News In Brief

Following the admonition of their fellow Tamils to evacuate, more than 15,000 people escaped from government-held Vavuniya, Sri Lanka, as guerrilla Tamil Tigers prepared to attack the northern town. The rebels invaded 10 military camps in the northern jungle last week, saying they killed 1,000 government soldiers. Members of the Tamil minority hope to establish an autonomous homeland in the north and east parts of the country.

Structural problems were apparently responsible for the collapse of a six-story apartment building in the southern city of Foggia, Italy. One of 16 known survivors reported hearing "creaking noises" in the complex seconds before the collapse. As the Monitor went to press, 17 of the building's estimated 71 residents were confirmed dead and search efforts were continuing. In December of last year, 27 people were killed when an apartment block in Rome crumbled.

Shouting "We'll be back!" scores of Jewish settlers struggled violently with Israeli soldiers dragging them out of Havat Maon settlement. The military was following orders from Prime Minister Ehud Barak to remove the squatters from their illegal hilltop enclave in preparation for a handover of 5 percent of West Bank settlements to Palestinians Monday - part of a larger land-for-peace deal. Settlers had previously agreed with Barak to vacate 12 sites, including Havat Maon, in return for the government sanction of the remaining 30. These zones have been occupied since the 1967 Six-Day War.

In its first admission of wrongdoing since it began attacks on Chechnya, a Russian official spoke of the country's "moral responsibility" for mistakes. As refugees continued to flood the border of neighboring Ingushetia in hopes of fleeing continued Russian attacks. President Yeltsin's deputy chief of staff Igor Shabdurasulov ruled out independence for the breakaway province, saying the fighting would not necessarily cease if and when talks begin. Approximately 200,000 Chechens have fled their homes since September.

Pakistan's ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif could face trial on hijacking and kidnapping charges for the Oct. 12 diversion of a plane carrying General Pervaiz Musharraf. The flight carrying the general and 200 civilians was allegedly denied landing rights at Karachi airport until only seven minutes of fuel remained. Musharraf overthrew Sharif hours later in a nonviolent coup. Critics of the current government fear the former leader will face a mock trial. Both the hijacking and kidnapping charges carry the death penalty.

Representatives of France and Britain are scheduled to meet in Brussels today in a last-ditch effort to resolve their dispute over British beef. France has refused to lift its embargo against the product, citing the alleged threat of so-called "mad cow disease." The European Union lifted its ban Aug.1, but France did not follow suit.

Correction: An item in this space Nov. 3 failed to list Iran as one of the Persian Gulf states that allows women to participate in electoral politics. The item should have said that Oman and Qatar are the only Arab states in the Gulf where women have that privilege.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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