News In Brief

Barring an unforeseen last-minute breakthrough, special US envoy Richard Holbrooke prepared to leave Yugoslavia without winning President Milosevic's OK to the proposed Kosovo peace plan. On the ground in Kosovo, Serb forces pressed their offensive against ethnic-Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army troops for a fourth day, although observers said its intensity had lessened.

Controversy erupted across Europe after the reported seizure of a giant Russian cargo plane carrying jet fighters. Azerbaijan officials said the plane, which had stopped there to refuel, apparently was bound for Yugo-slavia in violation of an international arms embargo. Russia's Foreign Ministry said the shipment was bound for Slovakia. But the latter said no such delivery was expected. On a stop in Ireland, Russian Prime Minister Primakov said his government hadn't broken the embargo against Yugoslavia "yet."

Oil prices may take months to rise significantly despite the ratification by OPEC members of a new plan to help cut global production by 2.1 million barrels a day, analysts said. The plan was drawn up two weeks ago and, as expected, was quickly endorsed by the oil-exporting cartel at its meeting in Vienna. Futures prices for crude oil have risen slightly since the plan became known, but traders predicted little additional change until surplus stocks are depleted by the heavy summer driving season.

An emergency Cabinet meeting was under way in Tokyo following an incident involving two "mystery ships" that intruded Japanese waters, ignored orders to stop, and then fled as maritime authorities fired warning shots. Government sources said the ships may have been North Korean. Japanese military vessels were ordered to pursue them into international waters. Japan regards North Korea as its main security threat, especially since the launch of a ballistic missile that passed over Japan last August.

The sensational corruption and sexual misconduct trial of Malaysia's No. 2 political figure ended as it began - in controversy. Defendant Anwar Ibrahim's lawyers refused to make their closing arguments, demanding that a complaint against the presiding judge be heard first. The judge said he'd initiate contempt proceedings against the attorneys. A verdict in the case is expected April 6.

Unidentified gunmen assassinated the vice president of Paraguay as he arrived at his office in the capital, Asuncin. Luis Maria Argana's death complicates the landlocked South American nation's political picture, with impeachment proceedings under way in Congress against President Raul Cubas. Cubas is accused of abuse of power for ordering his mentor, the retired Army chief of staff, freed from prison despite the latter's role in a failed 1996 coup attempt.

All but one of the seats contested in last weekend's parliamentary election in Togo had been awarded to the ruling People's Party as vote-counting neared an end. Analysts called another setback on the road to democracy in the West African nation, where President Gnassingbe Eyadema has ruled without interruption since 1967.

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