News In Brief

Apparently reversing a decision earlier this week, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed to serve as defense chief under his successor, Ariel Sharon, TV reports in Jerusalem said as the Monitor went to press. If correct, they could be a major sign that his Labor Party will agree to serve in a unity government with Sharon's Likud movement. The two men were to meet for another set of negotiations on the matter, with an announcement due today "at the latest," Labor sources said.

Little headway appeared likely at a new regional conference on ending the civil war in Congo despite the participation of the nation's recently inaugurated president, his allies, a UN representative, and leaders of the rebel factions fighting his government. But Rwandan President Paul Kagame, a main backer of the rebel cause, opted out of the meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, claiming that host President Frederick Chiluba is not an impartial mediator. The UN is to deploy its first observers in Congo beginning Feb. 26, Chiluba announced.

A new appeal for international help was issued by authorities in El Salvador as the casualty count rose from the second of two powerful earthquakes. Vice President Carlos Quintanilla told reporters: "We can't do it with just the resources of Salvadorans." The National Emergency Committee put the number of deaths from Tuesday's quake at 274, with 2,432 others injured, and about 123,000 left homeless. Above, survivors wait on line near the capital, San Salvador, for donated food.

At least five more people were killed as the latest general strike aimed at the government of Bangladesh ended its third day. The violence occurred on the fifth anniversary of the 1996 election that began the impoverished nation's current political troubles. It gave Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina a new term, but was overturned on grounds of fraud. She won a revote four months later. Since then, opposition groups have staged 80 days of strikes to try to topple her government. Twenty people have died in strike-related violence this month alone.

Efforts by unpopular Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori to keep his job took a new hit in Japan with the disclosure that his membership in a posh country club was a $344,000 gift from an unidentified business executive. Mori is under heavy criticism for continuing a round of golf after learning that a US submarine had sunk a Japanese fishing trawler last week off Hawaii. Analysts say his Liberal Democratic Party faces likely defeat in July's election for the upper house of parliament.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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