News In Brief

In an attack that began before daybreak, Israeli helicopters rocketed a building in the Gaza Strip believed to be a factory where mortar shells were produced. Palestinians protested that it was an auto-parts workshop. An aide to Prime Minister Sharon said his government does not rule out returning to the widely deplored use of jet fighters if "a situation of warfare continues and escalates." The attack also preceded publication of the Mitchell commission report on recommendations for ending eight months of violence in the region. (Stories, pages 1, 7; related editorial, page 8.)

Heavy new clashes were raging between government troops and ethnic-Albanian insurgents in northern Macedonia after last week's lull. But in neighboring southern Serbia, Albanian guerrilla leaders were expected to sign an agreement to demilitarize and hand in their weapons by the end of the month. The deal, if adhered to by their followers, will allow Serbian government units to take control of a 22-mile strip of land that is part of the buffer zone between them and NATO peacekeepers. Rebel commanders angrily denied reports of a plan under which their followers would shift to Macedonia to link up with the insurgents there.

In a surprising comeback, the nationalist party of Croatia's late hard-line President Franjo Tudjman was heading for victory in 14 of the 21 counties where local elections were held over the weekend. Opinion polls before the voting had indicated the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), widely seen as an obstacle to full political and economic reform, would lose its last remnants of power. Analysts said the HDZ still would have difficulty attracting coalition partners, however. Only three counties were won by Prime Minister Ivica Racan's Social Democrats.

Warplanes were bombing massive ice buildups blocking a river that is causing the worst flooding in Russia's eastern Siberia region in a century. Lensk, a city of 30,000 people, was entirely under water and was being called "destroyed." At Yakutsk, a city seven times larger and 525 miles downstream on the Lena River, more than 4,000 residents already were seeking higher ground as the flooding approached.

Most of the world's Roman Catholic bishops opened a rare three-day special meeting at the Vatican to develop a strategy for their church's future. The consistory, called by Pope John Paul II, also is being studied by observers for possible hints about who is considered "papable" - that is, having the qualifications to succeed him.

At least 26 men died after a riot by prisoners in northern Chile that stemmed from an apparent breakout attempt Sunday. Two other inmates and a guard were hospitalized with injuries. The governor of the region where the prison is located said some of the rioters carried their mattresses to the door of their unit and set them on fire. But relatives of some of the inmates blamed the blaze, which spread quickly, on faulty electrical wiring.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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