News In Brief

NATO jets were cleared to use Italian bases if it's decided to punish Yugoslavia for ongoing attacks in Kosovo province. Despite warnings from the US and other Western sources, heavy shelling by Yugoslav Army units could be heard near a Kosovo village where 45 ethnic Albanians were found murdered last weekend. Senior NATO generals were expected to meet Yugoslav President Milosevic in Belgrade and demand that he punish those responsible for the massacre.

With a cease-fire in its second day, attention in Sierra Leone turned to delivering desperately needed food to residents of the capital, Freetown, and other cities. UN agencies said external food aid had virtually dried up as a result of weeks of fighting, and that the West African nation "could degenerate into famine." But a government ban on the use of radio equipment by relief workers would make food distribution extremely difficult, analysts said.

On-again, off-again discussions on normalizing relations between the two Koreas resumed in Geneva. The Seoul and Pyongyang governments are joined in the talks by the US and China, although diplomats said they saw little possibility of a breakthrough in the ultimate goal of permanent peace on the divided peninsula. The current round of talks began in December 1997 and so far has produced little but haggling over procedural details.

Urgent meetings were to be held by leaders of Romania's government to decide on strategy as thousands of coal miners drew closer in their march on Bucharest, the capital. The miners endured tear gas and smoke bombs as they clashed with police in pushing through crude barricades. The looming confrontation in Bucharest - in which the miners plan to demand a 35 percent pay hike - is seen as Romania's worst government crisis in three years.

Despite freezing rain, tens of thousands of people turned out in Jordan's capital, Amman, to welcome King Hussein home from six months of medical treatment in the US. Hussein piloted his own plane, escorted by Israeli and Jordanian Air Force jets, on the return. His absence was the longest in the 46 years he has ruled the pivotal Middle East nation.

Over objections of civil-rights groups and the Roman Catholic Church, the Philippines Supreme Court reversed its own earlier ruling and cleared the way for the country's first execution of a convict in 23 years. The justices had voted Jan. 4 to postpone carrying out the death penalty against a child-rapist. The convict's lawyer was given 15 days to file an appeal for reconsideration.

Voters appeared to shrug off allegations of corruption in giving Grenada's government a landslide victory in national elections. Prime Minister Keith Mitchell and his New National Party had won or were leading in all 15 of the Caribbean island nation's parliamentary districts, according to near-complete returns. The Grenada Today newspaper called Mitchell's administration "the most corrupt" since US-led forces reversed a 1983 coup by hard-line leftists.

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