News In Brief

Shrugging off "right wing" threats of bodily harm, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said history had shown that even assassination could not stop peacemaking efforts with Palestinians. Security around Barak and other government officials was tightened after the number of threats was approaching proportions similar to the weeks before the November 1995 murder of Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin by an ultranationalist Jew. Forty-six percent of respondents to a poll in the newspaper Maariv said they thought reaching a peace accord with Palestinians posed a threat to Barak's life.

The most serious challenges yet were threatening Nigeria's fragile democracy because of a power struggle in parliament and a planned general strike called by trade union leaders. An emergency session of parliament's upper house is scheduled for today to try to impeach its leader, who is accused of disloyalty to President Olusegun Oba-sanjo. As recently as 1966, the armed forces staged a coup over just such a constitutional problem. The nationwide strike, set for Thursday, is intended to protest last week's 50 percent across-the-board increase in petroleum products.

Once again, the prime minister of Japan was trying to explain his use of language that evoked painful memories of the nation's militaristic past. Opposition leaders, who introduced a motion of no-confidence against Yoshiro Mori in parliament last week for his May 15 reference to Japan as a "divine nation," called him "very dangerous" after he employed the term "kokutai" in a campaign speech Saturday night. The word means "national polity" and was often used as Japan gathered itself for World War II. Mori's approval rating has plunged to 19 percent since the first incident, with a national election three weeks away.

A draft accord to end Fiji's political crisis has been reached, reports said. After nine hours of negotiations, rebel coup leader George Speight and the country's military rulers said most disputes had been resolved in a plan that would free Speight's hostages and restore civilian rule. The agreement calls for the indigenous Great Council of Chiefs to appoint a president, whose interim government would write a new constitution before elections are called. Still at issue in talks scheduled for today is when the military council would transfer power.

Army troops stayed out of sight amid joyous street demonstrations in the capital of Irian Jaya after its provincial congress declared independence from the rest of Indonesia. The proclamation, renaming the "new state" West Papua, was a direct challenge to the central government of President Abdurrahman Wahid, which has been trying desperately to prevent the breakup of the country at the hands of separatist movements.

Three new explosions in a 12-hour period rocked the Philippines, killing one person and and injuring four others. No one claimed responsibility for the explosions, but police are blaming the ongoing series of attacks on the capital, Manila, and elsewhere over the past month on Islamic insurgents. The violence comes amid military confrontation with two groups of separatists in the southern region of Mindanao.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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