News In Brief

Russian newspapers ran four computer sketches of men police said were to blame for a Moscow blast whose death toll climbed to eight. There were no breakthroughs, however, and prosecutors made clear that two people who had been detained earlier were not linked to the attack. Security remained tight in the city, resulting in spot identification checks . Meanwhile, Russian planes carried out 10 raids in Chechnya, apparently following up on the most recent vows to wage a relentless war against the guerrillas there.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chvez became the first head of state to visit Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War. The leader, who crossed the border by car to avoid a ban on flights to and from Iraq, indicated he would issue a formal invitation to Saddam Hussein for an OPEC summit in Venezuela beginning Sept. 27. Chvez's visit was part of a 10-country tour to drum up support for the summit, the first in 25 years. The Iraq stopover elicited criticism from the US, which has sought to keep Saddam isolated.

Kashmir's main Muslim guerrilla group claimed responsibility for an explosion in the town of Srinagar that killed 10 and injured about 20. It came two days after the rebels, Hizbul Mujahideen, called off a cease-fire with the Indian government when the latter refused to involve Pakistan in the dialogue. Hizbul Mujahideen issued a statement indicating that bigger military operations would be carried out in the disputed territory if India persisted with its "traditional intransigence."

The world's first woman prime minister, Sri Lanka's Sirimavo Bandaranaike, made a surprise move to retire from office, citing ill health. Bandaranaike, who first assumed office in 1960 and is the mother of President Chandrika Kumaratunga, said the move would enable her party to launch a more effective campaign in the forthcoming election season. The prime minister post was filled by Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka, the country's minister of public administration and home affairs.

The Guatemalan government admitted for the first time it was responsible for massacres and abductions during a 36-year civil war that ended in 1996. In making the concession, President Alfonso Portillo promised to compensate victims' families and bring the guilty to justice. The issue of war atrocities also made headlines Monday, when a report by the Archdiocese of Guatemala's Human Rights Office blamed the country's military for 92 percent of child abductions during the conflict.

In a possible sign of a new approach toward Taiwan, China reassigned at least two key relevant posts, official sources said. They identified Zhou Mingwei, who won praise for running last year's Fortune 500 forum in Shanghai, as taking the No. 2 slot at the Taiwan Affairs Office. Maj. Gen. Wang Zaixi, a People's Liberation Army intelligence expert, also was appointed to the TAO, the sources said. The developments came as China's Communist leadership was assembled for its annual secretive seaside retreat at Beidaihe - which was expected this year to focus on Taiwan.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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