Last-Ditch bid to avert war: The week that was January 2 to 8, 1991.

(AP Photo/INA)
(AP Photo/INA)
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As blizzards and 90 mph winds blew most of Britain back to work this week in 1991, diplomats and politicians made a last-ditch attempt to avert war in the Gulf.

UK Secretary of State James Baker and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tareq Aziz both arrived in Geneva promising “an open mind”.

But with both Washington and Bagdad issuing uncompromising statements in the run-up to their first high-level meeting since Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, the prospects for success seemed slim.

Only a week remained until a UN resolution authorising war to drive Iraq from Kuwait took effect. Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein still seemed oblivious to the dangers that threatened his regime and his people.

In the meantime, the NHS was preparing for the possibility of numerous returning casualties, warning that thousands of routine operations might have to be cancelled if war broke out.

British Rail’s safety record came under fire after another major accident brought terror to a packed commuter train. One man died and 248 were injured when the 7.58m from Sevenoaks in Kent crashed into buffers at Cannon Street station in the City of London. As technical experts examined the wreckage, BR rejected suggestions that the 35-year-old EPB electric train was too old for public service.

The driver of the train emerged from his cab dazed but uninjured, and was reported to have said repeatedly that the brakes had failed.

Rail passenger groups, rail experts and unions called into question BR’s record on responding to inquiry recommendations, investment in new equipment and the structural soundness of old rolling stock.

Two separate studies were launched by Yorkshire Health Authority to try to explain why the number of cot deaths in the region had more than doubled in 15 years.

In 1975 one child in 1,000 aged from one week to one year old died from so-called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. But by 1998 this had increased to almost 2.5, compared with the average in England and Wales of less than two.

Huddersfield had the highest rate of cot deaths, with 4.3 per thousand, followed by Calderdale and Bradford. The lowest incidence was in Northallerton and East Yorkshire.The two studies commissioned would look at changes in deciding causes of death and possible links between the circumstances surrounding each cot death case.

Councillors in Sheffield were on the verge of securing an historic deal to run a £34m sports arena being built for the World Student Games.If the deal, between the City Council and US leisure giants SMGI went through, it would end a year-long saga.

SMGI chief executive Arron Siegel said he expected a contract to manage the Don Valley Arena to be signed within 10 days - putting the venue into the hands of the private sector. It was one of several venues being built for the Games with public money.

Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock promised to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece if Labour came to power.

“The Parthenon without the Marbles is like a smile with a missing tooth,” he said, after a meeting with Greek Culture Minister Melina Mercouri.

The Marbles, then in the British Museum, were once part of a 2,400-year-old sculpted frieze on the Parthenon temple in Athens. They were removed and brought to London by Lord Elgin early in the 19th century.

Mr Kinnock said: “It would be an act of cultural advancement and magnanimity to return them.”