News In Brief

Serb forces were undertaking a new offensive against ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo after Yugoslav President Milosevic rebuffed warnings from senior NATO commanders. Heavy shelling could be heard 25 miles northwest of Pristina, the Kosovo capital. The action followed what NATO's supreme commander, US Gen. Wesley Clark, called a "very blunt, forceful" meeting with Milosevic in Belgrade in which the latter dismissed threats of punitive air raids.

"A delicate period of transition" for Brazil's fragile currency, the real, hung in the balance, analysts said, as the upper house of Congress prepared to vote on a crucial government budget bill. The measure, a key part of President Cardoso's economic-reform program, would require retired civil servants to pay into the social security system. It has been defeated four times by the lower house. The last rejection, in December, triggered a massive selloff of stocks by foreign investors, causing the Central Bank to devalue the real.

Less than two weeks into historic peace negotiations with the government of Colombia, a leftist rebel group announced it was suspending participation until "you take efficient action to stop the murder of defenseless people." The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) demanded that right-wing "death squads" be dismantled. The latter are blamed for killing 130 alleged rebel sympathizers earlier this month.

Leading Israeli politicians were trading strong words after the second break-in in a week at the Washington offices of an adviser to the Labor Party's candidate for prime minister, Ehud Barak. Barak said he doubted "some failed government" could improve its prospects by stealing documents related to his campaign from the files of US political pollster Stanley Greenberg. A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Netanyahu said "this looks like a cheap provocation by our enemies." Opinion polls show equal support for Netanyahu and Barak in Israel's election, scheduled for May 17.

Security checks at all airports in Britain were ordered after a London newspaper detailed how one of its reporters was hired to clean passenger planes on the basis of a five-minute interview. Adam Lee-Potter of The Sun wrote that he'd submitted a false employment history and false references to Skyliner Services, which did not investigate his background. In his first day at London's Heathrow Airport, he said, he had free access to vital areas of planes before takeoff and easily could have planted explosives. Another Sun reporter wrote a similar expos 10 years ago following the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland.

Voters in Barbados appeared likely to return Prime Minister Owen Arthur to office in an election overshadowed by talk of converting the Caribbean island into a republic. Arthur and challenger David Thompson campaigned mostly on economic issues and reducing violent crime. They agree that Barbados should cut its remaining ties to the British monarchy.

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