Secretary of State Powell was en route home to the US, with little to show for his Middle East peace mission except a pledge from Israel to pull back from West Bank cities in "a week or so." Powell said Israel must end its incursions if there is to be peace. But he had more pointed criticism for Yasser Arafat (with whom he held the mission's final meeting, left) saying the US is "disappointed" in his efforts to stop terrorism and that "it's time" for the Palestinian leader "to make a strategic decision" that would bring attacks against Israeli civilians to an end. For his part, a furious Arafat demanded that the US pressure Israel to end his isolation in his battered Ramallah headquarters. (Story, page 1; editorial, page 10.)
An embarrassing third-place finish appeared possible for German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's Social Democratic Party (SPD) in a key state election Sunday, the last before voters go to the polls nationally in September. Schröder has campaigned for weeks to try to rally support for the SPD in Saxony Anhalt, a former East German state that, since 1995, has had the nation's highest unemployment rate. But analysts say the best the SPD may be able to achieve from Sunday's voting is a new coalition with the ex-communist Party of Democratic Socialism, which would damage Schröder's image as a centrist in the national election.
The results of last December's election for president were proclaimed null and void by the Supreme Court of Madagascar, which called for a recount of the disputed vote. But the justices also reinstated the nine-member panel that declared challenger Marc Ravalomanana had an inconclusive edge over incumbent Didier Ratsiraka, setting off weeks of political crisis that resulted in Ravalomanana claiming the office for himself. Five of the members are known to favor Ratsiraka. The court ruling came as both men were meeting with other African heads of state in Senegal in an effort to resolve the dispute.
A new set of political appoint-ees was proposed for key jobs in Hong Kong's government by widely unpopular Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa in what critics said would result in his gaining more power at the expense of democracy. Opposition legislators complained that the plan had been developed secretly and was being pushed too quickly for adequate discussion. Tung, hand-picked by the Chinese government in Beijing, was reelected to a new five-year term in February under a closed system in which residents had no direct vote.