News In Brief

"A final, slender chance" was being offered to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to reconsider his opposition to a peace plan for Kosovo before NATO jets began their expected bombing of selected targets. As the Monitor went to press, special US envoy Richard Holbrooke was ordered to Belgrade to tell Milosevic he must cease aggression in the province immediately. But in Kosovo, UN officials were describing "probably the biggest movement" of ethnic Albanian refugees since last fall as Serb forces intensified ethnic cleansing efforts.

Thousands of people waited to be evacuated from the path of ethnic fighting on the Indonesian island of Borneo, although local police officials claimed life "is gradually returning to normal." Five days of clashes between combined Malay and Dayak tribesmen and minority Madurese immigrants killed at least 96 people and left more than 1,000 houses in ashes.

Residents of the city in southern Russia where a bomb explosion killed at least 51 people gathered to pledge they wouldn't allow the incident to inflame ethnic tensions. More than 100 others were hurt in the blast in the main market at Vladikav-kaz, capital of North Ossetia republic, last Friday. Composite sketches of two suspects were being broadcast on TV as a nationwide search began.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Chechyna, a bomb hidden in a sewer drain exploded as President Aslan Maskhadov's motorcade was returning to his residence. He escaped the apparent assassination attempt unharmed, but four bodyguards were reported hurt.

Despite their week-old peace agreement, heavy new fighting was reported in Afghanistan between the ruling Taliban militia and rebel forces. Each side blamed the other for starting the clashes, which observers said appeared to be the opening of this year's spring offensive. The rivals are due to hold another round of talks next month to finalize the coalition-government deal reached March 14 in neighboring Turkmenistan.

Army helicopters were the first to reach the two Europeans who landed in soft desert sand after successfully completing history's first nonstop, round-the-world flight in a hot-air balloon. The Breitling Orbiter 3 piloted by Bertrand Piccard of Switzerland and Brian Jones of Britain set down on a plateau in western Egypt after covering 29,056 miles in just under 20 days.

A nonbinding national referendum on Indian rights was being called a "ruse" by the Mexican government. But authorities said they wouldn't try to stop Sunday's vote - sponsored by the rebel Zapatista movement - as long as its organizers remained unarmed. In his weekly radio address, President Ernesto Zedillo did not mention the referendum, but extolled his government's efforts to improve public welfare in Chiapas, the Zapatistas' home state.

Coastal regions were all but deserted as Western Australia braced for cyclone Vance, an even bigger storm than the one that devastated the city of Darwin in 1974. Vance, with winds of 180 m.p.h., was expected to make landfall today.

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