News Timeline: January 2004


January 3 – Africa: LIBYA

Libyan Prime Minister Shukri Ghanim says his country is not going to pay full compensation for the Lockerbie bombing, as required by a UN agreement, unless the United States lifts its sanctions on Libya by May. For its part the U.S. says Libya must first eliminate its weapons of mass destruction program and renounce terrorism.

January 5 – East Asia: MYANMAR

Myanmar’s troops launch an attack on Indian separatists of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) who are fighting to create their own state in India’s northeastern state of Nagaland and keep their camps on Myanmar’s territory. Myanmar and India plan joint operations against the rebels.

January 5 – South Asia: INDIA/PAKISTAN

Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, and India’s prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, meet in Islamabad, where Pakistan is hosting a summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), for an hour-long discussion on bilateral relations. They agree to hold historic talks on the divisive issue of Kashmir. In response to the announcement, Islamic militants vow to continue fighting as long as Indian forces are present in the region of Kashmir.

January 6 – East Asia/Russia and Other Former Soviet Republics: MONGOLIA

Russia agrees to forgive $10 billion of Mongolian debt, which was accumulated during the 70 years Mongolia was a Soviet satellite state. Mongolia will repay $300 million, which will be raised through state bonds. Mongolia’s debt to Russia and China was slowing the country’s economic development.

January 6 – Middle East: IRAN/EGYPT

Iran’s vice president, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, announces that Iran and Egypt are restoring full diplomatic relations after Iran fulfilled Egypt’s main demand to rename a street bearing the name of the assassin of Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat. Relations between the two countries were cut off in 1980 after Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel.

January 7 – Africa: NIGERIA

The insurrection of radical Muslims that started in the Nigerian state of Yobe spills over to the neighboring state of Borno. Local people fight back, killing seven radicals during clashes. The fighters, who call themselves Taliban, want to establish an Islamic state.

January 7 – Sudan: SUDAN

The Sudanese government and rebels sign an agreement on wealth sharing, primarily covering the revenues from oil, in an attempt to build trust between the Muslim north and the Christian south. Representatives still have to agree on the administration of the three disputed areas as well as the sharing of government and civil service jobs.

January 7 – Latin America: DOMINICA

Dominica’s Dominica Labor Party nominates Roosevelt Skerrit, the current education minister, to be prime minister after the sudden death of Prime Minister Pierre Charles. Skerrit, 31, would be the youngest leader since Dominica gained independence in 1978.

January 8 – Europe: RUSSIA

During his Orthodox Christmas tour throughout monasteries and churches near the ancient city of Zvenigorod, Russian President Vladimir Putin says that Russian Orthodoxy is an integral part of Russia’s national culture and it is not necessary to separate that culture from the state. He adds that while legally church and state are separate, Russian history and souls are closely linked to the Russian faith.

January 9 – Middle East/Europe: TURKEY/EUROPEAN UNION

Turkey signs a European Convention protocol abolishing the death penalty in all circumstances, including during wars. The protocol is a part of human-rights reforms required by the European Union before a country can become a member of the EU.

January 9 – North America: UNITED STATES

The U.S. starts the largest movement of its forces since WWII. Over the next four months, about 125,000 military personnel in Iraq are going to be moved from Iraq and replaced with fewer armed forces, including more National Guard and Reserve units. Troops are also being replaced in Kuwait and Afghanistan. The U.S. military believes that the troop rotation will allow more flexible and better-equipped forces to deal with the challenges in these countries.

January 12 – Latin America/North America/International Organizations : LATIN AMERICA/UNITED STATES/OAS

Leaders from 34 member countries of the Organization of American States (OAS) gather for a two-day Special Summit in the Mexican city of Monterrey to talk about some controversial issues, such as immigration, trade, terrorism, and corruption. The U.S. suggests expelling corrupt countries from the OAS. Unlike Brazil and Venezuela, the U.S. also wants the summit to reaffirm a 2005 deadline for completing talks on a Free Trade Area of the Americas.

January 12 – Latin America: HAITI

The mandate of most parliament members in Haiti runs out, which means that the country has no functioning legislature. This allows President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to rule by decree. Parliamentary elections were scheduled for last year, but did not take place. The opposition organizes more protests, demanding the president to step down.

January 12 – Europe: RUSSIA

A Russian court sentences two residents of the southern republic of Karachayevo-Cherkessia, near Chechnya, Yusuf Krymshamkhalov and Adam Dekkushev, to life in prison for participating in a series of apartment building bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk in 1999. Critics say that the attacks were carried out by the Russian security services in order to justify a military operation in Chechnya. The trial was closed to the public.

January 13 – Former Soviet Republics: KAZAKHSTAN/PACE

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev signs a law that abolishes the death penalty. The President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Peter Schieder, says the death penalty moratorium allows for an agreement between the PACE and Kazakhstan on developing political dialogue to promote parliamentary democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.

January 13 – East Asia: THAILAND

Thailand and Malaysia start joint land and air border patrols following a series of attacks in southern Thailand and its imposition of martial law in three provinces. The two countries disagree about who is behind the attacks, blaming both bandits and Muslim separatists.

January 13 – South Asia: AFGHANISTAN

For the first time in more than ten years, Afghan public television broadcasts an Afghan female artist, Salma, singing a ballad. Salma was popular in the ’70s and ’80s. The recording is the latest step toward liberalization undertaken by President Hamid Karzai. After the Afghan civil war, the Islamic Mujaheddin prohibited images of women on television, and when the Taliban came to power in 1996, all television was banned.

January 13 – South Asia/North America: INDIA/UNITED STATES

The United States and India agree to increase bilateral cooperation in the field of civilian nuclear and space programs as well as in high-tech trade. The U.S. also agrees to conduct talks on India’s missile defense. A statement issued by both countries says the agreement is an important step toward transforming the relations between India and the United States.

January 13 – South Asia: SRI LANKA

Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga announces that her term has been extended by another year, until the end of 2006, during a secret swearing-in ceremony. Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe accuses the president of untenable arrogance. He says the move is illegal and undemocratic. Hostilities between the president and the prime minister have hindered attempts to make peace with Sri Lankan Tamil rebels.

January 13 – North America/South Asia: UNITED STATES/INDIA

The United States and India agree to increase bilateral cooperation in the field of civilian nuclear and space programs as well as in high-tech trade. The U.S. also agrees to conduct talks on India’s missile defense. A statement issued by both countries says the agreement is an important step toward transforming the relations between India and the United States.


For the first time the Palestinian militant Islamic group Hamas uses a female suicide bomber to attack Israeli interests. Twenty-year-old Reem Raiyshi, a mother of two, blows herself up on the border with Gaza, killing four Israelis.

January 15 – Middle East: IRAQ

A document found close to Saddam Hussein during his capture shows that the former president of Iraq warned his followers not to cooperate with radical Arab militants. The document puts into question President Bush’s claim that Hussein had close links with al-Qaeda.

January 15 – North America: UNITED STATES

The U.S. robotic rover that landed on Mars 10 days ago rolls off its lander onto the Martian surface. It will now search for evidence of water in the Martian soil and send data and photographs of the red planet.

January 15 – International Organizations: GLOBAL POLIO ERADICATION CAMPAIGN

Health ministers from countries where polio persists come to Geneva for an emergency meeting to discuss the final phase of the battle to eradicate the disease. The $3 billion Global Polio Eradication Campaign was initiated in 1988 when 125 countries were affected, but the deadline for total eradication of polio set for 2000 was missed. Today, the virus is still found in India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Niger, and Egypt.

January 16 – International Organizations/East Asia: WTO/CHINA

After inspecting the southern Chinese province of Guangshou, the World Health Organization finds evidence that links the SARS virus to civet cats, concluding that SARS originated in animals. China also begins human trials of the SARS vaccine. SARS has killed 774 people and infected 8,000 around the world since it appeared in China in 2002.

January 16 – Middle East: IRAN

Iranian officials say that the death toll from the devastating earthquake in the ancient city of Bam has reached 41,000. The quake destroyed 70 percent of the city buildings, leaving tens of thousands homeless.

January 16 – East Asia: SOUTH KOREA

South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan resigns amid disagreement with the country’s president and his advisors on foreign policy and relations with the U.S. Yoon advocates closer cooperation with the U.S. and adopting a harder approach toward North Korea.

January 19 – International Organizations/Africa: UNITED NATIONS/CONGO

The Republic of Congo plants the first trees in the country’s first privately run forest as part of the United Nations agreement on reforestation and sustainable development. The objective is to limit the abuse of natural forests that belong to the state.

January 19 – Middle East: IRAQ

Tens of thousands of Iraqi Shia Muslims rally against the U.S.-led coalition’s plan for a transfer of power in Iraq. By allowing the regional bodies to select a transitional government, they fear the plan would once again undermine their group. Instead, Iraq’s Shia majority demands that the interim government be selected through direct elections.

January 19 – North America: CANADA

Canadian Defense Minister David Pratt says that Canada’s armed forces have been underfunded and overstretched and need to reduce their various peacekeeping missions. Within the past 10 years, Canada has participated in peacekeeping operations in Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Somalia, Cyprus, and Afghanistan.

January 20 – Middle East: ISRAEL

About 150 Jewish settlers clash with Israeli troops, protesting the removal of a provisional synagogue in the West Bank. To fulfill the provisions of the peace plan, the Israeli government has ordered the removal of unauthorized outposts on the occupied territories.

January 20 – East Asia/Africa/International Organizations: CHINA/LIBERIA/UNITED NATIONS

China starts deploying 500 peacekeeping troops to Liberia. The contingent represents China’s largest contribution to a United Nations peacekeeping operation. The deployment is the result of China’s strong political and economic relations with Africa. It also reflects the fact that the new Liberian government switched its recognition from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China.

January 20 – South Asia/Europe: INDIA/RUSSIA

Russia and India sign a $1.6 billion deal for a refurbished aircraft carrier and 12 warplanes from Russia. Russia is the largest supplier of military equipment to India and military cooperation is a key part of the relations between the two countries.

January 20 – Latin America: VENEZUELA

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez appoints a new defense minister, General Jorge Garcia Carneiro, who vows to fight any coup that would threaten the president. Chavez dismissed about 100 officers who supported a failed coup in April 2002.

January 20 – North America: UNITED STATES

The U.S. Democratic presidential candidates start their race for the Democratic Party nomination with the caucuses in Iowa. John Kerry comes first, winning 37.7 percent of votes, followed by John Edwards with 31.8 percent and Howard Dean, with 18 percent. Dick Gephardt, a senior politician from Missouri, wins only 10.5 percent and withdraws from the race. Joe Lieberman and Wesley Clark did not compete in Iowa.

January 20 – Former Soviet Republics: GEORGIA

Failure at the main power station in Georgia causes a blackout in most of the country, affecting thousands of commuters. Georgia faces chronic power shortages caused by under-investment following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

January 20 Europe: RUSSIA

A new group of liberals, “2008: Free Choice”, under the leadership of chess champion Gary Kasparov, says its goal is to ensure that President Vladimir Putin does not stay in power after 2008. The group members, that include Boris Nemtsov, Soviet-era dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, and TV political satirist Viktor Shenderovich, accuse Putin of taking control over parliament and the media and falsifying the last elections.

January 21 – North America: UNITED STATES

In his third State of the Union address, U.S. President George W. Bush cites progress in the war on terrorism and in the U.S. economy. He defends the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq and progress made in Iraq’s reconstruction. He also proposes to make the tax cuts permanent and supports a temporary guest-worker program under which millions of illegal immigrants could get temporary legal status in the U.S. The president also calls for a doubling of federal funding to promote abstinence programs in schools and gives his support to defining marriage solely as the union between a man and a woman.

January 22 – North America/East Asia: UNITED STATES/NORTH KOREA

U.S. weapons experts return from North Korea, where they have inspected a nuclear facility at Pyongyang, and say they have not seen any proof that North Koreans produce a nuclear bomb at this site. However, leading nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker is skeptical and says he was shown what looked like weapons-grade plutonium.

January 22 – International Organizations/Latin America: WORLD BANK/NICARAGUA

The World Bank agrees to eliminate 80 percent of Nicaragua’s $6.5 billion debt under its highly indebted poor countries plan. It also offers Nicaragua an additional $75 million loan to finance poverty-reduction projects. Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos says this is the best news for Nicaragua in the last 25 years.

January 23 – East Asia/Europe: THAILAND/EUROPEAN UNION

The European Union bans all imports of Thai poultry products after Thailand announces that the bird flu has spread to humans. The EU is Thailand’s biggest importer of poultry meat after Japan.

January 23 – Middle East: IRAN

Iran’s hardline Guardian Council lifts its ban on 350 reformist candidates, allowing them to participate in parliamentary elections next month. The decision comes after the country’s spiritual leader ordered to find a solution to the political crisis created by the ban. However, thousands of candidates are still barred from running.

January 24 – Latin America: VENEZUELA

Tens of thousands of people form two rival demonstrations including both opponents and supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in the country’s capital, Caracas. The opposition protests the lack of decision on a referendum on the president’s rule. The government supporters say the opposition’s campaign is false.

January 25 – Africa: AFRICAN UNION

The 53-member African Union establishes an African human-rights court, which is intended to strengthen Africa’s ability to address human-rights abuses. The court will draw its laws from the African Union’s charter of human rights and laws on human rights ratified by the Union’s member states.

January 25 – Former Soviet Republics: GEORGIA

The new president-elect of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, takes the oath of office at a ceremony outside the parliament in the capital, Tbilisi, after a landslide victory in the presidential election, in which he obtained 96 percent of the votes. The election was sparked by November’s “rose revolution,” which ousted the former president, Eduard Shevardnadze. Saakashvili states his goal is to rebuild Georgia into a strong and unified state, which is integrated in Europe.

January 26 – South Asia: AFGHANISTAN

Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, signs the country’s new constitution adopted earlier by a grand assembly, or loya jirga, of regional representatives. It establishes a strong presidency and equal rights for both men and women. It also ascertains Islam as the country’s religion, but guarantees protection for other faiths.

January 29 – Africa: SOMALIA

Somalia’s main rebel leaders and politicians sign an agreement to establish a new national parliament, which will elect a president. When implemented, the deal will create the first nationally recognized government in Somalia since the fall of President Siad Barre 13 years ago.

January 29 – North America: UNITED STATES

The United States releases the three youngest detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba. The three boys aged between 13 and 15, whose country of origin was not revealed, were suspected of supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

January 30 – Latin America: DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

At least five people die in clashes with police in the Dominican Republic during a 48-hour strike, which closes 97 percent of businesses, schools, and public transportation. People protest the government’s policies imposed by the International Monetary Fund in exchange for a $600 million loan. The country’s economy crashed last year after the collapse of a main bank, Baniter.


Israeli troops launch a raid into the West Bank town of Bethlehem after a Palestinian suicide bomber blows himself up on a bus in West Jerusalem, killing 10 people and wounding 50. The incursion is the first one since Bethlehem was handed over to the Palestinian Authority last year.