News In Brief

Member nations of the Commonwealth met in London to decide on a response to the take-overs of white-owned farms and harassment of opposition groups in Zimbabwe. It appeared the meeting would not result in economic sanctions or a suspension from the 54-member group. But those could follow if President Mugabe defies a constitutional requirement to hold parliamentary elections by August. For his part, Mugabe was meeting with his Cabinet amid predictions that he might announce a date for the voting.

A rescue force of government troops and civilian volunteers vowed to continue their encirclement of a Muslim rebel hideout in the southern Philippines despite their quarry's threat to decapitate two more hostages. A clash between the force and rebels killed at least one soldier and wounded five others, reports said. Two weeks ago, the captors claimed to have beheaded two of 27 hostages, triggering the military intervention.

Stakes were high on all sides as preparations drew to a close for today's start of the long-awaited Lockerbie/Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial. A Scottish court, using an ex-military base on Dutch soil, will consider whether defendants Abdel Basset al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima are guilty of murder, conspiracy, and violations of aviation security law. The two Libyans have pleaded not guilty and deny that they were secret service agents. Failure to obtain convictions, analysts said, would be an embarrassment for the US and Britain, since they campaigned for years to establish Libyan responsibility for the 1988 blast. On the other hand, it would be a political triumph for controversial Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

Hundreds of thousands of flood and cyclone victims streamed out of temporary aid camps in Mozambique and headed back to their demolished villages. UN officials said freshwater supplies and other basic services have been restored to less-rural areas, and "about 60" of the more than 600 schools damaged in the February and March disasters have reopened. President Joaquim Chissano was to attend an international conference of aid donors opening today in Rome, where he planned to ask for $450 million in pledges to rebuild his country's infrastructure.

Pham Van Dong, whose death last Saturday was announced by the official state news agency, was one of the three giants of Vietnam's communist revolution, along with Ho Chi Minh and military legend Vo Nguyen Giap. Pham served as prime minister of the Hanoi government from 1955 to 1987 - spanning independence from France, the war with the US and noncommunist South Vietnamese forces, and reunification of the peninsula.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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