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News In Brief

By Robert KilbornJudy Nichols and Stephanie Cook / February 15, 2000



A dawn-to-dusk curfew restored outward calm to a Kosovo city after ethnic Albanians fired on NATO peacekeepers sent to protect them. Troops sealed off an Albanian enclave in Kosovska Mitrovica and arrested dozens of suspects following Sunday's violence. One Albanian died and 19 people were hurt. A NATO spokesman blamed "extremists" for causing the trouble, and senior officials of both the UN and European Union called for police reinforcements. The violence was traced to a Feb. 2 attack on a UN bus that killed two Serbs. Since then, Serbs in the city have been forcing Albanians to leave their homes.

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In a dramatic reversal, the controversial former armed forces chief of Indonesia was suspended from his Cabinet post two hours after being told he could keep his job. General Wiranto said he accepted the move by President Abdurrahman Wahid, who quickly installed another Cabinet aide as interim security/political affairs minister. Accusations that Wiranto bears responsibility for last year's human rights abuses in East Timor are to be investigated by Indonesia's attorney general.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators failed to meet their self-imposed deadline Sunday for the outline of a final peace deal. No new talks were scheduled. But in an bid to lure the Palestinians back into bargaining, a senior Israeli said for the first time that his government would have to give up some West Bank Jewish settlements. In a related development, Foreign Minister David Levy also said Israel would resume peace discussions with Syria only if the latter dropped its upfront demand for territorial concessions.

Fifteen candidates met a Sunday deadline to produce the required documents qualifying them to seek Russia's presidency - among them the early favorite, Vladimir Putin. But officials said not all candidates were likely to survive a check of their finances. Putin's main rival is expected to be Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov, who already has passed the check. But for the third straight week an opinion poll showed Acting President Putin with less support than needed to avoid a runoff in the March 26 election.

Heavy rains and swollen rivers were keeping the ballots from last weekend's referendum on a proposed new constitution in Zimbabwe from being taken to counting centers. The delay worried the National Constitutional Assembly, an alliance of civic groups and political parties opposed to giving expanded powers to President Robert Mugabe. Assembly members predicted defeat for the draft charter if Mugabe's government did not "cook" the vote count. Early returns from the two main cities indicated the vote was running 70 percent against the new charter.

Senior Taliban officials hugged and tossed bouquets of flowers at 73 returning Afghans who'd been aboard the plane hijacked to London last week. Some returnees said they chose not to stay in Britain because it isn't a Muslim country. But the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair still confronted heavy criticism that - by entertaining asylum requests from the remaining people aboard the plane - it risked being seen as an easy mark by future hijackers.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society