Protestant hard-liners win their day in court
BELFAST Hard-line Northern Ireland Protestants won a round last week in a court battle to force British authorities to call early elections in the province.
A judge gave the Democratic Unionist Party leave to apply for a judicial review of a decision by Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid not to call elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly before May 2003.
Mr. Reid had said he was sticking to holding elections within 18 months after a stiff battle in the Stormont Assembly returned centrist pro-British unionist David Trimble to the post of provincial first minister.
Mr. Trimble’s victory, and Mr. Reid’s decision on the elections, were a stinging setback for the Protestant hard-liners, who opposed coalition power-sharing with the province’s Roman Catholics.
Irish customs snuffs 20 million cigarettes
DUBLIN About 20 million smuggled cigarettes were seized last week on a ship in Dundalk harbor, an Irish customs spokesman said last week. They were hidden in bales of timber on a ship arriving from Muuga, near Tallinn in Estonia.
“The seizure was as a result of an international operation,” the spokesman said. “We believe a large proportion of the consignment was to be smuggled on into Northern Ireland and Britain.”
The ship was kept under watch by the Irish navy, and authorities boarded the vessel when it docked at midweek. A crackdown on black-market traders and regulations requiring special excise stamps on legitimate packs of cigarettes have hit what had become a lucrative criminal business.
Criminal gangs had abandoned the more high-risk illicit drug smuggling to concentrate on the high-profit, low-risk contraband cigarette trade.
Swiss hope to reopen tunnel by Christmas
BELLINZONE, Switzerland The St. Gotthard tunnel, where at least 11 persons died after a crash between two trucks last month, could be reopened to cars by Christmas, authorities announced.
Acknowledging that the assessment was optimistic, Marco Borradori, a member of the canton Ticino government, said truck traffic also could be flowing through the tunnel by the second quarter of next year.
The St. Gotthard tunnel, which was badly damaged by the accident and ensuing fire on Oct. 24, is a major link between Northern Europe and Italy.
It is one of four mountain-road crossings in Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland that can be used by heavy trucks carrying goods from Northern Europe to Italy and the Balkans even in winter.
France’s prestigious Universal Academy of Cultures has announced the award of its top prize to Arundhati Roy “for her literary work and her commitment to the fight for human rights in her country.” The prize, worth $68,000 this year, is awarded to writers for their work against intolerance, racism and discrimination against women. Ms. Roy, 39, of India, won Britain’s Booker prize in 1997 for “The God of Small Things.”