ForesightNews world briefing: upcoming events 12- 18 December

A weekly round up of world events from Monday, 12 December to Sunday, 18 December from ForesightNews

By Nicole Hunt

US President Barack Obama hosts Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki for talks in Washington on Monday, with discussions focusing on strengthening the ‘strategic partnership’ between the two countries. The summit comes ahead of a looming 31 December deadline for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

Following last week’s European Council meetings, the focus early this week is, predictably, still the euro zone debt crisis. Experts from the IMF, the European Central Bank and the EU begin their sixth review mission to Athens, hoping that this time around they’ll be able to stick around until the scheduled end of the visit on Friday.

The venue changes but the topic stays the same on Tuesday, with Spain, Italy and France in the limelight. Spain’s Congreso de los Diputados convenes for the first time since elections on 20 November, though new Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy won’t formally take up his post until he’s sworn in by King Carlos later this month.

In Rome, Parliament is scheduled to begin debating Prime Minister Mario Monti’s austerity measures, which he issued by decree on 4 December. MPs are expected to approve the measures well before the 60-day deadline.

Meanwhile, French unions have planned a nationwide day of protests against their government’s austerity measures. Thousands are expected to take the streets in Paris, where the largest demonstration takes place outside of the Assemblée Nationale.

Under Egypt’s complicated election laws, another parliamentary vote is held on Wednesday, with polling taking place in nine governates, including Giza and Suez. The elections on 28 November, which were held despite violent protests only days before, covered nine provinces, including Cairo and Alexandria. A third round of voting takes place on 3 January.

In New Orleans, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management holds the first oil and natural gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico since the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

A Paris court is expected to issue its verdict on Thursday in the long-running corruption trial of former French President Jacques Chirac. Chirac is accused of misusing public funds and creating false job contracts during his time as Mayor of Paris. He settled a €2.2m civil suit with the city of Paris in August 2010.

Thursday also sees two meetings taking place which will be viewed very differently by Russia. President Dmitry Medvedev attends the EU-Russia Summit in Brussels, but the visit will be coloured by expressions of concern from the EU over allegations of unfair voting practices in Russia’s 4 December parliamentary elections, which saw Medvedev’s United Russia party win a majority despite heavy losses.

Over in Geneva, the World Trade Organisation holds its eighth Ministerial Conference, where delegates are expected to hold a long-awaited vote on Russian accession to the WTO.

TIME Magazine announces its annual Person of the Year on Friday. Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg was 2010’s winner; leaders in this year’s online poll (which don’t have any bearing on the final choice) include Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, footballer Lionel Messi, The 99%, Anonymous, Steve Jobs, and the Arab Youth.

The US army begins an Article 32 hearing for Private First Class Bradley Manning, which is expected to last just over a week. The hearing is to determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a court martial against Manning, who is accused to leaking a 2007 video to WikiLeaks which showed a military operation in Baghdad in which two Reuters reporters were killed.

As Saturday happens to be Manning’s 24th birthday, an international day of solidarity has been organised, with protests planned worldwide. Occupy London protesters have already pledged to take part.

Though it hardly seems possible as Egypt works through elections and protests and killings rage on in Syria, Saturday also marks the one year anniversary of the self-immolation of Tunisian fruit and vegetable seller Mohamed Bouazizi, an event that has been singled out as the catalyst for the Arab Spring movement as it kicked off Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution.