News In Brief

With the threat of NATO air strikes at least temporarily averted, Serbs and ethnic Albanian separatists returned home from the Kosovo peace talks. But analysts saw ominous signs for the prospect of a long-term peace settlement because the Albanians promptly announced they would form a "provisional government" to be led by a member of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Meanwhile, the Serbs declared victory because the conference outside Paris ended without agreement on sending foreign peacekeeping troops into the province.

Thousands of Kurds filled the streets of Rome in a new round of protests against the impending trial of rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan as his lawyers made a new try for permission to meet with him in a Turkish prison. Ocalan has been denied access to counsel since his capture last week as Turkish authorities prepare to try him for treason. In Berlin, thousands more Kurds marched in honor of the three youths who were killed while trying to storm the Israeli consulate. Israeli agents are rumored to have helped Turkey trace Ocalan to Kenya, where he was captured.

In another major policy retreat, Germany's new government scrapped its ambitious plan to reform the 86-year-old national citizenship law. The proposal aimed to better integrate 7.3 million foreign residents into society by offering them dual nationality. But Chancellor Gerhard Schrder and his Green Party coalition partners agreed to abandon it in the face of a petition drive by opponents that collected about 1 million signatures. Last month, Schrder put a plan to phase out nuclear power on the back burner in the face of powerful opposition.

The heaviest snowfall in half a century had tens of thousands of people across central Europe coping with avalanches or stranded in transportation terminals, on highways, and in ski-resort areas. At least 16 people died at Galtuer, Austria, and rescuers struggled to free or evacuate others after a wall of snow slid into the town. In France and Switzerland, 27 people have died this month from avalanches.

Seeking to limit the fallout from a legal storm over immigration, authorities in Hong Kong asked the territory's highest court to clarify who has the ultimate power to interpret the new Constitution. The court ruled last month that mainland Chinese residents with one Hong Kong parent have the right to live in the territory. That, coupled with an opinion that China was denying such people their rights by requiring exit permits, angered authorities in Beijing. The issue potentially affects tens of thousands of mainland Chinese and is seen as the top threat so far to the "one country, two systems" arrangement under which Hong Kong reverted to Beijing's control in 1997.

Investigators were looking into the cause of a plane crash in eastern China that killed all 61 people aboard. The Chinese Southwest Airlines plane was believed to be returning Lunar New Year celebrants to Wenzhou from Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province. Conflicting reports said the Russian-built plane exploded either in flight or on impact, 18 miles short of its destination.

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