News In Brief

The military advance by Russian forces in Chechnya was stalled amid fierce resistance by Islamic guerrillas, field commanders conceded. In the capital, Grozny, rebels fighting in units of as few as 15 were keeping the Russians from occupying the city as the operation to capture it reached the one-month mark. Observers also said claims of casualties inflicted on Grozny's defenders appeared to be on the high side.

A declaration of statehood will come "this year," Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat said. He set no date for the announcement but has said previously that such an announcement could come in September. Arafat spoke as Palestinians and Israel mutually pledged to hold marathon sessions to produce the outline of a final peace deal by their self-imposed Feb. 13 deadline.

No civilian hostages were injured as Army and police commandos ended the takeover of a Thai hospital by a band of Burmese rebels. Five of the Thais were hurt, however, and all the rebels were killed. The rebels had demanded that Thai forces stop helping Burmese troops attack their jungle base.

Embattled President Laurent Kabila arrived in New York to join a special series of meetings at the UN aimed at promoting full compliance with the cease-fire in Congo. But after pledging to cooperate with other African heads of state, he quickly blamed neighboring Rwanda and Uganda for backing rebels who seek his ouster. He also accused his opponents of plundering Congo's natural resources. The meetings are expected to continue for the rest of the week as participants consider sending a UN peacekeeping force to the restive nation.

Voters rejected the hard-line nationalism of the late Franjo Tudjman in Croatia's presidential election. But while centrist candidate Stipe Mesic led Monday's balloting, he fell 9 percent shy of the required absolute majority for a first-round victory. He'll face his nearest rival, technocrat Drazen Budisa, in a Feb. 27 runoff. The candidate of Tudjman's HDZ Party, Foreign Minister Mate Granic, finished a distant third.

Loud antigovernment protests resulted in the arrests of about a dozen Malaysians as the sodomy trial of ex-Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim resumed in Kuala Lumpur. Anwar looked gaunt in his first appearance in public since the trial was recessed Nov. 10 prior to the national election won by his rival, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Anwar already has been convicted of corruption and sentenced to six years in prison. Both charges, he maintains, are politically motivated to keep him from succeeding Mahathir.

Civilian rule will be restored to Ivory Coast following national elections - probably by the end of October, the country's military ruler announced. But Gen. Robert Guei said Ivorians first would vote in April in a referendum on a new constitution. A draft charter is being written by a commission chosen from all political parties. A Guei-led coup seized power Dec. 24.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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