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News In Brief

By CompiledLawrence J. GoodrichSuzanne MacLachlan, and Peter Nordahl / February 15, 1995



THE WORLD

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A limited cease-fire appeared to take effect in Chechnya and truce talks were to resume Feb. 15. But both Russian and Chechen officials expressed doubt the truce would hold, citing mistrust and the breakdown of previous cease-fires.

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The Bosnian government threatened to end a cease-fire unless Serbs let a UN food convoy through to the Bihac pocket and stop attacks there. UN officials say hundreds of people are starving in the besieged area. Nations flying relief planes have refused UN requests for air drops of food because Serbs have targeted the planes with antiaircraft missiles. In The Hague, a UN war-crimes tribunal indicted 21 Serbs for atrocities against Croats and Muslims at a prison camp.

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Britain and Ireland held talks on concluding a peace plan for Northern Ireland. The draft will propose a series of constitutional and economic steps to stabilize the peace. British Prime Minister Major also held talks with Unionist leaders, who threaten to bring down his minority government if they consider that plan too radical. Unionists worry that cross-border trade institutions would weaken their links with Britain. Major has promised that any initiative would be put to a vote.

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In the West Bank, violent demonstrations marked the anniversary of the killing of 29 Arabs by an Israeli civilian at a Hebron mosque. Israeli troops killed one Palestinian demonstrator and wounded four. Youths stoned Israeli soldiers and burned tires, while merchants closed stores in a general strike.

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Peru and Ecuador both said they would stop shooting in their border conflict. Peru announced a unilateral cease-fire to take effect Feb 14. Ecuador denied Lima's claims that Peruvian forces had recaptured three border outposts, but said its troops would not fire unless fired upon. Peace talks continued in Brazil.

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The ruling Liberal Party won three federal by-elections in Quebec. While two were considered safe seats, a third was seen as a test of support for the separatist Bloc Quebecois. The elections were the first since the Liberals, who favor keeping Quebec in Canada, returned to power in October 1993.

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A new Islamist student militia drove Afghanistan's main rebel group from its headquarters outside Kabul. The Hezb-i-Islami fundamentalist group had to abandon much of its heavy equipment in the defeat, Reuters said. The fighting came six days before the country's warring factions were to form a multiparty council under UN mediation. The Taliban student militia, which has won a series of important victories, has not agreed to take part in the council and may be preparing to move on the capital. Islamic factions have fought for control of Kabul since the Communist government fell in 1992.

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South African President Mandela swore in the nation's first racially mixed constitutional court. Its first case will be to decide the legality of capital punishment. Meanwhile, Deputy Culture Minister Winnie Mandela, the president's estranged wife, apologized for her criticism of the government's racial policies.

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In Algeria, gunmen killed the leader of an important student organization and the director of the national theater. No one claimed responsibility in either case. Islamist groups are fighting to overthrow the military-backed government.

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Atmospheric ozone levels have hit record lows in the Northern Hemisphere, the world weather agency said. Upper-level ozone is below normal by 35 percent over Siberia, 10 to 15 percent over Europe, and 10 percent over the US West Coast. Ozone protects Earth from too much ultraviolet radiation from the sun. The World Meteorological Organization said ozone levels should begin to recover in the next century as a result of international agreement to phase out ozone-destroying CFC gases.

THE US

A House subcommittee got down to work on a welfare reform bill that is expected to go to the full House for a vote before Easter. The GOP bill would bar unwed mothers under 18 from receiving cash benefits. Republican lawmakers rejected a Democratic amendment that would have allowed states to continue supporting these mothers if they live at home, go to school, and cooperate with child-support enforcement. Republicans also rejected a Democratic attempt to guarantee child care for all mothers on welfare who are forced to find a job.

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The House was expected to vote on the final installment of the Republicans' six-part anticrime agenda. The measure would set up $10 billion in block grants, letting local governments choose how to spend the money. President Clinton has threatened a veto.

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