News In Brief

A signing ceremony was to be held in Jerusalem for an agreement on final details of a symbolically important "safe passage" route between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The 28-mile land link for Palestinians was to have opened officially last weekend, but didn't because of security concerns. Many Israelis see it as an invitation to terrorist attacks. But for Palestinians it represents a vital step toward their goal of eventual statehood. In last-minute negotiations, Palestinian representatives agreed to Israeli-supervised security checks of all persons applying for magnetic travel permits that will allow the holders to use the route for one year.

A 10,000-strong transition force that would maintain law and order and administer East Timor for up to three years was recommended by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He did not estimate the cost of what would be a joint military-civilian operation. A similar two-year mission in Cambodia earlier this decade cost more than $1.5 billion. On the ground in East Timor, pro-independence guerrillas again were defying the multinational intervention force's demand that they disarm. Falintil movement members vowed not to surrender their weapons until all Indonesian troops left the territory.

Barricades erected by both Serbs and ethnic Albanians across the main east-west highway in Kosovo were torn down by NATO-led peacekeepers. The first of the barriers, which were interfering with civilian traffic and the flow of humanitarian aid, went up late last month after a grenade attack killed two people and injured more than 40 others in a Serb market. Albanians then set up theirs about 200 yards away in retaliation. Angry Serbs said they were considering a new obstruction because the NATO force was not adequately protecting them. But there were no immediate signs of such an effort.

The shape of the next government had yet to emerge in Austria after Chancellor Viktor Klima resigned. Klima's Social Democrats and the conservative People's Party had been coalition partners since 1986. But the latter fell to third place in last weekend's election behind the ultraright-wing Freedom Party of controversial leader Jrg Haider, with 200,000 absentee ballots still uncounted. The People's Party held the balance of power, however, since it could choose to link up with Haider (pondering a reporter's question at a news conference) or rejoin the Social Democrats. Klima has said he wouldn't include Haider in a coalition government.

The second Asian nuclear accident in less than a week exposed at least 22 workers to radiation at a power plant in South Korea. It happened during repairs to a cooling unit, although officials said no radiation escaped outdoors. Meanwhile, in Japan, the owner of the uranium-processing plant where dozens of people were affected by high levels of radiation late last week, accepted "social and moral responsibility" and pledged to pay damages.

A collision of morning rush-hour commuter trains - and a subsequent fire - killed at least eight people and injured 160 others in London. The cause of the crash, in the Ladbroke Grove section, about 2-1/2 miles from busy Paddington Station, was not immediately known.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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