News In Brief

Future peace efforts in the Middle East became clouded and Israeli Prime Minister Barak was considering his options after parliament easily passed three motions for a new national election. The move does not mean the imminent collapse of Barak's coalition government; the legislation must survive additional votes before it takes effect. But analysts said it could mean the beginning of the end for his shaky 11-month-old coalition, which has only a 16-seat majority in the Knesset.

Little, if any, headway was apparent as Secretary of State Albright finished talks designed to lure Syria back into peace negotiations with Israel. Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa, meeting with her in Cairo, said his government "would like very much" to find a way to resume the negotiations. But he said because Syria will continue to claim its rights to recovering all territory lost to Israel in the 1967 war, "It is going to take some time before we get a resumption."

The first serious opposition to new President Vladimir Putin's reform agenda surfaced in the Russian parliament, as lawmakers balked at his plan to return to a system of direct control by the Kremlin over administrative regions. It appeared likely that Putin would be asked to withdraw the legislation that would enable the change. Regional governors said the plan would give the Kremlin power over regional affairs - but without responsibility if its directives failed.

Despite security precautions, a suspected Tamil suicide bomber succeeded in killing a senior Sri Lanka Cabinet member. Industrial Development Minister C.V. Gooneratne and at least 21 others died at a fund-raising event on War Heroes Day, which honors government soldiers killed in the Tamil campaign for an independent homeland. Almost 80 people were hurt in the attack, many of them seriously. The Colombo government urged calm and sent troops to prevent a backlash against the local Tamil community.

Any challenges to his reelection victory would not be accepted, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori said of a forthcoming mission by the Organization of American States to implement democratic reforms. Fujimori's controversial win in the May 28 runoff election was condemned by the OAS, which is sending a team to Lima next month. But because the OAS stopped short of imposing sanctions, Fujimori called the move a "triumph for Peru." His July 28 inauguration is expected to draw massive protests led by ex-challenger Alejandro Toledo.

An exchange of gunfire punctuated the tense standoff between Fijian soldiers and coup rebels as both sides criticized the Commonwealth for suspending the island nation for the second time in 13 years. A Commonwealth delegation was due to arrive later this week to discuss the 19-day-old crisis, but rebel leader George Speight rejected the notion of outside mediation.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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