News In Brief

In india's worst train accident in four years, at least 200 people were reported dead and over 1,000 injured. Two express trains collided head-on at a railway station near New Jalpaiguri, about 300 miles north of Calcutta (above). The impact was so powerful that initial reports suggested a bomb blast at the Gaisal station. Officials expect the death toll to rise sharply as the wreckage is removed, possibly reaching 500. The worst rail disaster on record also occurred in India, when 800 people died in 1981 after a cyclone blew a train off its tracks and into a river.

In the latest sign of strained Sino-US relations, a Chinese official publicly reprimanded Washington for its plans to sell $550 million worth of military aircraft and weapons to Taiwan. The arms deal, yet to be approved by President Clinton, would "further intensify tensions across the Taiwan Strait and cause severe damage" to China's relations with Washington, Vice-Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said. In related news, the US announced it will pay $4.5 million to the families of the three reporters killed and 27 people injured in the recent bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak accused Palestinians of "reacting with rigidity" in rejecting his offer to release 250 Palestinian security prisoners in exchange for a postponement of Israeli withdrawal from some parts of the West Bank. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat accused Barak of attempting to get out of some of Israel's commitments outlined in the US-brokered Wye River peace accord. Under the Wye land-for- security agreement, Israel must relinquish 13.1 percent of the West Bank to Palestinians.

Following weekend fighting, Afghanistan's ruling Taliban faction pushed opposition leader

Ahmad Shah Masood and his fighters back to their Panjsher valley stronghold. The Islamic Taliban front captured Masood's air base and two strategically significant towns, Charikrar and Mahmud-i-Raqi. Masood, an ethnic Tajik and military commander of the regime Taliban toppled three years ago, is fighting for a government grouping all factions and ethnicities, not just strict Islamicists.

About 300 leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels mounted a violent attack on the town of Narino, 100 miles northwest of Bogota, focusing on the police station. At least 17 people were killed, including 4 children. The group is currently engaged in peace talks with government officials.

Despite July's pact to end two months of bloodshed over disputed Kashmir, fresh bouts of

violence have erupted in two separate gun battles between Indians and Pakistanis. An Indian Army officer was killed, along with five "foreign militants" from the Pakistani side of Kashmir, after a battle in the Capru forests, Indian officials said.

Mired in bureaucratic squabbles, the Indonesian Election Commission failed to release the results of June's parliamentary elections. Despite President B.J. Habibie's promise to disclose the tally yesterday, the panel postponed the announcement after talks broke down in bickering between the parties contesting the election.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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