supplying about 40% of the world's palladium and about 20% of its platinum and nickel, Norilsk was undertaking a $3.5 billion program to modernize its mining assets by 2010. Because of high commodity prices, the company was expected to generate a surplus cash flow of $3 billion in 2000. Pursuant to the results of a Canadian-Russian feasibility study released in October, commercial airlines were expected to begin flying nonstop over the North Pole through Canadian-Russian airspace sometime during 2001. The polar air routes were expected to save North American airlines bound for Asia millions of dollars annually, which would result in lower ticket prices and save passengers thousands of hours in flying time. Kenneth de la Barre Argentina Area: 2,780,092 sq km (1,073,400 sq mi)Population (2000 est.): 37,032,000Capital: Buenos AiresHead of state: President Fernando de la Ra, assisted by Ministerial Coordinator Chrystian Colombo On Dec. 10, 1999, Fernando de la Ra assumed office as president of Argentina, marking the end of Carlos Sal Menem's 10-year tenure. The Alliance (composed of de la Ra's Radical Civic Union , the Front for a Country in Solidarity , and several smaller parties) held a plurality of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies but remained a minority in the Senate, where Menem's Justicialist Party (PJ; also known as the Peronist Party) continued to hold an absolute majority. The de la Ra administration inherited a larger-than-expected fiscal deficit as well as a country immersed in a nearly year-and-a-half-long recession. The government's first major policy initiative was a significant tax increase in late December 1999, which, among other things, raised the sales tax on selected consumer goods and services-for example, soft drinks, mineral water, champagne, cellular phone calls, new cars, interurban bus transport-and increased the income tax rate for the wealthiest segment of the population. For example, while those workers earning $2,000 or less a month were unaffected by the tax hike, those earning $3,500 a month suffered a nearly 200% increase. The only noteworthy electoral contest in 2000 was the May 7 mayoral election in Buenos Aires. In this election the Alliance's Anbal Ibarra (Frepaso) handily defeated Domingo Cavallo, the candidate supported by Cavallo's Action for the Republic, Gustavo Beliz's New Leadership, and a large number of Peronists. Ibarra garnered 49% of the vote to Cavallo's 33%, and Cavallo withdrew from a scheduled runoff election. The Alliance's share of seats in the Buenos Aires legislature fell, however, from 62% to 40%. On May 11 the de la Ra administration obtained the passage of an important labour law reform designed to reduce the costs associated with hiring (and firing) workers in Argentina. In August this legislative victory came back to haunt the government as allegations emerged that senior government officials had bribed several PJ and UCR senators to obtain the law's passage. At the end of May, under increasing fiscal pressure, the de la Ra government announced an important budget cut consisting primarily of a 12% salary reduction for national government public employees earning a monthly salary between $1,000 and $6,500 (15% for those earning above $6,500). The legislation also included other measures such as voluntary early retirement for national public employees and the reduction of some specific federal pensions; because of legal complications as well as political pressure, most of the pension reductions were not carried out. In December the International Monetary Fund announced that it would assist Argentina in reducing its rising debt burden by promising an aid package of up to $39.7 billion. August, September, and October brought additional bad news for the government as the May unemployment figures were released, the government and independent economists revised their economic growth projections for 2000, and the vice president resigned. The unemployment rate in May was 15.4%, up from 13.8% in October 1999 and 14.5% in May 1999. At the same time, the country had yet to emerge from its recession, with estimates of the 2000 gross domestic product growth rate falling from a January high of 4% to between 0.5% and 1% in October. The projected annual inflation rate was -1%. In October Vice President Carlos ("Chacho") Alvarez, a Frepaso leader, abruptly resigned due in part to disagreements with the direction of the de la Ra government. In a national poll conducted by MORI Argentina in September, 43% of those surveyed considered unemployment to be the number one problem facing the country, followed by corruption (29%), the recession (9%), education (9%), and crime (3%). Argentina continued to have disagreements with Brazil related to auto production within the Southern Cone Common Market (Mercosur) as well as over the import/export of specific agricultural products such as chicken and sugar. Argentina's dispute with the U.S. over pharmaceutical patents was sent to the World Trade Organization and thus was not a subject of bilateral discussion for most of the year. In June President de la Ra made an official visit to the U.S., where he met with Pres. Bill Clinton. In July a new U.S. ambassador finally arrived in Argentina; the office had been vacant since December 1996, much to the dismay of most Argentine officials. Despite the fact that the 2003 presidential election was more than three years away, by mid-2000 the most prominent PJ candidates (Jos Manuel de la Sota, governor of Crdoba; Carlos Reutemann, governor of Santa Fe; and Carlos Ruckauf, governor of Buenos Aires) were already jockeying for position within the party and among the electorate. Although none of the three had attained status as the favourite, de la Sota benefited from the success thus far of his innovative economic program in Crdoba, while Ruckauf enjoyed a very positive public image as well as governed the country's largest province. Mark P. Jones Armenia Area: 29,743 sq km (11,484 sq mi). Some 12-15% of neighbouring Azerbaijan (including the 4,400-sq km [1,700-sq mi] disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh [Armenian: Artsakh]) has been under Armenian control since 1993.Population (2000 est.): officially 3,810,000; actually about 3,000,000 (plus 150,000 in Nagorno-Karabakh)Capital: YerevanChief of state: President Robert KocharyanHead of government: Prime Ministers Aram Sarkisyan and, from May 12, Andranik Markaryan The suspicion and mutual hostility generated by the shootings in the National Assembly on Oct. 27, 1999, poisoned relations between Armenian Pres. Robert Kocharyan and the government of Aram Sarkisyan during the early months of 2000. In late February Sarkisyan reshuffled his cabinet and thereby secured the cooperation of opposition parties represented in the National Assembly. Mutual recriminations over the investigation into the killing continued until Kocharyan finally fired Sarkisyan in May and appointed as his successor Andranik Markaryan, leader of the Republican Party of Armenia parliament faction, the senior partner within Miasnutiun. That appointment alienated the Republican Party's coalition partner, the People's Party if Armenia, whose chairman, Stepan Demirchyan, repeatedly rejected Markaryan's demand that the People's Party should accept shared responsibility for implementing the government's program. Demirchyan met with the head of the National Unity Party, Artashes Geghamyan, in August but failed to reach agreement on possible cooperation. Geghamyan called repeatedly for the resignation of Markaryan's cabinet and pre-term elections. In late September, on the initiative of the Republican Party, the National Assembly narrowly voted for the removal as its speaker of People's Party member Armen Khachatryan, thereby further exacerbating tensions between the Republican and People's parties. The case was referred to the Constitutional Court, however, which ruled that the vote was invalid and reinstated Khachatryan Kocharyan traveled to France in October for a previously unannounced medical examination, after which his staff denied that the 46-year-old president was suffering from a heart ailment. Ties with Russia remained central to Armenia's foreign policy. Serzh Sarkisyan, who was named defense minister in Markaryan's cabinet, made a high-profile visit to Moscow in June, which engendered speculation that Kocharyan intended to appoint him prime minister in place of Markaryan. In September, Kocharyan and Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin signed a declaration on cooperation in the 21st century. The Council of Europe, of which Armenia had been a guest member since 1996, voted in June to accept Armenia into full membership. Elizabeth Fuller Austria Area: 83,858 sq km (32,378 sq mi) Population (2000 est.): 8,091,000 Capital: Vienna Chief of state: President Thomas Klestil Head of government: Chancellors Viktor Klima and, from February 4, Wolfgang Schssel In its post-World War II history, Austria had rarely had such an eventful year as 2000. Following the inconclusive general election in October 1999, negotiations between the centre-left and centre-right coalition partners dragged on into early 2000. Contrary to expectations, the two parties, which had been in power since 1986, failed to renew their partnership. Talks finally broke down in late January, and the conservative Austrian People's Party (VP) quickly agreed to enter into coalition with the populist right-wing Freedom Party (FP). The participation in government of the FP, and especially of party leader Jrg Haider, provoked an unexpectedly strong reaction at home and abroad. Domestically, the VP's erstwhile partner, the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SP), and others reacted angrily to the inclusion in government of the FP, which had been considered too extremist to participate. Frequent outbursts by FP members expressing anti-immigrant sentiments and lightly veiled admiration of Nazism gained the party notoriety in Europe and beyond. Widespread street demonstrations ensued. Although these protests were peaceful and dwindled within weeks, they heralded the beginnings of a more adversarial style of politics in Austria, with the new right-leaning coalition set against the centre-left SP and the Green Party. International opprobrium was heaped upon the new government, and concerns for the civil and political liberties of some groups in Austrian society were voiced. A number of European governments seemed to fear that right-wing populists in their own countries would get a boost from the successes of the FP. This possibility in part underlay the decision of Austria's 14 European

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