News In Brief

Fewer than 5,000 votes separated the pro-independence coalition in Montenegro and the forces who want to remain in the Yugoslav federation. President Milo Djukanovic claimed victory in Sunday's election for his Victory Belongs to Montenegro coalition. But analysts said the lead - if it holds up with 2 percent of the ballots still to be counted - means he lacks the popular support necessary to press ahead with a referendum on independence from Serbia, Yugoslavia's only other remaining republic.

Israel will send Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to Washington later this week to discuss escalating violence with Secretary of State Powell and possibly President Bush, reports said. The announcement came as the second bomb in two days exploded near Tel Aviv, injuring four people. Israeli troops also killed a Palestinian and wounded 14 others in the Gaza Strip.

A stunning upset appeared likely in the race for leadership of Japan, as self-styled reformer Junichiro Koizumi swept "primary" elections in local Liberal Democratic Party chapters. Koizumi, a former health minister, still must be confirmed today by a majority of the LDP's members of parliament. But he was so far ahead of the presumed front-runner, ex-Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, that discussion was centering on who he might appoint to key cabinet posts.

A police decision not to storm a luxury hotel in Istanbul, Turkey, paid off when 13 hostage-takers inside surrendered peacefully. All 120 people held by the gunmen were freed unharmed. The assailants were said to be pro-Chechen, although the leader of the breakaway Russian territory, Aslan Maskhadov, condemned the takeover as having "no relation to our policy." The incident was the second of its type in the city in recent weeks. Chechen hijackers seized a Russian airliner with more than 100 people aboard March 15 - an ordeal that ended later in Saudi Arabia with three deaths.

A unilateral cease-fire in place since Christmas Eve will not be extended when it expires today, Tamil separatist rebels in Sri Lanka announced. The truce wasn't matched by the government, although President Chandrika Kumaratunga did offer negotiations to end the drawn-out conflict in which more than 60,000 people have died.

Another nationwide strike, the third this month, began in Bangladesh, this one violently. Police killed one protester, and nine bombs exploded in the capital, Dhaka, injuring at least eight people. Like its predecessors, the strike is aimed at ousting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, although her term ends in mid-July. Since she took office in 1996, the opposition has staged 85 days of strikes.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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