News In Brief

In a reversal for the Bush administration, Secretary of State Powell endorsed a proposal by Yasser Arafat for outside monitors to supervise a fragile cease-fire between Palestinians and Israelis through the process that could lead up to reopened peace talks. Israel objects to an observer force. Powell, who met with Arafat yesterday, said monitors would be stationed at friction points and help mediate disputes. He was to discuss details of the plan with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon before returning to the US. (Story, page 1.)

Yugoslavia's Constitutional Court froze efforts to extradite Slobodan Milosevic to the UN war-crimes tribunal in The Hague, ruling that it needed more time to consider a government decree enabling the handover. The court, which consists of judges appointed during Milosevic's presidential reign, is considering whether the recent cabinet decree violates the Constitution, which bans the surrender of Yugoslav citizens to foreign courts. Yugoslavia's new pro-democracy government wants to meet international demands to try Milosevic for crimes against ethnic Albanians. In exchange, Yugoslavia could receive billions of dollars in foreign aid.

Expectations were running low that the prime ministers of Britain and Ireland, leading negotiations among Northern Ireland's key Protestant and Catholic parties, could save the province's governing coalition. First Minister David Trimble, the Protestant who leads the joint administration, has promised to resign Sunday unless the Irish Republican Army begins the process of disarming.

Chinese officials were investigating an asylum plea by seven members of a North Korean family, who for three days have refused to leave a UN office in Beijing. The family is seeking refuge in rival South Korea. Its members say they face persecution if forced to return home. China says North Koreans who flee are economic migrants, not political refugees. But deporting the family risks angering the global community as Beijing enters the last stretch of its bid to stage the 2008 Olympic Games.

A bomb exploded in front of a downtown Madrid bank during morning rush hour, seriously injuring an Army general and at least 15 others. Suspicion quickly fell on the Basque separatist movement, ETA, which recently renewed its vow to conduct bombings and shootings.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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