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News In Brief

By CompiledRobert Kilborn and Lance Carden / January 25, 1999



Israelis waited to learn whether ousted defense chief Yitzhak Mordechai would become the next to declare his candidacy for prime minister in the May 17 elections. The widely popular Mordechai was fired late Saturday by Prime Minister Netanyahu for allegedly seeking guarantees that he'd keep his post even as he worked to ensure a defeat at the polls for Netanyahu's Likud coalition. Mordechai reportedly has been preparing to leave Likud and join a new centrist party being formed by ex-Army commander Amnon Lipkin-Shahak.

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If the Clinton administration and the European Union would recognize a Palestinian state, a declaration of statehood could be put off until the end of the year, senior Palestinian officials said. Palestinian Authority President Arafat has vowed to proclaim statehood May 4, when - under the 1994 Oslo accords - a five-year period for negotiating permanent peace with Israel expires. The officials said Arafat "is willing to consider" delaying the declaration if assured of US and EU recognition - and if Israel halted the building of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza and implemented agreements to trade land for peace.

Yugoslav authorities relented and set free nine ethnic Albanian rebels they'd held prisoner in Kosovo since mid-December. The release was part of a secret deal that earlier included the freeing of eight Serb soldiers by Albanian separatists. Yugo-slavia's foreign minister had said Jan. 14 that his government would not fulfill its side of the bargain. But separatists increased pressure late last week by abducting five more Serbs, all of whom were later turned over to international monitors.

In Brussels today, leaders of the so-called Contact Group on Kosovo are expected to seek unanimous agreement on a new strategy for ending conflict in the volatile province. At its center: forcing Yugoslavia to grant self-government to the Albanian separatists or face bombing by NATO. For their part, Kosovo's Albanians would have to abandon demands for independence or be abandoned themselves by international mediators.

For the second day in a row - and the ninth time this year - an Iraqi air-defense target was attacked in one of the so-called "no fly" zones. Pentagon sources said a US jet fired on a missile installation in northern Iraq whose radar was tracking it. The incident occurred as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright left Washington for consultations on Iraq with Russian, Egyptian, Saudi, British and French leaders. On Saturday, US planes bombed two missile sites in southern Iraq.

Sectarian violence spread to eastern India as a Christian missionary and his two sons were murdered outside a church where they'd arrived early for a meeting. Forty-seven right-wing Hindus were arrested and a reward was posted for information leading to the capture of another man suspected of plotting the crime. The incident took place in the state of Orissa, in an area not previously known for religious conflict. Most recent Christian-Hindu violence has been in the western state of Gujarat.