News In Brief

Kurdish rebels pledged to heed a call from their condemned leader, Abdullah Ocalan, to drop their 14-year armed struggle and withdraw completely from Turkey by September 1. In a statement, the Kurdish Workers' Party said the move will set a "new stage of dialogue and conciliation." The dramatic pledge goes beyond earlier announcements of a cease-fire. Turkey responded coolly to the appeal, saying it would never negotiate with the rebels.

Montenegro, Serbia's rebellious partner, called for a radical reshaping of the Yugoslav federation. The proposal - which would rename Yugoslavia as the "Association of Montenegro and Serbia" - also calls for a new constitution, separate army commands, and independent foreign policy. If Serbia rejects the draft proposal, Montenegro leaders said they will hold a referendum on independence. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic rejected similar proposals from Slovenia and Croatia on the eve of their violent break from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Fueled by higher tax collections, Russia ran a budget surplus of $51 million in July, a rare bit of good economic news that took many observers by surprise. In another positive development, the Central Bank said Russia's hard-currency reserves rose from $11 billion to $11.9 billion last week. Reserves have been declining over the past two years, and the government has missed several debt payments.

Talks to reduce tension in the Korean Peninsula opened in Geneva under the shadow of a recent threat by North Korea to test-fire a new missile, which is believed to be capable of reaching parts of the US. The two Koreas, the US, and China are participating in the talks aimed at replacing a 1953 armistice with a peace pact.

Faced with the prospect of a two-year ban, Cuban high-jumper Javier Sotomayor said he is the victim of a conspiracy. In the most sensational drug-use episode since Ben Johnson at the 1988 Olympics, Sotomayor, a Cuban national hero, was stripped of his gold medal after testing positive for cocaine at the Pan American Games being held in Winnipeg, Canada. Sotomayor, is the only jumper to clear 8 feet.

China demanded that the US Congress shelve legislation that would increase arm sales to Taiwan. The proposal would prohibit limitations on arms sales to Taiwan, establish direct communications between the US and Taiwanese military forces, and authorize the sale of a broad array of new weaponry, including missile-defense systems and advanced air-to-air missiles.

As Asia's flood woes mounted, a tropical storm blamed for much of the damage swept toward China. Almost 1,000 people have lost their lives in the floods since last week. The International Red Cross said it will launch an international appeal for help.

Demanding food and other supplies, rebel Sierra Leone soldiers took 13 unarmed UN observers hostage. They are also holding an unknown number of soldiers, according to officials of the world body.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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