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News In Brief

By Robert KilbornJudy Nichols and Stephanie Cook / January 24, 2000



Calm returned to the streets of Ecuador's capital following the overthrow of civilian President Jamil Mahuad. Army troops ringed the presidential palace, but appeared so relaxed that street vendors were penetrating barbed-wire defenses to set up for business as usual. Mahuad appeared on TV to denounce the coup, but then wished Vice President Gustavo Noboa - to whom the Army handed power - "the best of luck." Noboa vowed not to change the Jan. 10 decision by Mahuad to make the US dollar Ecuador's official currency.

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The self-rule government of Northern Ireland likely will be suspended by mid-February unless the Irish Republican Army has begun surrendering its weapons, First Minister David Trimble warned. But a Dublin newspaper, quoting a senior IRA source, said the deadline would not be met. The North's independent disarmament commission, which has been meeting with paramilitary groups from both sides of the sectarian divide, is to issue a progress report Jan. 31. Trimble's Ulster Unionist Party, the largest Protestant group in the province and a reluctant participant in the government, then meets Feb. 12 to decide whether to remain a partner in it.

Reports that former Chancellor Helmut Kohl had reversed course and would reveal the names of persons who contributed secretly to his reelection campaigns - in violation of German law - were hastily denied as the Monitor went to press. Kohl, deeply embroiled in financial scandal, vowed from the beginning to protect the identities of the contributors from investigators. A Kohl spokesman also was denying reports that the French government of President Franois Mitterrand arranged a $15.7 million contribution in 1994 to help the chancellor win reelection.

Clamoring for an end to political violence, an estimated 1 million Spaniards marched in central Madrid to protest a double car-bomb attack blamed on Basque separatists. The attack Friday killed an Army colonel and was the first reported incident of its type since the separatist group ETA (Basque Homeland and Liberty) ended its unilateral truce Dec. 3. ETA, however, did not immediately claim responsibility for it.

Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency arrived in Iraq and quickly began the first "routine physical inventory" of nuclear sites there in more than a year. The Vienna-based team was not part of the UN supervision regime imposed on Iraq after the Gulf War, but is part of a monitoring program imposed on all countries that are signatories to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Its mission is to ensure Iraq's nuclear stocks are not used for military purposes. All UN arms investigators left Iraq in late 1998.

Almost 4.5 million voters are eligible to go to the polls today in Croatia to choose a successor to the late hard-line President Franjo Tudjman. But late opinion surveys suggested that none of the nine candidates was likely to win outright, which would necessitate a runoff between the top two finishers Feb. 7. Centrist Stipe Mesic, the last president of federal Yugoslavia before it collapsed in 1991, appeared likely to attract the most votes. Tudjman, who died last month, had ruled Croatia since before independence in 1991.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society