News In Brief

A call to respect human dignity formed the core of an appeal by a group of international figures, including UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, marking the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Geneva Conventions. The conventions govern the treatment of civilians and prisoners during wartime.

"People on both sides want peace," said Pakistan Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz, a sentiment apparently shared by the Indian Foreign Ministry, as tensions soared on both sides of the two nations' long border. The current crisis was triggered by the shooting down of a Pakistani naval surveillance aircraft by an Indian warplane, killing all 16 people on board. Above, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, second from left, led prayers for the servicemen.

Religious violence escalated in the Indonesian province of Malaku, with Christians alleging that government troops killed 24 people in a church. The island has been wracked by clashes between Muslim and Christian groups. Meanwhile, trouble was also brewing for Jakarta on the resource-rich province of Aceh, where there have been widespread demands for independence.

Israel may implement parts of the land-for-security accord with Palestinians ahead of the proposed Sept. 1 date, if progress is made in the ongoing talks, officials said. The two sides disagree on the schedule for Israeli troop withdrawals. Palestinians reject an Israeli proposal that the last stage of withdrawal be linked to talks, which have yet to begin, on reaching a final settlement.

Russia flew reinforcements to the troubled Caucasus Mountains region of Dagestan, where Islamic rebels seized several villages. Local volunteers also joined hands with the Russians against the militants, who want to set up an Islamic state. Unlike the war in Chechnya, where the vast majority of the population supported secession from Russia, the rebels do not have broad support among ordinary residents in Dagestan.

In a sign of thawing US-China relations, Beijing has given permission for a US military plane to stop in Hong Kong to pick up a US congressional delegation, officials said. China had banned all US military ships and planes from Hong Kong after NATO bombs hit China's Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

British forces wounded at least two men and detained two more in a shootout with ethnic Albanians, who were forcing Serbs from their homes in Dornja Vrnica, Kosovo.

Australians will be specifically asked Nov. 6 if they want to replace Queen Elizabeth II with a president as head of state. Parliament's wording of the question, analysts say, has dimmed the Queen's chances in the referendum. An opinion poll this week found a 57 percent "Yes" response if the question specifically mentioned the British monarch, but only 31 percent if it did not.

Ethiopia said it had killed 746 "terrorists" and captured over 300 since May in fighting near the Somalian border. It accused neighboring Eritrea of arming the rebels. Ethiopia and Eritrea have been locked in a border war since May of last year.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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