News In Brief

Cabinet ministers from the parties that voted against Israeli Prime Minister Barak earlier this week on key legislation before parliament will be fired Sunday, he said. His vow came as a new public opinion poll indicated that, despite his deep political problems, Barak remains Israel's most popular politician. It also showed that new elections - the point of the vote Wednesday - would not bring a significant change in the balance of power in the Knesset. Barak was expected to spend a religious holiday weekend exploring alternatives for a new coalition government.

The suburb of Sri Lanka's capital where a Cabinet minister and 22 others died in a suicide bombing Wednesday was under curfew and heavy military guard after angry mobs stoned Tamil-owned businesses in retaliation for the attack. Parliament also extended for another month the nationwide state of emergency. The attacker was believed to be a member of a Tamil separatist suicide unit that targets politicians and government officials, although no one has claimed responsibility for the incident.

New President Vladimir Putin imposed direct Russian rule over Chechnya, ordering the formation of a transitional administration for the breakaway region and sending legislation to parliament that would provide a legal basis for the action. The move is likely to last at least two years, an aide said, during which Chechens could not elect their own leaders. It was unclear how the new arrangement would be greeted in Chechnya. Its voters elected Aslan Mas-khadov as president in 1997, but he's believed in hiding with Islamic rebels in the southern mountains and Kremlin leaders refuse to talk with him.

The morning rush-hour assassination of a senior British diplomat in Athens was blamed on the notorious urban guerrilla movement November 17. Military attach Stephen Saunders was shot at almost point-blank range en route to work by two unidentified men on a motorcycle. If a direct link to November 17 is established, the murder would be the group's 23rd since 1975. The attack took place on the day former CIA director James Woolsey said in an Athens newspaper interview that the identities of some November 17 members are known to the Greek government.

Foreigners were being evacuated from the Solomon Islands as fighting between rival ethnic militias was described as civil war. The violence between the Malaita and Isatabu is the worst in the nation's 22 years of independence. The latter are resentful of migration to Guadalcanal, the Solomons main island, by Malaitans, who have taken over choice land and top jobs. The Malaitans, who hold Prime Minister Bartholemew Ulufaalu hostage, said they'd consider a truce while a delegation from the Commonwealth visits this weekend. A motion of no-confidence in Ulufaalu is scheduled for Thursday in parliament.

No immediate assessment of damage or injuries was possible after the second strong earthquake in five days jolted the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It was measured at 6.2 in intensity. Last Sunday's 7.9-magnitude temblor killed at least 97 people, injured another 1,900, and left thousands homeless.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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