News In Brief

Details of a secret proposal on surrendering weapons were shared with the British government early enough to have prevented the suspension of home rule in Northern Ireland, reports said. Prime Minister Bertie Ahearn of the Republic of Ireland contradicted British claims that the Irish Republican Army's proposal wasn't available Feb. 11 when the Protestant-Catholic coalition was stripped of its powers. Ahearn and British Prime Minister Tony Blair vowed in a meeting with the province's leading political leaders to put the coalition back together, but conceded they didn't yet know how that could be accomplished.

His government "never wanted to play down" the extent of damage from the cyanide leak at a Romanian gold mine, Environment Minister Romica Tomescu said. Tomescu conceded the disaster, considered the Continent's worst since the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, came at a bad time for Romania, which is seeking membership in the European Union. While the EU was taking the position that "the polluter pays," the Australian partner in the mine said it wasn't sure it was to blame because early reports "defy basic scientific principles."

The control of parliament by hard-line Islamic fundamentalists is at stake today as voters go to the polls in perhaps the most crucial election in modern Iran. Opponents of reform-minded President Mohamad Khatami were urging supporters to uphold the virtues of Islam that dictate almost every aspect of Iranian life. But analysts expected pro-Khatami candidates to do well because of mounting public frustration at the rigidity of Islamic rule that has been in place since 1979. The hard-liners have missed almost no opportunity to thwart Khatami's efforts to liberalize politics and social codes.

An anti-US demonstration by perhaps 2,000 students in Beirut, Lebanon, turned violent when the protesters threw rocks at jittery riot police and Army troops, who responded with tear gas. No injuries were reported immediately, but some students were overcome by the gas. The demonstration followed calls by the students for US Ambassador David Satterfield to be expelled for his government's perceived support of Israeli airstrikes against Lebanese power plants.

Graffiti defaced the presidential palace in Peru's capital after soldiers and police broke up an attempt by hundreds of unruly demonstrators to penetrate it. They were protesting plans by President Alberto Fujimori to seek a third straight five-year term in the April 9 national election. Fujimori supporters in Congress passed a controversial law in 1996 that overturns a constitutional ban on presidents serving more than two consecutive terms. Fujimori's first term shouldn't count, the law says, because he was elected in 1990, three years before the charter was written.

A taboo fell in Japan, as parliament began discussions on revising the country's post-World War II Constitution, written by the US. At the crux of the debate: a clause aimed at denying Japan "war potential." A rewrite of the charter would require a nationwide referendum.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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