News In Brief

A permanent national holiday was proclaimed by the government of Lebanon after the final Israeli forces returned home from the so-called security zone and an Army major padlocked the main border gate. But the Beirut government was resisting UN calls to move its troops into the vacuum left by the Israelis and assume responsibility for ensuring there are no cross-border attacks from Lebanese soil. Israel warned that any such attacks would be met with harsher responses than any used so far.

Formal authority to seize up to 841 white-owned farms in Zimbabwe was conferred by parliament on President Robert Mugabe. But farmers, while agreeing to the move, were holding out for "fair market prices" for land they'd lose, despite Mugabe's vow to pay compensation only for buildings and "improvements." At least 990 farms already are considered to be occupied by armed black squatters while others are "visited" regularly.

Independence Day ceremonies in Eritrea were dimmed by truckloads of wounded troops returning from intense fighting in the renewed border war with Ethiopia. A clearly weary President Isaias Afewerki conceded in a speech to holidaymakers in the capital, Asmara, that the breakaway nation faced "difficult circumstances" that could grow worse. Afewerki predicted ultimate victory, but Eritrean claims that four enemy jet fighters had been shot down were mocked by Ethiopian sources.

Renewed sectarian violence has killed more than 100 people in northern Nigeria, reports said. Heavily armed soldiers and police were patrolling the city of Kaduna after two days of fighting between Christians and Muslims, a revival of the clashes in February in which hundreds - and perhaps as many as 2,000 people - died. The violence was inspired by the proposed imposition of sharia, the rigid Islamic legal code, which prescribes such punishments as amputation.

In a change of heart, the chief monitoring group for Sunday's controversial runoff election in Peru announced it would participate after all. But the Organization of American States (OAS) said it had made "headway" in negotiating a possible postponement with the national elections commission. On Monday, the OAS said it would suspend cooperation with the commission out of concern that the runoff was rigged for a win by incumbent President Alberto Fujimori. Fujimori is the only official candidate left, since populist challenger Alejandro Toledo said he'd boycott the runoff if it wasn't postponed until mid-June.

The third of Cuba's best-known political dissidents was freed from prison, following two colleagues who were let go earlier this month. Lawyer Ren Gomez Manzano had served almost three years of a four-year sentence for incitement to sedition. Vladimiro Roca, the final member of the so-called Gang of Four, remains in jail.

Whether ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet must stand trial for crimes against humanity was determined by a Chilean court, but its ruling was to be kept under seal for two weeks. Neither the court nor the government would comment on reports that the judges had voted 12 to 10 to lift Pinochet's immunity from prosecution. He's charged with the deaths or disappearance of 3,191 people during his 17 years in power.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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