News In Brief

By , Joshua S. Burek, and Noel Paul

Negotiations over the release of 12 Western hostages in the Philippines appeared to be moving forward after concessions by both the government there and Libya, which earlier brokered a deal. Negotiators said the North African country reluctantly agreed to pay a $1 million ransom for each hostage, as demanded by the Muslim captors. And Philippines President Joseph Estrada relaxed his "all or nothing" policy in regard to the hostages' release - meaning they could be freed in batches, the chief negotiator announced. Officials indicated they needed several days to work out the new details with the captors.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who designated today for national mourning of the crew of the sunken submarine Kursk, visited the Navy's main base in northern Russia. He was expected to meet relatives there, whom he has promised the government will help. The family members, numbering about 400, have asked the Navy to allow them to travel with Putin to the scene of the accident for a memorial ceremony, Interfax news agency reported.

British troops restored an uneasy calm to Northern Ireland's capital following the shooting deaths of two men Monday who had links with Protestant guerrillas. Observers attributed the violence in Belfast - which spread with arson attacks and more shootings - to turf wars among the guerrilla groups. This week marks the first time British troops have patrolled Belfast since September 1998, apart from a restive three-day period last month.

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With the summer Olympics less than a month away, Sydney Airport officials pledged $1.2 million to fix a three-month-old, high-tech baggage system that has collapsed five times in the last month. In one of the worst incidents, the $25 million system crashed for 11 hours, affecting 2,000 pieces of luggage and delaying 6,000 passengers. The officials said if problems persist, they'll go back to a system of trailers and trolleys for the Games rush.

Saudi Arabia, one of the most conservative countries in the Mideast in regard to gender issues, indicated it would sign a UN convention on women's rights. But it won't comply with clauses that contradict Islamic law as applied in the kingdom, the Saudi Cabinet said in a statement that was carried in local newspapers after a meeting chaired by King Fahd.

One day after an evacuation order was fully lifted for Japan's Miyake island, Mount Oyama spewed ash again - but an official said there were no reports of injuries or damage. The volcano - which is in a region of recent earthquake activity - just had a major eruption Friday.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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