News In Brief

A declaration is expected today in Britain's Parliament on whether the self-rule government of Northern Ireland will be suspended, amid reports that its first minister, Protestant David Trimble, may quit before the weekend. The London and Irish Republic governments were in an intense search for ways to salvage the government following a report by the province's disarmament commission that no guerrilla weapons had yet been surrendered. The joint Protestant-Catholic administration could be revived later, analysts said, as efforts continued to persuade the Irish Republican Army to at least begin disarming by May.

Twenty thousand military reservists were called to active duty by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a sign that his forces in Chechnya continue to experience heavy casualties. In another potential problem for Putin, the World Bank said the "human implications" of the war, as well as the amount of money it is costing, would be taken into consideration before further financial aid is released to the Russian government.

Half of the Cabinet posts in Austria's controversial proposed new government - chiefly the finance, justice, and social affairs ministries - will go to the ultrarightist Freedom Party, reports said. The decision, following negotiations between Freedom leader Jrg Haider and the People's Party of Chancellor Viktor Klima, came amid ongoing angry protests from around Europe. The new lineup still must be OK'd by President Thomas Klestil, who told an interviewer he had little choice in the matter because the two parties had a majority in parliament.

Through their lawyers, the two Libyan defendants in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing case pleaded innocent at a pretrial hearing. The prosecution and defense said they are ready for the trial to begin May 3. Out-of-court agreements on evidence to be presented may shorten the trial of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, now projected to last at least a year, analysts said. It is to be held at a former US Air Force base in the Netherlands.

Early national elections in Japan appeared likely to result from the passage of a controversial measure to eliminate 20 seats in the lower house of parliament. The legislation was rammed through by supporters of Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi as opposition lawmakers boycotted the session for a fifth straight day. The opposition claims the cutback favors Japan's largest parties. Obuchi must call an election by the end of September. But he is believed to want full domestic political stability when Japan serves as host of the annual Group of Eight economic summit in July.

Thirty-seven people were hurt and 251 were arrested when a long-running strike at Latin America's largest university erupted in violence. Reports said students at the National Autonomous University of Mexico City turned on classmates who've occupied much of the campus since last April 20 in protest against a tuition hike. It later was rescinded, but the strikers then switched to a new set of demands, among them looser academic standards.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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