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Despite his unilateral suspension of peace efforts with the Palestinians, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered a new interim peace proposal featuring recognition of a future state. It was quickly rejected, with an aide to Yasser Arafat saying only a comprehensive settlement that included the right of return to Israel by Palestinian refugees and fixed the status of Jeru-salem was acceptable. The offer came as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak reportedly was attempting to arrange a meeting next week between Barak and Arafat in Cairo or Amman, Jordan.

Supporters of the Palestinians in the UN Security Council introduced a resolution calling for a 2,000-man unarmed observer force to protect civilians in the West Bank and Gaza. The measure, whose prospects for passage are unclear, needs the backing of at least nine members of the 15-member council to be put to a vote. Barak vehemently rejects the notion. The US is among five members saying it could not vote for such a force without Israel's consent.

Foreign dignitaries - among them Secretary of State Mad-eleine Albright and Cuba's Fidel Castro - were gathering in Mexico City for today's inauguration of new President Vicente Fox. His swearing-in, following his landslide election victory in July, will end 71 years of uninterrupted rule of Mexico by the Institutional Revolutionary Party. His term will be historic in another respect: No other Mexican president in more than a century has been a bachelor. His eldest adopted daughter, Ana Cristina, is widely expected to serve as first lady.

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Despite flight delays caused by poor weather, hundreds of elderly Koreans crossed the Demilitarized Zone in both directions for only the second set of family reunions permitted by their governments in 50 years. After emotional greetings, the families will be allowed five meetings over three days. The first set of reunions took place in August, following a historic summit between South Korean President Kim Dae Jung and the North's Kim Jong Il.

All sides were bracing for possible violence as today's anniversary of the unrecognized declaration of independence neared in Indonesia's Irian Jaya province. Tensions rose earlier this week when separatist leader Theys Eluay and two colleagues were jailed. President Abdurrahman Wahid warned Eluay's followers against attempts to secede, and a local police commander threatened force "to defend the unity of the Republic of Indonesia."

Attempting to clone human beings was made punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $90,000 fine under a new law enacted by Japan's parliament. The measure, which also bans the mixing of human and animal cells to produce hybrid embryos, is believed to be the first in Japan that targets a specific type of scientific research.

At least 50 people were killed and dwellings in a nearby village burned to the ground when a leaking fuel pipeline exploded and caught fire in Lagos, Nigeria. The incident was the latest in a series that began two years ago. In all, hundreds of poor Nigerians have died while siphoning petroleum derivatives from pipelines that catch fire.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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