News In Brief

europe's new currency, the euro, made an impressive debut as politicians and investors hailed it as ushering in a new era of economic integration. The euro fell back from its early highs above $1.19 to trade around $1.18 in midafternoon London trading. That was still well above the $1.16875 level at which its precursor, the European Currency Unit, ended Thursday.

Keen to ensure that any gains in the euro's popularity won't come at the yen's expense, Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi was expected to push for a stronger role for his nation's currency during a three-day tour of Europe this week. Beginning tomorrow, Obuchi is to meet leaders in France, Italy, and Germany. He's expected to outline to them Tokyo's efforts to make the yen a more global currency.

Israel said it would deport 11 members of a US apocalyptic group accused of plotting "violent acts" at the end of 1999. Jerusalem police earlier arrested eight adults and six children - all Americans and allegedly part of the Denver-based group. The arrests highlighted authorities' concerns that many religious extremists will gravitate to "the Holy Land" as the millennium approaches. Police said they were still investigating the other three people they had arrested.

The Israeli government closed the divided city of Hebron and imposed a curfew on Palestinians there after Palestinian gunmen wounded two Israeli women. Israeli soldiers later shot and injured two Palestinian youths, part of a group protesting the curfew. The clashes sparked Jewish calls for the government to tear up its recent peace accords with the Palestinians. And they erupted as the Israeli parliament was expected to approve a bill moving up national elections to May.

Investigators said they had identified key suspects in Northern Ireland's terrorist bombing in Omagh. The (London) Times reported police had narrowed their search to six suspects, but didn't have the evidence to convict them. Twenty-nine people were killed after the "real" IRA - a republican splinter group - exploded a car bomb in Omagh in August.

At least 17 Shiite Muslims were massacred by gunmen while praying at a Pakistani mosque, police said. Another three people were injured when gunmen opened fire at the congregation in Karam Dad Qureshi. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but officials said it was the latest in a series of killings between rival sectarian factions.

Indonesian President B.J. Habibie called for an end to violence after fierce riots swept through the province of Aceh. In a televised speech, Habibie said the fighting "would only harm our common interests." Thousands of Indonesian troops had reportedly restored calm in Aceh, where rebels are fighting for an independent Islamic state. Both soldiers and civilians were killed during the weekend clashes.

A Singapore opposition politician pleaded not guilty to a charge he had made a speech without a permit. Chee Soon Juan, leader of the Singapore Democratic Party, vowed to continue making such addresses, even if critical of the government. The charge carries a maximum $3000 fine.

Compiled by Lance Carden and Caryn Coatney

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