News In Brief

Prospects that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would return to the leadership of Israel appeared in doubt despite passage by parliament of a measure that would allow any citizen to run for the office. The bill requires two more readings before it can become law. But Netanyahu was standing by an earlier declaration that he wouldn't become a candidate unless the Knesset also voted to dissolve itself and force a national election. A critical voting bloc, the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, announced it would oppose such legislation, however, making passage unlikely. Under the type of election Israel now faces, Netanyahu would not be eligible to run for prime minister because he's not a member of parliament.

NATO reinforcements were rushed to the tense boundary between Kosovo and Serbia after a joint US-Russian peacekeeping unit came under fire from unknown gunmen and shot back. The Americans and Russians were preparing to demolish a road in the buffer zone separating the NATO forces from Yugoslav Army units. The area has been the scene of increased ethnic Albanian militancy, but a local Albanian commander said he was unaware of the incident. It followed one on Saturday in which Belgian members of the NATO-led mission were surrounded by angry Serbs, who took away their weapons and ammunition.

There isn't enough manpower to provide security for Chechnya's devastated capital, its mayor complained after a daring raid on his office by guerrillas that killed four people and wounded several others. The attack ended only after Russian reinforcements arrived. The casualties brought to 19 the number who have died in the rebellious republic since Saturday as the rebels have stepped up attacks against occupying Russian troops.

Twenty-three passengers and crewmen escaped injury as their commuter plane was hit by gunfire while attempting a landing in Indonesia's Aceh province on the eve of today's visit by President Abdurrahman Wahid. Undisciplined Army troops were blamed for the shooting, which was seen as another sign of tension in the volatile province. Two bombs also went off outside local government offices, but without causing injury. Wahid plans to offer Aceh increased autonomy in the hope it will quell separatist pressures.

One of the largest financial bail-outs in recent years - more than $35 billion - will be extended to Argentina, the government announced. The package is aimed at reversing two years of recession and at reassuring international markets that Latin America's third-largest economy remains safe to invest in. Formal approval of the aid is not expected from the International Monetary Fund until next month; other contributors include the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and the government of Spain. Argentina owes $21.5 billion in debt payments that are due next year. South Korea needed a $55 billion bailout in 1997. Brazil received $41.5 billion and Indonesia $38 billion, both in 1998.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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