News In Brief

Extra demands from both sides in the Kosovo peace talks outside Paris were slowing progress toward an agreement by the Feb. 19 deadline, the chief US mediator said. Prospects were further dimmed when a senior Albanian-separatist commander said the internationally sponsored formula for ending the conflict with Serb forces was unacceptable because it did not "envisage the possibility for independence."

A month after admitting his agents were involved in killing political dissidents, Iran's intelligence minister quit. Qorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi said he was "saddened" by the "unfortunate incidents" and hoped his departure wouldn't bring harm to the secret-police/espionage agency by "vindictive enemies and uninformed friends." Analysts said Dorri-Najafabadi's resignation gives relatively moderate President Mohamad Khatami an opening to extend his authority over intelligence functions.

The political future of Chechnya's embattled president was in doubt after hard-line opposition leaders set up a rival Islamic government they said would replace secular rule in the ex-Russian republic. Aslan Maskhadov tried to preempt the hard-liners last week by ordering a new Islamic Constitution to be drafted, by stripping parliament of its legislative powers, and abolishing the vice presidency. But the lawmakers and vice president refused to cooperate, leaving him isolated. He was invited to join the council that would govern Chechnya - provided he quits as president.

Shedding their old Chinese-style uniforms, what are believed to be the last 1,700 active guerrillas of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge movement formally joined the government Army. The communist force virtually disintegrated last year after a wave of defections, splits in the ranks, government offensives, and the death of senior commander Pol Pot.

A former prime minister and two other ex-government health officials went on trial in France for their alleged roles in a tainted-blood scandal. Laurent Favius and his co-defendants are charged with employing "a strategy of favoritism" in the 1985 deaths or infections of seven people who were given transfusions of blood contaminated with the virus that's believed to cause AIDS. They are accused of delaying the systematic testing of blood donors for six months until French technology was ready. At the time, a test developed by US laboratories could have been used.

Hundreds of volunteers were searching for people trapped under twin avalanches that buried much of a village near the popular French ski resort of Chamonix. At least 11 chalets were up to the tops of their roofs in snow. Roads in the area were cut off, and train service was canceled until the danger of further slides was considered over. Poor visibility also prevented rescue helicopters from reaching the scene.

The trial of three men accused of raping and robbing a group of US college students ended in Guatemala - with the defendants each drawing 28-year prison terms. The students and their chaperones from St. Mary's College of Maryland were on a bus tour when they were stopped at gunpoint Jan. 16, 1998. A fourth suspect is in custody but has yet to be tried.

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