News In Brief

Governments across europe tried to dispel the impression of panic after the entire 20-member executive commission of the European Union resigned. The commissioners stepped down after a 144-page report by an independent investigative panel accused them of ignoring fraud and corruption and losing control of the EU's massive 19,000-person bureaucracy. Executive Commission President Jacques Santer called the report's conclusions "wholly unjustified" and vowed to remain in office until replaced.

North Korea's communist government reversed itself and agreed to US inspection of a suspected nuclear-weapons site, a senior American official said. Emerging details as the Monitor went to press indicated "several" investigations of the Kumchang-ni underground site would be allowed, beginning this spring. Under a 1994 accord, North Korea is forbidden to develop nuclear weapons.

"In cold blood," heavy new security measures went into effect on the orders of Istanbul's governor after a week of violence blamed on Kurdish rebels. Police guards, metal detectors, closed-circuit TV, extra lighting, and other measures were imposed on tourist sites, hotels, restaurants, malls, transportation terminals, sports arenas, places of worship, commercial parking lots, and factories. At least 22 people have died in terrorist incidents in the city since Kurdish rebel chief Abdullah Ocalan was captured Feb. 15. He awaits trial for treason.

Leading the way in a new effort by major oil producers to boost their sagging prices, Saudi Arabia said it would cut output by 585,000 barrels a day. The cut will begin April 1. The announcement followed a secret meeting of producer nations last week in The Hague. The meeting resulted in an accord that included members of the Organization of Oil Producing Countries, plus Norway, Mexico, and Oman. The current glut of crude oil is attributed to the Asian economic crisis and rising output by Iraq.

Four leading political dissidents were convicted of "inciting sedition" against the Cuban government, drawing prison sentences of 3-1/2 to 5 years. The action came despite the urgings of Pope John Paul II, other Caribbean and Latin American governments, and Canada - Cuba's largest trading partner - that the dissidents be freed. They were arrested in July 1997 for criticizing the Communist Party, encouraging acts of civil disobedience, meeting with foreign reporters, and exhorting Cubans not to vote.

With angry taxi and bus drivers blocking roads throughout the country, Ecuadorean President Jamil Mahuad was to meet with political rivals for a second day in an effort to defuse opposition to his emergency economic-reform program. Mahuad needs their help in pushing his unpopular commodity-price and tax increases through Congress. One unexpected boost came Monday as banks reported a net increase in savings-account deposits instead of the expected heavy withdrawals. Mahuad had allowed the banks to reopen for the first time in 10 days, but with a freeze on half their combined deposits.

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