News In Brief

Nothing short of a full US apology will defuse the surveillance-plane diplomatic standoff, spokesmen for China's Foreign Ministry insisted. They said expressions of regret by the Bush administration at the loss of a Chinese military pilot are "extremely" unsatisfactory, disputed claims that discussions between the two sides to resolve the matter and free 24 crew members of the surveillance plane are making progress, and warned against "complicating" the standoff by calling the detainees "hostages." Otherwise, they said, a solution will be "more difficult to find." (Related stories, pages 1, 4.)

Bans on the export of meat, dairy products, and livestock because of foot-and-mouth disease are to be lifted tomorrow for France and next Thursday for Ireland, the European Union's top public health official said. He said no new cases there have been reported in almost three weeks. But in the Netherlands, the number of outbreaks rose to 20, and police used water cannon to disperse hundreds of farmers protesting the slaughter of healthy animals as a preventive measure.

Surface-to-surface missile strikes hit Palestinian police units 15 miles apart in the Gaza Strip, killing one person and injuring 17 others in what Israel said was retaliation for mortar attacks on Jewish settlements. A spokesman for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said further strikes would be made without warning against Palestinians deemed to be involved in "flagrant escalation" of violence.

The arrest of disgraced former President Joseph Estrada by Filipino authorities could come as soon as next week, reports said, after he lost another legal battle before the Supreme Court. It rejected both his final claim to the office he was driven from by public pressure Jan. 20 and an appeal to stop his trial on charges of corruption, accepting bribes, and plunder of the treasury - the latter an offense punishable by execution.

Anti-nuclear protesters and thousands of police were pitted against each other in Germany for the second time in less than two weeks as a shipment of power-plant waste headed to France for reprocessing. Late last month, the protesters delayed a return shipment of processed waste for 18 hours before it finally reached a permanent storage facility.

Four candidates - two of them so-called "young Turks" - declared themselves in the running to become the next prime minister of Japan. The field, led by ex-Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, is vying to succeed unpopular Yoshiro Mori when their Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) meets April 24 to choose its new leader. The other contenders are LDP policy chief Shizuka Kamei and relatively junior Economics Minister Taro Aso and former Health Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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