News In Brief

"We believe common sense will prevail," Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said in the first official reaction by a senior government leader to the expulsion of dozens of diplomats by the US. But he also said there was "no basis" for the move. Unofficially, however, Moscow news agencies cited security sources as saying Russia would hit back by expelling "hundreds" of US diplomats.

Returning home from his visit in Washington with President Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he'd won US support for his refusal to negotiate with the Palestinians as long as violence continued. But in the Gaza Strip, at least four people were hurt in one of the fiercest gun battles in months between Palestinians and Israeli troops. A US-led fact-finding committee had toured the area the day before.

No signs of retreat by ethnic Albanian guerrillas were apparent in the hills above Tetovo, Macedonia, although police units opened a government-ordered "neutralize and eliminate" offensive against them. In neighboring Kosovo, thousands of Albanian students marched through the streets of the capital, pledging "to do everything that's needed of us" to support the insurgency. Above, a sniper in Tetovo aims at a rebel position.

Official concern - but no financial compensation - will be extended to farmers in European Union countries for their losses due to foot-and-mouth disease, Sweden's president said. The entire EU farm budget for the year already has been allocated. Sweden currently holds EU's rotating presidency and is host of a summit beginning today on the crisis. To contain the spread in the Netherlands, discovered only Wednesday, authorities were slaughtering 20,000 animals. Meanwhile, the first cases in the Republic of Ireland were reported, and in Britain the number of affected sites rose by 40 to 435.

A crackdown against "illegal acts" by "enemies of the republic" was vowed by Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, The Miami Herald reported, although calm largely returned to the capital. In a message sent to radio stations, Aristide blamed three days of violence earlier this week on Convergence, the 15-party opposition alliance, although it was his own supporters who trapped Convergence followers inside their headquarters. He said Convergence incited the violence by naming its leader as president of an alternative government.

The point of no return arrived for Mir, the 15-year-old Russian space station, as ground controllers stabilized its systems for a fiery plunge through Earth's atmosphere this morning. Pieces not burned up on reentry are expected to fall into the Pacific Ocean somewhere between Chile and Australia.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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