News In Brief

Heavy new fighting erupted between Serb forces and ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo, and reporters said they saw villagers fleeing en masse. International truce verifiers blamed the clash near Podujevo, a commercial town, on a nighttime attack by rebels against a Serb police station. It came as NATO was preparing to issue a stern warning today to Yugoslav President Milosevic to negotiate the details of a peace settlement that would give Albanians limited autonomy in Kosovo.

Despite the pounding its air defenses are taking, Iraq will continue to challenge US and British jets in the northern and southern "no fly" zones, Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan vowed. Meanwhile, parliament sent a statement for President Saddam Hussein's signature that backs his call for the people of neighboring Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to overthrow their governments.

Rescue and cleanup efforts were slowed by heavy rains in Colombia in the aftermath of Monday's earthquake. President Andres Pastrana canceled a trip to Europe, flying instead over the affected region and pledging an initial $12 million to rebuild houses destroyed in perhaps the worst natural disaster in the country's history. Meanwhile, authorities raised the number of people who died to 700.

Bowing to international pressure, the government of Indonesia suggested it may be about to grant independence to the volatile territory of East Timor. Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said the Jakarta government believed its offer of "special autonomy" was best for the former Portuguese colony. But if that is rejected, he said, President B.J. Habibie's Cabinet will suggest to the People's Consultative Assembly "to consider letting go of East Timor" after national elections June 7. Since 1976, Indonesia has preferred to fight a small-scale guerrilla war and to mostly ignore calls for East Timor's freedom.

The four-year-old peace accord with the UNITA rebel movement was renounced by Angola's government. A senior official said it would henceforth recognize only a breakaway group, UNITA Renovada, formed last September by ex-aides to leader Jonas Savimbi, whom they accused of working against peace. Analysts downplayed the government's move, however, saying the splinter group has no power base.

A Kenyan member of the International Olympic Committee became the latest to quit because of the organization's bribery scandal. Charles Mukora admitted receiving money from Salt Lake City's bid to serve as 2002 Winter Games host, but said it went to his high-altitude training camp for Kenyan athletes.

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