News In Brief


Israelis "are not suckers" and will not trade additional land in the West Bank for Palestinian failure to combat terrorism, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. He spoke after sending US envoy Dennis Ross home empty-handed from a mission to restore momentum to stalled Middle East peace negotiations. Ross had been seeking a 13 percent Israeli pullback in exchange for tougher antiterrorism measures. In Washington, State Department spokesman James Rubin said peace efforts were "in dire straits" since Ross was "unable to bridge the gaps on the hard questions."

Bitter Serb students and professors vacated a classroom building at Pristina University in Kosovo (above) so ethnic Albanians could begin their return to the state education system. Albanians left it in 1991, saying they'd been expelled; Serbs claimed the boycott was a political strategy. Under an accord mediated last week by the Roman Catholic Church, Serbs are to use the university's facilities in the morning. Albanians, who want to be taught in their own language, are to use them after noon.

Prices fell on the crude-oil futures market, despite emergency meetings in Vienna by members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Analysts said the meeting, called to try to push prices higher, failed to ease concerns that OPEC and independent producers might not deliver on last week's pledge to reduce output by about 2 million barrels a day. OPEC has lost $15 billion in revenues since deciding to raise production last November, just as one of the mildest winters in history was beginning.

Japan's fiscal year ended with what analysts called the worst economic performance in more than two decades. The Nikkei stock average closed at 16,527 - far below the 18,000 mark government planners had set as their target to keep major investors from taking big losses on their holdings. Meanwhile, Yamaichi Securities, once Japan's largest brokerage, officially ceased operations after 100 years in business. Only liquidation proceedings remain incomplete.

Acting President Robert Kocharyan appeared on his way to victory in Armenia's runoff election. His lead over challenger Karen Demirchyan was 62 percent to 37 percent, although the Central Elections Commission said it was investigating the latter's accusations of widespread irregularities.

Two cosmonauts are scheduled to perform six hours of external repairs today on the orbiting space station Mir. While American Andrew Thomas stays aboard, Russian crewmen Talgat Musabayev and Nikolai Budarin are expected to reinforce a solar panel damaged in last June's collision with an unmanned cargo ship. Four other spacewalks are scheduled in April to keep Mir operational until a new international station is ready next year.

South African President Nelson Mandela was to be briefed on an alleged plot to overthrow his government. Mandela was informed Feb. 5 of a conspiracy believed to have originated among apartheid-era military officers to destabilize his black-led administration. A judicial commission was ordered to investigate since the report hadn't been checked by the government's intelligence committee.

An estimated 25,000 homes in southern Quebec lost electrical service because of flooding, many of them in the same region hit by January's severe ice storm. Eleven rivers overflowed because of unusually warm weather that melted the winter snows. At least 550 people had to be evacuated from Orms-town and other communities south of Montreal. One death was blamed on the flooding. The region, including parts of upstate New York, was bracing for heavy rains.

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