News In Brief

"The overwhelming majority" of Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza will refuse to leave their homes regardless of the outcome of the Camp David peace negotiations with Palestinians, one of their leaders vowed. Settlers were demonstrating outside Prime Minister Ehud Barak's office and residence as the talks in Maryland awaited President Clinton's return. Meanwhile, the top Muslim cleric in Jerusalem decreed that Palestinians who fled their homes in Israel in 1948 should not sell their right of return - a key issue in the talks - to the Barak government.

So polished was the performance of Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of Eight (G-8) annual meeting on Okinawa that his fellow leaders were proposing immediate full membership in the club of industrial democracies for the Moscow government. Putin surprised observers by failing to issue an expected request for easier repayment terms on $42 billion in loans by Western governments. Putin's G-8 debut overshadowed the meeting's focus on long-range issues such as education, technology, and public health in the developing world.

Under a state of emergency, voters in Ivory Coast went to the polls to decide whether to OK a new draft constitution aimed at restoring civilian rule. All political parties and military junta leader Robert Guei were urging a "yes" vote on the charter, which would be followed by an election for president in September and another in October for a new parliament. The document would establish new criteria for presidential candidates - requiring that both their parents be of Ivorian birth. Opponents say that would exclude ex-President Alassane Ouattara, a presumed contender in the next election.

Heaping new punishment on ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, a special court in Pakistan sentenced him to 14 more years in prison at hard labor, on top of the two life terms he already is serving. The latest penalty, for tax evasion, also includes a fine of $377,000 and a ban on all political activity for 21 years, meaning Sharif no longer can direct the affairs of his Muslim League from prison or through his wife, Kulsoom.

E-commerce, although still in its infancy in China, is to be taxed, an official newspaper reported. The China Daily, quoting government revenue chief Jin Renqing, said a task force has been set up to determine how to track sales via the Internet and prevent tax evasion even though few Chinese so far have credit cards or access to computers. Jin said the need for revenue outweighed the importance of developing the potential of e-commerce.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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