Today's Story Line

ousting dictators is never easy and seldom successful, whether it's Saddam Hussein (Iraq), Manuel Noriega (Panama), Raoul Cedras (Haiti), Mohamed Farah Aidid (Somalia), or Slobodan Milosevic (Yugoslavia). In the current US-led attempt to oust Mr. Milosevic - or at least get him to sign away sovereignty by letting in NATO troops - the outcome is uncertain, and the long-term effects in Europe unknown. But Milosevic is already feeling the heat as he tries to cling to power. Quote of note: "If Milosevic takes this all the way, he will lose." - Milan St. Protic, historian in Belgrade. Meanwhile, power plays and bankruptcy keep Russia from doing much for its Serbian friend.

Ever since it sat out the 1991 Gulf War, Japan has had a hot debate over how to use - or expand - its military. Yesterday, in shooting at two likely North Korean ships in its waters, the nation felt an immediate threat that could bring about decisions in coming weeks, especially on whether US forces can use bases in Japan for a war in Asia. Up to now, many Japanese had stuck to a constitutional creed of pacificism. Quote of note: "Japan has finally learned it has to do something to protect its own security." - Katsumi Sato, Modern Korea Institute in Tokyo.

As more African nations suffer under weak governments, the chance for foreign intervention becomes stronger. Two cases in point: Congo and Eritrea-Ethiopia. Quote of note: "We are back to neighborhoods sorting out their relationships with one another." - Salih Booker, Council on Foreign Relations.

- Clayton Jones World editor


*BELGRADE TALES: Writer Justin Brown had company in his Belgrade apartment just after NATO's decision to bomb: His girlfriend's Serb brother was hiding there to avoid conscription. Justin's translator was in the same boat, and when he needed a lift home, Justin decided not to use his own car. The black plates bearing a number 60 indicate he's an American, not the most popular nationality in town. By Wednesday morning, Justin found his windshield wipers had been torn off. But he's convinced that would not have happened had he been sitting in the Alfa Romeo. Face-to-face meetings with Serbs, he says, have so far gone well. They mainly want to know when the bombs will drop. Yesterday, Justin was standing next to a black-market money-changer who was enjoying his busiest day ever. The man, a strident Serb nationalist, was telling Justin what kind of gun he was carrying and how he would shoot down NATO planes. Justin gently asked about his personal status - and was assured he was viewed as a friendly customer.

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