News In Brief

Bickering, catcalls, and frequent interruptions were slowing down a critical meeting of Israel's Labor Party as it prepared to vote on whether to join a unity government with Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon. The vote, via secret ballot of the 1,700 members of the party's central committee in Tel Aviv, had yet to be taken as the Monitor went to press.

Two days of long-awaited meetings opened at the UN in New York between Iraq's foreign minister and Secretary-General Kofi Annan to try to break the two-year impasse over weapons inspections. But the already low expectations for progress may have been clouded further, analysts said, by release of an official Iraqi letter blasting Annan for not condemning "recent aggression launched by American and British aircraft" on the nation's radar sites. Iraq was expected to press for the lifting of all UN sanctions imposed after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Despite broiling heat, marching bands, floats, and about 10,000 flag-waving Kuwaitis paraded in celebration of the 10th anniversary of their small state's liberation from Iraq by a US-led coalition force. (Story, page 1.)

The price of motor fuel will be kept at its current level until at least March 10, Turkey's Energy Ministry pledged in an effort to ease consumer worry as the nation's political and financial crisis entered its second week. The Central Bank also intervened to stop the free fall of the lira, lending cash to banks at below-market rates. But ordinary Turks expected price increases for virtually every commodity. Against that backdrop, embattled Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit emerged from a tension-easing meeting with President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and senior military commanders saying it had been "very useful" but without elaborating.

The unofficial casualty count reached more than 400 deaths on the Indonesian island of Borneo, and local police complained of inability to stop marauding Dayak tribesmen in their campaign to rid the area of rival Madurese migrants. Madurese property was reported smashed, looted, or in flames, and non-Madurese were painting their ethnic identities on their houses to try to protect against attack. An estimated 25,000 Madurese waited under police guard to be evacuated.

Heavy new fighting broke out between Hutu rebels and government troops on the outskirts of Burundi's capital, complicating prospects for a conference on peace efforts among African leaders. Claims that at least 32 people were killed could not be confirmed, but artillery fire was heard throughout Sunday night, and journalists said the situation was too dangerous to venture close to government lines. Analysts noted that the rebel attacks invariably coincide with such peace summits.

On grounds that they are insulting to Islam, all statues in Afghanistan were ordered destroyed by the nation's hard-line Taliban movement. The order appeared especially directed at Buddhist artifacts, among them the world's tallest standing Buddha, a 175-foot image carved out of a mountainside in the 5th century.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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