News In Brief

The final decision on whether the Yugoslav government will participate in peace negotiations on Kosovo later this week will be made by Serb legislators in a parliament dominated by ultranationalists, the government said. Meanwhile, one leader of ethnic Albanian separatists said his decision on joining the talks would be announced today. In Paris, where the proposed talks would take place, French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said he was encouraged that "at this stage nobody has said 'no.' "

For the second time in 12 hours, a senior official in Brazil went on national TV to assure that the government wouldn't freeze or confiscate private bank accounts. Finance Minister Pedro Malan called rumors to that effect "criminal." He spoke after some depositors made "above normal" withdrawals late last week because of the plunging value of the real. Government officials were meeting for a second day with representatives of the International Monetary Fund, which leads a group of donors that have extended $41.5 billion in new loans to Brazil. Reports said the IMF was likely to demand that the government hike interest rates from 37 to 70 percent, although they already have been raised three times in two weeks.

From his jail cell, East Timor's separatist leader appealed to his supporters to remain calm while the Indonesian government considers whether to give up control of the territory it annexed 23 years ago. In a recorded message, Xanana Gusmao said, "we all have to ... avoid radicalism." But Indonesian loyalists in the disputed territory headed to Jakarta to appeal for weapons in case of eventual civil war with Timorese separatists.

New tensions flared between Orthodox and Reform Jews in Israel as a group of the former tried to disrupt American rabbis praying at Jerusalem's Western Wall. Orthodox Jews, bolstered by a new law that dis- courages the liberal and Reform movements from seeking seats on local religious councils, had to be restrained by police in the scuffle at Judaism's most sacred site. The US delegation included women, whom Orthodox codes insist must not pray with men.

The saga of Kurdish guerrilla leader Abdullah Ocalan took a new turn as the government of The Netherlands denied his plane the use of its airspace and Greek authorities hinted they wouldn't admit him either. Ocalan, whom Turkey wants to put on trial for capital crimes, has been seeking asylum since Syria expelled him last November. He left temporary refuge in Italy two weeks ago.

Not even a personal appeal by Pope John Paul II will bring a pardon for the first convict to be executed in the Philippines in 23 years, President Joseph Estrada said. Ex-house painter Leo Echegaray is to be put to death Friday for repeatedly raping his stepdaughter in 1994. The case has become a national cause clbre. Estrada said he hoped the execution would frighten would-be criminals. Last week in the US, Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan (D) accepted the pope's appeal and commuted a death sentence.

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