News In Brief

A new cease-fire, to begin Friday, was agreed to by all sides in Congo's civil war. Terms of the deal call for a complete cessation of hostilities, but a similar agreement signed last August has resulted in numerous violations. Those have been the key impediment to the arrival of a 5,500-member UN observer mission, whose deployment depends on a revival of the peace process. The new plan calls for "disengagement zones" in which rival forces would remain at least 19 miles apart.

Invasions of white-owned farms in Zimbabwe were expected to gain new momentum after parliament late last week OK'd an amendment to the Constitution allowing the government to seize such properties without compensation. The takeovers by armed blacks began five weeks ago and already are in the range of 800, out of about 4,500 farms. Critics of President Robert Mugabe, among them an opposition party that took out a full-page newspaper ad Sunday, accuse him of backing the illegal takeovers to divert attention from fuel shortages, unemployment, and runaway inflation. The controversy has led to cuts in vital international aid. But Mugabe has urged whites to side with him or leave - "and we will give you a police escort."

Calm returned to the third-largest city in Bolivia after weekend riots that led President Hugo Banzer to declare a national emergency. The violence erupted Friday following a police mutiny over low pay and a week of protests over an improvement project in Cochambara, 350 miles east of La Paz, the capital, that could hike water rates by 35 percent. Three people died and at least 10 others were arrested.

Nine million voters were required by law to go to the polls in Greece for a national election that analysts said would be the closest since the nation returned to democratic rule in 1974. Late opinion surveys gave the conservative opposition New Democracy Party of Costas Karamanlis its best hope of winning control of the government since 1993 over the socialist PSOK of incumbent Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

A new five-year term appeared all but certain for President Eduard Shevardnadze as voters went to the polls in Georgia. But two-time challenger Dzhumber Patiashvili, leader of the former Communist Party and the likely second-place finisher, was hoping to force a runoff later this month by holding Shevardnadze to less than 50 percent of the vote. The ex-Soviet republic is nagged by corruption and poverty, and Shevardnadze, who has survived numerous assassination attempts, is held responsible by many Georgians for failing to improve living standards.

Residents were given half an hour to retrieve whatever they could carry from their homes in a town near the base of Mount Usu, the volcano in northern Japan that, experts say, is due to erupt violently again at any time. Usu's eruption March 31 was its first in 22 years, but scientists predict the impending blast will be far more destructive. More than 13,000 people have been ordered from their homes in the area.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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