Month in review: International
On February 15, trial of 29 people accused of involvement in train bombings in Madrid that killed 191 people begins. Seven of the 29 defendants are accused of murder. The other 22 defendants face charges of handling explosives and collaborating with a terrorist group. Lawyers for the accused say all 29 will deny the charges. Spanish prosecutors believe a local cell of Islamist extremists inspired by al-Qaeda was behind the attacks which took place in 2004. The attackers detonated 12 bombs in four separate commuter trains in central Madrid.
Hamas and Fatah sign a coalition deal on February 8 to end factional unrest in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and to try to win back Western aid, and Hamas urges Western powers to accept a new Palestinian national unity government. Sanctions were imposed on the Hamas-led government after they refused to recognize Israel. The agreement is signed in Saudi Arabia between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief, Khaled Meshaal.
February 5, Indonesian health officials fear an outbreak of disease following severe floods in the capital Jakarta. They worry the population may be hit by diarrhoea and dysentery. Twenty-five people have already been killed by floodwaters and a further 340,000 displaced.
World leaders at a summit in Washington reach a new informal agreement on tackling climate change on February 16. Delegates from 20 countries agree that both developed and developing countries will have to face targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. They also agree to work towards replacing the Kyoto Protocol. The United States -- the world's biggest polluter -- continues to refuse to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol, saying it would harm the US economy.
A human rights group claims Burma's military has killed and sexually abused hundreds of ethnic Karen women over the past 25 years. The report by the Karen Women's Organization outlines claims by 959 women and girls in Burma's eastern Karen state. The report's authors say soldiers frequently gang-raped women and escaped punishment. Burma's Ministry of Defense does not respond to this report. It has denied similar allegations in the past.
Pakistan's ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League, introduces a bill to outlaw forced marriages. The Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Bill seeks to end vani, the tradition of marrying women off to settle disputes between families. It also proposes to end a practice known as "marrying women to the Koran" in which families forbid their daughters from having contact with any male older than 14 years-of-age. The bill is to be voted upon later on in the year.
On February 13, envoys at the six-nation talks in Beijing draw a draft deal for nuclear disarmament in North Korea. The chief US envoy says the draft plan includes commitments on disarmament by North Korea in return for energy aid. The agreement still needs approval from each of the six nations involved in the talks. These involve China, North Korea, the US, South Korea, Japan and Russia.
Around 8,000 people flee their homes in the Musa Qala district in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province in the last three days. Aid officials on February 6 say many of those fleeing conflict between Taliban and Nato forces are in need of urgent assistance. A spokesperson for the Afghan Red Crescent Society say many are currently living in the desert without proper shelter, food, and medicine. The United Nations Refugee Agency believes up to 90,000 people have already been displaced by the conflict.
At least 65 people are killed by a fire sparked by two bomb explosions on a train travelling from India to Pakistan on February 19. Two other unexploded suitcase bombs are also found on the train. Most of the victims are Pakistanis. Both countries describe the bombings as an act of terror. Pakistan's foreign ministry demands that India investigate the incident immediately.
Photos: AFP, FRIENDS OF THE EARTH, REUTERS, FREE BURMA