News In Brief

Hopes that Arab foreign ministers would back President Clinton's proposed formula for a Middle East peace deal were dealt a key setback when they declared that an estimated 4 million Palestinians have a "sacred" right to return to Israel. The decision, reached at an Arab League meeting in Cairo attended by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, left it unclear whether Israel and the Palestinians can return to formal peace negotiations before Clinton leaves office Jan. 20 (Story, page 1; editorial, page 8.)

A court order that Augusto Pinochet undergo new medical and psychological tests is "disrespectful" and will be disobeyed, a lawyer for the ex-Chilean dictator said. The tests, scheduled for this weekend, were ordered to determine whether the octogenarian is fit to stand trial for atrocities committed after he came to power in 1973. But his indictment was set aside by the Supreme Court and cannot be reinstated unless the trial judge interrogates him - based on the tests - by Tuesday.

The bitter standoff between TV news employees in the Czech Republic and their new boss took a dramatic turn when he was rushed to a Prague hospital in "very serious condition." The nature of Jiri Hodac's illness was not disclosed. The development followed a rally Wednesday by an estimated 100,000 demonstrators calling for Hodac's resignation. His Dec. 20 appointment as director of state-owned Czech Television aroused immediate protest on grounds that he's biased against President Vaclav Havel, and petitions demanding his dismissal have been signed by 130,000 backers of the news staff.

Despite his indictment on graft charges, voters in Thailand appear likely to elect communications magnate Thaksin Shina-watra as their new prime minister tomorrow. Thaksin vows to claim the post if his Thai Rak Thai Party wins the majority of ballots. But the Constitutional Court could ban him from politics for up to five years if it upholds a Dec. 26 finding by the Counter Corruption Commission that he hid some of his wealth while serving in a previous government. Incumbent Chuan Leekpai, widely blamed for Thailand's slow recovery from the deep financial crisis of 1997, has trailed far behind Thaksin in opinion polls.

An overwhelming OK by voters is expected Sunday on a referendum that would sanction wholesale changes to Senegal's Constitution. The proposals would shorten the president's term from seven years to five, return parliament to a single chamber by abolishing the Senate, outlaw forced marriages, and allow women to acquire property on the same terms as men. The west African nation still is in an uphill transition from 40 years of socialist rule since opposition leader Abdoul-aye Wade was elected president last March.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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