News In Brief

"You may speak as much as you want, but do not throw anything," Hizbullah guerrillas told hundreds of Lebanese civilians who took advantage of their first opportunity to press against the border fence for a closeup look into Israel. Both sides appeared to want to keep tensions low. In Beirut, the government kept UN Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen waiting all day for a key meeting on filling the vacuum in south Lebanon left by Israeli troops. Prime Minister Selim al-Hoss said Lebanon's Army would be sent to the region only after the Israeli pullout was verified.

The main Protestant political movement in Northern Ireland is to try again tomorrow to take a crucial vote on rejoining the coalition home-rule government with Catholics. But as the Ulster Unionist Party prepared to hold its meeting postponed from last weekend, the province's largest pro-British paramilitary group said it wouldn't allow independent monitors to inspect its arms stocks. The Ulster Freedom Fighters said the offer by the rival Irish Republican Army to put its weapons beyond use didn't prove that the outlawed group planned to disarm.

A radical new flat tax aimed at stimulating Russia's lagging economy was unveiled by President Vladimir Putin. The plan, which analysts said would likely pass without difficulty in parliament, would set the rate all taxpayers owe the government at 13 percent of income, replacing the current scale of 12 to 30 percent.

Schools emptied and taverns offered free drinks in Ethiopia's capital at the news that Eri-trean forces were pulling back to the boundary of May 1998, before the two sides began their costly border war. Officials proclaimed the Eritreans had been routed and that Ethiopia would press its attack until "all of our territory has been liberated." The Eritrean government insisted it had only accepted an Organization of African Unity plan to pull back from disputed border areas "for the sake of peace."

"Technical faults" will likely cause postponement of Sunday's national election in Venezuela, President Hugo Chvez said. He blamed a US company for the glitches in a new computer-driven, vote-tabulating system, saying it was part of a plot to "destabilize" the balloting. But Election System & Software of Omaha, Neb., said the elections commission had made at least 11,200 late changes to the ballots. Chvez, a prohibitive favorite to win a second term over rival Francisco Arias, did not say when the vote might be rescheduled.

No one would confirm claims by the political opposition in Peru that the presidential runoff scheduled for Sunday has been postponed until June 11. The camp of challenger Alejandro Toledo attributed its claim to an Organization of American States official, who reportedly heard of the delay from the State Department in Washington. The latter has called for a postponement out of concern that the vote would be rigged to favor incumbent Alberto Fujimori. As the Monitor went to press, the National Election Board was to rule on Toledo's petition for a postponement.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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