News In Brief

Despite 95 degree f. heat and growing international pressure, thousands of residents of a key Kosovo town carried their blockade of Russian peacekeeping troops into a third day. Ethnic Albanian leaders said they'd ask the people of Orahovac whether they were willing to back down but that their followers were vowing to remain in place indefinitely. Some had indicated they would stage a hunger strike to prevent the Russian deployment. In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry called on senior NATO commanders to sort out the problem.

The embattled president of Yugoslavia is ready to hold an early election, but published reports that it will be scheduled for Nov. 7 are false, an aide to Slobodan Milosevic said. Milosevic has been under pressure to call new elections, especially because of the ruinous bombing by NATO during the Kosovo crisis. But his political opponents are divided over whether he should be ousted first to help ensure that a vote would be fair. With the opposition split, Milosevic's supporters believe they can win more than half the seats in Yugoslavia's 250-member parliament, a Belgrade newspaper reported.

A powerful truck bomb exploded just three houses from the residence of Afghanistan's senior Taliban leader, killing his bodyguards and at least seven other people. Forty more were reported hurt. But a Taliban spokesman said Mullah Mohammed Omar was not at home and "is fine." It was the first reported act of sabotage in Kandahar since the city fell under Taliban control six years ago. It is more than 200 miles south of the last remaining fighting in the long Afghan civil war.

Islamic rebel positions were so well fortified that preparations for the incursion into Dagestan must have begun more than a year ago, a Russian Army commander said as TV footage showed his troops celebrating the apparent end of 2-1/2 weeks of fighting in the southern republic. Half of the estimated 2,000 rebels seeking to establish an independent Islamic state were reported killed, with many of the rest believed to have slipped back into neighboring Chechnya. But residents of the area were not being allowed to return because their villages had been mined.

Accusing her fellow justices of "committing suicide" by going along with a presidential plan to reform the judicial system, the chief of Venezuela's Supreme Court quit her post. Cecelia Sosa had served on the high court since 1989 but objected to a move by the new Constitutional Assembly, packed with supporters of President Hugo Chavez, to establish an emergency commission with the power to fire judges. Chavez, who assumed power in February, enjoys strong public backing for his plan to "revolutionize" Venezuela's Congress, courts, and other institutions and to rewrite the Constitution.

Fifty invited guests dined on the first British beef to be served in continental Europe since the so-called "mad cow disease" scare of 1996. A luncheon at a Brussels hotel featured steaks shipped in for the occasion. The European Union officially lifted its 29-month ban on the exports Aug. 1. British beef producers now must try to reestablish what had been an $832 million-a-year market in Europe.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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