News In Brief

Speculation in Sierra Leone centered on the possibility that rebel leader Foday Sankoh could have died last week in the confusion over an attack on his home by stone-throwing demonstrators. Sankoh has not been seen in public since before the incident. His Revolutionary United Front, meanwhile, took but then was pushed back by pro-government forces from a key crossroads 46 miles from the capital, Freetown.

The latest farm occupied by black squatters in Zimbabwe is owned by former white Prime Minister Ian Smith. Meanwhile, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change announced it will not boycott parliamentary elections after all - a move hinted at last week - but will attempt a campaign of strikes and civil disobedience to force President Robert Mugabe's government and its militant supporters to end political violence.

A longtime rival of new Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared certain to win easily in his bid for reelection as governor of St. Petersburg, Putin's hometown and the country's No. 2 city. But while resigned to Vladimir Yakovlev's victory, Putin was focusing on a new effort: a decree dividing Russia into seven administrative regions with his own special envoys in charge of restoring central control from Moscow, a feature largely lost under his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.

There will be tough consequences for the assassination of another ally of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, his ruling Socialist Party warned. Bosko Perosevic, the party's chief, was shot as he attended an agricultural fair. Security police quickly subdued the lone suspect , a guard at the fair who was accused of working for Yugoslavia's opposition movement. Perosevic's murder was the fourth since Jan. 15 of Milosevic allies.

Tapping noises under the rubble in the Dutch city of Enschede indicated that members of at least one family near the scene of a massive fireworks explosion were still alive. The blast in a storage warehouse was blamed for at least 20 deaths and 541 injuries. The warehouse, in a residential neighborhood, was storing an estimated 100 tons of fireworks imported from China.

New fighting erupted almost immediately in Indonesia's volatile Aceh province after separatist rebels and central government negotiators signed the first formal cease-fire in 25 years. Although rebel groups had put down many of their weapons and the truce isn't scheduled to take effect until June 2, five civilians and two Indonesian soldiers were wounded in a clash that apparently began when troops entered a town to search for escaped prisoners.

Voters appeared likely to give Chancellor Gerhard Schrder's Social Democrats (SPD) a possible absolute majority in legislative elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous state in Germany. Analysts said such a result would be a remarkable recovery for Schrder and the SPD, after they lost their long hold on local offices throughout the state last September - although that was before a major financial scandal engulfed the rival Christian Democrats.

Former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, who died in Tokyo, was remembered as a hard-working, if uncharismatic, leader who devoted his efforts to extricating Japan from its worst recession since World War II. His successor, Yoshiro Mori, announced that national elections will likely be held on Obuchi's birthday, June 25.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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