News In Brief

Changes to the 30-year-old Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty can be discussed with the US if the Bush administration demonstrates that building a national defense shield won't harm Russian security, a senior Kremlin official said. In an apparent softening of his government's earlier position, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said the burden of proof would fall on Aug. 7-9 consultations between security experts of both countries, to be followed a by a visit to Moscow by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Amendments to the ABM pact could be considered during Rumsfeld's stay, Ivanov said. The treaty stands in the way of an antimissile shield, and President Bush's wish to abandon it would trigger a new nuclear arms race, Russia has argued.

Two US residents were sentenced to lengthy prison terms by a court in China for alleged espionage for rival Taiwan. Gao Zhan, a researcher at American University in Washington, and Qin Guanguang, who worked for a medical group, drew 10 years each following trials that came only days before Secretary of State Powell is due in Beijing for a weekend fence-mending visit. In his first reaction, Powell said only "We're following developments, and we'll see what happens next." Gao's lawyer quickly applied for medical parole - a previously used means of expelling dissidents - for his client.

At least 18 people died and 13 planes worth hundreds of millions of dollars were destroyed in a bold suicide-style attack on Sri Lanka's only international airport. Dozens of others were hurt in the raid, which began at about 4 a.m. despite a heavy security guard. It also left hundreds of civilian passengers, mostly tourists, stranded but uninjured. The attack coincided with the anniversary of 1983 anti-Tamil riots in which hundreds of people were killed.

Attention shifted to the election of a new vice president today in Indonesia as power shifted unmistakably to new chief of state Megawati Sukarnoputri. But her ousted predecessor, Abdurrahman Wahid still was refusing to leave the presidential palace, saying through a spokesman that his impeachment Monday by parliament was illegal. (Editorial, page 8.)

Oil exploration was suspended in a disputed sector of the Caspian Sea as Iran and the ex-Soviet republic of Azerbaijan faced off against each other over an alleged violation of international waters. Azerbaijani officials were demanding an official explanation after Iranian military jets and a warship reportedly confronted a pair of research vessels above a field estimated to hold $9 billion worth of crude oil and natural gas. The field is being developed by an international consortium of companies in waters that Iran claims are inside its territory.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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