News In Brief

A new round of attacks on Albanian-held areas in Kosovo appeared possible as Yugoslav Army troops and tanks stood poised to act if urgent negotiations failed. The talks, mediated by international truce monitors, were aimed at persuading Albanian separatists to free eight Serb soldiers captured Friday in the northwestern town of Kosovska Mitrovica when their vehicle took a wrong turn into rebel territory. In an apparently unrelated incident, three Albanian rebels died in an exchange of gunfire with a police patrol.

Five UN workers in eastern Bosnia were beaten and their headquarters and vehicles badly damaged by an angry crowd in retaliation for the death of a Serb war-crimes suspect. The incident, in the town of Foca, took place shortly after ex-police officer Dragan Gagovic was shot by French troops of the NATO-led Stabilization Force. They were attempting to arrest Gagovic, who was charged with the rape and torture of Muslim women in 1992 and 1993, but he allegedly tried to run them down with his car.

Hundreds of reinforcements arrived in Sierra Leone's capital, a sign that West African peace-keepers were gearing up for a major counterattack against rebel forces seeking to oust the government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. But a tense calm prevailed in Freetown as efforts also continued to try to arrange a face-to-face dialogue between Kabbah and rebel leaders Foday Sankoh and Sam Bockarie. As the Monitor went to press, Bockarie was refusing to leave his stronghold, claiming he'd be walking into a trap.

Stiff punishment was sought for persons who promote or participate in attacks on Christian or Hindu religious sites in India. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee issued the call while touring an area in the state of Gujarat, where Hindu funda- mentalist groups have burned churches and schools run by Christian missionaries. Hindus claim a Christian group started the violence on Christmas Day by throwing stones at one of their rallies..

As leftist rebels and government negotiators adjourned their peace talks for the weekend in southern Colombia, right-wing paramilitary squads were blamed for 80 deaths across four northern provinces. The attacks were seen as revenge for a Dec. 27 assault by the leftists on the stronghold of anticommunist leader Carlos Castano. The dismantling of the paramilitary squads is a key demand of the leftists in their negotiations, which are to resume today.

There were new worries in Spain about the possibility of an accommodation between the government and Basque separatists after a wave of firebombings and a huge protest rally. One policeman was hurt Sunday when a gasoline bomb was thrown into a Civil Guard station - the third such incident in 24 hours. It followed reports that the separatist group, ETA, had ordered its youth wing back on the attack against security, political, and commercial targets. On Saturday, up to 100,000 people marched in Bilbao to demand that the government transfer ETA prisoners to jails in the Basque region. ETA declared a unilateral truce last September.

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