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News In Brief

By CompiledRobert Kilborn and Lance Carden / April 5, 1999



The plight of ethnic Albanian refugees being driven out of Kosovo has become NATO's "most urgent priority" with bad weather hampering air operations over Yugoslavia, the alliance said. A spokesman said member governments had agreed to give temporary shelter to more than 100,000 refugees, and meetings were under way in Brussels to coordinate other aspects of the humanitarian-aid effort. Meanwhile, warplanes and their crews were standing by to resume the assault on closer-in targets once the weather improved.

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Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji prepared to leave Beijing for his nine-day trip to the US despite what analysts were calling a "poisoned" political atmosphere. Zhu suggested last month that he expected the visit to be difficult because of differences on human rights, trade, the possible sale of missile-defense systems to Taiwan, and NATO bombing in Yugoslavia. There also are ongoing concerns over the theft of nuclear-weapons secrets from American research laboratories. Late last week, Zhu was reported close to canceling the trip.

There were flurries of activity on two fronts as it appeared Libya might finally release suspects in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 for trial in the Netherlands. Arab dignitaries are due in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, today to witness the handover of two intelligence agents to a UN representative for the trip. Meanwhile, a team of Scottish prosecutors, who will try the case, arrived in Amsterdam but declined to speak with journalists.

Senior political strategist and Sinn Fein peace negotiator Martin McGuinness was informed by Northern Ireland police of a threat against his life. But the highest-profile leader of the political ally of the Irish Republican Army, next to Gerry Adams, complained that the police wouldn't tell him who had issued the threat. Adams also reportedly has been threatened by republican dissidents, upset that he was weakening on their goal of bringing British rule in the province to an early end.

A new political crisis confronted the government of India as it dared a key - but unhappy - ally to quit the ruling coalition. The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazagham Party (AIADMK) of south India, whose 19 votes in Parliament help give Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee a narrow majority, issued several demands in exchange for its continued support - among them the dismissal of Vajpayee's defense minister. AIADMK complained that Vaypayee was "ungrateful" for its help in forming his government.

Antinarcotics agents from the US and Mexico were searching for the governor of Quintana Roo state in the hours before he's due to hand power to his successor. Mario Villanueva apparently failed to keep an appointment with investigators looking into his alleged links with drug traffickers. He hasn't been seen in public in a week, leading to speculation that he has fled the country. His term and immunity from prosecution end today, and he faces possible arrest when located. Quintana Roo's Cancn and Cozumel resorts are suspected transit points for cocaine shipments from South America to the US.