Today's Story Line

As a cowboy diplomat, Jesse Jackson has roped in a surprise success: the release of three captured American soldiers. His solo act may serve as an ice-breaker for negotiations between NATO and Serbia. Quote of note: "They are coming closer and closer to negotiations. People are becoming exhausted of the airstrikes and saying, 'Come on guys, let's stop this.'" - Nenad Canak, Serb opposition leader. NATO insists its bombing is wearing down Slobodan Milosevic's resolve. Another NATO option - land invasion - is very ponderous.

The latest wave of refugees from Kosovo reveals further details on the Serbs' tactics. The Serbs may be turning the city of Prizren into a fortress against a possible invasion by NATO.

Charges that China obtained secret US codes on nuclear weapons may tip the world balance of power. Quote of note: If the Chinese got the codes, "this has to be considered one of the two or three great intelligence coups of the 20th century." - Dan Gour, Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

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Is communism on the ash heap of history? Not in Nepal, where a new democracy has shown the popularity of Maoists, whose message is attractive to frustrated villagers the Himalayan kingdom.

- Clayton Jones World editor

REPORTERS ON THE JOB

*JESSE CHASE: As reporters in Belgrade clamored to interview Jesse Jackson yesterday, our two correspondents got some rare face-to-face time with him thanks in large part to a connection forged on another continent. Lara Santoro, normally based in Kenya, had been directed to an aide of the Rev. Mr. Jackson to ask about an interview - before news of the soldiers' release broke. The aide turned out to be a woman who had been a coordinator during recent elections in Nigeria, which Lara had covered. That familiarity led to the promise of the Jackson meeting, which was kept even after the demand for him skyrocketed Saturday with the announcement that the soldiers would be freed. Jackson appeared exhausted during the meeting, Lara says, and he watched himself on CNN with one eye.

*DOING LUNCH : Western journalists in developing nations are often amazed at the easy access to politicians. South Asia bureau chief Robert Marquand traveled to the Nepalese town of Bhaktipur to see the mayor for his story. The gates immediately open. Ten assistants scrambled to pull the mayor out of a lunch for an interview in a 15th-century palace. The mayor, a devout communist, drank Coca-Cola and talked about Marxism, Leninism, and Maoism. His town's economy is largely fueled by money from Western tourists.

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