Our world this week


The end for MG Rover?

Administrators for UK car manufacturer, MG Rover, recently announced that they are keen to re-open talks with China’s Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp (SAIC). The stricken car maker went into administration on Friday after a possible rescue deal with SAIC fell through. On the day of going to press, the company’s 6,000 workers were set to hear if their jobs could be saved.

On Sunday, the government offered a 6.5 million pound loan to cover Longbridge-based MG Rover’s overheads for a week. MG Rover and its engine-making company, Powertrain, have been making “very significant losses, estimated at between 20 million pounds and 25 million pounds per month”, administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said.

Trade and Industry Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, said Sunday’s loan had been agreed to avoid job losses “while efforts are made to keep the business together”. She said the government had agreed to work with the administrator and unions to develop, “with all reasonable speed”, a realistic business proposition for Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp (SAIC) and other possible purchasers to consider. Her statement was issued with Transport and General Workers’ Union (TGWU) general secretary, Tony Woodley, and general secretary of Amicus, Derek Simpson. Woodley had said earlier that he hoped a rescue deal with a Chinese car maker could yet be reached.

A task force, set up to advise on how best to allocate emergency support for MG Rover’s suppliers as well as for Longbridge workers and the local community, met on Monday for crisis talks. The Department of Trade and Industry said Hewitt would be prepared to fly to China with trade union leaders.

Some of Rover’s suppliers are already reducing staff, with hundreds laid off this weekend by engineering firms in the West Midlands and South Wales, despite a 40 million pound support package for suppliers announced by the government.


China and India sign border deal

India and China have signed an agreement in Delhi aimed at resolving a long-running dispute over their Himalayan border. India’s national security adviser said it was “one of the most significant documents” signed by the two countries. The agreement was sealed as Indian premier, Manmohan Singh, met visiting Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao.


‘New Schindler’ honoured

A German Army officer, who saved the lives of hundreds of Jewish people from the Nazi Holocaust in Lithuania, was honoured at a ceremony in Israel at the beginning of this week. The story of Major Karl Plagge was discovered by US doctor, Michael Good, who began searching in 1999 for the Nazi who saved his mother. The ‘new Schindler’ sheltered about 1,000 Jews at a labour camp, safe from the SS annihilation of the Vilnius ghetto.


Warning on settlements

President Bush is expected to warn Israel that there can be no expansion of Jewish settlements under the roadmap for peace in the Middle East. Israel’s Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, has arrived for talks at the US President’s ranch in Texas. The summit looks set to focus squarely on Israel’s forthcoming withdrawal of all troops and Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, known as the disengagement plan, which is due to start on July 20.