IN the absence of the Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, on vacation at an undisclosed location, other ministers kept up an appearance of activity on the anti-terrorist front with particular reference to measures to lessen the impact of Human Rights legislation on decisions to deport people suspected of fomenting terrorism. The country was left in charge of the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr John Prescott, who put down the former Home Secretary, Mr David Blunkett, after he had suggested that he was providing advice on “security” issues. “Mr Blunkett is the Work and Pensions minister” said a statement from Downing Street. With a single exception all members of the Cabinet attended the funeral in Edinburgh of Mr Robin Cook, the former Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons, who had died of a heart attack near the summit of Ben Stack in the Scottish Highlands; the exception was Mr Tony Blair who chose not to interrupt his holiday, a decision that was criticised openly (and inappropriately, many thought) at the service in St Giles' Cathedral by Mr John McCririck, a racing commentator and friend of Mr Cook. The United Nations independent inquiry, headed by Mr Paul Volcker, into the UN Oil-for-Food programme for Iraq concluded that Mr Benon Sevan, the former head of the programme had taken more than US$147'000 in illicit payments; Mr Sevan denied the charge. Iran resumed the processing of uranium after rejecting a proposal by Britain, France and Germany under which various forms of economic assistance would be available to Iran in exchange for its undertaking to stop the processing. A Royal Navy Scorpio robot vessel cut through cables and fishing nets in which a Russian submarine had become entangled at 600ft below sea-level in the Pacific. Thousands of British Airways passengers were stranded at Heathrow Airport, and at airports around the world, when a strike at a catering contractor was joined by baggage handlers and other service staff. BA's operations came to a standstill for almost 48 hours and the airline said they would be affected for several more days. England won the second Test Match against Australia by two runs, levelling the series.


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