News In Brief

With American bombers en route to Yugoslavia, a defiant President Milosevic called on his people to defend the country "by all means." Attacks on strategic targets were likely to take place after dark, military sources said. But there were last-minute efforts to forestall them. NATO said Milosevic would first be given a "verbal warning" in the hope he'd capitulate to the proposed Kosovo peace plan. And Russian and European Union leaders were trying to persuade Milosevic that it was not too late to accept the plan.

Moving quickly to fill a leadership vacuum, the 15 member governments of the European Union confirmed former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi as president of the organization's executive commission. Prodi succeeds Jacques Santer, who resigned with all 19 of his deputies last week following release of a scathing report on fraud and corruption in the commission's ranks. Santer was due to leave office Dec. 31, but Prodi was promised a five-year term rather than an interim appointment.

Augusto Pinochet's hopes for an early return to Chile were dashed, as a court in London ruled his arrest there last October was legal. The Law Lords panel voted 6 to 1 that Pinochet was answerable to charges of human-rights crimes committed after 1988. That gives the go-ahead for proceedings on whether the ex-dictator can be extradited to Spain, which wants to try him for the kidnapping, torture, and deaths of Spaniards who lived in Chile during his 17-year rule.

A plea for calm was ignored by thousands of Paraguayans, who rioted in the streets of Asuncin, the capital, late Tuesday over the assassination of Vice President Luis Argana. The city braced for new protests and an indefinite general strike yesterday amid preparations for Argana's funeral and calls for the resignation of President Raul Cubas. Cubas refused to step down, and there were unconfirmed reports that he'd impose a national state of emergency.

Following the lead of neighboring Switzerland and Germany, the French Banking Association announced compensation measures for survivors of the Holocaust and their heirs. Some 76,000 French Jews were sent to Nazi death camps in World War II, and the banks are accused of making no effort to return the funds from their accounts since then.

Tens of thousands of angry Romanians answered a call by trade unions for nationwide protest against the government's response to poverty and high consumer prices. The demonstration was largest in the capital, Bucharest, where streets leading to government headquarters were jammed with jeering marchers, but similar rallies took place in Timisoara, Brasov, and other cities.

Foreign tourists - some of them American - were among the casualties of a train wreck in Kenya that killed at least 32 people and injured dozens of others. The train was traveling from the capital, Nairobi, to the port city of Mombasa, when it derailed at 4:30 a.m., reportedly because of brake failure.

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