News In Brief

Agreement on substantial autonomy for Kosovo was reached at the peace talks near Paris, diplomats from the six-nation Contact Group announced. In a statement read by French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, they said new talks on implementing the accord between Serbs and ethnic-Albanian separatists would be held beginning March 15. The deal followed 17 days of negotiations.

Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan will be tried for treason, and prosecutors will seek the death penalty if he's convicted, news agencies in Turkey reported. No starting date was announced. Meanwhile, the government rebuffed a call by the European Union to allow foreign observers at the trial, whose fairness is already being called into question by Western human-rights groups. The case is to be heard by a state security tribunal, some of whose judges are military officers.

Twelve of the 50 moderate candidates who were disqualified from Friday's municipal elections by a commission in Iran have been reinstated, reports said. The candidates, all supporters of pro-reform President Mohamad Khatami, were accused of lack of faith in Islam and in Iran's clerical leadership. Their reinstatement was ordered by an arbitration panel. The ban, by hard-line elections commissioners who oppose Khatami, was considered legally questionable because it came after the candidates had begun campaigning.

Two political dissidents defied authorities in central China and served notice that they intend to hold a human-rights seminar next month. The two-day forum is planned for a hotel in Wuhan, and invitations have been sent to other activists in China and to overseas human-rights organizations, a Hong Kong group said. Earlier this month, authorities warned the organizers, Chen Zhonghe and Xiao Shichang, not to proceed with their plan, and it was unlikely that they'd be allowed to carry it out, the Hong Kong group said.

Far less money has been collected in tax revenues than was expected, and there is a "high probability" that Ukraine will default on some of its debt repayments, reports from Kiev said. The Finance Ministry said revenues were likely to come in at closer to $9.2 billion than the $9.8 billion forecast for 1998, requiring an uphill effort to borrow money to cover the deficit. The US bond-rating agency, Moody's, warned that Ukraine faced the likelihood of a rapid currency devaluation this year.

The controversial anti-immigration, anti-Aborigine party of Australian politician Pauline Hanson was on the verge of being decertified in its home state after one of its delegates in Parliament quit and another was fired for disloyalty. That brought One Nation's membership in the Queensland legislature to five - too few to qualify a party for taxpayer subsidies. One Nation attracted international attention last June, when it won one-quarter of the vote in state elections. But Hanson's views cost her her own seat in the national Parliament when Australians voted in October.

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