News In Brief

Heaping scorn on former President Clinton's Middle East peace efforts, the Palestinian leadership said the new US administration must learn from their "failures" and avoid a bias toward Israel. The sharp attack came as both sides publicly doubted they could forge a deal in current negotiations before Israel's Feb. 6 election for a new leadership. The Palestinians also rejected a campaign plea by caretaker Prime Minister Ehud Barak for a "shared administration" of Jerusalem's shrines - although Israel would retain sovereignty.

One of five followers of the Falun Gong movement who set themselves on fire in Beijing's Tiananmen Square died from her burns, and the others were hospitalized on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year. The suicide was part of a protest against government efforts to stamp out the banned movement, which most recently has taken the form of a nationwide petition drive to brand Falun Gong as a tool of China's Western "enemies." (Story, page 1.)

Disgraced ex-President Joseph Estrada and his family were barred from leaving the Philippines and his assets were frozen by the government until he answers allegations that he plundered the economy. The moves followed receipt of a letter from Estrada to Congress claiming his successor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was only "acting president" because he hadn't renounced the office. Above, protesters picket a bank in Manila where Estrada is believed to have millions of dollars on deposit.

The unilateral cease-fire declared by India in disputed Kashmir was extended to a third month by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The truce was to have ended Friday. But while it has led to a halt in cross-border shelling between India and Pakistan, separatist groups based in the latter country rejected the move as "a fraud" and demanded negotiations involving all parties to the dispute. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said the cease-fire would be meaningful only if it signaled "an end to Indian repression."

Government troops claimed the recapture of about 90 percent of Sri Lanka's Jaffna peninsula from Tamil rebels despite the latter's extension of their unilateral truce for a second month. If true, the claim would put the separatists' main supply route in serious jeopardy. The government has called the truce, which would have ended today, a publicity stunt and instead of reciprocating has used it to intensify its own offensive.

Whether or when former Yugo-slav President Slobodan Milosevic will be handed over to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague was to be the subject of a meeting between his successor and the tribunal's chief prosecutor. Carla Del Ponte planned to hand an arrest warrant for Milosevic to new President Vojislav Kostunica, who only last week reversed his decision not to receive her. Despite his bitter election campaign against Milosevic, Kostunica has argued that if he's to be tried, it should be on Serbian soil and for corruption rather than for war crimes.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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