News In Brief

A secret, but high-level, meeting aimed at reviving peace negotiations was held Sunday night in Jerusalem between Israelis and Palestinians, both sides confirmed. The negotiations were suspended indefinitely by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in October, amid some of the heaviest of the current round of violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But Barak since has resigned, a new election in Israel is to be held within two months, and US President Bill Clinton - the driving force behind current peace efforts - leaves office Jan. 20.

UN investigators were looking into reports that President Saddam Hussein's troops carried out an armed incursion into a protected Kurdish zone of northern Iraq. A statement by the Kurdistan Democratic Party accused two Army units of seizing high ground outside settlements near the border with Turkey. Another group, the Iraqi National Congress, claimed at least one village already had been taken over. Kurds have controlled northern Iraq since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, with the help of cover from US and British jets based in Turkey.

The last set of high-level talks this year on unification between South and North Korea opened in the latter's capital, Pyong-yang. But the discussions - against the backdrop of South Korean President Kim Dae Jung having just received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts at ending hostilities on the peninsula - were expected to be difficult. South Korean sources said the main goal was to try to arrange more reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 war and to set a date for North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's promised visit to the South next spring.

With visiting diplomats applauding, the presidents of Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a treaty formally ending their two-year border war. The document gives both sides 45 days to place territorial claims before a commission of UN cartographers, who are charged with demarcating their disputed 620-mile border. The ceremony was held in a resort in Algeria, whose president mediated the negotiations between the rivals.

At least 94,000 panicked civilians have fled heavy fighting between Army troops and insurgents in southern Guinea so far this week, and UN aid officials "cannot do anything of significance" to help them, a spokes-man said. The insurgents, according to the government in Conakry, are a mix of Army deserters and dissidents from unstable neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia. Unconfirmed reports said 150 insurgents were killed Sunday in the fighting; 86 others are said to have died in clashes last week.

One of the five so-called "warlords" in Somalia pledged to support the nation's fledgling government, its first since 1991. Hussein Hajji Bod, who controls a section of the capital, Mogadishu, and key northern suburbs, originally had opposed new President Abdiqasim Salad Hassan and the 245-member National Assembly elected last August. His followers now are expected to join the government's police force. But there was no indication that other faction leaders would follow, and one who earlier had pledged to back the new government has since reversed his decision.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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