News In Brief

US military jets fired at - but apparently failed to hit - Iraqi planes in the so-called "no fly" zone southeast of Baghdad, senior American officials in Washington reported. Four US jets tried to bring down the Iraqi craft with air- to-air missiles in the confrontation. One Iraqi plane was believed to have crashed, possibly after running out of fuel. Earlier, an official Iraqi statement called the no-fly zones a violation of international law and vowed continuing efforts to resist them.

A remote jungle town that until last month had only seven outside telephone lines was pre-paring to serve as the venue for peace negotiations between the Colombian government and leftist guerrillas. The talks, to be attended by President Andres Pastrana and hundreds of dignitaries, are scheduled to open tomorrow at San Vicente del Caguan amid heavy international news coverage. An estimated 35,000 people have died in the country's long-running civil war, which has left as many as 1 million others homeless.

Results of a new poll showed a 1 percent rise in the popularity of Britain's ruling Labour Party, despite recent developments that have taken some of the sheen off Prime Minister Blair's mystique. Labour's approval rating was up to 50 percent, the Guardian newspaper reported, as opposed to 30 percent for the opposition Conservatives. But private polls were said to show growing voter concern that Blair's government is arrogant. Three members of his Cabinet have quit since late October - along with a key aide to Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown - because of scandals.

New demands for the resignation of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came from thousands of mourners at the funeral for victims of an attack on a Shiite Muslim mosque. The services took place under heavy police guard. Sixteen people died Monday and 25 others were wounded during prayers near the Punjab Province city of Multan. The violence was blamed on a rival Sunni radical group. Police arrested 46 of its followers. Sharif himself escaped assassination last Sunday.

An appeal of the Supreme Court's decision to suspend the death penalty was expected from the Philippine government after the first execution there in 23 years was postponed. Anti-capital punishment activists cheered as the court ordered a six-month delay in carrying out the sentence against a convicted rapist. But new President Joseph Estrada, who was elected in part on a pledge to fight crime, said the high court had overstepped its authority. More than 800 convicts await execution by the state.

Senior UN officials appealed to both sides in Angola's renewed civil war for access to the sites where two chartered planes have crashed in the past 11 days. Between them, the UN planes carried 22 people, and no one knows whether there are any survivors, since they went down in areas contested by government troops and UNITA rebels. UNITA and the government blame each other for causing the crashes. Meanwhile, the refugee population of Malanje, a government-controlled city in the central highlands, reportedly swelled to 200,000 as UNITA shelling extended into a second day.

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