News In Brief

Tensions skyrocketed in the Middle East following two incidents in the West Bank Sunday: The son of slain extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane was killed in an apparent ambush, and a senior member of the Palestinian Fatah faction was shot dead. The events came a day after Fatah urged Palestinians to intensify their uprising against Israel. The first incident involved Binyamin Kahane, who had led an anti-Arab group called Kahane Chai (Kahane Lives). His wife also was killed, and five of his six children were injured. Palestinian sources claimed that the other incident, involving Thabet Thabet, was an assassination. Meanwhile, Palestinian negotiators continued to review a US proposal for peace.

A verbal agreement between Serbs and ethnic Albanian rebels was aimed at defusing tensions in a three-mile buffer zone along the boundary between Serbia proper and Kosovo province. Brokered Friday night by NATO-led peacekeepers, the deal removed two checkpoints and reopened a key thoroughfare to traffic. But tensions appeared to remain high, with a Serb soldier being slightly wounded as the agreement was made. Much of the buffer zone was seized by rebels in a series of attacks in November that left four Serbian policemen dead.

Ghana's President Jerry Rawlings, who has dominated his country's politics for two decades, pledged to work for a smooth transition to his successor, opposition leader John Kufuor. The latter's victory in the presidential runoff Thursday over Rawlings's vice president and heir apparent, John Atta Mills, marks the first time power will change hands between two elected leaders in the country's history. Kufuor's victory prompted celebrations across the country, and all but forgotten were allegations of vote-rigging and intimidation during polling, as well as sporadic violence.

An Iranian military court resumed its hearing on the 1998 murders of several dissidents after the principal defendant reportedly confessed to ordering the killings. The court said Mostafa Kazemi, a former head of internal security, made the admission Saturday. The trial, which is being held behind closed doors, is trying 18 people for killings that authorities have blamed on "rogue" intelligence agents. Relatives of the victims have boycotted the proceedings, objecting to the intense secrecy.

Under tight supervision, Pakistanis cast their first votes Sunday since last year's military coup. The elections, which are for local offices, are devoid of participation from political parties but are part of an effort to restore democracy by October 2002. For the first time, a third of the seats up for grabs have been reserved for women and minorities. Working classes also have been guaranteed a certain number of positions. The elections are scheduled to be staggered over the next several months, with the final round next July.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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