News In Brief

A decision on whether to declare a state of war against ethnic-Albanian insurgents is expected to be taken up tomorrow by parliament in Macedonia. But the European Union was urging a "no" vote "at this time." The government in Skopje was considering the move following a week of renewed clashes that killed 10 security police, triggered ethnic rioting in Bitola, a southern town, and led to shelling of rebel-occupied villages. To pass, a declaration of war would need the votes of ethnic Albanian legislators.

Despite rising political tensions, tens of thousands of people turned out in Damascus, Syria, to cheer an appearance by Pope John Paul II on the latest leg of his pilgrimage to retrace the route of the apostle Paul. But the visit was marred by the remarks of President Bashir Assad, who - in welcoming the pontiff - ignored his call for a "new attitude of understanding and respect" among Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Assad blasted Israel for "[trying] to kill the principles of all religions" as they "betrayed Jesus Christ" and "tried to ... kill the Prophet Muhammad." Angry senior Israelis labeled Assad a "careless, racist anti-Semite" and urged a response from the Vatican.

The "state of rebellion" imposed last week after an alleged coup attempt against Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was lifted, but she warned "there is still a threat against our republic." At least six people died and more than 100 others were hurt in a confrontation between security forces and tens of thousands of supporters of her ousted predecessor, Joseph Estrada.

With tears in his eyes, incumbent Mohamad Khatami filed his application to seek reelection as president of Iran, joining hundreds of other would-be candidates. Khatami said he'd considered not running in the face of constant opposition to his reformist agenda by the country's conservative Islamic clerics but decided to answer the "love and hope" of his supporters. Analysts said he's all but certain to win, although the hard-line Guardian Council, which decides who should appear on the ballot, theoretically could veto him. The election is scheduled for June 8.

"I want to make it clear, clear, clear; I'm not standing for a third term," Zambian President Frederick Chiluba announced following violent clashes in the capital, Lusaka, between police and thousands of anti-reelection protesters. One person died in the violence; dozens of others were treated for minor injuries. The issue has convulsed the nation for weeks and led to the firing, expulsion, or resignations of dozens of senior officials. Zambia's constitution limits a president to two five-year terms.

The next targets in transferring white-owned property to blacks in Zimbabwe will be premier tourist resorts, the Independent newspaper reported. It said lodges at Victoria Falls and the popular Eastern Highlands hiking region were on a new government list for "compulsory purchase." Tourism has declined in the wake of economic instability from 7 percent of gross domestic product last year to 3 percent, and travel agencies are said to have urged the government to rethink the decision.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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