May 1997 News and Events

Updated July 10, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

1997 News Month-By-Month


  • Labor Party Victorious in British Election (May 2): Tony Blair leads historic sweep to end 18 years of Conservative rule. Oxford-educated lawyer, 43, had transformed party from Socialist tradition.
  • Britain Change Monetary Policy (May 6): New Labor government grants control of interest rates to London's Central Bank. Move heartens European leaders and financial executives, who had been skeptical.
  • U.N. Panel Convicts Bosnian Serb (May 7): War crimes tribunal concludes first trial by finding Dusan Tadic, 41, guilty of killing two policemen and persecuting and torturing many Muslim civilians in Bosnia.
  • U.S. Report Criticizes Swiss (May 7): Charges Swiss Government deliberately failed to respect a 1946 agreement to return hundreds of millions of dollars that Nazi Germany looted from European banks and Holocaust victims. U.S. faulted for lack of attention.
  • U.S. Recognizes Rebel Regime in Zaire (May 10): Accepts new name, Democratic Republic of Congo, and pledges help in building democratic government.
  • Pope Appeals for Peace in Middle East (May 10): On visit to Lebanon, John Paul II calls for reconciliation in all countries where Christians and Muslims live together. (May 11): Tens of thousands attend mass in Beirut.
  • Yeltsin Signs Chechnya Peace Treaty (May 12): President of Russia and Chechen leader describe accord as end of centuries-old conflict between Russia and rebellious region in Caucasus. Use of force barred.
  • Russia Accepts NATO Expansion (May 14): Reluctantly agrees to Washington's plan to include Moscow's former satellites in Central Europe. (May 27): Clinton and other NATO leaders join Russia's President Yeltsin in Paris in signing “Founding Act” for mutual cooperation and security.
  • President of Zaire Quits Post (May 16): Mobotu Sese Seko flees before rebels advance after 32 years of ruling Africa's third-largest country.
  • Rebel Chief Claims Zaire Presidency (May 17): As troops enter capital, Kinshasa, Laurent Kabila declares himself President of Democratic Republic of Congo. He suspends Zairian Constitution.
  • Russian Premier Cuts Budget 20 Percent (May 21): Reform government bids Parliament slash spending on military and state-subsidized industries.
  • Russia and Belarus to Form New Union (May 23): Leaders sign symbolic agreement at Kremlin ceremony.
  • Islamic Militants Gain in Afghanistan (May 24): Taliban movement nears completion of goal of reuniting nation under single government after nearly 20 years.
  • Moderate Candidate Elected in Iran (May 24): Mohammed Khatami wins presidency in landslide. Campaigned on platform of tolerance and social reform.
  • Russia and Ukraine Sign Friendship Treaty (May 28): Accord ending long dispute allows Russia to keep part of former Soviet fleet at Ukrainian port of Sevastopol. (May 31): Presidents sign compact to try to improve relations between Slavic states.
  • Foreigners Evacuated From Sierra Leone (May 30): U.S. Marines land in Freetown, capital. Rescue hundreds fleeing looting and violence after armed coup.
  • Ruling Party Victorious in Indonesia (May 30): Government consolidates hold in election after violent campaign.
  • Pope Returns to Poland for Visit (May 31): John Paul II says nation, expecting bid to join NATO, can play meaningful role in European affairs.


  • Budget-Balancing Agreement Reached (May 1): Clinton and G.O.P. leaders in Congress accept five-year plan after years of dispute. Accord helped by news that deficits are likely to be below estimates.
  • F.D.A. Approves Laser for Dental Work (May 7): Sanctions device that makes local anesthesia unnecessary for painless repairing of most cavities.
  • G.O.P. Returns Donations to Hong Kong (May 8): National Committee announces return of more than $100,000 to aviation services and real estate company. Party for first time admits illegal foreign donations.
  • U.S. Supplies 116 Big Guns to Sarajevo (May 9): Sends large artillery pieces to correct main weaknesses of army of Muslim–Croat Federation in Bosnia and to set stage for withdrawal of American forces.
  • Clinton Apologizes for Syphilis Experiment (May 16): President expresses government's regret for Tuskegee program in which black men were left untreated for years as part of government study.
  • Senate, 64–36, Votes Antiabortion Bill (May 20): For first time, measure would ban a specific procedure, “partial-birth.” Clinton veto expected.
  • First Woman B-52 Pilot Leaves Air Force (May 22): Lieut. Kelly Flinn, 26, accepts general discharge to avoid court-martial on adultery and other charges.


  • Parents Deny Role in Slaying of Daughter (May 1): At Boulder, Colo., news conference, Ramseys proclaim innocence in death of JonBenet Ramsey, 6, tiny beauty queen, center of national interest.
  • Armed Standoff in West Texas Ends (May 3): Leader of secessionist group and three others surrender and lay down weapons. Two others hunted after flight.
  • Tobacco Company Wins Florida Lawsuit (May 5): Jury declines to order R.J. Reynolds to pay damages to family of woman who died of lung cancer at 49 after smoking for 34 years. Negligence claim rejected.
  • Teachers Union Names New Head (May 6): Sandra Feldman elected by 940,000–member American Federation of Teachers.
  • Army Sergeant Sentenced in Rapes (May 6): Military court at Aberdeen, Md. base convicts Staff Sgt. Delmar G. Simpson of attacks on six trainees and sentences him to 25 years. Court orders him to be dishonorably discharged with loss of benefits.
  • Top Army Soldier Named in Sex Case (May 7): Gene C. McKinney, Sergeant Major of the Army, charged with misconduct and indecent assault involving four service women over nearly three years. He denies allegations.
  • I.B.M. Computer Wins Chess Match (May 11): Deep Blue causes a human world champion, Garry Kasparov, to quit after 19 moves in sixth and final game.
  • 4,000 Reported Dead in East Iran Earthquake (May 12): Casualty figures differ as U.S. and others rally to aid victims. Damage estimated at $66.7 million.
  • Russia Resumes Funds for Space Station (May 15): U.S. space agency reports work has begun on crucial components for international joint project.
  • Jetliner Bombed in Construction Test (May 17): Old Boeing 747 blown up at British air base to test new hardening techniques to thwart bombs.
  • Death Toll Past 350 in Bangladesh Cyclone (May 19): Storm spreads wide damage in coastal region.
  • U.S.–Russian Linkup in Orbit Ends (May 21): Crew of space shuttle Atlantis prepares to undock from Russian Mir station after delivering a new oxygen generator and other repair equipment. Crew also delivers Dr. C. Michael Foale to replace Dr. Jerry M. Linenger as American on Mir team.
  • Death Toll Set at 30 in Texas Tornadoes (May 29): Wide central region devastated by half-dozen storms.

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