1999: Top World Stories

looking back
At least one millennium celebration started early in 1999. A team of European balloonists won the race around the world. Their party's been underway since March. The rest of us are still watching the clock.

One ceremony has already happened. The U.S. is to turn over the Panama Canal on New Year's eve, but the unofficial hand-over was just several weeks ago.

1999's major conflict was in Kosovo. After centuries of tension, Serb soldiers forced roughly 700-thousand ethnic Albanians from their homes. Weeks of NATO air strikes finally weakened Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's forces, but not before three U.S. soldiers were captured, put on virtual display, and released.

The war in Kosovo also jeopardized U.S./Chinese relations. A stray missile slammed into the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Despite days of violent protest, the U.S. and China still reached a breakthrough trade agreement that removed barriers against China and cleared the way for entry into the World Trade Organization.

1999 was the year of the Euro, a single currency now spent in 11 European countries.
Financially, in Russia, things worsened in 1999. Investigators suspect the country's mafia laundered 10 million dollars through the Bank of New York. Meanwhile, Russia's government continues to fund an attack on the rebel republic of Chechnya. The violence there has produced 300-thousand refugees.

People are still struggling in Turkey. One earthquake measuring 7-point-4 on the Richter scale destroyed whole cities and killed more than 15-thousand people. In Japan, one person died as a result of a nuclear accident. Workers at a power plant were to blame, and their mistake set off worldwide anxiety.

Israeli voters ousted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and elected Labor leader Ehud Barak, who has already started peace talks with leaders in Syria.

Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic were admitted into the NATO alliance in 1999.
And the Inuits, better known as Eskimos, celebrated the creation of their own Arctic territory.

In London, the government renounced 25 years of direct rule in Northern Ireland, transferring power to the new Irish assembly. A judge closed the investigation into Princess Di's death, blaming her intoxicated driver, not the paparazzi. And the royal family celebrated the marriage of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones.

Written by Lisa Hughes.

©1999, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved