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News In Brief

By CompiledRobert Kilborn and Lance Carden / September 1, 1999



"They seem not to be able to handle this very well," a senior UN official in East Timor complained after Indonesian security forces failed to stop new acts of harassment by anti-independence militiamen. The day after the crucial referendum on autonomy, the opponents were blamed for preventing people from leaving the province, blocking a UN convoy from using a public highway, and threatening independence supporters on the streets of the capital, Dili. One Timorese UN employee was killed, although reports that three others also had died couldn't be confirmed.

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Two more strong tremors struck the region of Turkey devastated by last month's earthquake, sending thousands of frightened people back into the streets to escape collapsing buildings. One death and at least 70 injuries were reported. Scientists said the first of the late-morning aftershocks had a magnitude of 5.2 and the second 4.6. The Aug. 17 quake is blamed for at least 14,202 deaths, and hundreds of thousands of other people are considered homeless.

Hopes for peace grew after 51 founders of Congo's largest rebel movement became the last to sign a cease-fire agreement aimed at ending the year-long struggle to topple President Laurent Kabila. The ceremony, in Lusaka, Zambia, was witnessed by international mediators as well as representatives of the African nations that had backed the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD). It paves the way for deployment of UN military liaison officers and international peacekeeping troops. A six-week internal dispute over whose names should appear on the document kept the RCD from signing July 10 when Kabila and the other parties to the civil war did.

Indications grew that the main Protestant political group in Northern Ireland would pressure the British government to delay next week's "review" of the province's shaky peace accord. A source in the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) confirmed published reports that it would discuss urging British Prime Minister Tony Blair to hold off the review, which is to be chaired beginning Monday by former US Sen. George Mitchell. UUP leaders say the review, aimed at breaking the logjam on a power-sharing Protestant-Catholic self-rule government, has little hope of succeeding.

Saying, "We want to coexist with the Congress, but they're behaving like spoiled children," supporters of President Hugo Chvez on Venezuela's Constitutional Assembly stripped elected lawmakers of their final powers. The assembly - whose task is to rewrite the Constitution but which has declared itself the nation's supreme authority - had taken away most of Congress's duties and powers last week. A senior lawmaker sought a ruling from the Supreme Court that the assembly's move was illegal, but since the court also is essentially disbanded it was unlikely the suit would succeed, analysts said.

Mireya Moscoso, the first woman to win the presidency of Panama, is to take her oath of office today. The widow of ex-President Anulfo Arias, a successful business executive in her own right, was elected to the post in May.

Compiled by Robert Kilborn and Lance Carden

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society