News In Brief

An emergency meeting between the prime ministers of Britain and the Irish Republic was to take place as they confronted the prospect that the self-rule government of Northern Ireland could collapse if it wasn't suspended first. The North's first minister, Protestant David Trimble, had yet to resign in protest at the failure of the Irish Republican Army to surrender any of its weapons, but reports said that could happen today. As the Monitor went to press, the British government also had yet to indicate whether it would suspend the North's government, a strategy aimed at staving off a new crisis.

The failure of Israeli Prime Minister Barak and Palestinian Authority President Arafat to hold a joint news conference after their much-anticipated summit was seen as an indication that the talks hadn't gone well. Spokesmen for both sides said there was no agreement on which land Israel would yield when they finally complete the transfer of 6.1 percent more of the West Bank. The transfer is two weeks behind schedule.

With thousands of Chechen rebels believed slipping away to mountain bases in the south, Russian troops were engaged in mop-up operations in the capital, Grozny. The Russians appeared to be making their best progress since the final assault on the city began five weeks ago, but automatic weapons fire still could be heard. An estimated 8,000 rebels and their allies hold strong defensive positions in the highlands.

For the second time in eight days, Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid warned senior military commanders to watch their step. Visiting the Netherlands on his overseas tour, Wahid said an antigovernment protest in Jakarta Wed-nesday by Muslim militants might have been orchestrated by some generals. "We know what their goals are," he said. "They have to be careful." Rumors of a coup have trailed Wahid for more than a month. But they did not keep him from undertaking the trip, and so far he has refused to cut it short.

Following the lead of the US Federal Reserve, the governors of Europe's Central Bank (ECB) raised key interest rates 0.25 percent - their second such move since early November. The inflation-fighting measures also came as the value of the euro slid to its lowest level yet: 96.68 cents against the US dollar. It was valued at $1.16 when launched Jan. 1, 1999. Economists, who were not expecting another hike this soon, warned of damage to the ECB's credibility if exchange rates do not respond quickly and positively.

Next weekend's referendum on a proposed new constitution for Zimbabwe drew further criticism with word that no official monitors would watch for voter fraud. The new charter would give 13-year President Robert Mugabe vastly increased powers rather than decreasing them, as opponents hoped. The Electoral Supervisory Commission's referendum committee disbanded when members couldn't agree on how to proceed in the face of Mugabe's refusal to provide any support for their work.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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