News In Brief

At least 21 people were hurt in fierce new fighting between Israeli troops and Palestinians in the southern Gaza Strip, which each side blamed the other for starting. Otherwise, a shaky mutual truce, which one senior Israeli official called "a promising beginning," appeared to be holding despite earlier reports of retaliation by the Jewish state for last Friday's suicide bomb attack in Tel Aviv. But an "operational plan" for a military assault on Palestinian targets was ready if the truce breaks down, government sources said.

His third attempt to win the presidency of Peru ended in success for economist Alejandro Toledo as vote-counting from Sunday's runoff election neared completion, giving him an insurmountable 52 percent- to-48 percent lead over Alan Garcia. Garcia conceded defeat and offered his support "whenever it is needed and wherever it is requested." Toledo earlier sought the presidency in 1995 and last year.

With all signs pointing to a landslide victory Thursday for Britain's Labour Party, a major bookmaker took the unprecedented step of paying off election bettors even before the polls open. Prime Minister Tony Blair's only worry appeared to be a low turnout due to overconfidence among Labour supporters. Newspapers reported key members of the opposition Conservatives were admitting their party could not win.

A dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed on Nepal's capital as police killed two rioters protesting the fatal shootings of most of the royal family. Against that backdrop, Crown Prince Dipendra and an uncle became the latest to die of their wounds; Dipendra's was believed to be self-inflicted. Meanwhile, another uncle, Prince Gyanendra was crowned king.

New heavy weapons fire was heard in the Central African Republic capital as loyal government troops searched for the remaining participants in last week's attempted coup against President Ange-Felix Patasse. Reports said dissident soldiers were hiding among civilians in Bangui despite repeated claims by Patasse that the city is under control. An aide said Patasse had offered a $38,000 bounty for presumed coup leader Andre Kolingba "dead or alive."

An unusually candid 308-page report by the government of China warns of growing public anger over heavy taxes, "unfair distribution" of wealth, official corruption, ethnic and religious tensions, and the likelihood of new job losses as the nation joins the World Trade Organization. It was not clear why public distribution of the report, which proposes only general solutions, was being allowed.

In return for the resumption of badly needed foreign aid, Haiti's president offered new national elections next year, diplomats said. The offer, in a letter from Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was announced at an Organization of American States meeting in Costa Rica. But Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria said the OAS would require certain guarantees from Aristide because in past Haitian elections "results were manipulated." That accusation was leveled at last year's voting for Senate candidates. And in November, opposition parties boycotted the presidential election on grounds that it was rigged.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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