News In Brief

Amid intensified outside pressure, international monitors said they hoped to negotiate the early release of eight Serb soldiers being held by Albanian separatists in Kosovo. New calls for their freedom came from NATO, from Russia, and from Pope John Paul II, while the Yugoslav government in Belgrade warned its patience was wearing thin. Negotiations with the captors were in their fourth day, although the Kosovo Liberation Army said it would demand the freedom of Albanians from Yugoslav prisons in return. An initiative by Saudi Arabia to ease the UN sanctions against Iraq was rejected by the Baghdad government as "insincere." The initiative, which calls for the eight-year ban on food and other humanitarian imports to be lifted, was to be presented to other Arab governments. But it was announced the same day that the official Saudi Press Agency urged Iraqis to overthrow President Saddam Hussein. Heavy shelling and small-arms fire rattled the capital of Sierra Leone as rebels appeared to be holding out despite an assault by a Nigerian-led intervention force supporting the government. The rebels, who hold Freetown's eastern districts, were resisting efforts to dislodge them from the city center. Associated Press reporter Myles Tierney died in an exchange of fire between the two sides. Both forces were claiming to have the capital under control. The six-week-old government crisis in Turkey appeared to be over after leftist Prime Minister-designate Bulent Ecevit won the president's OK for his proposed Cabinet. The new administration also is expected to be approved by parliament next weekend. Ecevit had to make at least one concession to win voting support for his government: dropping his original choice for education minister, Hikmet Ulugbay, whose secular views anger Islamic voters. Ulugbay was named as deputy prime minister. Ignoring an appeal for calm, demonstrators in Haiti's capital heaved stones at buses and set piles of tires on fire at a new turn in the ongoing government crisis. They demanded members of parliament resign for approving the sale of state-run businesses - a move that put thousands of Haitians out of work. The demonstrators also were angry at legislators' refusal to approve President Ren Preval's choice for prime minister. Preval had demanded that Jacques-Edouard Alexis be confirmed by yesterday and threatened to dissolve the legislature if he wasn't. The post has been vacant since June 1997. "You could say we have allowed democracy to progress by 20 percent," Kazakhstan's president said after national elections that returned him to office for a new seven-year term. Nursultan Nazarbayev claimed 80 percent of the vote and shrugged off Western criticism that Sunday's election hadn't been fair. He was opposed by three challengers, none of whom won more than 13 percent of the ballots. In 1991, Nazarbayev was elected to his first term in the former Soviet republic without opposition.

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