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News In Brief

By Robert KilbornJudy Nichols, and Joshua S. Burek / May 17, 2000



More Palestinians and Israelis were hurt in clashes in the West Bank in the second straight day of violence. But the intensity was lower than on Monday, when four people died and hundreds were injured. Palestinian police, who exchanged gunfire with Israeli troops the day before, were pushing back stone-throwing youths in Hebron, Ramallah, Bethlehem, and other areas. Special US envoy Dennis Ross was shuttling between Palestinian leader Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Barak to try to restore calm.

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At least 40 international monitors will oversee crucial parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe, which President Robert Mugabe scheduled for June 24-25, reports said. Mugabe agreed to the observer plan in a meeting with senior Commonwealth officials. But the timetable calls for all candidates to be registered by May 29 so their eligibility can be judged by "nominating courts," and the country's main opposition party said it would seek a court order to postpone the vote. A Movement for Democratic Change attorney said the official commission redrawing the boundaries of election districts has yet to report publicly.

No new fighting was reported in Sierra Leone as attention shifted to efforts to win the release of 347 more UN peacekeepers still believed held by rebel forces. Secretary-General Kofi Annan hinted that the hostage-taking could cost rebel chief Foday Sankoh the government post he won in last year's peace deal. Sankoh hasn't been seen in public since the violence at his home last week, and there's speculation that he may have died in the incident.

Another leading political dissident was freed from prison by Cuba's Communist government. Marta Beatriz Roque had served almost three years of a 3-1/2-year sentence for "incitement to sedition." Last Friday, the Castro government released Felix Bonne Carcasses, another of the so-called Group of Four who were jailed in 1997. Lawyer Ren Gomez Marzano and ex-Air Force pilot Vladimiro Roca remain in jail. The UN Human Rights Commission last month censured Cuba for continued violations of fundamental freedoms.

Hundreds of people remain unaccounted for in the Dutch city of Enschede after the massive fireworks explosion Saturday, police said. But they were unwilling to change the casualty figures from the blasts: 20 dead and 629 injured. Officials also denied reports that a highly combustible substance, magnesium powder, had been illegally stored in the warehouse involved in the explosion.

International protests and a possible no-confidence vote in parliament were piling up against new Prime Minister Yo-shiro Mori after he told a gathering of legislators and religious leaders that Japanese should recognize that their nation is "divine" and centered on its emperor. Mori said he only meant to express respect for Japan's traditions. But his remarks stirred memories of its militaristic past across Asia. The opposition Democratic Party was considering the no-confidence move since Japan's postwar Constitution forbids links between religion and the state.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society