News In Brief

Next Wednesday was announced as the "final" date for the declaration of statehood by a senior Palestinian official. But that word, from Palestine National Council Deputy Speaker Taysser Quba, was quickly contradicted by Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, amid the near-certainty that it would bring a harsh response from Israel - likely including annexation of parts of the West Bank. Against that backdrop, Palestine Authority President Yasser Arafat left home for tomorrow's meeting in Washington with President Clinton on a lasting truce in the region. Arafat was to hold preliminary talks with Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The first verdicts in the largest corruption-scandal trial in communist Chinese history are to be announced today, and some are expected to result in death sentences. At least 200 officials, some of them in the Communist Party hierarchy, are alleged to have been involved in covering up the smuggling of almost $10 billion worth of luxury goods, oil, and other materials through the country's loosely patrolled southeastern Fujian province in the early 1990s. The defendants were tried in secret beginning Sept. 13.

All but six legislators voted to approve a transitional plan that aims to restore political and economic stability to Somalia. The latest step in a three-year plan proposed by new President Abdiqasim Salad Hassan and Prime Minister Ali Khalif Galaydh calls for a beginning budget of $307 million, much of it to be donated by wealthy Somalis. Salad's defense minister asked former government soldiers "who are still fit" to enroll in special training camps Saturday for the first national Army and police force since 1991.

A new five-year hold on power was won by the ruling party on Tanzania's semiautonomous Indian Ocean archipelago, Zanzibar. Despite international condemnation of the electoral process, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi Party was awarded 34 of 50 contested seats in the House of Representatives by its hand-picked elections commission. The opposition Civic United Front (CUF) said it would not recognize the results. The original election Oct. 29 was ruled invalid because of numerous irregularities. A rerun last Sunday was boycotted by the CUF.

Protesters were defying a deadline to end their blockade of a border crossing between Austria and the Czech Republic so the two governments can resume negotiations over a disputed nuclear power plant. The newly activated Temelin facility, built mostly with Soviet-era technology, is on Czech soil 30 miles from the border. No defects have been reported to date, but Austria has refused to OK Czech membership in the European Union until the plant undergoes a detailed safety inspection. Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman has vowed not to hold new talks until the blockade is abandoned.

Efforts by diving teams to recover the remains of victims aboard the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk were officially ended. Reports said poor visibility, extensive damage inside the sunken vessel that made further progress unlikely, and the expiration of a contract with the supplier of the gear for the divers led officials to halt the operation. Only 12 of the 118 dead crewmen were brought to the surface.

Eleven people were under arrest in England as police foiled an attempt at "the largest robbery in the world." The suspects had used a mechanical digger to smash open a vault in London's Millennium Dome that usually houses $504 million worth of top-quality diamonds. But, acting on a tip, police were lying in wait for the would-be thieves to strike an hour before the dome opened for the day. De Beers Ltd., which owns the gems, said they'd been replaced with fakes a day earlier as a precaution.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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