Some trouble spots flirt with peace; others revert to form
Demonstrators angry about the decision to overturn the Yugoslavian elections in favor of Slobodan Milosevic scale a parliamentary building in Belgrade in support of Vojislav Kostunica, who was sworn in as president two weeks later.
(CNN) -- The people of the world's trouble spots found themselves facing new circumstances as the year 2000 drew to a close. Some of the changes were dismaying, others were democratic, but all pointed to a different global picture as the world continued its march into the 21st century.
Despite years of advances in the Mideast peace process, fighting between Palestinians and Israelis erupted in late September, leaving hundreds dead, most of them Palestinians, and pushed the coalition government of Prime Minister Ehud Barak to the edge.
Barak tendered his resignation in advance of snap elections, and Israel headed into the new year with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a Likud party hard-liner, jockeying to re-take the job that Barak had wrested from him in 1999. Netanyahu, however, withdrew from consideration on December 19, just as high-ranking officials from both sides headed to Washington for peace talks.
Before the uprising, Israel had withdrawn its troops from southern Lebanon, where they had been in place for 23 years. Syria, Lebanon's neighbor and patron, continued to station its soldiers on Lebanese territory, as it had under the long authoritarian rule of President Hafez Assad. But the long-term outlook changed in June, when Assad died and was succeeded by Bashar Assad, his British-educated, 34-year-old ophthalmologist son.
In Yugoslavia, nationalist Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic -- who had falsely claimed victory in an election won by the opposition -- was hurled from power in a nearly bloodless grassroots uprising in October that opened the doors to democratic change. As television beamed pictures to the world, crowds stormed the parliament building in Belgrade, with police doing little to stand in their way, clearing the path for election-winner Vojislav Kostunica to take office.
Milosevic stayed in the country, later winning re-election as head of Serbia's Socialist Party, despite his indictment on war crimes charges by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
The revolution was calmer in Mexico, where voters tossed out the PRI -- a party that had held the presidency for 71 years -- and ushered in a new president, former Latin America Coca-Cola executive Vicente Fox.
In Russia, acting President Vladimir Putin won election without a runoff over 10 challengers, cementing his power after succeeding Boris Yeltsin, who had unexpectedly resigned on the last day of 1999.
Putin struggled to contain the wreckage of the Russian economy and the fighting in the rebellious region of Chechnya, and ended the year with a visit to Cuba, long a Cold War-era stronghold of the Soviet Union. Yeltsin largely faded from public view, emerging later in the year only to promote his newly published memoirs.
In Peru, embattled President Alberto Fujimori, the son of Japanese immigrants, won re-election after a tumultuous decade in power, only to jump ship in November during a visit to Japan, where he resigned. Fujimori announced he would not return home to face the controversy over the case of his controversial security chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, who had been videotaped allegedly bribing a congressman.
And in the Philippines, public outrage over alleged crimes by actor-turned-president Joseph Estrada boiled up into an impeachment trial -- Asia's first -- with testimony about illegal gambling payoffs dominating the headlines there as the year drew to a close.
In the divided Korean Peninsula, decades of post-Korean War chill warmed somewhat as South Korean President Kim Dae-jung visited Kim Jong Il in the North for a historic summit, and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
In the Horn of Africa, peace broke out in December as Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace accord, with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan presiding. But peace remained elusive in the Congo, where a half-dozen nations failed to end the fighting in the vast country, despite U.N.-led efforts. Elsewhere on the continent, fighting swept Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone.
A familiar face in Africa, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, strove to stay in power by fanning nationalist fervor over the issue of seizing white-owned farms for redistribution to black citizens of the country. At a party conference in December, Mugabe said, "Our party must continue to strike fear in the heart of the white man, our real enemy."
A cheerier kind of fervor swept through Britain in August when nostalgic pomp crowned the celebrations of the 100th birthday of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
But the headlines of 2000 were not dominated only by the powerful and famous. In the cold, dark waters of the Barents Sea, the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk exploded under mysterious circumstances and sank in August, carrying 118 sailors and officers to a horrifying end. The Putin government blundered in its handling of rescue attempts, earning scalding contempt from ordinary citizens.
In France, 20th century technology failed again, this time in the air, when a Concorde in the Air France fleet crashed and burned on takeoff from a Paris airport. The investigation showed that a small, stray strip of metal on the runway punctured a tire on the supersonic jet, which in turn tore a gash a fuel tank that sparked a fireball, killing all 109 people on board and four on the ground. The crash, the first of a Concorde, prompted a grounding of the Air France and British Airways fleets until authorities could ensure the safety of all the planes.
And in the United States, a months-long international battle over a little boy drew to a peaceful end as Elian Gonzalez was flown with his father in a private jet back home to Cuba. Cuban President Fidel Castro had marshaled millions in orchestrated protests to demand Elian's release from the boy's Miami relatives, who had been caring for the youngster since November 1998 when he was pulled from the ocean, the lone survivor of a raft-borne escape that claimed the lives of his mother and several others.