News In Brief

Ousted Philippine President Joseph Estrada refused to enter a plea on charges of plundering the economy, an offense punishable by death. He also refused to plea two weeks ago in his arraignment on perjury charges. The antigraft court, which is hearing those cases and three other criminal cases against him, automatically entered a "not guilty" plea. Estrada is accused of amassing $75 million in bribes and kickbacks during his 31-month-rule, which ended with his overthrow in a military-backed revolt in January.

Soldiers took to the streets of Kingston, Jamaica, as helicopter gunships hovered to try to quell violence that appears to be escalating between law enforcement and opposition-party supporters. Fighting has killed more than 20 people over the past four days, mostly in the Tivoli Gardens area. Leaders of Jamaica's two main political parties accuse each other of inciting violence ahead of general elections scheduled next year.

Israeli army bulldozers continued to demolish Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip Israel says served as cover for militants. Nearly 36 homes and shops in the Palestinian refugee camp Rafah have been destroyed, triggering one of the fiercest gun battles since a truce was declared a month ago. Israel says it has security control over Rafah because it's on the Israeli-Egyptian border and is close to military installations.

Chinese officials confirmed that the trial of a US business professor accused of spying for Taiwan will begin Saturday, and a US diplomat will be allowed to attend. Li Shaomin, a teacher at City University of Hong Kong who has a Ph.D. from Princeton, has been held since Feb. 25. His case is the first against six Chinese-born intellectuals with US ties who have been detained on spying charges in the past year. The trial will open a day after the Olympic officials pick a host city for 2008. Beijing is the favorite.

A South African court ordered the eviction of hundreds of squatters living on land illegally given to them by an opposition party. Officials from the Pan Africanist Congress gave away land they didn't own near Johannesburg two weeks ago to poor people who paid $3 per plot. Squatters, who have built shacks on the plots partly owned by the national government, plan to appeal.

Angered by US delays in handing over a US serviceman suspected of rape, a Japanese parliamentary committee plans to review and possibly reconsider an agreement governing US troops in Okinawa. A resolution criticized the US military for failing to prevent crimes by troops stationed in Japan and demands measures to ensure swifter hand-over of servicemen accused of crimes.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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