News In Brief

"Within a mere two weeks - three at the most," Russian troops will control the southern highlands of Chechnya where Islamic rebels are believed to be hiding, the commander of the invading forces said. But the military has had to revise its predictions of success many times since beginning the campaign to reassert authority over the breakaway region in September. Meanwhile, attention shifted to an expected rebel attempt to open a supply corridor to Georgia, the only non-Russian territory bordering Chechnya. The Georgian government angrily denied Russian claims that it has been aiding the Chechen rebels or allowing its soil to be used as a supply route.

For the second time in three days, a truck bomb believed sent by Basque extremists was found by Spanish police. The discovery, said Interior Minister Jaime Mayor Oreja, showed "a caravan of death" was headed for the capital, Madrid. Authorities seized the second truck in the northeastern city of Alhama de Aragn, 11 miles from where the first was intercepted. The intended target dates and locations weren't known, but both sets of explosives were timed to go off at 7:56 p.m., about the time stores and offices empty for the night. Police also found a cache of weapons in the home of the suspected driver of the second vehicle.

As tens of thousands of Cubans surrounded the US interest mission in Havana in another day of protest for the return of Elian Gonzalez, immigration officials announced he'd remain with relatives in Florida for at least another month. The rally was the largest since President Castro ordered demonstrations resumed to pressure the US to send the boy home to his father. US authorities said they would not interview the six-year-old until Jan. 21. But they denied that the delay would have any bearing on how the custody dispute is resolved. Elian was rescued at sea Nov. 25 after his mother and other would-be refugees drowned when their boat sank off Florida.

Military personnel helped local fishermen and shipping companies rescue 591 people from a sunken ferry off Cebu island in the Philippines. The vessel carried 606 passengers and a crew of 52, many of them on the way home for Christmas when it went down in rough seas before dawn. At least nine others were reported dead; 58 were missing.

TV and radio broadcasts abruptly stopped and gunfire was heard in the streets of Ivory Coast's capital as Army troops went on a looting spree. Political and social tensions have been rising in the West African country, long seen as a model of stability, as next year's elections approach. President Henri Konan Bedie and opposition leader Alassane Dramane Ouattara have been feuding over the latter's eligibility to seek the top office. But it was not immediately clear whether that was a cause of the violence.

The military junta that seized power in Niger last April formally returned the impoverished nation to civilian rule. The junta took over after unpopular President Ibrahim Mainassara Bare was assassinated by his own guards, but later bowed to pressure and allowed elections for a president. The vote, in November, was won by retired military commander Tandja Mamadou.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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