News In Brief

By , Lance Carden and Elisabetta Coletti

Serbia's parliament accepted a NATO-brokered peace plan for Kosovo after Russian and European envoys engaged in a second day of talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, official news agencies reported. The plan provides a series of steps designed to end the displacement of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians and to end punitive airstrikes. But Western governments reacted cautiously to the latest Serb commitment to peace. After the British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said, "We've had too many promises from President Milosevic in the past to believe in an empty promise."

Outnumbered Israeli troops fired tear gas and live ammunition at rock-throwing Palestinians taking part in a "day of rage" at Jewish settlements on the West Bank and Gaza. One Palestinian was killed and at least nine others were hurt. A spokesman for the sponsoring Palestine Authority said the demonstration was a message for Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak "that peace with settlements is not possible."

European Union leaders resolved to strengthen their nations' roles in a common defense policy. Meeting in Cologne, Germany, they approved a plan to boost European defense industries and to become more involved in arms development with the hope of reducing dependence on US-dominated NATO for intervention in future crises such as Kosovo. There were, however, no immediate plans to unite national military forces. Portuguese Foreign Minister Jame Gama said the EU could now "develop a real capacity for peacekeeping operations."

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The World Trade Organization approved a controversial bid by the US and Canada to impose tough sanctions on the EU because of its refusal to import hormone-treated beef. Washington is expected to levy sanctions against $202 million of such products as canned hams, truffles, and chocolate. Canada's estimated sanctions total $51 million. The US is currently apply- ing tariffs on another $191 million of EU exports, in retaliation for rules on banana imports.

Thabo Mbeki's succession to the presidency of South Africa was ensured when his ruling African National Congress (ANC) scored its expected landslide victory in the national second all-race parliamentary election Wednesday. With 60 percent of the vote counted, the ANC had 64.3 percent of those cast, with returns from rural strongholds certain to push the total still higher. Members of the National Assembly chosen in the voting are to meet June 14 to choose Mbeki as the successor to retiring President Nelson Mandela.

A collision course appeared set between Australian Prime Minister John Howard and the nation's Aborigines, who demanded he endorse a document that apologizes for "injustices of the past" and recognizes them as original owners of the continent before white settlement in the late 1780s. An apology is not negotiable and is only a first step in uniting white and black Australia, Aboriginal leaders said. Howard has refused on grounds that such actions are divisive. The document is expected to be put before Parliament next year.

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