News In Brief

There is no hope for peace in the Middle East unless eastern Jerusalem becomes "the capital of a Palestinian state," Yasser Arafat told interviewers. The Palestinian Authority chief also said he'd reject any solution that does not permit the return of refugees to homes in Israel that they fled in 1948. He spoke as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was meeting with President Clinton in Lisbon, Portugal. Barak, in unusually harsh terms, accused the Palestinians of "foot-dragging" in negotiations to produce a final treaty by Sept. 13.

As many as 600 Chechen rebels and foreign mercenaries are surrounded in the breakaway region's southern hills and are being pounded relentlessly by artillery and bombing, senior Russian commanders said. And although the rebels' Web site denied any such entrapment, it did acknowledge that villages in the area were being flattened. There were unconfirmed claims that the attacks had wounded Chechnya's elected president, Aslan Maskhadov.

Gunfire and more than a dozen explosions wracked the volatile Indonesian province of Aceh in the hours immediately before a 90-day cease-fire was to take effect between separatists and government forces. Separatists said four villagers were hurt as soldiers and police conducted last-minute sweeps in search of hidden rebels. Analysts questioned the viability of the truce, since each side was accusing the other of intimidation. Thirty-two people have been killed since the accord was signed in Geneva May 12.

Four more small children were freed by a heavily armed hostage-taker in Luxembourg despite the passage of his deadline for transportation to an airport for escape to Libya. The unidentified man, who police said has a history of mental illness, still was holding three adults at gunpoint in a pre-school facility, along with 25 children, some as young as 2. A teacher and 15 other children escaped as the drama began Wednesday or were released unharmed late that night. The gunman is believed to be of North African origin, although he now holds Luxembourg citizenship.

"A very major breakthrough" was being claimed in negotiations to end the two-week-old political crisis in Fiji. Rebel leader George Speight met for the first time with the island nation's new military rulers, amid predictions that the hostages his followers are holding would be freed over the weekend. The military said it may keep power for up to three years until a new, anti-Indian Constitution is written and elections are held. But it disputed suggestions that Speight was likely to become the new prime minister.

At least 150,000 visitors were expected through the gates on the opening day of history's largest world's fair in Hannover, Germany. "Humankind - Nature - Technology" has attracted a record 155 participating nations and 27 other international exhibitors, with the notable exception of the US, which isn't represented due to insufficient corporate backing. Total attendance at the fair, billed as Europe's top tourist attraction this summer, is projected to reach 40 million by the time it closes in October.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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