News In Brief

Negotiations on a final peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians will resume later this month in Washington, special US envoy Dennis Ross announced. He returned to the region as Israeli Prime Minister Barak and Palestinian Authority President Arafat met privately twice and agreed their representatives should try again "as soon as possible" to produce the outlines of a deal and that Sept. 13 should remain the target deadline for its completion. Negotiations broke down last month over the yielding of additional West Bank territory by Israel.

Security will be guaranteed along the Israel-Lebanon border once Israeli troops leave, the Beirut government pledged. But President Emile Lahoud said the guarantee would apply only as part of an overall regional peace deal. In his first public comment since Israel's Cabinet voted last weekend to withdraw from southern Lebanon by July, Lahoud also said any agreement must cover the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the Jewish state.

The campaign to destroy Muslim rebel forces in the mountains of southern Chechnya has brought another rash of "losses" in Russian ranks, a spokesman acknowledged. Fighting, now in its sixth month, has intensified again, the spokesman said, as the Russians try to rout their quarry before the appearance of spring foliage. He didn't specify the extent of Russian casualties, but a Chechen separatist Web site claimed 500 soldiers died in clashes last weekend.

The power of the armed forces to investigate the backgrounds of all senior government officials and members of parliament was revoked by Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid. The probes have been conducted since 1988 by the Bakorstanas security agency, widely seen as an instrument of oppression under longtime autocratic President Suharto.

Thick haze from hundreds of land-clearing fires was drifting from the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo, raising concern of a repeat of the 1997 haze disaster in southern Asia. The problem already has brought complaints from neighboring Malaysia and Singapore, which reported widespread health problems and damage to tourism from the '97 blazes. Visibility in parts of Sumatra was only 150 yards.

Six more civil lawsuits were filed by Chileans against their ex-dictator, Augusto Pinochet, increasing pressure to bring him to trial for human rights abuses. That brings to 72 the number of cases against him and adds to what has been a difficult first week since he returned home from house arrest in London. On Monday, an appeals court was asked to consider stripping him of his immunity from prosecution.

Seeking to win through the courts what parliament wouldn't give them, women in Kuwait presented opening arguments in a class-action suit aimed at gaining full political rights. Last May, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah decreed females had the right to vote, but his all-male legislature later overruled him. Last month, women attempting to register for the 2003 election were turned away by officials.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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