Today's Story Line

What do Greta Garbo, Serbia, and East Timor have in common? They've all said they want to be left alone, free of outside invasion. But invasions - whether of privacy or of nations, whether for the right reasons or not - often drive major events.

Serbia is trying to prevent an attack by NATO jets aimed at stopping the killing in the Serbian province of Kosovo. Peace talks are down to the wire. A NATO invasion would set a precedent for the Western alliance in violating the sovereignty of a nation, something the United States may be seeking for NATO. Russia and China want to prevent such an easy extension of Western power, lest it eventually be used in potential trouble spots such as Central Asia, the Baltic nations, or Taiwan. Quote of note: "Most Albanians have lost their trust in everybody. Look at how Clinton lied about Monica Lewinsky. He can't be believed." - Kosovo Liberation Army member.

The 1975 invasion of East Timor, which Indonesia now admits created a burden not worth carrying any longer, will likely be reversed in coming months. It was constant heat from Europe and, to a lesser degree, from the US, that helped push Indonesia to consider granting independence. But the transition has become a mess for the former Portuguese colony as people there think of finally being left alone.

- Clayton Jones, World editor

REPORTERS ON THE JOB *EAST TIMOR CLIFFHANGER: Journalists often spot visual metaphors for the places they cover. In East Timor, the half-island former Portuguese colony that could be independent of Indonesia within a year, reporter Sander Thoenes says the roads are an apt indicator of things to come. Driving in the highlands, he found the dirt roadways with their hairpin turns falling off in large chunks, giving him sudden views of the steep, deforested valleys. Only a few roads connect the island and they suffer serious erosion, a major challenge for what may soon be a new nation. Another challenge is finding a second export besides coffee. Right now, locals find lucre in the dozens of dollar-rich foreign journalists who visit each week.

*ZOOPLOMACY: The Belgrade Zoo has been a source of pride for Serbs, notes reporter Justin Brown. Yesterday, zookeeper Vuc Bojovic released 1,001 doves to show that Serbia is peace-loving. "Of course, if this proves not to be enough, next time we could try with tigers," he said. One gimmick to attract visitors is to name the animals. Two boa constrictors are named for the present and former US secretaries of state: Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher. "I just dislike their foreign policy," says Mr. Bojovic. The female boa is pregnant, and he's pondering names for all the new babies.

Let us hear from you. Mail to: One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 via e-mail: world@csmonitor.com

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