February 2003

Updated July 10, 2020 | Infoplease Staff


  • Strike Ends in Venezuela (Feb. 2): Opposition group Democratic Coordinator ends crippling general strike. Oil-industry workers, however, remain on strike.
  • Yugoslavia Gets New Name (Feb. 4): Parliament votes to name country Serbia and Montenegro. Move reflects Montenegro's drive for independence.
  • Powell Argues for War in Iraq (Feb. 5): U.S. secretary of state tells Security Council that Saddam Hussein is an imminent threat to world security, has continuously deceived UN weapons inspectors, has links to al-Qaeda, and possesses mobile biological weapons factories.
  • Kurdish Leader Killed (Feb. 8): Shawkat Hajji Mushir, member of parliament, assassinated in northern Iraq by members of militant Islamic group Ansar al-Islam. Two other government officials killed in the attack. U.S. believes group linked to al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
  • Europeans Thwart Defense for Turkey (Feb. 10): France, Germany, and Belgium veto U.S. request to NATO to begin sending military hardware to Turkey as a defense in case of war with Iraq. (Feb. 16): Dispute settled in compromise that has NATO Defense Planning Council, which does not include France, making arrangements to arm Turkey with hardware for self-defense.
  • Muslim Charity Head Agrees to Plea (Feb. 10): Enaam Arnaout, director of Chicago-based Benevolence International, admits that he illegally diverted donations to rebel fighters in Bosnia and Chechnya, but prosecutors fail to connect him to al-Qaeda.
  • New Bin Laden Tape Broadcast (Feb. 11): In recording released by Al Jazeera television network, voice, believed to be of Osama bin Laden, warns of future attacks against the U.S. and encourages Iraq to defend against U.S.-led offensive. U.S. says recording evidence that al-Qaeda and Iraq are connected.
  • Arms Experts Say Iraq Missile Violates Range Limits (Feb. 12): Panel, appointed by the UN, concludes that Al Samoud 2 ballistic missiles exceed 90-mile range limit set by the Security Council.
  • Weapons Inspectors Report Modest Progress in Iraq (Feb. 14): Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, chief inspectors, say Iraq becoming slightly more cooperative and forthcoming about weapons programs and by allowing surveillance flights. Report intensifies opposition by France and Germany against military action.
  • Millions Gather to Protest War (Feb. 15): Marchers demonstrate in New York and other U.S. cities, in London, Melbourne, Paris, Seoul, and many other locations to rally against war in Iraq.
  • South Korean Subway Fire Kills Dozens (Feb. 18): Two cars engulfed when a suicidal man, Kim Dae Han, ignites a bottle filled with paint thinner. Death toll reaches 133; Kim survives.
  • Sept. 11 Suspect Convicted in Germany (Feb. 19): Hamburg court finds Mounir el-Motassadeq, 28, guilty of 3,066 counts of being an accessory to murder, attempted murder, and of belonging to a terrorist organization. He's the first Sept. 11 suspect to be convicted.
  • U.S. Troops Headed for Philippines (Feb. 20): Marines and members of the Special Operations Forces will help Filipino military destroy the Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf.
  • Weapons Inspector Orders Iraq to Destroy Missiles (Feb. 22): Hans Blix tells Iraq to dismantle Al Samoud 2 missiles, whose range exceeds limit. (Feb. 26): In a televised interview with CBS News anchor Dan Rather, Saddam Hussein says missiles do not violate range limit. Iraqi president also denies any link to al-Qaeda. (Feb. 27): In a letter to Hans Blix, Hussein says he agrees “in principle” to begin dismantling missiles.
  • Turkey Signals Willingness to Host U.S. Troops (Feb. 21): U.S. will give Turkey $15 billion in economic and military aid in exchange for allowing American troops to launch attack on Iraq from Turkey. Parliament must approve measure.
  • U.S., UK, and Spain Say Iraq Has Failed to Disarm (Feb. 22): In a draft resolution submitted to the UN Security Council, countries state that “Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it in Resolution 1441,” and that it is now time to authorize use of military force against the country. (Feb. 24): France, Germany, and Russia submit an informal counter-resolution to the UN Security Council that states that inspections should be intensified and extended.
  • Explosions Rock Venezuela (Feb. 25): Colombian consulate and Spanish embassy in Caracas targeted.
  • U.S. Says North Korea Has Restarted Reactor (Feb. 26): Reactivation of plant at Yongbyon allows country to convert nuclear waste into weapons-grade plutonium.
  • Former Bosnian President Sentenced (Feb. 27): Biljana Plavsic to serve 11 years in jail for the persecution of thousands of Muslims and Croats in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995. She's the only woman indicted for war crimes in former Yugoslavia.
  • Parliament Approves Israeli Government (Feb. 28): Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will preside over hawkish four-party coalition.
  • U.S. Says Hussein Must Leave Iraq (Feb. 28): In a policy shift, White House says Iraq must disarm and Hussein must go into exile to avoid war.


  • Space Shuttle Explodes (Feb. 1): Columbia breaks up as it reenters Earth's atmosphere on its way to Kennedy Space Center, killing all seven crew members. Victims are: Rick D. Husband, William C. McCool, Michael P. Anderson, David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, and the first Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon. (Feb. 13): Investigators think a hole in the left wing let superheated gas flow into the shuttle, contributing to crash.
  • Bush Sends Congress Budget (Feb. 3): Fiscal year 2004 budget totals $2.23 trillion and predicts record deficits in coming years.
  • Administration Raises Terror Alert (Feb. 7): Country placed on high alert after U.S. intelligence officials learn that al-Qaeda may strike again. Second such warning since Sept. 11, 2001.
  • U.S. Issues Disaster Preparation Advice (Feb. 10): Guidelines for coping with chemical or biological attack prompt millions to clear store shelves of duct tape and plastic sheeting.
  • Greenspan Casts Doubt on Stimulus Plan (Feb. 11): Chairman of the Federal Reserve tells Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee that economy may not need stimulus package, which includes deep tax cuts. Also warns that deficits predicted under President Bush's stimulus package could hurt economy in the long term.
  • Democrats Launch Filibuster (Feb. 11): Senate Democrats attempting to thwart vote on nomination of Miguel Estrada for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals. Democrats say they have not received enough information about his views.
  • Bush Announces Reorganization of Intelligence Agencies (Feb. 14): Counterterrorism divisions of FBI and CIA moving to a central location to consolidate information gathering and analysis.
  • Stampede Kills 21 in Chicago (Feb. 17): Panic erupts after security guards spray Mace to break up a fight in hip-hop club called E2. More than 50 people wounded.
  • Florida Professor Linked to Killings in Israel (Feb. 20): Sami Al-Arian, suspended computer engineering professor at the University of South Florida, charged with funding and advising Palestinian terrorist working in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
  • States File Suit Against EPA (Feb. 19): Attorneys general of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington, and New York suing agency for not regulating carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act.
  • Club Fire Kills Dozens in Rhode Island (Feb. 21): Pyrotechnics display set off during concert by band Great White ignites an inferno that quickly engulfs entire building at West Warwick. Death toll reaches 100.
  • Panel Criticizes Bush's Climate Plan (Feb. 26): Experts say strategy to study effects of global warming lacks clear goals and priorities and is too far-reaching for $1.7 billion budget.
  • Court Upholds Ban on Word “God” (Feb. 28): Federal appeals court in San Francisco lets stand earlier ruling that recitation in public schools of the words “under God” in Pledge of Allegiance violates the separation of church and state.


  • Legendary Record Producer Charged with Murder (Feb. 3): Phil Spector arrested and charged in the shooting death of B-movie actress Lana Clarkson.
  • Unemployment Rate Falls (Feb. 7): Jobless rate dips to 5.7% in January, down from 6% in December 2002.
  • Astronomers Confirm Age of Universe (Feb. 11): A satellite called the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe produced detailed map of universe, revealing that it is 13.7 billion years old, it is rapidly expanding, and its weight is 4% atoms, 23% dark matter, and 73% dark energy.
  • AIDS Vaccine Fails to Prevent Infection (Feb. 23): First AIDS vaccine to reach large-scale test stage. It does, however, seem to decrease infection rate of some minorities.
  • Design for Ground Zero Selected (Feb. 27): Plan, drafted by architect Daniel Libeskind, features recessed memorial to victims of Sept. 11, 2001, attack and a 1,776-foot tower.

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