News In Brief

Despite his current political weakness, leaders of Israel's Labor Party denied there would be any attempt to push Prime Minister Barak aside. One by one, key allies told news organizations they'd back the prime minister, saying no challenge to his leadership was "on the threshold." On Wednesday, Barak was deserted by Foreign Minister David Levy, who quit in protest against concessions offered to the Palestinians. Then, parliament left for a 90-day recess after OK'ing a measure that would authorize a new national election. Barak's expected to use the time to try to rebuild his coalition government.

For the first time in 11 years, the main Islamic guerrilla group in disputed Kashmir held open talks with the government of India on a long-term truce. Elders of Hizbul Muja-hideen said the sides agreed to form a committee to hash out details of a cease-fire following a day of violence that killed 102 people. But one Hizbul Mujahideen chief said fighting would resume Tuesday if India and rival Pakistan have not begun joint discussions on the valley's future status.

In an apparent reversal of his position a day earlier, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe denied pledging to end illegal seizures of white-owned farms. In a speech to a black group, he repudiated a vow made to visiting South African President Thabo Mbeki Wednesday that militant black squatters would be moved off white-owned land by the end of the month. Mbeki aides had no immediate comment on the about-face. Mbeki went to Zimbabwe in a "final" attempt to lure Mugabe back into the good graces of international aid donors.

Autonomy - but not independence - would be granted to minority Tamils in Sri Lanka under a new constitution proposed by President Chandrika Kumaratunga. She outlined for parliament a draft charter offering devolution to the separatists who've fought for an independent homeland. Debate was due to begin Monday; it would need a two-thirds majority to pass, followed by a national referendum. But as she spoke, Buddhist monks staged a sit-in in protest and leftist opponents demonstrated outside.

Seven hundred thousand union members were to begin a 24-hour strike in protest against economic conditions in Colombia. Last week, the government said it would propose a fiscal 2001 "sweat and tears" budget calling for the layoffs of thousands of public-sector employees and wage increases below the rate of inflation. Colombia has the highest unemployment rate in Latin America.

Mudslides caused by five days of uninterrupted downpours killed at least 55 people in northeastern Brazil and left an estimated 120,000 others homeless. Many of the victims had lived in poor hillside slums of Recife, a coastal city of 1.5 million people. Meteorologists said they expected more rain in the days ahead.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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