News Timeline: February 2004


February 2 – South Asia: NEPAL

Thousands of demonstrators protest against police brutality during a general strike in Nepal’s capital, Katmandu. After clashing with police, dozens are injured. There have been numerous street protests since King Gyanendra dismissed the elected government in 2002.

February 2 – Middle East: SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi Arabia is planning to remodel some of the holiest Islamic sites in the country after 244 people were crushed to death in this year’s pilgrimage to Mecca. Two million people took part in this year’s Hajj, which is one of the five obligations of the Muslim faith.

February 2 – Middle East: IRAQ

At least 56 people are dead and 200 wounded in a double suicide attack on the offices of the two main Kurdish political parties in northern Iraq, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The buildings were filled with people celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. The bombing is blamed on al-Qaeda and its allies.

February 2 – Europe/Former Soviet Republics: LATVIA

Latvia’s parliament approves a controversial amendment to the country’s education law requiring 60 percent of the subjects in the minority schools to be taught in the Latvian language beginning September 1. About 5,000 people, many of them ethnic Russians, protest the new law outside the parliament building. The reform touches a sensitive issue affecting relations with Russia, as Latvia’s 2.3 million inhabitants are ethnic Russians.

February 3 – South Asia: PAKISTAN

Pakistan’s top nuclear scientist, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, is dismissed as scientific advisor to the government after his confession that he leaked nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya, and North Korea in the 1980s and 1990s. His dismissal sparks widespread protests because he is considered a national hero for making Pakistan a nuclear power.

February 4 – East Asia: MYANMAR

Twenty-five ethnic groups and alliances convene a meeting during which they reject the roadmap to democracy defined by Prime Minister Khin Nyunt. They also call for the military government to start talks that would include the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD). The NLD won general elections in 1990 but the military prevented it from taking power.

February 4 – International Organizations: INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE

The United Nations, 44 states, the Palestinian Authority, the Arab League, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference file written opinions with the International Court of Justice to help the court rule on the legality of the controversial wall that Israel is building in the West Bank. The Court is expected to start hearings later this month. Israel says the court in The Hague has no power to rule on this issue.

February 6 – Europe: RUSSIA

A powerful bomb explosion in the Moscow underground railway rips through a subway car, killing 39 people and wounding more than 100. Russian President Vladimir Putin blames Chechen rebels and condemns the attack. Chechen rebel leaders issue a statement denouncing the bombing.

February 9 – South Asia: AFGHANISTAN

Afghan President Hamid Karzai opens an international summit in Kabul, which focuses on how to tackle the growing illegal drug trade in Afghanistan. Despite a ban on poppy cultivation and opium trafficking, the drug industry has been booming. Ninety percent of the heroin consumed in Europe comes from Afghan poppies.

February 9 – Middle East: JORDAN/SYRIA

Jordan and Syria launch a $90 million Wahdah dam project, which, once completed in 2005, will provide Jordan with water and Syria with power. Although the dam will not solve Jordan’s water deficit, it will reduce it by 10 percent.

February 9 – International Organizations/East Asia: UNITED NATIONS FOOD PROGRAM/NORTH KOREA

The UN World Food Program (WFP) says a funding crisis has caused it to run out of food. As a result, more than 6 million North Koreans will not get emergency food aid until April. For the past nine years, North Korea has been suffering from food shortages caused by floods, economic mismanagement, and the consequences of the breakup of the Soviet Union, which was the country’s chief contributor.

February 10 – North America/Africa: UNITED STATES/LIBYA

The United States appoints a permanent envoy to Libya, marking an improvement in relations between the U.S. and Libya. The first American diplomat in 25 years will be stationed in the U.S. interests section of the Belgian embassy in Tripoli.

February 11 – Middle East: IRAQ

A car bomb explodes outside an army recruiting center in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, killing 47 people. A day before, 50 people were killed in a similar attack on a police recruitment center. This was one of the bloodiest 24 hours since the end of the war. The recent attacks point to a change of tactics by the insurgents who now target Iraqi security forces.

February 11 – International Organizations: OPEC

Members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) decide to cut oil output by 2.5 million barrels (10 percent of total production), which sharply increases oil prices. The reduction is prompted by the weak dollar and anticipation of low demand in summer.

February 13 – Africa: SUDAN

The Sudanese government gives humanitarian aid agencies access to the Darfur region where rebels have been fighting with the army and government-backed militias. There are about 1 million people in need of aid in the region. The conflict in western Sudan is separate from the 20-year conflict with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army based in the south.

February 13 – Europe: RUSSIA

Russian presidential candidate Ivan Rybkin, who was missing for five days, reappears in Ukraine where, he says, he was lured, drugged, and kidnapped by unknown assailants. Linked to an exiled tycoon, Boris Berezovsky, Rybkin is a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin. Concerned for his safety, he decides to run his campaign from London and come back to Moscow only after the elections.

February 15 – East Asia: MYANMAR

Myanmar’s officials release the vice chairman of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Tin Oo, from prison and put him under house arrest. Other top leaders of the NLD, including Aung San Suu Kyi, have already been placed under house arrest. They were all arrested following clashes with the supporters of Myanmar’s military regime last May.

February 16 – Latin America/East Asia: CHILE/SOUTH KOREA

The South Korean parliament ratifies its first bilateral free-trade agreement with Chile after months of heated debates and a series of violent protests by Korean farmers. Under the agreement, Chile will lift tariffs on South Korean cars, mobile phones, and electronic goods while South Korea will allow Chilean copper and agricultural goods into its markets. South Korean agriculture is inefficient, and farmers feel exposed to the dangers of an open market.

February 16 – Latin America: PERU

Peru’s president, Alejandro Toledo, who has approval ratings of 8 percent, changes 12 cabinet members in an attempt to improve the government’s performance. Prime Minister Carlos Ferrero appoints new ministers of finance, justice, education, health, work, production, and transport. This is the fifth cabinet change in President Toledo’s 32 months in office.

February 18 – Europe: SPAIN

The militant Basque separatist group ETA declares a cease-fire in the Spanish region of Catalonia to strengthen relations between the Basque and Catalan people. ETA launched multiple attacks against Spanish and French interests in Catalonia in the 1980s. The Spanish government criticizes the Republican Left of Catalonia Party for negotiating with the group.

February 18 – Europe: RUSSIA

A Russian ballistic missile fails to launch for the second time during the largest post-Soviet military maneuvers. The incident is highly embarrassing for President Putin, who attended the display.

February 19 – Europe/Africa: EU/ZIMBABWE

The European Union extends sanctions against Zimbabwe for a third year. The sanctions include a freeze on the financial assets of Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, and his associates, an arms embargo, and a ban on travel to the 25 current and accessing EU countries.

February 19 – Latin America: PERU

Peruvian coca growers gather in the country’s capital, Lima, to discuss their demands to the government about their ability to maintain production of their controversial crops. They say they have no feasible alternative way to earn a living. Peru is the second-largest producer of cocaine in the world.

February 19 – Middle East/East Asia: IRAN/JAPAN

Japan signs a $2 billion deal with Iran to develop Iran’s Azadegan oil fields, which are estimated to have reserves of 26 billion barrels. Japan will have a 75 percent interest, and Iran the remaining 25 percent. Japan depends on imports for almost all its energy needs. For Iran, it is the largest foreign project since the Islamic Revolution.

February 21 – Europe: ALBANIA

Twenty thousand people protest on the streets of the Albanian capital, Tirana, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Fatos Nano, who is accused of corruption, manipulating election results, and failing to address the country’s economic problems. A coalition of 10 opposition parties calls for early elections.

February 21 – Middle East: SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi Arabia’s officials start implementing the government’s policy of Saudization by closing down profitable gold and jewelry businesses that employ foreigners. In order to reduce high unemployment, the government is planning to replace 20,000 foreign workers, mostly from Yemen and South Asia, with Saudis.

February 22: Europe

Thirty-two Green parties from various European Union countries unite to form the first single Europe Green Party to run a common campaign for elections to the European Union parliament in June. The members still want to distinguish between national identities; however, they hope that pooling resources will make a difference.

February 23 – Europe: RUSSIA

The European Union warns it will impose sanctions on Russia if it refuses to extend an existing trade and political agreement to the 10 countries joining the EU in May, including three Baltic states that used to be a part of the Soviet Union. Russia refuses to extend these agreements until it gains more trade concessions and visa-free travel for Russian citizens. It also wants guarantees for the status of ethnic Russian minorities.

February 25 – Latin America: HAITI

Haiti’s opposition rejects a U.S.-backed power-sharing plan which was accepted by Haiti’s President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Aristide has called for international help to end the uprising. The rebels control much of the north of the country and threaten to advance on the capital, Port-au-Prince, within days.

February 26 – Latin America: COLOMBIA

Twelve Colombian soldiers are killed and 15 wounded after members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) attack the southern province of Huila, ending a series of victories by security forces. Following the attack, President Alvaro Uribe sacks the general in command of the region and the head of the secret police.

February 26 – North America: UNITED STATES

Pentagon officials say that Guantanamo detainees who are found not guilty may still be kept in detention if they are considered a security risk. Human-rights groups criticize the Guantanamo trials, saying the detainees have no right to appeal or choose their own counsel.

February 27 – East Asia: JAPAN

A Japanese court sentences to death Shoko Asahara, the leader of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, for ordering the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, which killed 12 people and injured thousands.

February 28 – South Asia: PAKISTAN

Pakistani troops kill 11 people in firefights with militants in the tribal area of South Waziristan near the Afghan border. The Pakistani army launched a new offensive against al-Qaeda and Taliban members hiding in the area.