News In Brief

Saying, "If our house isn't there, at least the land is," one ethnic-Albanian refugee might have spoken for thousands of others who headed back to Kosovo from camps in Macedonia and Albania. UN officials said the returnees were ignoring warnings that international peacekeepers hadn't had time to make the province safe. At least three refugees were killed and a fourth was hurt by exploding land mines. Meanwhile, the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army vowed its units would remain armed "as long as Serbs have weapons."

Serb forces appeared likely to complete their withdrawal from Kosovo on schedule, a NATO spokesman said. But departing Serbs heavily vandalized buildings that were obvious candidates to be used by arriving NATO-led peacekeepers.

Even as senior US and Russian officials planned a meeting in Helsinki, Finland, to try to iron out differences over control of Kosovo's main airport, reinforcements were on their way to the scene from Moscow. That appeared likely to complicate the situation, since Russia had promised not to send more troops to Kosovo until after reaching agreement with NATO, which insists on leading a single command structure. Another convoy was bringing water and food to the Russians at the airport from a base in Bosnia - with NATO's knowledge, an alliance spokesman said.

The party of opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri was looking like a government-in-waiting as it held a wide lead in Indonesia's parliamentary election. With vote-counting finally above 36 percent of those cast, her Democratic Party for Struggle held an 18-point margin over its nearest rival in official results. But an influential group of intellectuals warned of danger if the Christian-dominated party failed to heed the aspirations of Muslims in the heavily Islamic country.

The first naval battle between North and South Korea since the peninsula's 1950-53 war sank one of the former's ships and left five others damaged. The rivals had engaged in a confrontation in the Yellow Sea for more than a week before hostilities erupted. A meeting of senior commanders from both sides over the confrontation broke down on the news of the clash, but previously scheduled talks Monday in Beijing on other issues appeared likely to take place.

Voting was off to a peaceful start in only the second presidential/parliamentary elections in Malawi since the southeastern African nation gained independence in 1964. Chief of state Bakili Muluzi was seeking reelection, despite allegations of corruption and a failure to improve the economy. Sixty percent of Malawians live in poverty - a condition blamed on late dictator Hastings Banda, who ruled for 30 years.

Coca-Cola Co. was "searching frantically" for the cause of an illness that affected more than 100 Belgian children after drinking its products. Some or all of the company's soft drinks were banned until further notice in Belgium, France, and Luxembourg. The matter took on extra urgency as a result of the region's tainted-meat scare.

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