The following are the top 10 world news events of the year 2003, selected by Xinhua:
1. US space shuttle Columbia crashes.
The US spaceshuttle Columbia disintegrated and crashed in Texas before its intended return to the ground, killing all seven astronauts on board. Investigations showed the tragedy was caused by a breach in the thermal protection system on the leading edge of the shuttle's left wing.
US-British coalition forces launched war against Iraq on March 20 without the authorization of the United Nations. The coalition forces overthrew the reign by Saddam Hussein and set up the Iraqi Governing Council on July 13. Attacks and bombs against the US-British forces and other international groups took place one after another thereafter. Saddam was captured by the US troops near Tikrit on Dec. 13.
3. Roadmap peace plan for the Middle East released and postponed.
The United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations formally proposed the "roadmap" peace plan for the Middle East in April, and it was accepted by Israel and the Palestinians.The roadmap peace plan was repeatedly postponed as Israel continued to take a hardline approach and internal conflicts within the Palestinians surfaced. Peace camps in Israel and the Palestinians launched the Geneva Accord with the aim of solving the unsettled problems in the region. The move was opposed by the Israeli government.
4. SARS ravages 32 countries and regions.
From early 2003, the acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) spread to 32 countries and regions of the world. The accumulated SARS cases around the globe amounted to 8,450 (including suspected cases), and 810 people died of the disease.
5. Blackout hits the United States, Canada and Britain.
America and most part of Canada experienced a massive blackout on Aug. 14. The power outage caused 60 serious fires in New York City during the night of the same day. The blackout, which lasted for 29 hours, cost New York City 1.05 billion US dollars. In the evening of Aug. 28, a similar blackout afflicted London and southeast England. During the two-hour power failure, about 250,000 people were confined in the subways. A blackout hit San Francisco in the US state of California, cutting one-third power supply to the city.
6. China, the DPRK, the United States, South Korea, Russia and Japan hold talks to solve the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) withdrew from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) on Jan. 10, saying the United States had violated the nuclear framework. China, the DPRK and the United States held tripartite talks in Beijing on April 23-25. China, the DPRK, the United States, South Korea, Russia and Japan held six-party talks in Beijing on August 27-29, revealing aspirations to peacefully solve the crisis through dialogue.
India offered 12 peace proposals for enhancing non-governmental exchanges between India and Pakistan on Oct. 22, most of which were accepted by Pakistan. On Nov. 23, Pakistan declared a unilateral cease-fire on the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed Kashmir region, to which Indian responded positively. An Indo-Pak cease-fire covering the international border in Kashmir, the LoC and the line of actual contact in the northern Siachen Glacier formally came into effect at midnight on Nov. 25. It marked an important step the two sides had taken to improve their relations. India and Pakistan announced restoration, from Jan. 1, 2004, of direct air links which had been interrupted for two years.
8. Iran signs additional protocol to nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Iran agreed to accept inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to open its nuclear program on Oct. 21, and suspend its uranium enrichment program from Nov. 11. The Iranian government signed an additional protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) with the IAEA on Dec. 18.
9. Terrorist attacks frequent. Since the beginning of 2003, terrorist attacks have happened one after another.
A car bomb exploded at a foreign residence area in Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia on May 12, killing 35 people. An explosive device was triggered off at the main entrance of JW Marriot Hotel in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, on Aug. 5, which killed 12 people and injured 149. Two car bombs rocked Istanbul, Turkey, on Nov. 15 and Nov. 20, leaving 61 people dead and over 700 more injured. Forty-four people died and more than 200 were injured in a commuter train blast in Russia on Dec. 5, just before the Duma elections.
10. Powerful earthquake rocks Iran, killing over 20,000 people.
A powerful earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale struck the city of Bam in Iran's southeastern province of Kerman before dawn on Friday. Seventy percent of the buildings in the ancient Silk Road city were destroyed, including a 2,500-year-old brick-built citadel. The Interior Ministry said Sunday more than 20,000 people have been confirmed dead in the devastating earthquake.