News In Brief

Mixed signals were sent by the Indonesian government as a force of international peacekeepers was being assembled to intervene in East Timor. The Amy commander there said his troops would begin withdrawing once the UN force, under Australian leadership, arrived - as soon as tomorrow. But Indonesia also had yet to OK air drops of food for supporters of independence, thousands of whom have fled the cities for their safety. And, in a largely symbolic move, the government said it was breaking off its security treaty with Australia, whose criticism of the chaos in East Timor has been harsh.

Leaders of the militias behind the anti-independence violence in the troubled province vowed to "fight to the last blood" against the peacekeepers. But separatist chief Xanana Gusmao pledged that his followers would cooperate fully with the UN force and would seek no reprisals against the anti-independence militias.

An exploding truck bomb collapsed the front of another Russian apartment building, killing at least 17 people. The blast in Volgodonsk, 500 miles south of Moscow, injured 184 others and caused heavy damage to surrounding buildings. It was the fourth apartment-complex explosion in Russia in two weeks, all of them apparently timed to inflict maximum casualties as residents slept. President Boris Yeltsin summoned new Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to discuss the matter, amid speculation that a state of emergency would be declared, allowing Yeltsin to rule by decree.

Seventeen million eligible voters were being asked to endorse the peace plan proposed by Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to end the nation's seven-year civil war. The deal, which would grant amnesty to Islamic insurgents in exchange for surrendering their weapons, has been OK'd by parliament, but Bouteflika wants the public's approval as well. In the weeks leading up to the vote he repeatedly claimed that foreign investors were ready to spend $4 billion in Algeria if he could show he had such backing.

Another third-place finish appeared likely for the party of German Chancellor Gerhard Schrder as voters in the eastern state of Saxony prepare to go to the polls Sunday. Opinion surveys show his Social Democrats (SPD) may win only 16 percent of the ballots, well behind the locally powerful Christian Democrats and even the Communists. Last week, the SPD also fell to third in Thuringia, its fourth loss in state voting this year. Schrder has acknowledged his unpopular austerity plan is partly to blame for the defeats.

One death, 370 injuries, hundreds of arrests, and at least $400 million in lost production were the price impoverished Bangladesh paid for a three-day nationwide general strike, authorities said. The walkout, called by opposition leaders to press their demand for the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, ended Wednesday. No elected Bangladeshi government has completed a five-year term since independence was achieved in 1971. Hasina is in her third year.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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