News In Brief

Secretary of State Albright was back in the Middle East to try to nudge Israel and the Palestinians into a new peace agreement before President Clinton's term in office ends. She flew to Jerusalem from Moscow, where she'd been accompanying Clinton, to arrange a summit with leaders of the two sides in the US later this month. But her task was difficult: Wide gaps remain on such issues as whether Jerusalem will be the capital of an eventual Palestinian state and on whether Palestinians will be granted the right of return to property that they fled when Israel became a state.

With Clinton at his side, the president of Ukraine announced the permanent closure of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Leonid Kuchma said it would end operations by Dec. 15 with financial help from the US. The facility was the scene of history's worst civil nuclear disaster, in 1986. Clinton's visit was the final stop on his European tour. Earlier, in Moscow, he won mostly polite applause for a 45-minute speech to Russia's parliament. He told lawmakers that US-Russian differences on missile defense were primarily technical and could be resolved.

A major earthquake on the Indo-nesian island of Sumatra killed at least 58 people and injured hundreds more, reports said. Rescuers searched for survivors in Bengkulu province, where the temblor, measured at 7.9 in intensity, caused the most damage. Two warships carrying food and other needs were sent to help.

The bold declaration of independence by activists in the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya was rejected by President Abdurrahman Wahid. He said the move Sunday by a congress of separatist delegates to rename the resource-rich western half of Papua New Guinea "West Papua" would be met with unspecified action by Indonesia's armed forces. The sprawling country already has lost the former province of East Timor and is trying to quell a separatist movement in Aceh province.

Tensions were at their highest point yet in Fiji's 18-day-old political crisis as the new military ruler rejected any possibility that rebels holding the ousted prime minister hostage could participate in an interim government. Commodore Frank Bainimarama said he'd accept no more demands from rebel leader George Speight. Speight responded by threatening to execute Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and 30 members of his administration if the military made any effort to free them.

In yet another South Pacific governmental crisis, armed rebels seized the prime minister of the Solomon Islands, police stations, and the national telecommunications center. Analysts warned of the possibility of civil war between ethnic Malaitans and rival Isatabu militants on the main island, Guadalcanal, over the rebel demand that Prime Minister Bartholemew Ulufaalu's democratically elected government resign.

A worldwide meeting to accelerate progress on women's issues may face obstacles from a handful of nations and the Vatican, observers said. This week's special session of the UN General Assembly is a follow-up to the platform adopted at the 1995 Women's Conference in Beijing. At issue are calls for sexual and reproductive rights for women and adolescent sex education, measures that are contentious in some Islamic countries.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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