7 Days

Closer than ever Hopes rose for a lasting peace settlement for Northern Ireland after both Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionists publicly expressed regret for the suffering caused by paramilitary violence in the province's communities. Both parties stressed the need for decommissioning arms and for "mutual respect and tolerance".

Chechnya pressure The UN warned Russia to halt its forces in the breakaway republic of Chechnya, where 210,000 refugees have fled the country since fighting began in September. Earlier, President Yeltsin stepped up the military offensive with new attacks by federal troops and artillery near the Chechen capital, Grozny.

Quake two Turkey was hit by the second earthquake to strike the country in three months. It killed at least 550 people and left another 3,300 injured, but the toll may rise. Cold weather and rain are hindering the search for survivors.

Parliament opens The Queen performed the state opening of parliament before a greatly diminished House of Lords. She announced 28 government proposals, including a Care Leavers Bill, designed to help the 8,000 young people who leave care homes each year, and a ban on fur-farming.

Speak up The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, announced a plan to establish more than 300 "speaker's corners" in towns and cities across Britain. He said: "In the UK we sometimes forget how lucky we are to have free speech and what an important part it plays in our modern-day life." Tell that to Ken Livingstone.