News In Brief

Muslim rebels trying to hold Chechnya's capital, Grozny, admitted to their heaviest losses of the four-month-old war with Russian troops. But they dismissed reports that some of their commanders were in Moscow for negotiations with the Kremlin as proposed by a Chechen businessman. The rebel losses - 45 dead and 60 wounded in the span of 24 hours - came amid fierce street-to-street fighting as Russians tried to squeeze the separatists into an ever-tightening circle.

The scandal surrounding the main opposition party in Germany took a tragic new turn with the discovery that one of its financial officers apparently had committed suicide. The news caused leaders of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) to ask for a break in parliament's inquiry into the scandal. Earlier, CDU chief Wolfgang Schaeuble appeared to win little sympathy as he apologized to legislators for the party's style of accepting funds in violation of campaign-finance laws.

Help with the legal and administrative steps needed for Turkish membership in the European Union was pledged by rival Greece in another new sign of improving relations between the Aegean neighbors. The pledge came during a stop in Ankara by Foreign Minister George Papandreou - the first formal visit by a Greek official of that rank in 37 years. The EU has said Turkey must show improvement in its human-rights record if it hopes to join. Greece and Turkey have come to the brink of war three times in the past 25 years.

Ten of the internationally condemned "resettlement" camps in Burundi will be dismantled, the country's foreign minister pledged. He told the UN Security Council the effort would begin "in the coming days." Fifty-eight camps were built to clear the countryside of an estimated 350,000 Hutu civilians, leaving insurgents from the tribe exposed to pursuit by the Tutsi-led Army. More than 200,000 people have died in Burundi's civil war since 1993. On-again, off-again peace negotiations between the rivals resumed last weekend, mediated by former South African President Nelson Mandela.

New controversy erupted in Zimbabwe as President Robert Mugabe chose Feb. 12-13 for a national referendum on his proposed new constitution. But he drew heavy fire from critics for inserting new clauses into the final draft of the charter. If approved, they would hold Britain responsible for compensating Zimbabwe's white farmers whose land is confiscated for resettlement by poor blacks. If Britain refused, the whites would go unpaid because Zimbabwe's government would bear no obligation to compensate them. Whites still own one-third of the most productive land in the former British colony.

Controversial former Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi, who died in self-imposed exile in Tunisia, was the nation's longest-serving head of government in the post-World War II era. But he fled in 1994 after being linked to an influence-peddling scandal that led to a 10-year prison sentence. While still in power, in 1985, Craxi angered US authorities by refusing to hand over Palestinian commandos who hijacked a Mediterranean cruise ship and killed an American passenger.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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