News In Brief

By , Judy Nichols and Stephanie Cook

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was not commenting on a published report that he'd agreed in principle to negotiate peace with Syria based on the latter's main demand - the full return of the Golan Heights. The Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper said US President Clinton informed Syria last October of Barak's position on the issue, which was a key factor in the resumption of the talks after a 3-1/2-year hiatus. But it said Syria also had introduced a new demand: control over the Sea of Galilee, Israel's main water reservoir. The peace talks were to have resumed yesterday in the US but now are indefinitely suspended again.

With police and Army troops under orders to shoot provocateurs on sight, relative calm returned to the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok. But reports said roving gangs of Muslims burned and looted homes and another Christian church and were blocking access to a ferry terminal. In Jakarta, the national capital, new President Abdurrahim Wahid said his patience with the sectarian rioting had ended, but denied the situation was a crisis for his government.

Next week's special UN meetings on the civil war in Congo will bring no "reconciliation" and he may not even attend them, President Laurent Kabila said. In a published interview, Kabila called instead for the Security Council to condemn the "occupation" of Congo by troops of neighboring Uganda and Rwanda, who are backing rebel forces trying to oust him. Analysts, agreeing with Kabila, said the US-sponsored New York conference beginning Monday could turn into a "talk shop."

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Rather than cooperate in bringing closure to his party's spreading financial scandal, ex-German Chancellor Helmut Kohl quit as its honorary chairman. But other leaders of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) acknowledged that move alone would not end the party's woes. In Hesse, Gov. Roland Koch said auditors were looking into further suspicious CDU financial dealings at the state level. Kohl refused to identify donors of up to $1 million in illegal secret funds possibly tied to political favors.

Suspected terrorism-financier Osama bin Laden would abandon his "hostility" to the US if American troops withdraw from Saudi Arabia, a weekly newspaper reported. Shariat, an official publication of Afghanistan's Taliban movement, did not say whether bin Laden himself was the source of its claim. The Taliban has granted the Saudi dissident "guest" status and refuses to hand him over to US authorities. He's accused of orchestrating the bombing of two US embassies in Africa in 1998.

Members of the UN Security Council went back to the drawing board to find a nominee to head the agency's new weapons-inspection mission for Iraq. But US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke said Swedish diplomat Rolf Ekeus would remain a candidate for the post despite the objections of Russia, China, and France. Ekeus headed the UN's original mission when it uncovered the Iraqi biological-weapons program.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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