News In Brief

NATO officials closed ranks behind special US envoy Richard Holbrooke as he prepared for a last-ditch meeting with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade. Holbrooke's mission was to convince Milosevic to accept the peace plan for Kosovo. But his prospects for success appeared dim. Senior Yugoslav officials accused the US of "saber-rattling" in threatening punitive airstrikes, and there was no letup in the Serb forces' attack on ethnic Albanian towns in the troubled province.

Spreading violence in Indonesia could bring a delay or even cancellation of the June 7 national election - the first in more than 40 years that's scheduled to be democratic - political leaders warned. Almost 400 people have died this year in tribal or Christian-Muslim fighting in Borneo and on the island of Ambon. Indonesia has pinned great hope on the election, with prospective investors generally waiting to see whether it restores stability to the world's fourth most populous nation. Analysts said it was critical that the violence end by May 20, the starting date for candidates to campaign for the election.

With 40 votes to spare, the government of Turkey's interim prime minister, Bulent Ecevit, survived a no-confidence motion brought by dissident members of parliament. The motion was backed by the Islamic-based Virtue Party, parliament's largest single bloc. The vote could have resulted in a postponement of April 18 national elections, a possibility that the powerful armed forces warned would bring "chaos."

Despite massive shipments of international aid, the people of North Korea face another year of acute food shortages, the country's official news agency reported. The closed communist society does not release agricultural statistics, but international experts estimate that farmers there produced only two-thirds of the food necessary to feed 23 million people last year. Flooding and other weather problems that began in 1995 have brought repeated crop failures.

A rainy but tumultuous welcome and an emotional reunion with their families awaited history's first nonstop, round-the-world balloonists as they returned to Geneva, their home base and control center for the mission. Swiss psychiatrist Bertrand Piccard and his British crew mate, Brian Jones, said they began the quest "as two pilots, and ended as two friends." Their flight ended Sunday in Egypt.

Cyclone Vance was downgraded from a Category 5 storm - the most dangerous - as it moved inland from the Western Australia coast, leaving major property damage but no early reports of deaths or injuries. Experts said they were still gathering data and would not know until today whether its maximum winds were the highest yet recorded in Australia.

Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in national elections, Finland's Prime Minister, Paavo Lipponen, and his Social Democratic Party (SDP) appeared likely to retain power for another term. Early returns pointed to a win for the opposition Center Party. But a late flurry of votes pushed the SDP ahead, although with 12 fewer seats in parliament. Analysts attributed the party's worst showing in history to a cronyism scandal and unpopular economic reforms taken to qualify Finland for membership in the single European currency.

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