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Unemployment falls Unemployment fell below one million for the first time since 1975, according to government figures for February. This announcement came as Labour set out new, tougher measures for those remaining out of work which will force claimants of all ages to take jobs or training.

Election date debate Rural campaigners and local councillors called on Tony Blair to postpone local elections (as well as any plans for a 3 May general election) until the foot-and-mouth crisis is over. Local election postponement would require emergency legislation. Downing Street said that it has "no plans" for it.

Nicotine patches Smokers who want to kick the habit can now do so with a little help from the NHS. From next month, GPs will offer prescription nicotine patches, inhalers and gum. The government defended the initiative, which will cost up to £40m, by saying that treating smoking-related diseases costs the NHS £1.7bn.

Buddhas destroyed The Islamic fundamentalist Taliban, which controls most of Afghanistan, destroyed statues including the world's largest Buddha, which had stood in the Bamiyan Valley since the fourth century AD. While Muslim leaders around the world criticised the destruction, the Taliban declared that the statues were un-Islamic idols.

Vaz cleared twice Keith Vaz, Minister for Europe, was cleared of impropriety by a parliamentary standards watchdog investigating allegations that he had not declared campaign donations. However, the committee was unable to complete its inquiries and criticised the "unhelpful attitude" of Vaz's constituency officers. The announcement came days after Vaz was cleared, along with Peter Mandelson, of any wrongdoing in the Hinduja passport affair.

John Coleman John Coleman, the New Statesman film critic from 1961 to 1986, has died aged 73.

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