The week at a glance ... International
MoscowLongtime mayor booted: President Dmitri Medvedev has fired Yuri Luzhkov, mayor of Moscow since 1992 and one of the most powerful men in Russia. The two men had been feuding all summer. Luzhkov had delivered a rare public criticism of the president, blasting Medvedev’s decision to stop construction of a highway linking Moscow and St. Petersburg. Soon after, state-run television—controlled by the Kremlin—began accusing Luzhkov and his construction-magnate wife of corruption. But many Russians doubted Luzhkov would actually be fired, and have interpreted the firing as a sign that Medvedev—not Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who had a political deal with Luzhkov—is truly in charge. “This strongly added to Medvedev’s clout,” said Tatyana Stanovaya, a political analyst.
BeijingChina and Japan get testy: China and Japan continued to spar this week over a naval altercation, with both sides seeking to avoid losing face. The spat began when a Chinese fishing boat collided with two Japanese patrol vessels in disputed waters, and the Japanese arrested the Chinese captain. After angry protests by China, Japan last week released the captain. But China is still demanding an apology and compensation for the damaged fishing boat. Japan, meanwhile, is demanding compensation for repairs to its patrol boats. “The ball is already in China’s court,” said Yoshito Sengoku, the Japanese chief Cabinet secretary. “We hope that Japan will take practical steps to repair Sino-Japanese relations,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.
Pyongyang, North KoreaAnointing the heir: North Korea this week held its first Workers’ Party conference in decades, presumably to confirm Kim Jong Un, the youngest son of dictator Kim Jong Il, as his father’s eventual successor. Titles and accolades rained down on the younger Kim at the conference, where he became a four-star general, a member of the Central Committee, and vice chairman of the Central Military Commission. Little is known of Kim Jong Un except that he is 24 or 25 years old and was educated in Switzerland. Kim Jong Il’s sister, Kim Kyong Hui, was also given a top military post, fueling speculation that she and her husband could serve as regents if the ailing, 68-year-old Kim Jong Il dies before his son is ready to rule.
North Waziristan, PakistanDrones attack plotters: U.S. unmanned drones have been pummeling militants’ havens in Pakistan’s tribal areas to thwart a suspected terrorist plot against targets in Britain, France, and Germany. The CIA has launched at least 20 drone strikes so far this month, twice the typical number. Many have targeted the Haqqani network, a militant group connected to al Qaida. The threat information was derived from the interrogation of a suspected German terrorist who was allegedly captured en route to Europe and is being held at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. Militants are believed to be planning commando raids on European targets similar to the 2008 attack in Mumbai, India, when heavily armed terrorists attacked public venues including a luxury hotel, killing 173. The Eiffel Tower in Paris has been evacuated twice for bomb scares in the past two weeks.
KabulPeace panel with Taliban: President Hamid Karzai made an emotional plea to the Taliban this week to negotiate peace. “If they consider themselves from this land, if they see themselves as Muslim and Afghan, they should accept the constitution and come to us,” a tearful Karzai said. He announced the appointment of a new council, including warlords, clerics, and ex-Taliban, tasked with negotiating with the Taliban. Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of coalition troops, said that “very high-level Taliban leaders” had already made contact with Karzai administration officials. But the Taliban disputed that, saying it would never negotiate as long as foreign troops were in the country. “It is the propaganda of the Americans to cover their failure in Afghanistan,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed.
CairoTycoon avoids execution: In a case that has riveted attention in the Arab world, an Egyptian billionaire was sentenced this week to 15 years in prison for the murder of his mistress, a Lebanese pop star whose throat was slit in her Dubai apartment. In 2008, Hisham Talaat Mustafa, a hotel baron, paid one of his security guards $2 million to kill singer Suzanne Tamim, who had left Mustafa for an Iraqi kickboxing champion. Mustafa was sentenced to death for the crime in 2009, but the sentence was overturned. Many Egyptians suspect this week’s lighter sentence resulted from Mustafa’s political connections: Before his arrest he was a member of the ruling party and a friend of President Hosni Mubarak.