May 2003

Updated July 10, 2020 | Infoplease Staff


  • Bush Says Combat Over in Iraq (May 1): In a speech from the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, president announces U.S. victorious in war in Iraq.
  • Blair Postpones Northern Ireland Elections (May 1): Vote for power-sharing assembly put off until the fall because, he said, the Irish Republican Army has failed to commit to end violence.
  • U.S. Declares End to Combat in Afghanistan (May 1): Marks the formal transition from military operations to reconstruction and paves the way for international groups to participate.
  • State Department Warns Saudi Arabia of Terrorist Plot (May 1): Intelligence reveals detailed threats to U.S. targets inside Saudi Arabia.
  • India Moves to Curb Hostilities with Pakistan (May 2): Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee seeks to resume dialogue with Pakistan and announces restoration of civilian air travel between countries.
  • Powell Reports Progress in Syria (May 3): After meeting with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, secretary of state says Syria has begun cracking down on terrorist groups.
  • Israeli Labor Leader Resigns (May 4): Amram Mitzna steps down amid infighting in the left-of-center party.
  • African Leaders Meet to Mediate in Zimbabwe Crisis (May 5): At meeting in Harare, presidents of South Africa, Nigeria, and Malawi fail to resolve growing turmoil between President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, head of opposition group Movement for Democratic Change.
  • U.S. Reports Hussein Ordered Large Sum Removed from Bank (May 5): Hours before U.S.-led war, Qusay Hussein, son of Saddam, took about $1 billion from Iraq's central bank.
  • Iraqi Opposition Groups Agree to Choose Interim Government (May 5): More than 350 representatives plan to meet later in month to select a provisional national assembly.
  • Bush Names Special Envoy to Iraq (May 6): L. Paul Bremer, former diplomat and former chief of counterterrorism for the State Department, selected as top civilian administrator to oversee selection of interim Iraqi government. He replaces Jay Garner.
  • UN Gets Draft Resolution on Iraq (May 9): U.S., Britain, and Spain submit proposal to give U.S. and Britain authority over Iraq's government and finances for next year and calls on UN to lift sanctions against Iraq.
  • Al Qaeda Suspects Elude Saudi Officials (May 9): After shootout, 19 alleged terrorists flee, leaving behind large cache of weapons.
  • Powell Meets with Middle East Leaders in Jerusalem (May 11): U.S. secretary of state urges Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas to pursue steps toward peace process.
  • Suicide Blast Kills Dozens in Chechnya (May 12): Truck carrying explosives blows up near government complex in Znamenskoye in north. More than 40 die and several more seriously wounded.
  • Terrorists Strike in Saudi Arabia (May 12): Three coordinated attacks inside residential compounds in Riyadh kill 34 people, including 8 Americans. U.S. had warned Saudi Arabia of imminent terrorist threat days before the attack. Al Qaeda suspected.
  • Public Workers Strike in France (May 13): More than 850,000 people participate in one-day action to protest proposed pension reform plan.
  • U.S. Expels Cuban Diplomats (May 13): Orders 14 envoys to leave the country, citing “inappropriate and unacceptable activities,” a term commonly used for spying.
  • U.S. Moves Forcefully to Restore Order to Iraq (May 13): L. Paul Bremer, civilian administrator in Iraq, announces troops allowed to shoot looters. Also declares that high-ranking Baath Party members will not be allowed to work in public sector.
  • Menem Drops Out of Presidential Race (May 14): Former Argentine president Carlos Saúl Menem withdraws from runoff, handing presidency to Néstor Kirchner.
  • Bush and South Korean President Discuss North (May 14): In first meeting, George Bush and Roh Moo Hyun focus on how to handle rogue North Korea and release vague statement of cooperation.
  • Self-Rule Postponed in Iraq (May 16): U.S. and British officials decide against allowing Iraqi opposition groups to form an interim government by the end of May.
  • Several Bombs Explode in Morocco (May 17): Five suicide bombers kill more than 40 people in Casablanca in coordinated attacks. Moroccan terrorist cell suspected.
  • Sharon and Abbas Meet (May 17): Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers discuss proposed peace plan, called the road map, but fail to make progress in ending the protracted conflict.
  • Indonesian President Declares Martial Law in Aceh (May 18): Megawati Sukarnoputri cracks down on separatist Free Aceh Movement after continued violence ends ceasefire. (May 19): More than 1,000 Indonesian troops arrive in Aceh, beginning offensive.
  • Security Council Votes to Lift Sanctions on Iraq (May 22): Nations vote unanimously to end 13 years of economic sanctions. Resolution 1483 also gives the U.S. and Britain broad power to run Iraq's government and economy until an Iraqi government is in place.
  • UN Names Representative for Iraq (May 23): Secretary General Kofi Annan appoints UN official Sérgio Vieira de Mello to coordinate aid from the UN and nongovernmental organizations, oversee return of refugees, and make sure human rights are upheld.
  • Israeli Government Accepts Peace Plan (May 25): Prime Minister Ariel Sharon convinces cabinet to endorse plan.
  • Rumsfeld Says Iraq May Have Destroyed Weapons (May 27): Secretary of Defense acknowledges for the first time that Saddam Hussein may have ordered all biological and chemical weapons be destroyed before the U.S.-led invasion began.
  • Large Allied Force to Remain in Iraq (May 28): Commanders say troops to stay to stem violence beyond Baghdad. Decision in response to death of four U.S. soldiers by resistance fighters in one week.
  • Saudis Arrest Bombing Suspects (May 28): Police arrest eight militants thought to be involved in organizing the May 12 bombings.
  • U.S., Britain Defend Intelligence Reports (May 30): In separate speeches, U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell and British prime minister Tony Blair deny that intelligence about Iraq's biological and chemical weapons was exaggerated to justify an attack on Iraq.
  • Burmese Opposition Leader Detained (May 30): Military regime announces it has put Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of Burma's National League for Democracy (NLD) in “protective custody.”


  • House Passes AIDS Plan (May 1): Votes, 375–41, for $15 billion measure to fight disease globally. Includes provision that one-third of the money be used to encourage abstinence.
  • Federal Court Rules in Campaign Law (May 2): In mixed ruling, court upholds provisions in the McCain-Feingold law that prohibit national political parties from using soft money for issue ads, but say it is unconstitutional to restrict the spending of such money for voter registration drives and other similar activities.
  • Democrats Face Off in First Presidential Debate (May 3): Nine candidates discuss war in Iraq, tax cuts, health insurance, and other issues in often contentious meeting in South Carolina.
  • Board Cites Wing Damage in Shuttle Disaster (May 6): Investigators suspect superheated gas penetrated the left wing through a small hole and melted it. Hole likely caused by a piece of foam insulation that broke off seconds after liftoff.
  • Senate Compromises on Antiterrorism Act (May 8): Votes, 90-4, to expand federal government's right to spy on suspected foreign terrorists living in the U.S. Republicans drop their demand to make permanent the Patriot Act, which is set to expire in 2005.
  • House Passes Tax Cut Plan (May 9): Votes, 222-203, for 10-year, $550 billion tax cut favored by President Bush. Plan gives most relief to wealthiest Americans, reducing taxes on dividends and capital gains.
  • Immigrants Die in Smuggling Operation (May 14): Bodies of 18 people from Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala found in truck in south Texas.
  • Texas Republicans Back Down on Redistricting (May 15): State's Democratic representatives, who had fled state to prevent vote on legislation introduced by Republicans, claim victory as bill dies.
  • Bush Announces Reelection Bid (May 16): Files documents that allow him to begin fund-raising and assembling a campaign staff.
  • Presidential Spokesman to Resign (May 19): Ari Fleischer announces plans to step down in July.
  • Senate Agrees to End Nuclear Weapons Ban (May 20): Votes, 51–43, to allow research and development of nuclear arms under five kilotons.
  • Whitman Resigns from EPA (May 21): Christine Whitman steps down as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • House and Senate Agree on Tax Bill (May 21): Accord will slash taxes by $350 billion over 10 years, temporarily cut dividend taxes and reduce capital gains taxes, and increase the tax credit for children. Senate approved similar legislation on May 15. (May 28): Bush signs tax cut plan.
  • Bush Names Budget Director (May 22): Joshua Bolten replaces Mitch Daniels as director of the Office of Management and Budget.
  • Bush Signs Tax Cut Plan (May 28): The 10-year $350 billion tax package, the third-largest tax cut in U.S. history, temporarily eliminates dividend taxes, reduces capitals gains taxes, and increases child credit for most taxpayers. The poorest and the wealthiest will not receive child credit.
  • Olympic Bombing Suspect Arrested (May 31): Eric Rudolph, accused in the attack at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, apprehended in North Carolina after spending five years on the lam. Also suspected of attacking abortion clinics and a gay nightclub.


  • Earthquake Hits Southeastern Turkey (May 1): The 6.4 magnitude quake destroys a bridge and dozens of buildings and kills more than 100 people.
  • Unemployment Ticks Up (May 2): Labor Department reports rise in rate, to 6% from 5.8% in March.
  • Landmark Stone Face Falls from Mountain (May 2): Old Man of the Mountain, a 700-ton granite formation, falls from its perch at New Hampshire's Franconia Notch.
  • Tornadoes Ravage Central U.S. (May 5): At least 38 people die in a series of twisters in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee.
  • Fuel Economy of Autos Hits Low (May 2): EPA reports fuel economy of nation's cars and trucks averaged 20.4 miles a gallon in 2002, lowest rate since 1980.
  • Airlines to Increase Passenger Weight Estimates (May 12): New rules require airlines to increase assumed passenger weight to 190 pounds, up from 180.
  • Treasury Introduces New Bill Design (May 13): The $20, to debut in the fall, will feature background colors, including green, peach, and light blue, and an enlargement of Andrew Jackson's portrait. Move to thwart counterfeiting.
  • MCI Agrees to Fine (May 19): Telecommunications company, formerly WorldCom, to pay $500 million to settle accusations of fraud.
  • Mad Cow Disease Discovered in Canada (May 20): Cow in British Columbia diagnosed with illness. U.S. bans imports of Canadian beef, cattle, and animal feed.
  • Earthquake Devastates Algeria (May 21): The 6.8 magnitude earthquake, which strikes near Algiers, kills more than 2,250 people and injures approximately 10,000. Most destructive earthquake in two decades
  • Anti-Smoking Treaty Approved (May 21): Members of the World Health Organization adopt Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which, if ratified by member nations, will ban tobacco ads and call for warning labels to occupy 30% of packages of tobacco products.
  • Violent Video Games Improve Visual Skills (May 29): Journal Nature reports that players of first-person action games score 30% to 50% higher in visual attention skills tests.
  • Researchers Clone Idaho Mule (May 29): Scientists create mule, named Idaho Gem, from a cell from a mule fetus and a horse egg.
  • AOL and Microsoft Strike Deal (May 29): Microsoft agrees to pay $750 million to AOL to settle an antitrust suit filed by Netscape, a division of AOL.

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