News In Brief

With just two days left until the deadline for reaching a peace deal on Kosovo, the rival parties were holding firm to rejectionist positions. A Kosovo Liberation Army spokesman said the ethnic Albanian force would not hand over its weapons to NATO peacekeepers. In Belgrade, Yugoslav President Milosevic ignored a warning by visiting US envoy Christopher Hill to agree to peace or face NATO air strikes and said people across "the political spectrum" in Yugoslavia were united in their opposition to NATO peacekeepers.

Rebel forces broke a weeks-old lull and resumed their campaign to topple Congo President Laurent Kabila, according to reports from neighboring Rwanda. The rebels were said to have been reinforced by thousands of Rwandan troops while all sides paused to pursue peace initiatives. But Kabila refused to negotiate directly with the rebels and insists that Rwandan and Ugandan troops leave his country. The rebels reportedly were advancing against the southern city of Muji-Mayi, whose mines are the world's most important source of industrial diamonds.

Israel's opposition Labor Party was embarrassed on prime-time television and its May 17 election prospects were thrown into question by an angry member of parliament. The party's only Ethiopian Knesset delegate interrupted its national convention, accusing chairman Ehud Barak of racism and fraud. The Ethiopian had narrowly lost to a Russian for a slot on the ballot reserved for recent immigrants.

Tough new laws aimed at both common criminals and political dissidents were approved unanimously by Cuba's parliament. Among them: the death penalty for government officials caught trafficking in drugs, and 20-year prison terms for people convict-ed of "promoting" US policy designed to force change in the island's Communist government. A recent surge in prostitution, robbery, and street violence is viewed as the most serious internal threat in the 40 years since President Fidel Castro came to power.

Special military courts established by decree to speed up justice in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, are illegal, the Supreme Court ruled. The justices told Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that cases before the tribunals, which he set up in December, must be transferred to existing "terrorism courts." Last year, more than 800 people died in sectarian, ethnic, or political violence in Karachi. Two people were executed under rulings by the military tribunals.

By a 409-to-7 vote, Poland's lower house of parliament ratified the documents necessary for membership in NATO. The upper house was expected to endorse ratification later in the day. President Alexander Kwasniewski planned to sign the documents late next week.

The second set of clashes in less than a month between rebellious coal miners and Romanian authorities resulted in one death, dozens of injuries, and 350 arrests. One of those arrested was Miron Cozma, the miners' leader, who was sentenced in absentia earlier this week to 18 years in prison for his role in a 1991 uprising. The violence occurred as Cozma and about 2,000 followers headed to Bucharest, the capital, to protest the sentence.

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