UN peacekeepers withdrew from an outpost 45 miles east of Sierra Leone's capital, and thousands of civilians streamed toward the city as the forces of rebel chief Foday Sankoh made new strides, reports said. But Britain rejected complaints by the Freetown government that it wasn't doing enough to end the violence in its former colony. The hundreds of British troops there have secured Freetown's airport so foreign nationals can be evacuated, and, said Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon, that is their only purpose.
"Tyranny and anarchy" appear to rule out the possibility of fair elections for Parliament this summer, so Zimbabwe's main opposition party may boycott them, it said. Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) officials said the party would decide Saturday on its course of action. The election must take place by mid-August. The MDC announcement dismayed foreign diplomats in Harare, the capital, who said a boycott would give the country to authoritarian President Robert Mugabe "on a plate for another five years."
Tamil rebels were assaulting Sri Lanka government defenses around the city of Jaffna in waves and had punched "a few gaps" in them, an official source said. But although both sides said they'd inflicted heavy casualties, the claims could not be verified since journalists are not allowed into the combat zone. Meanwhile, the government announced hikes in the cigarette and liquor taxes to raise $20 million more for the war effort.
A foreign envoy returned empty-handed from efforts to talk Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines into releasing two ill hostages of the 21 they seized late last month. Ex-Libyan Ambassador Abdul Rajab Azzarouq said the rebels promised, however, to announce in 24 hours whether a Frenchman and a German woman, whom medical official say need immediate hospitalization, would be freed.
Once again, the Kremlin denied claims that Muslim rebels in Chechnya had ambushed a military convoy, inflicting heavy casualties. The rebels put the Russian losses at 34 dead, which would make the attack their most serious since an ambush in March killed 40 soldiers. Other confirmed ambushes have followed, despite the Kremlin position that the rebels are virtually defeated. Each time, analysts noted, the Russians have denied such attacks, only to admit them later.
As much as half of the workforce in South Africa joined a one-day strike, cutting heavily into the critical mining industry and other sectors. The walkout, called to protest a half-million lost jobs since the advent of black majority rule in 1994, could cost the economy up to $4.3 billion, the South African Chamber of Business said. The current unemployment rate is more than 30 percent.
An opposition-party candidate for mayor of a major Haitian town has vanished and may be the latest victim of the troubled nation's ongoing political violence, his aides said. Lesly Tilus of Delmas, a suburb of the capital, Port-au-Prince, had received a death threat, his wife said. Haiti's long-delayed elections are scheduled to begin May 21. But the violence already has caused many candidates to stop campaigning or withdraw.
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