News In Brief

less-than-expected profit-taking on brazil's biggest stock market was giving the government time to plot the next move in defending its currency, as the Monitor went to press. Traders found reason for cautious optimism at the So Paulo Stock Exchange the morning after the government devalued the real by 8 percent, causing international repercussions. Meanwhile, European governments joined the US in backing the Brazilian move, with France's Finance Minister saying the disruption was not comparable to last year's Asian and Russian crises. The freeing of eight Serb soldiers by Albanian separatists in Kosovo will not be repaid in kind, Yugoslavia's Foreign Minister said. Zivadin Jovanovic contradicted a Western source close to this week's negotiations for the handover of the Serbs, who said the Yugoslav government had agreed to release nine people arrested in December as they tried to slip into Kosovo from Albania. A standoff over the Serb prisoners threatened to open up new fighting in the restive province. From Geneva, a Kosovo Liberation Army political spokesman said if the Belgrade government did not free the nine Albanians "our doors will be closed" to international mediators from now on. What analysts described as "a rap on the knuckles" was administered to the powerful executive commission of the European Union by members of the EU Parliament. Voting in Strasbourg, France, the assembly decided 293 to 232 not to censure the commission for alleged waste, mismanagement, and nepotism. Instead, it approved a resolution demanding a special investigation on how the commission deals with fraud. Commission president Jacques Santer, who had threatened to resign if any of his deputies were dismissed, pledged swift corrective action. Using words similar to those that led to the 1991 Persian Gulf War, a senior Baghdad government leader said neighboring Kuwait's "land and coasts" belong to Iraq. In a front-page newspaper commentary, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz did not directly threaten Kuwait with military force but called its border "a bombshell that may explode in the future." An unconditional, one-week truce in Sierra Leone was declared by the field commander of rebel forces trying to oust President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. Liberian officials claimed credit for brokering the cease-fire, which was variously described as beginning tomorrow or Monday. But rebel commander Sam Bockarie warned that his forces would "resume our offensive" if imprisoned rebel chief Foday Sankoh was not released by Kabbah's government. "There is still some room for us to improve with respect to human rights," a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman conceded. But, speaking after two days of discussions on the issue with US officials in Washington, he also accused Western governments of ignoring "the overall development of China's human rights." The Beijing government signed UN rights treaties in each of the past two years, but has yet to ratify either one.

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