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News In Brief

By CompiledRobert Kilborn and Lance Carden / August 24, 1999



Tractors, buses, cars, and even people sitting on the pavement blocked Russian peacekeepers as ethnic Albanians made good on their vow to prevent them from entering the Kosovo town of Orahovac. The Albanians accuse Russian forces of collaborating with Serb paramilitaries in sweeps through the volatile province during the 78-day NATO bombing. The Russians were scheduled to replace Dutch troops who have been patroling Orahovac since the bombing stopped.

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No attempt was made to interfere with the largest pro-independence rally in East Timor since campaigning began for next week's ballot on whether to remain under Indonesian rule. Thousands of people jammed the streets of Dili, the capital, in a demonstration that broke what had been a low-key runup to the Aug. 30 referendum. The rally ended peacefully despite the accusation by UN officials that anti-independence militias have stepped up a violent campaign of intimidation.

If push comes to shove, the US "will not sacrifice" its more vital strategic interests in relations with China for the defense of Taiwan, the Beijing government proclaimed on the anniversary of the 1958 shelling of Quemoy Island. The statement, in an official newspaper, was seen as Beijing's latest attempt to undermine morale on Taiwan, which it has threatened to invade should the latter declare independence.

A small boy was pulled alive from debris in northwestern Turkey a week after the earthquake that devastated the region - and a day after two women were rescued in similar fashion. But elsewhere attention turned to those left homeless as soaking rains fell on the area, drenching food supplies and sending people back inside unsafe buildings for shelter. Residents of Izmit were urged to evacuate the area around the nation's largest oil refinery out of concern that the rain could bring down toxins from a fire that burned uncontained for days.

"I will not be intimidated even if they march every day," a defiant President Joseph Estrada told the powerful Roman Catholic Church of the Philippines, which organized an estimated 150,000-person rally late last week against his efforts to rewrite the Constitution. He wants to remove provisions from the charter that ban or severely limit foreign ownership of land and businesses.

"In no way" will a moratorium on repaying its foreign debt be declared, the Finance Ministry of Ecuador said. But the government noted it would propose to the International Monetary Fund a restructuring of its bond debt. The two also are discussing a new standby loan. Ecuador, mired in its worst economic crisis in a half-century, rocked financial markets late last week by suggesting it might defer payment of $94 million in debt payments due Aug. 31.

More than 1 million police, teachers, nurses, and other civil servants were poised to strike today against the new government of South Africa after their powerful union rejected a 6.3 percent pay-hike offer. The Congress of South African Trade Unions was demanding 7.3 percent, bringing accusations by the government that it was acting selfishly.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society