News In Brief

With the crew of the US Navy surveillance plane back on American soil, Chinese officials reacted angrily to the Bush administration's refusal to cease the types of flights that led to the April 1-11 incident. A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said "the US side" should refrain from actions that "will further complicate the issue." She also declined to guarantee the return of the damaged EP-3 surveillance plane.

More meetings were scheduled for Monday to ease tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, but a meeting of their respective security officials Wednesday did nothing to lessen violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Gun battles in both areas killed a Palestinian and wounded three Israeli soldiers. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he believed Palestinians leader Yasser Arafat was beginning to understand Israel's demands for an end to violence before peace negotiations can resume. But he also warned that he'd send Israeli troops into Palestinian areas again if attacks on Jews persisted. In response, a senior Palestinian official warned "we have not used all our means of confrontation." He didn't elaborate except to say that meant "on the international and Arab levels."

Medical tests found no evidence of heart disease in former Yugo-slav President Slobodan Milosevic after he was rushed to a Belgrade hospital complaining of chest pains. His Socialist Party supporters blamed authorities for subjecting the ex-hard-line leader to "bad treatment" and "bad prison conditions" that induced stress. He has been held since April 1 on charges of corruption and abuse of power.

A special inquiry was to open in Johannesburg, South Africa, following a stampede at a game between the country's two most popular soccer teams that killed 43 people and injured 160 others, many of them seriously. Reports said the city's Ellis Park Stadium, which has a capacity of 60,000 for sports events, was heavily overcrowded and an estimated 15,000 fans outside were trying to enter when chaos erupted Wednesday.

In a move to give President Vladimir Putin virtually unstoppable backing, two centrist parties in the lower house of Russia's parliament agreed to merge. The deal unites Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's Fatherland-All Russia movement with the pro-Kremlin Unity Party, which already is the largest bloc in the powerful Duma. It means Putin can count on a majority vote for any legislation he submits, analysts said.

Except for a few bruises, the American hostage threatened with beheading last week by Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines was rescued unharmed, the US Embassy in Manila confirmed. Jeffrey Schilling of Oakland, Calif., was found by police and government troops after a gunfight with his Abu Sayyaf captors.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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