News In Brief

By , and Joshua S. Burek

Virtually complete control over the former Israeli "security zone" in south Lebanon by Hizbullah guerrillas appeared imminent as its defenses collapsed and the remaining Lebanese militiamen surrendered. Hizbullah leaders demanded the release of all Lebanese prisoners held by Israel as well as a disputed area at the foot of the Golan Heights, or "we will deal with the withdrawal as if it did not happen" and continue fighting.

Under cover of darkness, Israeli troops returned home, claiming they hadn't left Lebanon with "our tails between our legs." Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who won election on his pledge to end the unpopular 18-year occupation, proclaimed "this tragedy is over." But he ordered new troops and tanks to northern Israel as a security precaution, and exchanges of gunfire across the border were reported as the Monitor went to press. Meanwhile, newspaper headlines called the retreat a "Day of Humiliation," comparing it to the chaotic US pullout from South Vietnam in 1975.

Despite his forces' assault over rugged terrain on a heavily defended target, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi rejected a cease-fire in the border war with Eritrea so that international peace efforts could gain momentum. Zenawi said he'd agree to a truce only after Eritrean troops withdrew from all disputed territory along their boundary. Analysts said the Ethiopian attack on the town of Zalambessa had the potential to become the fiercest fighting in a war that already has killed tens of thousands of people. In neighboring eastern Sudan, a government official estimated 100,000 Eritrean refugees were seeking safety from the fighting and that the number could triple in less than a month.

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Sunday's scheduled runoff election for president of Peru was thrown into doubt as the opposition candidate withdrew and a diplomatic group disputed government claims that vote-counting software was "ready and operational." Alejandro Toledo, who finished a close second to incumbent Alberto Fujimori in the first round of balloting April 9, said he'd abstain from the runoff unless it was postponed to improve the vote-counting system. The Organization of American States found evidence that backed claims of vote-rigging and announced a suspension of monitoring. If elections officials accept Toledo's resignation, Fujimori would automatically win a third term.

Vote-counting in Haiti's troubled legislative elections assumed chaotic proportions as workers struggled to retrieve thousands of ballots that were littering a Port-au-Prince street. Organizers estimated up to 10 percent of them were lost. Elsewhere, armed intruders broke into dozens of polling places across the country and seized full ballot boxes. Opposition parties alleged a massive fraud to ensure a landslide victory for the Lavalas Family Party of ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

A council of Fijian tribal chiefs denounced the armed coup by rebels holding the prime minister and other officials hostage. But the chiefs expressed sympathy for some rebel demands and planned to meet again today to decide on endorsing constitutional changes favoring indigenous Fijians over descendants of ethnic Indian migrants.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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