January 9: The final decade of the 20th century began
to look chillingly like the last decade of the 19th century. Trouble
was brewing in the Balkans and Serb leader Radovan Karazic declared
a new Bosnian Serb republic.
Former Yugoslavia was breaking up. Germany had recognised Croatia
as an independent state and the Serbs were fearful that Bosnia
would become a new state under Muslim and Croat control. The Serbs
made up one-third of Bosnia's population but controlled most of
the military hardware.
By April armed guards were posted throughout Sarajevo, the capital
where Serbian nationalism had provided the 1914 spark for the
First World War. Three months later the city was under siege by
surrounding Serb forces. Life in Sarajevo became a wretched battle
for survival with mortars and shells striking at the city centre
and Serb snipers picking off unwary citizens.
United Nations forces haggled and bullied their way to Sarajevo
Airport and opened it for an emergency airlift. The first RAF
Hercules arrived on July 3 but, although Sarajevo could breathe
again, the war was far from over.
30: Kidnap victim Stephanie Slater's eight-day nightmare came
to an end after she was dumped at 1am just a few hundred yards
from her Great Barr home. The 25-year-old spoke of her "sheer
absolute terror" at the hands of her kidnapper who got away with
a 175,000 ransom.
Stephanie was seized by a chisel-wielding man as she showed
him round a house and spent part of her time in captivity blindfolded.
Her kidnapper told her estate agent bosses he would kill her if
the ransom was not paid. After being dumped, Stephanie walked
to her home and threw herself into the arms of her parents.
During the kidnap, newspapers, TV and radio bosses agreed to
a news black-out to give the police the chance to to run a massive
undercover operation. The ransom was paid in a rural part of the
north of England after her boss spent six hours criss-crossing
March 14: The Earth Summit ended with world leaders agreed
in principle on the need to save the planet but showing little
practical commitment. The United States emerged as the villain
of the peace, declining to sign the biodiversity treaty to protect
rare and endangered species. The leaders of the 152 other countries
disagreed and signed.
On the other hand the US did put its name to a document aimed
at reducing the emission of gases thought to damage the ozone
layer and cause global warming. Delegates also agreed on a system
of environmental aid to help developing countries avoid the over-exploitation
of their natural resources.
June 24: Cigarette companies expected a flood of legal
claims in the United States following the successful claim by
the family of a life-long smoker. The action was brought by the
family of Rose Cipollone who died from lung cancer after 42 years
of smoking. At least 400,000 deaths in the US alone were believed
to be smoking-related.
April 30: Riots swept Los Angeles following the acquittal
of the four white policemen who beat up black motorist Rodney
King. The death toll rose to 30 within 24 hours as arson and violence
raged. Shops were looted and motorists pulled from their cars
and attacked. Racial violence spread to the heart of Hollywood
and rioting was reported in other US cities.
Mayor Tom Bradley made an urgent plea for an extra 4,000 troops
as President Bush called a crisis meeting of military advisors.
Curfews were imposed in San Francisco, Atlanta and Las Vegas.
Altogether some 900 people were injured in the rioting. The dead
were mostly men aged 15 to 45.