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IRA disarmament The IRA announced that it had decommissioned some of its weapons in an unprecedented move which should prevent the collapse of the power-sharing executive and save the peace process. Tony Blair hailed the move as "a very significant milestone". The IRA has been under pressure to make a meaningful gesture since the global backlash against terrorism.

Relaxing cannabis laws In a major step to reclassify cannabis as a Class C rather than Class B drug, those in possession will no longer be arrested. Possession will remain illegal, but prosecutions will be carried out by court summons, with maximum penalties of two years for possession and five years for possession with intent to supply. The relaxation of one of the harshest drug laws in Europe follows a successful experiment in Brixton, and was welcomed by the police.

Geoffrey Robinson suspended Geoffrey Robinson, Labour MP for Coventry North West, and chairman of the New Statesman, was found not guilty in a DTI inquiry by the select committee on standards and privileges for receiving a cheque from Robert Maxwell. He was suspended for three weeks for omitting to disclose the contract with Maxwell's Hollis Industries plc.

BSE cover-up The government was told more than three months ago that a crucial test on BSE in sheep was botched because of contamination. Early this summer, senior Whitehall sources were made aware that sheep-brain material being used in the experiment contained traces of bovine remains. SEAC, the government body on BSE and variant CJD, also knew.

Asylum disaster Around 350 asylum-seekers drowned when a tiny fishing vessel sank during an attempt to reach Australia. After spending more than 20 hours in the sea before being rescued, the survivors, mainly Iraqis, recounted appalling conditions on the boat.

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