News In Brief

"Very substantial progress" by negotiators for the rival parties in the Kosovo dispute sent their peace talks outside Paris into overtime. Ethnic-Albanian separatists and Serb government representatives now have until mid-afternoon tomorrow to produce an agreement that would stave off punitive air strikes by NATO jets and other penalties. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was expected to resume meetings with the Albanians after heated discussions with both sides Saturday. Aides said she had no plans to meet again with the Serbs, whom she accused of "evasion and delay."

US and British military sources quickly denied claims by Iraq that its air defenses had hit a Western warplane in the so-called southern "no fly" zone. Iraq's News Agency didn't say whether the plane had been downed. All jets involved in patrols over southern Iraq yesterday returned safely to base, US and British officials said.

There is no possibility of autonomy for southeastern Turkey, the home of a violent, 15-year Kurdish insurgency, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said. But he said the Army's latest incursion into Iraq, aimed at further weakening Kurdish rebels after the capture of their leader, Abdullah Ocalan, had ended "for the time being."

The leaders of bitter rivals India and Pakistan stepped back from the brink of nuclear confrontation in two days of high-profile meetings. Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif (l.), pledged to reduce the risk of accidental nuclear war, to give advance warning of ballistic missile tests, and to stop interfering in each other's affairs. But they could only agree to continue talks on resolving the dispute over control of Kashmir.

Voter turnout was disappointingly low in weekend elections for seats in Nigeria's parliament. Participation was estimated at below 20 percent in some areas - well under that in recent voting for state and local offices. Analysts blamed the lack of interest on the greater anticipation of next weekend's presidential election, which would end the last 15 years of military rule.

Two more state elections were putting Mexico's ruling party to the test. The Institutional Revolutionary Party's (PRI) candidate for governor in the central state of Hidalgo was considered a probable winner. But in Quintana Roo, the Yucatan Peninsula state that is home to the Cancn and Cozumel resorts, the governor's race was seen as far closer. The PRI's candidate to succeed outgoing Gov. Mario Villanueva concedes that Quintana Roo has serious drug-smuggling and corruption problems, and the leftist Democratic Revolution Party candidate was mounting a strong challenge. Early this month, the PRI split two other gubernatorial elections in western states.

There was cautious reaction across southern Sudan to word that President Omar Hassan al-Bashir's government was willing to set the region free if doing so would end 15 years of civil war. "Separation with peace is better" than the continuation of the war, he was quoted by state TV as saying. The rebel People's Liberation Army has been fighting since 1983 for autonomy for the Christian and animist south from the heavily Muslim north.

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