News In Brief

Hours after the abrupt cancellation of a planned Mideast summit, a bomb went off on a bus in Tel Aviv, injuring at least 10 people. Then, on the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, another outbreak of violence killed two Israelis and injured several more. There was no confirmed, immediate claim of responsibility for either attack. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israel's Ehud Barak had been due to discuss a US peace plan, but Egypt called off the meeting at the prompting of Israel, which said it was frustrated by Arafat's alleged intransigence. Arafat, who still met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, said an Arab committee would study the US ideas.

Beijing opened the door to historic direct links with Taiwan by grudgingly accepting the island government's plan for limited exchanges between Taiwanese-controlled islets and the Chinese mainland. While Taipei welcomed the news, China's state news agency quoted an official on the mainland as saying the plan didn't go far enough. Even after the "mini-links" are allowed, Taiwan's ban on contact between its main island and the mainland is to remain in place. Beijing regards Taiwan as a breakaway province.

In a rare public protest, at least 200 relatives of the some 300 people killed in a Chinese shopping mall fire marched on government offices in Luoyang to protest the handling of the blaze's aftermath. Although the demonstration also involved several hundred onlookers and brought some 200 police to the scene, there were no reports of violence. Meanwhile, police announced the arrest of four welders who they said accidentally ignited the Christmas night fire.

Union workers at two major South Korean commercial banks called off a week-long strike after employees at other financial institutions chose not to heed a call for sympathy walkouts. The developments remove a hurdle to carrying out President Kim Dae Jung's economic reform policies.

Shortly after the Philippine military announced the capture of a senior Muslim rebel leader, a Roman Catholic priest was fatally shot by a suspected guerrilla on the island of Jolo, military officials said. The driver for the Rev. Benjamin Inocencio was wounded, and an exchange of gunfire with police resulted in a bystander being killed, as well as the alleged attacker. Christians on Jolo long have been under threat from the rebel group Abu Sayyaf, which was responsible for a number of kidnappings earlier this year.

Two days after a communications breakdown with the Mir station, Russia's space program endured more problems when a rocket carrying six satellites - both military and civilian - exploded soon after launch. The debris fell into the sea near the Arctic Circle. Russia has been struggling to keep its share of the market of commercial satellite launches, which provide a vital source of funding for the country's space program.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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