22 June 2006 Edition

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International News in Brief

Catalonia

Around 75% of Catalan voters have backed a new autonomy plan in a referendum held in the region. Only 20% voted against. Turnout was low, failing to 50%. The result means Catalonia will become one of Europe's most independent regions, but will not have the same tax independence as the Basque Country. Catalan and Spanish Socialists, and Catalan conservatives supported the plan that was opposed by Spanish right-wing PP and by pro-independence ERC. The former felt that the new Estatut goes too far, while ERC were disappointed when an initial proposal was watered-down by the Socialists.

Bolivia

The new Bolivian government of Evo Morales has announced a radical plan to reduce poverty and create 100,000 jobs a year for the next five years in the poorest country in South America. Almost €7 billion will be invested in ambitious public works and the money will come from the recently nationalized gas industry, supplemented by international lending and foreign investment.

Remembering Soweto

On 16 of June 1981 the massacre of black students in the shantytown of Soweto opened a new phase in the ANC struggle for independence. On Friday 16, President Thabo Mbeki and other officials layed wreaths at the monument in Orlando West, Soweto, to remember those who became victims of the student uprising against apartheid.

Iran

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has welcomed a package of incentives offered to resolve the dispute over its nuclear programme as "a step forward" and has instructed his colleagues to consider the offer by the US, Europe, Russia and China carefully. The package is thought to include trade and security guarantees, if Iran suspends uranium enrichment and placates fears it is building a bomb.

Nepal

Nepalist Maoist rebel leader Prachanda arrived in Kathmandu on Friday 16 June, 25 years after he last visited the country's capital. He is there to meet government officials and agree a peace plan for the country.

Last April, King Gyanendra abandoned absolute rule after weeks of huge street protests.

With a ceasefire in the 10-year conflict in place, the multi-party government has also agreed to dissolve parliament and to set up an interim government that will include the rebels. The government has already released most of the 1,500-odd Maoist prisoners, removed their leaders' terrorist tag, and says it will scrap an anti-terrorism law.


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